Driven: 2019 Lexus LS 500 Is Proof You Can Have Style And Substance

The Mercedes-Benz S-Class, BMW 7-Series, and Audi A8 are the leaders of the pack when it comes to full-size luxury sedans and yet, in 1989, Lexus encroached on their turf with its flagship LS sedan which, for the time, was a game-changer.

That was long ago, though, and Lexus launched the all-new, fifth-generation LS in early 2017. It is vastly improved over its predecessors and we recently spent a week with the LS 500 Sports Luxury, which is priced a bit over AU$210,000 (US$141,708), to see what a thoroughly-modern flagship sedan from the Japanese luxury brand is all about and to determine if it is a legitimate rival to the Germans.

Underpinning the new LS is Toyota’s Global Architecture for Luxury vehicles (GA-L) that is part of the wider family of Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) platforms. The seductive LC 500 was the first Lexus to be based on this platform, and the parallels between the two are immediately apparent.

Striking is an understatement

It’s impossible to talk about the LS without mentioning its design. Much like the LC, the sedan has concept car-inspired looks and is extremely striking. Regardless of whether you like the look of the LS or not, it’s hard to deny that it looks sportier and is much more evocative in its design than the S-Class, A8, and 7-Series, which are more conservatively styled. The LS is a breath of fresh air in a segment of the market that’s traditionally focused on technologies as opposed to cars that actually appeal to the eye.

Dominating the front of the LS 500 is the company’s signature, and somewhat controversial, spindle grille. It’s big, imposing, and has been elegantly incorporated into the LS. Flanking the grille are small air intakes as well as sharp Z-shaped headlights and daytime running lights.

Approaching the LS, perhaps the first thing that strikes you is just how long, sleek, and sporty it looks. On paper, it measures 5,235 mm (106.1-inches) in length, has a 3,125 mm wheelbase (123-inches), is 1,900 mm (74.8-inches) wide and 1,461 mm (57.5-inches tall). These measurements are similar to the current S-Class although the LS is slightly longer and slighter lower. In person, it looks even lower than it really is.

Roughly a decade ago, Toyota president and chief executive Akio Toyoda vowed that cars from the Japanese manufacturer would no longer be considered ‘boring’. Toyota and Lexus’s newfound determination to make cars that are exciting to look at is apparent in the LS. There’s really no mistaking it for anything else on the road.

Like driving on a cloud

Of course, luxury sedans like these are not just about exterior design, but mostly about their interiors, so let’s see what the Lexus brings to the table.

Similarities with the LC 500 are striking when you take a look inside. There are the same ‘floating’ door handles, a similar dashboard layout, and the same perfect driving position. Occupants sitting up front have a set of 28-way power-adjustable seats to enjoy. You can tweak the seats using the manual controls or alternatively, dive into the seat menu in the infotainment system for further customization, such as adjusting the lumbar support, how tight the bolsters squeeze your butt and ribs, and the height and angle of the headrest. Heated and cooled functions are present as are a number of massage options. There really is nothing like driving a car while getting a warm massage.

The LS 500 I drove was the Sports Luxury model, which comes with a AU$5000 (US$3374) premium over the F Sport and adds four-zone climate control, a rear drinks cooler, powered side and rear sunshades, as well as cooled and massaged seats.

Supple leather adorns most of the interior surfaces, including the steering wheel, gauge cluster surround and dashboard. That gauge cluster, by the way, includes a configurable digital display, as well as a superb Head-Up Display. Not everything is sunshine and rainbows, however, as Lexus insists on still using its flawed infotainment system that’s accessible exclusively via a touchpad directly behind the gear selector. If the screen wasn’t as recessed in the dashboard as it is, Lexus could update it with a touchscreen that would solve all the issues. Keeping the touchpad as a secondary control option wouldn’t be a bad idea, but a touchscreen is, nowadays, a must.

