As we’ve said before, car shopping today is a challenge because of the lack of inventory. The local Volvo dealership I pass daily has more used vehicles of makes other than Volvo out front.
Although large luxury vehicles aren’t as popular as they once were because of the proliferation of SUVs, there will always be customers who yearn for a large, comfortable car. Audi, BMW, Genesis, Lincoln and Cadillac have their flagship options, but the yardstick they are measured by is the new Mercedes S-Class — a technological marvel that possesses the gravitas its competitors strive for.
Lexus also has its stalwart luxe hauler, the LS 500. There’s no denying its Toyota-designed long-term reliability. If you’re looking for quiet luxury designed to last the long haul, the LS 500 might be the vehicle you’ll want in your driveway for years to come.
What has kept the Lexus LS competitive for the past 30 years is continually improving the great vehicle they started with, just as Porsche has done with the 911. Back in the day, the “500” part of the LS 500 moniker correlated to a 5-liter V8. But Toyota has downsized the powerplant and added turbochargers to increase fuel economy. The 3.5-liter, twin-turbo V6 engine on the LS 500 offers the output one would expect in a flagship sedan: 416 horsepower and 442 lb.-ft. of torque.
According to Lexus, the wastegate control on the twin-turbo engine has been updated to provide stable opening and closing of the valve to enhance performance efficiency. The 10-speed automatic transmission also receives attention, as its shift logic has been recalibrated to aid in keeping the engine in a more responsive area of its power band. The result is a 0-60 time of 4.6 seconds.
Lexus engineers also tuned the suspension and chassis to help achieve a smoother, more comfortable ride without sacrificing any of the current model’s dynamic character. Not that most customers are pushing a LS 500 … but you can have a little fun occasionally. Especially with over 400 horsepower on tap.
On the Inside
Lexus did a nice job with the exterior, but the interior will seal the deal for most customers. My tester had beautifully finished Ultrasuede pleated doors and headliner, and it features door handle pulls similar to those found in the Lexus LC sports car.
Although my tester did not have it, the Executive Package offers Kiriko glass ornamentation that exemplifies “innovative elegance through Japanese craftsmanship,” Lexus says. The striking cut glass – a world first in a production vehicle – draws inspiration from Japanese Kiriko glassware. Traditional Kiriko patterns are created using a technique that involves hand-cutting clear colors and delicate lines in a piece of glass, which is then repeatedly polished to a soft glow. Seeing it on a vehicle was spectacular; it even tops the Orrefors crystal shift knob found in special Volvo models.
Also in the interior are motorized sunshades on the side and rear side windows to keep passengers comfortable. When the shades are deployed, you can rely on an electronic TFT-screen rearview mirror to “see” out the back window.
The Lexus may not have all the tech that the Mercedes does, but what it does right, it does perfectly. For example, the beautifully weighted analog volume dial and track adjustment share the same real estate but are easy to use. If all controls were like this, touchscreens would be on the decline because of waning customer demand. Turning the dial gives access to the Mark Levinson 23-speaker, 2,400-watt Quantum Immersion Reference Surround Sound Audio System. Of the three surround settings, I preferred the 2-D option, which provided wonderful soundstaging.
Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Amazon Alexa are onboard. Users can also control compatible smart home devices such as lighting, thermostat and security systems. Alexa can even sync to the navigation system to provide on-the-go recommendations.
The Lexus Safety System features the technology to cocoon the passengers. I especially liked how the Intelligent High Beams were implemented: They automatically recognize oncoming vehicles and switch between high and low beam at just the right time.
Sum of the Parts
The LS does luxury well, and it creates the feeling that it will stand the test of time. But luxury never comes cheap: The Lexus starts at $79K but can easily climb over $100K with options. If you shop this vehicle, check out that Executive Package. The Kiriko glass is so pretty, it’s worth holding onto for years!