The LS is the flagship sedan from Toyota’s upscale brand. As you’d expect in a Lexus, the LS 500 excels as a comfy cruiser and envelops the driver and passengers in a sumptuous and luxurious cabin. And the LS is one of the few large luxury sedans that’s available as a hybrid. One drawback, though, is its clunky and distracting infotainment system which may make the LS less appealing than its German and South Korean rivals.
Base Price: $82,850
As Tested: $88,885
Mileage: 17 mpg city/27 mpg highway/21 mpg combined
The five-passenger LS was last redesigned for the 2018 model year. For 2021, The LS gets some exterior and interior styling tweaks, Android Auto becomes standard (as Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa did in 2019), and there’s a new standard infotainment system with a touchscreen which makes it a little easier to use than the outgoing system and its cumbersome Remote Touchpad controller.
Three trims are available: LS 500, LS 500 F Sport and the hybrid LS 500h. Starting prices for the non-hybrid trims range from $76,000 to $82,850, and can climb in a hurry with the addition of packages and options. The 500h hybrid starts at $90,500. Rear-wheel-drive is standard and all-wheel-drive is available.
The LS 500 and LS 500 F Sport get the same engine: a twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 that makes 416 horsepower and 442 pound-feet of torque, paired with a 10-speed automatic. Unlike some rivals that offer more potent powerplants that deliver 500 or even 600 horses, this is the only engine offered on the LS.
The hybrid LS 500h gets a V6 and two electric motors that make 354 horses.
The LS 500 lacks the sportiness of its German rivals but excels as a composed cruiser. It’s all about providing a comfortable and smooth ride, enveloping the driver and passengers in a cocoon that’s oblivious to bumps and rough roads. The F Sport trim has quicker responsiveness and a slightly stiffer ride. Acceleration from a stop is quick, and there’s always plenty of power for merging and passing at freeway speeds. The 10-speed shifts quickly and smoothly. Engine, road and wind noise are barely perceptible.
Fuel efficiency for the gas-powered LS 500 is about average for a large luxury sedan. EPA ratings for my AWD tester are 17 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. Rear-wheel-drive models get 18 mpg city/29mpg highway/22 Combined. The hybrid gets better ratings of 25 mpg city/33 mpg highway/28 mpg combined.
The interior is beautiful and elegant with top notch materials and attention to detail. Every stitch is perfectly in place. Front seats are roomy and extremely comfortable. My tester has the optional massaging front seats in addition to the usual heated and ventilated seats. Yep, I made sure to turn on the massage feature every time I was behind the wheel! The second row has great legroom, but taller adults may wish for more headroom.
Standard features include proximity keyless entry, rearview camera, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, 16-way power-adjustable, heated, and ventilated front seats, heated and leather-wrapped steering wheel, infotainment system with 12.3-inch touchscreen and Remote Touchpad, navigation, 12-speaker audio system, satellite radio, HD Radio, Bluetooth, USB ports, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, Amazon Alexa, voice recognition, Wi-Fi hot spot, power rear-window sunshade, and a moonroof.
Available features include a surround-view camera system, rearview mirror camera ,24-inch head-up display, quad-zone automatic climate control, performance instrument cluster, quilted and semi-aniline leather upholstery, suede headliner, sport steering wheel and shift knob, aluminum pedals, front sport seats, 28-way power-adjustable and massaging front seats, power-retractable front headrests, heated rear seats, 18-way power-adjustable and reclining rear seats with memory settings, 22-way power-adjustable and massaging rear seats, 23-speaker, 2,400-watt Mark Levinson surround-sound stereo, passenger-side rear-seat ottoman, leather-wrapped rear armrest with seven-inch touchscreen, power rear side-window sunshades, rain-sensing windshield wipers, automatic high-beam headlights, adaptive headlights, and a panorama glass roof.
Standard driver assistance technologies include forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, lane tracing assist, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, pedestrian and cyclist detection, traffic sign recognition, and front and rear parking sensors.
Available driver assistance technologies include enhanced adaptive cruise control, automatic lane change assist, and front cross traffic alert.
Lexus has thankfully updated the infotainment system, but it’s still clunky and distracting compared to the systems in other vehicles. A new 12.3-inch touchscreen is added in addition to the cumbersome Remote Touchpad system that’s similar to using the mouse on a laptop. While the new system is more intuitive, it still has complex menus and doesn’t always respond accurately to voice commands. At least Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard.
The gas-powered LS 500 has nearly 17 cubic feet of trunk space which is above average for the class. The hybrid LS 500h has 15.2 cubes. Both trunks are large enough for luggage and accommodating your purchases from Costco. The opening is tall and wide, making it easy to load larger items. But the rear seats don’t fold down to make room for long items. A hands-free power trunk lid is standard.
Smooth and comfortable cruiser
Sumptuous cabin with top notch materials and premium features
Spacious and quiet interior
Less expensive than German rivals
Large trunk for the class
Standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay
Not as sporty as rivals
Clunky, distracting infotainment system
My tester starts at 82,850. The 24-inch head-up display is $1,220. The mark Levinson 23-speaker audio system is $1,940. The Panorama glass roof is $1,000. The all-weather floor liners with cargo tray are $295. Rear bumper applique is $95. Door edge guards are $155. Trunk mat, cargo net, wheel locks and key gloves are $305. Delivery fee is $1,025 bringing the grand total to $88,885.
For the last 30 years, the Lexus LS has delivered in providing extreme comfort and a meticulously crafted and upscale interior. While it’s not as sporty as some rivals, it’s hard to beat as a refined cruiser. And it has a relatively low price tag for the class. The clunky infotainment system is the biggest flaw.