The LS 500 is the flagship for Lexus and was the first model unveiled by Toyota’s upscale brand in 1989. In fact, LS stands for “luxury sedan.” While the LS is not quite as opulent as some German competitors or even the Genesis, the LS 500 offers a refined ride, top notch build quality, lots of tech and convenience features, excellent reliability, and costs less than many competitors.
Base Price: $78,670
As Tested: $115,970
Mileage: 18 mpg city/27 mpg highway/21 mpg combined
The LS was last redesigned in 2018. That’s when the hybrid model was introduced, and several advanced driver assistance technologies were added. Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa became standard in 2019. For 2020, there’s a new top-of-the-line Inspiration Series trim and only 300 are being made.
The five-passenger LS 500 comes in four trims: LS 500, LS500h (the hybrid), LS 500 F Sport, and the LS 500 Inspiration Series. Starting prices range from $75,450 to $100,865. These are low for a big luxury sedan as many competitors start at six figures. Rear-wheel-drive is standard and all-wheel-drive is available on all trims.
The gas-powered LS 500 models have a twin-turbo 3.5-liter V6 that makes 416 horsepower and 442 pound-feet of torque paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission. The hybrid has a 3.5-liter V6 and two electric motors with a combined output of 354 horses and 257 pound-feet, paired with a continuously variable transmission.
The LS 500 has plenty of smooth power for every driving situation. It drives like, well, a Lexus, meaning that it’s more about a comfortable, refined ride than sheer athleticism. Still, the LS 500 is no slouch when it comes to performance. The LS accelerates quickly off the line (Lexus says the RWD model can go from zero to 60 in 4.6 seconds), corners well and swiftly gets up to freeway speeds for merging and passing.
Fuel economy is about what you’d expect for a large luxury sedan. EPA ratings for AWD tester are 18 mpg city and 27 mpg highway with a combined rating of 21. I got 19 mpg during my week with a mix of city and highway driving. The rear-wheel-drive model gets 19 mpg city and 30 mpg city with a combined rating of 23. The RWD hybrid gets 25 mpg city/33 mpg highway/28 mpg combined, and the AWD hybrid gets 23 mpg city/31 mpg highway/26 mpg combined. Premium fuel is required.
The cabin is beautiful with the utmost attention to detail; materials are top notch and every stitch is perfectly in place. The optional Kiriko cut-glass is stunning. My tester also has the optional origami-inspired hand-quilted upholstery in the doors. These are features you won’t find in any European competitors. The spacious front row has plenty of leg- and headroom. While average-size adults will be perfectly comfortable in the second row, it doesn’t have as much space as some rivals and taller passengers may wish for a bit more leg- and headroom.
Standard features include push button start, rearview camera, dual-zone automatic climate control, 16-way power-adjustable heated and ventilated front seats, heated leather-trimmed steering wheel, power rear sunshade, power moonroof, Infotainment system with Remote Touchpad interface and 12.3-inch display, navigation, Bluetooth, Dynamic Voice Command, USB port, 12-speaker audio system, satellite radio, HD Radio, Apple CarPlay, Amazon Alexa, CD/MP3/WMA player, Wi-Fi hot spot, Lexus Enform app suite, automatic high-beam headlights, and rain-sensing windshield wipers.
The Lexus Safety System+ 2.0 is standard. It includes several technologies including daytime bicyclist detection, low-light pedestrian detection, Road Sign Assist and Lane Tracing Assist. Other standard driver assistance technologies include lane departure warning, lane keep assist, blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, rear cross traffic alert, and front and rear parking sensors.
Available features include panoramic glass roof, quad-zone automatic climate control, 23-speaker and 2,400 watt Mark Levinson surround-sound audio system, seven-inch rear center-console touchscreen, wood trims, heated wood- and leather-trimmed steering wheel, 24-inch head-up display, panoramic view monitor, quilted-stitch perforated semi aniline leather interior trim, Ultrasuede headliner and sun visors, Kiriko Glass interior door trim, hand-pleated interior door trim, and heated rear seats.
Available active safety features include a surround-view parking camera system, automatic lane change assist, front cross traffic alert, and a 24-inch head-up display.
The LS gets the latest version of the Remote Touch Interface with a 12.3-inch screen on the center stack and a mouse-like control located between the front seats. This system is very clunky. Be prepared to study the owner’s manual for tips on how to operate it. For some functions, you have to go through menus and submenus that don’t always make sense.
For example, to turn on the massaging front seats, you first 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 select the intensity. A massage was definitely in order after all the steps required to engage the massage function!
Trunk space is about average for a large luxury sedan with 17 cubic feet. The hybrid has 15.2 cubes. While the trunk opening is wide, the space narrows at the back which can make it challenging to fit large or bulky items. A hands-free power trunk lid is standard.
Super comfortable cruiser
Lower sticker price than some competitors
Beautiful, refined interior
Lots of standard features and tech
Standard Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa
Clunky infotainment system
Rear seats aren’t as roomy as some rivals
Android Auto not available
My tester starts at $78,670. The Lexus Safety System+ is $3,000 and adds pre-collision 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 five-spoke forged Alloy wheels are $2,450. 24-inch heads-up display is $1,200. LED headlamps with adaptive front lighting system are $300. The Executive Package with Kiriko Glass is $23,080 and adds quilted-stitch perforated semi-Aniline leather interior trim, 28-way power drivers seat with multifunction massage, Ultrasuede headliner, power front seat buckles, heated rear seats, power relining outboard rear seats, four-zone climate concierge, power side-window sunshades, 7-inch touchscreen controller, rear seat knee airbags, Kiriko glass interior door trim, and hand-pleated interior door trim. Mark Levinson audio system with 23 speakers is $1,940. Premium paint is $595. Panorama glass roof is $1,000. Panoramic view monitor is $800. Heated wood and leather-trimmed steering wheel is $410. Delivery fee is $1,025 bringing the grand total to $115,970.
The Lexus LS 500 deserves consideration if you’re shopping for a large luxury sedan, and proves, along with the Genesis, that you don’t need a European badge to get a top-of-the-line vehicle. However, the clunky infotainment system is a drawback.