GLITZ AND GLAMOUR: 2020 LEXUS LS 500H HYBRID
For the longest time, the Lexus LS as always been a favorite when it came to the plush side of luxury sedan methods – a gentle moaning V-8, tangible wood interior, and styling so simplistic that it would never age. It almost seemed as if the LS never really wanted to compete with the top notch luxury brands brought in by the Germans. Despite those non-specific brands pushing the limits of extravagance and six-figure price dockets, the LS presented itself for those who already arrived verses those trying to show off trying to get there.
Being at the top of the brands pyramid, Lexus pushes the LS 500 as their leading flagship vehicle representing the progression in technology, performance and safety as well as what we could soon expect to see out of other Lexus’ products in the near future. As we look upon this new LS era, we start to struggle to see where exactly it excels as a flagship vehicle. Last year when we tested the F SPORT, we found it was more about flair and zest. Gathering a new perspective with the hybrid this go around, the luxury appeal has spiraled into a completely new direction, but at the same time feels like it’s loosing that special finesse the LS has carried all these years.
There is no doubt that Lexus is taking the LS to a new extravagant institution. Full of the optimum detail and Japanese craftsmanship, there is a strikingly elegant attendance within the cabin. The artistry of the Kiriko crystal glass inserts on the door with hand stitched feathered door panels intensifies the manifestation of a first class cabin. Encompassed with the ultra-lavish retreats of a $23,000 Executive Package, the seat to be in isn’t the drivers. With a multi-functional massage mode and power reclining seat with an ottoman all controlled through a touch screen pad in the center console, the seat to have is the one behind the passenger.
Should one find themselves behind the wheel, things won’t be as sedated as the rear; however, the comforts of luxury are within a touch pad away. Included in the Executive Package the driver and passenger seats feature a 28-way adjustment including airplane style side folding headrest, power rear window shades and Climate Concierge. Escaping the LS charm, for a more modern aptitude there is an sinuous display of metal and piano black trim. With a touch of wood on the steering wheel and center console, it would have been nice to see them go towards the raw, natural finish phase verses the glossy veneer that almost represents a faux application.
With the drop of the V-8, it’s hard to see anything less than eight cylinders in this iconic sedan, but with modern times and fresh technology, one must evolve. And as such it’s a choice between a twin-turbocharged V-6 and hybrid-gas V-6. Since we already had our take in the 416-horsepower turbo option, this time we looked under the skirt of the hybrid. The hybrid variant is the least performing engine of the two with only 365-combined horsepower from its 3.5-liter V-6 and dual-electric motor hybrid system. Let that not be discouraging as this system is just as kosher as its turbocharged alternative achieving 60 mph in less than 5.1-seconds. If its three-engine (two electric motors and one gas) component was enough complication, like the LC 500h, the LS hybrid is composed of a bizarre transmission set up that baffles our comprehension – the hybrid system uses a continuously variable transmission (CVT), the gas engine on the other hand uses a 4-ratio gear transmission, together they work cohesively with the CVT for a combined simulated 10-speed automatic feel. Strange, we know. But if that wasn’t enough we can actually feel the difference between all three systems – a CVT constantly rev’s for maximum power output while a standard ratio gearbox wants to shift – we can feel the jerking of the 4-speed transmission fighting with the CVT as its trying to be masked by a computer generated system. While our sedan was applying its power to the rear wheels, all-wheel drive is an available option on the LS at mere $3,000 more.
Exceeding the six-figure confined price tag, the powertrain within the Lexus doesn’t quite live up to the expectations we had. We see a positive return from the electric motors as it is sharp on performance and fuel economy with an average of 27 mpg from a large heavy sedan. This system however isn’t exactly as smooth as it really should be. At low speeds or a stop we can feel the system shutting on and off with mild jolts and shutters. Due to the large 20-inch wheels, road noise and unwanted road deficiencies is apparent and unwanted. Even with several different drive modes, there is little excitement to be had when finding oneself on a twisty end of a fun road. The steering is flawed by numbness and heavily boosted assistance and although it is expected from a large luxury sedan, the body control may leave passengers oozing for a stop.
Technology on the forefront is excitingly impressive with advancements made to their adaptive cruise control and steering assist system as it will start center itself more within the lane when cruise control is activated. When cruise control is set to the highway’s speed limits, the road sign mitigation will work with the adaptive cruise control and adjust its speed accordingly to the highway’s posted speed limited. The immense 12.3-inch high-definition display caters to the cars vast interior – operated by the infamous Lexus touch-pad makes it for a touchy spectacle of a fussy due process. The interface however happily accommodates modern tech of Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Amazon Alexa capabilities.
Starting to head down this golden brick road of luxury and finesses, Lexus faces taut rivalry. The past of doing its own thing and attaining approbations of an assured demographic is exactly that, the past. The LS 500h may serve up a dish of glitz and glamour with feathered door panels, massaging seats and crystal glass; however, at over $100,000, it’s merely a plated silver spoon surrounded by gold.
Model: 2020 LEXUS LS 500H
Extras: EXECUTIVE PACKAGE
Starting Price: $79,980
As Tested: $116,495
Color: MATADOR RED MICA
Engine: 3.5-LITER V-6 & DUAL-ELECTRIC MOTOR HYBRID SYSTEM
Horsepower/Torque: 354-COMBINED HORSEPOWER
Transmission: CVT, 4-SPEED, 10-SPEED SIMULATED AUTOMATIC
Drivetrain: REAR-WHEEL DRIVE
Fuel Economy: EPA RATED: 25-CITY / 33-HWY / 28-COMBINED
AS TESTED: 27.4 MPG COMBINED
Fuel Range: 570 MILES
0-60 MPH: ±5.1 SECONDS