A car made to be driven in

The LS 500’s interior is taken up another notch at the rear, as one would expect from a vehicle that prioritizes rear-seat passengers over those at the front. The two main seats are just as comfortable as those up front and controlled exclusively through a responsive touchscreen in the center divider (which also doubles as a third seat). Both rear seats can be reclined, but the passenger-side rear seat is the place you want to be. With a simple touch of a button on the central display, the front passenger seat slides forward and the rear seat steadily reclines, allowing you to stretch out like in a business class seat on an airliner. It’s funny that rear seat passenger have a great touchscreen to use but those at the front don’t…

Also Read: 2020 LS 500 Is First Lexus Sedan To Get The Inspiration Series Treatment

Numerous massage functions are available at the rear including what Lexus dubs a ‘Full Body Fresh’, ‘Full Body Stretch’, and ‘Full Body Simple.’ There are also TV screens for both passengers yet, curiously, they are not touchscreens and only display information and any BluRay discs you may insert. No matter where you sit, though, you get to enjoy a stunning, 23-speaker Mark Levinson audio system.

You don’t really notice the heft

Power for the LS 500 comes from a 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged V6 delivering 415 HP and 600 Nm (440 lb-ft) of torque. This engine is mated to the same 10-speed transmission as the LC, which is incredibly smooth and does a good job of mimicking the refinement of a dual-clutch when driven in a calm manner. Push it, though, and it can be a little slow to respond.

There are six driving modes (Normal, Eco, Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and Custom) that allow you to match your driving style with the right setup. In Comfort, which is the one we presume the majority of owners will select for most of the time, the suspension is supple and soaks up bumps precisely and with little fuss. Turn things up to Sport+ and everything stiffens up providing the driver with a similar feeling to what you’ll find in the LC 500. For a vehicle of this size that weighs roughly 2,300 kg (5,070 lbs), that’s a big compliment. Dare I say it, it feels certifiably sporty up until the moment you turn a little too aggressively into a corner and the car’s weight reveals itself.

The Germans can’t make a sedan look this good

Lexus says the car sips 9.5-liters per 100 km (24.7 U.S. mpg). In our time with it, that figure exceeded 12 l/100 km (19 mpg) on average, and we suspect achieving the claimed 9.5 l/100 km would be a challenge, if not impossible.

Among the key safety and driver-assistance technologies that come standard with the LS 500 includes radar cruise control, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist, fatigue monitoring, and autonomous emergency braking. These systems work superbly on well-marked roads yet aren’t on the same level as those from the Germans, in particular, the latest Audi A8 with its Level 3 partial automation and what we expected from the next-generation Mercedes-Benz S-Class.

It’s hard not to be impressed by the LS. The car oozes class, sophistication, and refinement. It also happens to be very stylish, both inside and out and certainly worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as the S-Class, 7-Series, and A8. It could be made even better with more advanced driver-assistance technologies and a better infotainment system but hey, you can never have it all, can you?

 

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  • THIS LOOKS A LOT BETTER IN PERSON EVEN WITH THE TOYOTA DESIGN CUES BUT IT DOESN’T LOOK LIKE IT’S IN THE 7 SERIES OR S CLASS LEAGUE.

    • no25

      Pleaseeeeeee. Have you ever sat in one and the 7 Series and SClass? LS stacks up quite nicely. Besides, the 7 Series, with that new grille, is HIDEOUS. But you’re just blind as bat – that’s why you always type in all caps. We know.

      • Stigasawuswrecks

        Have you tried using Lexus infotainment system? It makes CUE look very intuitive. It makes the simplest of tasks extra complicated and frustrating. That alone is enough to keep people from buying one.

  • chippers

    I know it’s an unpopular opinion but I love the way it looks. I think it’d be better if they toned the grill down some but I still love it.

    • alexxx

      Why unpopular? It is very nice and I love the way grill looks actually…

  • An Existing Person

    Love this car.

