Pros-Posh. Roomy. Smooth. Fast. Good handling. New touchscreen. Rear or AWD. Less costly than rivals.
Cons-Average steering feel. Handling less athletic than that of rivals. Attractive but costly options.
Bottom Line-Emphasis on luxury, not sportiness.
The Lexus LS launched the Lexus brand in 1990 and retains its position as the automaker's flagship model. Its last significant change was in 2018, when it was made longer, lower and wider.
Major rivals include the BMW 7-Series, Mercedes-Benz S-Class and Audi A8, which are more athletic. But the LS 500 undercuts them in price, although attractive options can raise the list price to more than $100,000. My test car's base price was $79,250, but extras brought it to $110,225, including a $1,025 delivery charge.
Although less athletic than major rivals, the LS 500 is plenty fast, streaking from 0-60 m.p.h. in 4.8 seconds. It has a silky smooth twin turbocharged 3.5-liter V-6 with 416 horsepower and 442 pound/feet of torque that comes in at a low 1,600 r.p.m. It sure seems to eliminate the need for a V-8.
The large, heavy 206-inch-long LS 500 comfortably seats four tall adults and has a fair number of cabin storage areas.
The huge trunk has a low wide opening and power lid. However, there are no folding seat backs to provide more cargo room.
The car comes with rear or all-wheel drive (AWD), which my test car had. The LS long has had a smooth ride and it's better than ever because of suspension changes. They include improvements to the air suspension, revised dampers, new control arms and liquid-filled bushings.
Estimated fuel economy is 17 miles per gallon in the city and 27 on highways with all-wheel drive or 18 and 29 with rear-wheel drive.
There are several LS four-door sedan models, but the more fuel-thrifty 354-horsepower hybrid gas-electric version (25 city and 33 highway) has been criticized for lacking the smoothness of the standard model. The hybrid model wasn't available for testing.
Changes for the latest LS 500 include a quieter world-class interior with a (much awaited) easier to reach and use touchscreen, darker slightly revised grille, new LED headlights, revised shift logic and an (optional) improved adaptive variable air suspension, which my test car had.
Cabin features include dual-zone automatic climate control, push-button start, heated and ventilated front seats and a power moonroof.. There's also Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The steering is quick but has average road feel, and there is some body sway when taking curves at above-average speeds. However, new larger anti-sway bars help cut down on such sway. Stability is no problem, although this is no sports sedan. The emphasis is on luxury with a placid cruising nature. The brake pedal has a nice linear action.
I'd recommend the optional air suspension and Mark Levinson 23-speaker audio system. Other extras include hand-quilted leather on door panels, although they seem a little over-the-top. But the almost hidden door edge guards should be ordered to prevent paint chips from surrounding vehicles.
Still other options include 20-inch (up from 19-inch) alloy wheels with a machined finish, a heads-up display, leather interior trim, premium wood trim, power driver and passenger seat with massage and power rear seats.
A driver can choose these drive modes: Normal, Eco and Sport. Normal is best for routine driving. Change to Sport mode, which controls the engine, transmission and steering for curvy roads or such things as mountain driving. Even Sport mode didn't cause an uncomfortable ride with my test car's air suspension, although I could feel bumps more.
Safety features include a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane-tracing assist, lane-departure alert with steering assist, road sign assist, all-speed dynamic radar cruise control, intelligent high beams, blind spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, intuitive parking assist with auto braking, 10 air bags, "smart stop" technology and an especially handy backup camera with dynamic guidelines.
The very first LS didn't have much competition, but it was a solid upscale car and sold surprisingly well despite a relatively unknown name. Critics say it was deliberately underpriced to gain acceptance. The latest LS 500 now has the highly respected, established Lexus name and again has a very attractive base price. So it has much going for it despite increased rivalry.