Crossing the six figure threshold, there is a higher level of expectations held when it comes to the luxury car end of the market. What we once knew from Lexus and their cultured, sedated large luxury LS sedan is changing character into something that fits well into its high-priced society of grand gesturing, glamour and pizzazz.
It comes as no surprise with all the dramatic enterprise falling from the Lexus design lab that the LS was to look as daring and erudite as the rest of its lineup. With more grille than a Los Angles one-hit wonder rap artist, the LS500 represents style with a splash of refine taste and grace. While the LS500 may start at $75,300 it base price is just really a peak of what is behind the curtain. Offered in three varieties, one could choose the standard luxury sedan form, performance flared F SPORT, or the more technologically advanced hybrid – all of which can be had in either rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive at mere $3220 more. For this review, however, the LS500 F SPORT makes an appearance starting at $81,300.
But like we said, the starting price is just that – luxury and advance technology are all going to be wanted advancements. Having forgone the all-wheel drive, our example stuck its power to the rear-wheels saving us the extra three-grand. The F SPORT, costing $6000 more than the standard LS500, transforms it into a new dimension that even our 80-year old granddad could get tripped out on. Our brash Circuit Red leather interior was certainly not a retiree’s flavor for a core setting; however, fitting into a younger demographic, the LS is showcasing a fresher vibe with a new outlook. Losing sight of what we look for in a luxury sedan, the F SPORT cuts all the extravagant gadget fat by only offering a few options: $9700 Performance Package, $220 Cold Weather Package, & $3000 Lexus Safety System +A. Our F SPORT featured all but the Cold Weather Package.
By trimming all that we loved about the LS500, our $101,685 price tag felt as if it was missing some of the amenities that would fall under a six-figure allowance. Foregoing options such as the 4-zone climate control, heated and air conditioned rear seats, massaging function for front and rear seats, the 22-way power adjustable rear seats with butterfly power-retractable headrests or even the option to have Kiriko crystal glass inserts on the door trim as part of a $23,100 Executive Package was a bit disappointing. In fact, our LS seemed almost rather rudimentary compared to what it could be – with standard dual-zone climate control, heated and ventilated front seats, 28-way power adjustable driver seat with memory setting – our LS500 almost comes across as; meh considering the 467-horsepower, GS F holds a more compelling argument for $15,000 less.
With technology being on the rise, the usability behind the LS is more enhanced than our youthful minds can handle. With operations falling behind the vast 12.3-inch high-def infotainment display, simple operations where clumsy through the touch-pad interface and required us to look away from the road multiple times. Basic motor functions of the power adjustable driver and passenger seats were simple as controls are where they’re supposed to be; however, to get full operation of the 28-way adjustment, one has to use the infotainment system to activate its seats functionality. Even to control the heated/ventilated seats or heated steering wheel, one had to use this system for basic operations – this became tedious after a while. With advance safety however, this is one piece of technology that works quite well in the LS – featuring advanced forward collision safety and adaptive cruise control system with steering lane-change assist – it’s almost as if the car can drive itself – it would too if the driver alert feature wasn’t so darn pesky.
If one thinks the front seat holds all the action, they’d be wrong. Even though our LS500 F SPORT had gone without all the luxury appeal, the rear seats were the happening place. With seats so comfortable we darn near fell asleep after a 5-mile drive, there was more leg room and head room than if we were to be behind the wheel. Despite having complicated operations, both the driver and passenger seats were fitting with the ability to contour our body through every way possible. While we carry a slightly larger than average body type, sitting behind the wheel carried a less than air accommodation. Despite its ergonomic design, the center console, dash and panoramic sunroof provided a snug environment that had us kicking the rear passengers to the front.
Weighting just over 4700lbs, the LS500 is surprisingly one feisty goose. Dropping the old school V-8 for the more generation turbo-happy establishment, Lexus’ first 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged V-6 has quite the attitude. Developing 416-horsepower, getting from 0-60 takes 4.6–seconds using every bit of its 442lb-ft of torque. Transferring power through its newly developed 10-speed automatic, there is quickness to be had between gears that go completely unnoticeable. Seeing how Lexus dropped the V-8 in the LS500, this hasn’t been an abnormal position compared to its competitors. The Audi A8 using a 3.3-liter twin-turbo V-6 with 0-60 in 5.5-seconds, Kia and Genesis with the K900 and G90 using twin-turbo power V-6’s take 5.5-seconds and even a twin-turbo V-8 BMW 750i takes the same 4.6-seconds as the LS500.
Closing in on the F SPORT badging, there is more to its clever black mesh grille and dark aluminum interior accents. Where the previous generation was more-so-so about an appearance setting, this new F badge has been engineered with the F SPORT dynamics in mind. Engaging the drive mode out of Eco and Comfort into Sport and Sport Plus, the smooth, posh driving characteristics of the LS turn for a dramatic change towards a more spirited driving impression. This is where the $9000 Performance Package starts to play its role – with variable gear-ratio steering, dynamic rear steering, and active stabilizers – the LS500 reacts to a twisty mountain road as if it’s on a race track. Having been equipped with $1500 Adaptive variable air suspension system, the whole car seems to hunkers down to its lowest suspension setting – compromising road comfort, the LS sends road feedback and steering feel back to the driver through the nicely weighted power-assisted steering.
While switching the sport module into Sport Plus is always amusing, watching the digital LFA-inspired cluster change its form to a video-game like appearance – the fact that is, it’s a system that will never be used much like the stainless steel steering wheel paddle shifters. Left to its own devices in Comfort mode, we see the LS in true form – piloting in stillness as road imperfection remain anonymous, muting the sounds of a karaoke, dancing homeless man with his beer sign outside. For being on the hefty side, the LS moves along swiftly and assertively with ease – its handling is smooth with effortless gestures and suave charisma. We merely just have to sit back and enjoy the sedan’s quietude.
Seeing our LS500 F SPORT here, it showcases sexy design lines that we don’t see very often on full-size luxury sedans – Audi & BMW follow too many corporate ideas and while Kia and Genesis feature striking development, their performance just doesn’t quite pair up the LS500. The six-figure price tag is a hard understanding, considering a standard LS500 can be more than comfortably equipped with all the aforementioned luxury charm and performance competences with the same amount of zeros at the end.
Model: 2019 LEXUS LS 500
Starting Price: $75,300 – Standard LS 500
As Tested: $101,685 – LS 500 F SPORT with Performance Package & Lexus Safety System +A
Engine: 3.5-LITER TWIN-TURBO V-6
Horsepower/Torque: 416-HORSEPOWER / 442LB-FT TORQUE
Transmission: 10-SPEED AUTOMATIC
Fuel Economy: EPA RATED: 39-CITY / 30-HWY / 23-COMBINED
(AS TESTED: 20.3 MPG COMBINED | 31.1 MPG – 200 MILE HIGHWAY TEST)
Fuel Range: 350 MILES
0-60 MPH: ±4.6 SECONDS