All new for 2018, Lexus LS has been totally redesigned. The new Lexus LS 500 is related to the recently launched LC coupe. Stressing unabashed luxury, the all-new Lexus LS echoes the model that first challenged German automakers with a top-level luxury car from a Japanese marque.
Lexus fills its top sedan with opulent details, such as crystal trim, while edging into fresh design territory. Rather than near-silence, LS buyers can opt for simulated engine sounds. A new 10-speed automatic transmission goes into the gas-engine LS 500, while the LS 500h hybrid gets an ingenious CVT/4-speed transmission.
Built upon a stretched version of the LC coupe platform, the LS 500 is slightly longer than its predecessor, more tapered, with broader glass area. Fractionally lower, it promises improved weight distribution. It is not intended to be as sporty as the LC, focusing instead on luxury.
A short-wheelbase model is no longer part of the LS picture. Also gone is the previous V8 engine, thrust aside by a new twin turbocharged V6.
Three versions are available: LS 500 with rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive; LS 500 F Sport; and LS 500h hybrid.
The new 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 generates 416 horsepower and 442 pound-feet of torque, working with the new 10-speed.
The LS 500h hybrid mates a 3.5-liter V6 mates with two electric motors, for total combined output of 354 horsepower. A uniquely developed 4-speed transmission blends with a continuously variable unit. One electric motor propels the sedan at low speeds. A second motor adds power at higher speeds. Paddle shifters are included, and the 4-speed/CVT provides 10 forward speeds.
Located beneath the back seat, the 44-kWh lithium-ion battery pack generates 1.1 kilowatt-hours of power. The LS 500h can operate on battery power, but for no more than a couple of miles. Acceleration to 60 mph takes just 5.1 seconds with rear-drive.
Neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has crash-tested the LS sedan.
A group of valuable safety features is standard, including forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane-departure alert, adaptive cruise control, and automatic high beams. The driver can set lane- and speed-control, then remove hands from the steering wheel for 5 seconds.
An optional Advanced Safety package adds pedestrian detection with active steering and front cross-traffic alert.
The 2018 Lexus LS 500 ($75,000) comes with rear-wheel drive, leather upholstery, navigation, 12-speaker audio with Bluetooth streaming, active noise cancellation, and 19-inch wheels. It comes with the twin-turbocharged V6 engine and 10-speed automatic. (Prices are MSRP and do not include destination charge.)
LS 500 AWD ($79,215) adds all-wheel drive.
LS 500h ($79,510) is similar to LS 500, but with hybrid powertrain. It’s also available with rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive ($82,730).
LS 500 F Sport ($81,000) gets distinctive exterior trim, special 20-inch wheels, firmly padded 28-way power seats, suede headliner, and aluminum pedals. A movable gauge reveals additional performance data. It comes with the twin-turbo V6 and rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive ($84,220)
Boldly compelling styling of the 2018 LS 500 makes a clean break from the staid past. Lexus has borrowed some luscious design cues from its new LC 500 coupe, sailing past customary boundaries in the process.
While the coupe is suggestive of Aston Martin flair, the LS sedan conveys a more elegant character, topped by a long, tapered roofline. Teardrop-shaped side windows sit behind the rear doors.
Z-shaped headlights flank a huge hourglass-shaped grille, similar to other Lexus models. Each LS version gets a different grille texture, featuring hundreds of gleaming facets. LED taillights mark the tall rear end.
Extravagance is a byword for the asymmetric LS cabin, from ambient lighting to dark hardwoods and aluminum trim, even cut glass and quilted fabrics. Door panels feature curved stitching, complemented by free-floating door handles and armrests.
An air suspension can ease entry/exit, raising the car more than an inch. Heated/cooled front seats can move 28 ways, and provide massage functions. In the F Sport, heavily sculptured seats might be snug for wider physiques.
Even in standard form, rear-seat space is abundant for three riders. An optional Executive package, targeting the chauffeur-driven market, provides even greater stretch-out space for two occupants. Extras include four-zone climate control, 22-way heated/cooled rear seats, and a right-side seat with a raised ottoman, backrest recline, and easy-access mode.
A touchpad controls audio and climate functions on the low-sitting, slightly off-balance dashboard, with its narrow cluster of gauges. All LS sedans come with a 12.3-inch display screen, but the infotainment system is among the clumsiest. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are unavailable.
Trunk space is good, measuring 17 cubic feet for the LS 500 and 15.2 cubic feet for the hybrid. Plenty of rear glass and a low beltline help provide good visibility.
Ride control is especially good in the F Sport’s continuously adaptive setup, permitting little body lean when cornering. Run-flat tires on the F Sport results in a rumbling ride and bounding over some bumps. Through long undulations, in contrast, the air springs yield pleasurable softness. The steering lacks precision as well as feel and weightiness. However, road manners are excellent, overall, with the adaptive setup.
Rear-wheel steering on the F Sport reduces the turning circle, easing maneuverability. The driver can select Eco, Normal, Comfort, Custom, Sport, or Sport+ mode. When in Sport or Sport+ mode, amplified engine sounds are pumped into the cabin.
Acceleration to 60 mph in an LS 500 takes just 4.6 seconds. Lexus claims the 10-speed transmission shifts as promptly as a dual-clutch unit.
The hybrid performs nearly as well as the gas-engine model and handling differences between the LS 500 and LS 500h are barely discernible. The amplified engine noise is more bothersome in the LS 500h, however.
Because LS sedans are heavyweights, gas mileage inevitably suffers, but the hybrid should be quite thrifty. The EPA has not yet issued fuel-economy estimates. Lexus predicts the rear-drive LS 500h hybrid will earn about 28 mpg in combined city and highway driving. For the standard LS 500, Lexus predicts 23 mpg combined.
With its more opulent cabin and greater interior space, the latest LS transcends its predecessors. In addition to outstanding fit and finish, the LS 500 line promises fine seat comfort front and rear, plenty of storage space, lots of luxury, and a sizable helping of current technology.
Driving impressions by Marty Padgett, The Car Connection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.