Lexus is developing a new LS to take on the Mercedes S Class and BMW 7 Series, expected in 2018

The next generation Lexus LS has been spotted testing by our spy photographers again, ahead of the all-new flagship luxury saloon going on sale in 2018.

Unlike our previous look at the next LS, these new shots suggest Lexus has almost crafting the car’s bodywork and design. It wears substantial amounts of black masking to hide its final bodywork, and we can see the car’s new headlight and taillight designs poking out from underneath the disguise.

Gaps in the camouflage at the front of the car hint at its tweaked, large angular grille, and looking down the sides it’s possible to spot the noticeable kink in the car’s shoulderline. On the production model, it won’t be as dramatic as the line used on the LF-FC concept revealed at the 2015 Tokyo Motor Show – our only preview of the new LS so far.

The current Lexus LS is looking a bit dated next to the recently refreshed GS and IS, so the replacement model will gain a much more modern look using Lexus’ latest design language.

Our last look at Mercedes S-Class rival out on the road was quite different. The pictures revealed that Lexus is benchmarking the LS alongside a new BMW 7 Series, clearly hoping to match or even beat it’s rival’s level of comfort and tech.

As such, we can expect some new autonomous driving technology debuts and driver assistance technology on the upcoming Lexus flagship, as well as improvements in efficiency and performance.

Earlier this year, Lexus told us that it was planning to launch a hydrogen fuel cell luxury car before 2020. It also previewed that model with the striking LF-FC concept at the 2015 Tokyo Motor Show, and Auto Express understands that this will be heavily based on the LS.

Expect a familiar range of V6 and V8 petrol engines and hybrids in the meantime, though. It’s likely the new LS will share its drivertrain options with the LC500 Coupe – so a 3.5-litre hybrid V6 option alongside a 5.0-litre V8.

We expect Lexus to lift the covers on the new LS in late 2017, before going on sale in 2018.