The LS is the flagship in the Lexus line-up and, in fact, LS stands for “luxury sedan.” It competes against several other full-size luxury sedans including the Audi A8, BMW 7 Series, Mercedes-Benz S-Class and Porsche Panamera. The LS has a lower starting price than most rivals and is a good blend of luxury, smooth performance and technology. The biggest weak spot is the cumbersome infotainment system.
The five-passenger LS got redesigned for 2018 and for 2019, Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa compatibility become standard (but no Android Auto.)
The LS comes in three trims: LS 500, the LS 500h which is a hybrid, and the LS 500 F Sport which is more performance oriented. Starting prices range from $75,450 to $84,670 which is low for the class. However, it’s easy to quickly climb above $100k with packages and options. Rear-wheel-drive is standard and all-wheel-drive is available for an additional $3,220.
The LS 500h is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 engine and two electric motors powered by a lithium-ion battery combined with a continuously variable transmission. Total output is 345 horsepower and 257 pound-feet of torque. The LS 500 has a twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 that makes 416 horses and 442 pound-feet, paired with a 10-speed automatic.
Sure, there are competitors that boast better performance. But the LS 500h is no slouch. The hybrid is quick off the line, similar to a turbo, due to the torque from the two electric motors. Merging and passing at freeway speeds is practically effortless as there’s plenty of smooth power. My tester has the optional air suspension which provides for a cushy ride.
The hybrid has decent fuel efficiency for a large sedan. EPA ratings for my tester are 23 mpg city and 31 mpg highway for a combined rating of 26. I got 24 mpg during my week with a mix of city and highway driving.
The interior is classy and upscale, as you’d expect. Materials are soft-touch and of top quality with every stitch in place. A special touch is a nod to Japanese culture including ambient lighting inspired by Japanese Andon lanterns and available Kiriko Glass ornamentation and hand-folded pleats on the door trim.
The cabin is quite roomy with good leg- and headroom in both rows. Adults will be quite comfortable in the second row, although some rivals do offer more backseat space.
Standard features include proximity keyless entry, push-button start, remote start, rearview camera, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, 16-way power-adjustable, heated, and ventilated front seats, heated and leather-wrapped steering wheel, power rear sunshade and a moonroof.
The Lexus Safety System+ 2.0 is standard and includes Pre-Collision System with low-light pedestrian detection and daytime bicyclist detection, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, Intelligent High Beam, All-speed Adaptive Cruise Control, Road Sign Assist, and Lane Tracing Assist.
Available features include performance digital instrument cluster, a 24-inch head-up display, four-zone automatic climate control, panoramic glass roof, semi-aniline leather seats, 28-way power-adjustable and massaging front seats, front sport seats, heated rear seats, 18- or 22-way power-adjustable and reclining rear seats, power-retractable front headrests, rear-seat footrests, suede headliner, power rear side-window sunshades, a 23-speaker Mark Levinson surround-sound audio system, rear-seat touch-screen center console, surround-view camera and adaptive headlights.
The standard infotainment system features a huge 12.3-inch display screen, the Remote Touchpad control, 12-speaker premium sound system, voice command activation, navigation, Bluetooth, a USB port, Wi-Fi hot spot, the Lexus Enform app suite, Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa integration.
The Lexus infotainment system is clunky and frustrating. As someone who drives a new vehicle every week, I can usually figure out most systems within a few minutes. This system is just not very intuitive, and worse, it’s distracting. The system is controlled with a trackpad interface, similar to a mouse on a laptop computer, in the center console. Menus and submenus aren’t always user-friendly; in fact, you have to go through submenus to make some climate adjustments. And the touchy trackpad controller is challenging to use because it requires small finger movements that are difficult to make while driving.
For example, the LS 500h has massaging seats. This is a wonderful feature. But to turn on the massage function, you have to go through multiple menus. First you touch the seat icon on the center console. From there, you use the mouse to select “Driver Seat Refresh” (who knew that’s the name for a massage??). Then you have to select the type of massage you want. Then you have to select the intensity. I felt like I needed a massage to relieve the stress generated from trying to interact with this system!
The optional Lexus Safety System +A, a feature exclusive to the LS, includes Lexus CoDrive with enhanced All-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Lane Trace Assist and Lane Change Assist; a Pre-Collision system with active braking, active steering assist, front lateral side detection and head up display integration; and Front Cross Traffic Alert. The Lane Change Assist feature, used in conjunction with Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, determines if a safe lane change can be made and then steers the vehicle into the next lane.
The hybrid has a little less trunk space than the traditional LS; 15.2 cubic feet compared to 17 cubes. The opening is large which is good for loading larger items. A foot-activated power trunk lid is standard.
Smooth, comfortable, quiet ride
Beautiful and posh interior
All-wheel-drive is available on all trims
Lots of standard and available features
Lower starting price than many rivals
Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa now standard
Clunky and distracting infotainment system
Some rivals have more athletic performance
Backseat not as roomy as some competitors
Android Auto not available
My tester starts at $82,930. The Lexus Safety System is $3,000 and adds pre-collision warning with active braking, active steering assist, pedestrian alert, front cross traffic alert, and lane change assist. Adaptive variable air suspension with rapid height is $1,500. 20-inch split 10-spoke Alloy wheels with Vapor Chrome finish are $1,200. 24-inch head-up display is $1,200. LED headlamps with adaptive front lighting system are $300. Luxury Package is $12,250 and adds quilted-stitch perforated semi-aniline leather interior, 28-way power driver and passenger seats with multifunction massage, Ultrasuede headliner, power front seat buckles, heated rear seats, 18-way power reclining outboard rear seats, four-zone climate concierge, power side-window sunshades. The Mark Levinson 23-speaker, 2,400-watt Quantum Logic system is $1,940. The panoramic view monitor is $800. Premium wood trim is $800. Heated wood and leather-trimmed steering wheel is $410. Delivery fee is $1,025 bringing the grand total to $107,335.
The Lexus LS deserves consideration among high-end luxury sedans and proves that Toyota’s upscale brand can run with the German contenders. The LS boasts smooth driving dynamics and a luxurious, roomy interior and offers good value for the money. The big drawback is the infotainment system, which will be a deal-breaker for some would-be buyers.