  • eb110americana

    I’m sorry, but this LS looks super cheesy to me inside and out. The old model had class, this one has plastic ribs on the dashboard, infotainment like the gauge cluster that looks 5-10 years outdated already, and an exterior adorned with lines that go nowhere. I don’t understand how Lexus could get the LC interior so right, and then come up with this.

    • pcurve

      I think this car looks a lot better in person. But it’s a very rare sighting…

  • Honda NSX-R

    It’s basically the 4 door LC 500, I love it

    • Merc1

      Not really with out a V8.

      M

  • Merc1

    The Lexus LS…..hmmm. I actually like this design, but they dropped the ball in so many areas. It doesn’t ride as well as it used to and the handling isn’t sports sedan sharp either. The infotainment sucks. It needs a V8. Lose the geriatric chrome wheel option, even Cadillac has moved on from that. That said, the build quality of this car is stunning. Every single part of it is masterfully done. In F Sport guise it’s actually a looker. Now where is the 600hp V8 F version? There is your car to challenge the Germans, not this V6 LS500.

    M

    • no25

      Surprised you didn’t bring in the SClass into your comment since you always have to bring Mercedes in.

      • Merc1

        Nope, that’s your issue. This car speaks for itself, good or bad. Everyone already knows it doesn’t compare to well with the S-Class.

        M

  • Matt

    The Lexus looks like a Camry.

    • Arct1c

      Looks nothing like a Camry. You’re just a hating troll.

      • Matt

        Actually I agree. The real troll here is ‘Carman’, who is a massive Toyota fanboy who always puts down anything German in all his comments. My comment was about using his logic against him. You can see by my comment history I’m no ‘troll’.

    • Stigasawuswrecks

      It looks like a Camry with palsy.

  • Six Thousand Times

    Pity you can’t have a V-8.

  • iggination

    Out of all the beautiful interior color combinations, why would you ruin it with all black in a car like this??

    • Craig

      Exactly what I was thinking. So many beautiful color combinations to choose from.

    • Ary Wisesa

      Maroon one with Kiriko glass is truly work of art..

  • Craig

    As someone who owned a 1993 LS400 and appreciated its classy and conservative looks – this new LS is a bit too much for me. I would love to see Lexus bring the Toyota Century to NA and make that its flagship model. They could stretch it a bit and put on suicide doors. Now THAT would be nice!

    • Bash

      You had me on the suicide doors.
      PS. Someone please give this guy an Imperial.

      • Craig

        Santa? Are you listening?

    • pcurve

      I agree. I remember when the LS first came out. It was truly shocking how futuristic it looked compared to everything else. The new LS just doesn’t look like a flagship. +1 on bringing century. Even fewer people would buy it though. lol

    • Jason Panamera

      In Japan Century costs around 180k $ so main competitor would be Maybach. In that case Lexus should still offer LS on american market.

      • Craig

        It wouldn’t have to cost quite that much. The top LS in the US costs over $100,000. I’m sure the Century could be build to suit the North American market for under $150,000.

  • YUDHA BAGASKARA

    at least it will last longer than its rivals

  • Mike Davis

    This car is stunning – better looking than the S-class, 7 series, or A8 by a mile. Kudos to Lexus for taking risks and building a large luxury sedan that’s also a head-turner.

    • CBV2020

      The first time I saw a LS600h on the street, it’s lights beamed blue on a late night in Boston. It had the most beautiful reflective black paint job and the chrome spindle grille and wheels were flawless! It rolled past Boston’s Old State House which was built in 1713. The juxtaposition was perfect, especially with the 360 degree view of towers spiking above it. Since then, I’ve thought to myself, “if they just get the interior as contemporary as I like with the right kind of power and sound, I can see myself in one. It’s nice to have something unique.

