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Lexus’ next-gen LS will boast a more emotional design and a hydrogen drivetrain

Lexus is busy developing the next generation of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class-fighting LS in utmost secrecy, but one of the Toyota-owned company’s top executives has given us a better idea of what we can expect when it’s unveiled.

Updated 8-12-2015: Edited to fix minor details about the hydrogen drivetrain.

Since its introduction in 1989, the LS flagship has been characterized by a discreet, understated design. That will change for the next generation, and Alain Uyttenhoven, the boss of Lexus’ European division, revealed that the sedan will benefit from a more emotional design in order to clearly stand out from the firm’s smaller models like the GS and the ES.

“It’s not good for the brand to have ‘Russian doll’ styling,” explained Uyttenhoven in an interview with British magazine Autocar. “We’re not chasing market share so we need to make cars that people notice, cars that polarize opinion so that people love them or don’t like them.”

The revolution will continue under the hood. Base models will be equipped with a new V8 engine that will be tuned to make 465 horsepower, a sizable increase of about 80 ponies over the LS 460 (pictured), the current entry-level model. Buyers seeking more grunt will be able to select a gasoline-electric hybrid drivetrain made up of the aforementioned V8 and a compact electric motor. The two power sources will join forces to generate about 535 horsepower, 100 more than the LS 600h L that’s currently on sale.

Related: Second Lexus flagship in the works

Surprisingly, Lexus will quickly add a range-topping model equipped with a hydrogen fuel cell. Derived from the one that powers the Toyota Mirai, the drivetrain will be built around a 295-horsepower electric motor and a pair of large hydrogen tanks that will give the 4,630-pound sedan a total driving range of 239 miles.

Full details about the next Lexus LS will emerge in October. The sedan will go on sale early next year as a 2017 model, but the hydrogen-powered variant isn’t expected to land until about a year later.

What’s next?

A sleek coupe version of the LS — tentatively called LC — will be unveiled at next year’s edition of the Detroit Motor Show. Finally, Lexus has hinted that it is developing a second flagship model to sit alongside the LS, but it has not provided additional information. The company’s statement fuels longstanding rumors that claim it’s working on a full-size crossover aimed at the BMW X5 and the Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class.