  • Matt

    It’s good your flagship Lexus looks like a Camry? Ok…

  • SteersUright

    In person it really does look like a big Camry. And no, thats not a compliment. It looks geriatric, soft, effeminate, and too many swooshing lines all over the place. The interior, though, looks of impeccable quality. Certainly did a nice job there. Also, its competitors are not exactly good looking either. The latest A8, 7-series and S-class are all equally as ugly as far as exterior design. They all peaked years ago in my opinion and Lexus never got the LS right after the original.

    • Arct1c

      Looks nothing like a Camry. I don’t understand how people think that. Literally there are no similarities besides the fact that Toyota owns Lexus. People like you are just haters who have to say something about a brand they hate because they have “power” with their keyboards.

    • slither16

      Camry actually looks better.

  • Jason Panamera

    This makes 911 look like Beetle.

    • Rahul Mandala

      Both are Ferdinand Porsche’s creation so…What are you trying to prove?

  • McFly

    I very much prefer “boring” over annoying. Real class and style is never loud.

  • Jason Panamera

    Interior is lovely. And you can get used to infotainment controlling pad what isn’t any problem, what most of ,,one drive” journalists say…

  • salamOOn

    what a great driving! in the suburb straight into the right lane, on the highway straight into the fast lane an keep camping there even when the middle lane is empty.

  • Robert

    In a heartbeat this would be my choice over any of the German brands.

  • BlackPegasus

    Colleague at work bought one. It just doesn’t exude “flagship” at any angle. Nor does it have the road presence of a 7 series (with the pig nose) or a Genesis G90 (with the Superman crest).

    The Lexus ES has similar design elements and would probably be the better buy.

    • TechLegend

      I can agree with you that it looks like a bigger ES. ha – Just like how the 7 looks like the 5 and the a8 looks like the a6. They need to make it special…

  • TruthSlayer

    From any angle except the front, this could easily be confused with a Buick Lucerne.

    • Arct1c

      Yeah, by a blind idiot like yourself.

      • TruthSlayer

        Rice WIne, F-OFF

    • Enter Ranting

      The interior looks like a mash-up of late ’90s GM dreck.

  • badcyclist

    I can think of a lot of words to describe it, but stylish isn’t one of them. Garish, yeah. This is a car only Jethro Bodine or Helen Keller would have been proud to drive.

  • Matt

    Luckily the A8 doesn’t look like a Jetta then, right?

  • slither16

    It has style, but the materials in it still look dull.

    • TechLegend

      What? Materials in this thing are top notch. It trails the Germans in tech and driving dynamics, not materials and fit and finish. People rave about the materials in my BMW, but I know it doesn’t rival this car, even at the same price new.

  • Rahul Mandala

    The 911 isn’t a beetle with huge front overhang wearing a diaper. The Beetle and the 911 are both Porsche’s creations. The 911 has always been exotic in the design respect and it’s a brilliant sports car that pushes the envelope.

  • Enter Ranting

    Catastrophically vulgar inside and out.

  • Patrick

    Apparently you haven’t seen the video of the guy with one hand pulls apart the dashboard and exposes what a piece of junk this car is. The last great ls was 2005. the ride is now crap. no substance to this car anymore. read the complaints on the message board. last gen had a wind noise problem. I drive an 2016 S class. front end(tires will always wear out the edges) and brakes are constant problems,as well on e class. IMHO Audi makes the best vehicle. my ex just traded in her c class with front end noise they couldn’t correct. I also have a Velar, which is trouble free except for screens rebooting every now an then

  • Ben

    The pathetic sales volume of this car tells you all you need to know. It’s ugly. It looks like a really big Honda Civic! That does not say “luxury.”

    • Dmitry Semenov

      It’s the car you buy to be invisible 🙂 Not everyone wants a head turner. I kinda like the interior and neutral on the exterior. Excellent quality craftsmanship

  • c3vzn

    Car companies should just stop trying to do infotainment UX by themselves and partner with tech companies. They’re more than happy to outsource audio so why should this be any different?

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