RSS icon Home icon
  • 2018 Lexus LS 500h

    Posted on August 24th, 2018 ninarussin

    Flagship hybrid sedan reinvented

    By Nina Russin

    2018 Lexus LS 500h

    When the first Lexus LS debuted at the North American International Auto Show in 1989, the automaker’s flagship sedan was really-more of a car to be driven in than a driver’s car. The sedan’s capacious rear seating area with features such as massaging rear seats was clearly intended for owners being chauffeured.

    That formula worked better in Japan than it did in the US, where drivers were looking for full-size luxury but with performance that could compete against the likes of the Audi A8 and BMW 7-Series. The newest LS 500 series that debuts for the 2018 model year is exactly that, with a distinctive road presence evident in both its styling and performance.

    What began life as one of the brand’s most conservatively styled sedans has become one of its boldest, with a large spindle grille up front, coupe-like aerodynamic profile, large wheels and low-profile tires. Buyers can opt between gasoline or gasoline-electric hybrid models.

    2018 Lexus LS 500h

    Pricing for the gasoline-electric Lexus 500h starts at $82,730 excluding the $995 destination charge. Power comes from a 3.5-liter V-6 engine and two electric motor-generators, with zero-to-60 acceleration of 5.1 seconds. That’s slightly slower than the gas model with twin turbo V-6, but buyers benefit from a fuel economy advantage of about two miles-per-gallon.

    Options on the test car include an active safety system package adding pre-collision braking, active steering assist, front cross-traffic alert and road sign assist, adaptive air suspension, 20-inch alloy rims, LED adaptive front headlamps, Aniline leather upholstery, reclining rear seats, four-zone automatic climate control, Mark Levinson premium audio system, panoramic view monitor, premium wood interior trim and heated wood and leather steering wheel. Final MSRP is $107,720.

    Test drive in Phoenix, Arizona

    2018 Lexus LS 500h

    Over the past week I drove the LS 500h around the Phoenix, Arizona metropolitan area including Scottsdale, Chandler, Gilbert and some rural areas south of town. The newest LS has met its goal of delivering the dynamics driving enthusiasts crave while maintaining its core mission of full-size luxury.

    Fuel economy for the hybrid averages 26 miles-per-gallon according-to the EPA. That might not sound impressive, but the LS sedan is a very heavy car, with the rear-wheel drive version weighing in at 4883 pounds when equipped with the optional air suspension. That’s over 1100-pounds more than the Toyota Avalon: that brand’s largest sedan. In addition to its abundance of electronic technology and plush seating, the LS sedan’s large glass areas and big wheels add a lot of mass.

    Considering that mass, steering performance is really-quite good. The new chassis is stiffer than the outgoing model, so even though the newest LS has a longer wheelbase, it’s more responsive to steering input. A low center of gravity contributes to better stability on the highway.

    The rear-wheel drive model has a slightly smaller turning radius than the all-wheel drive car that comes in handy when maneuvering through crowded parking lots or on narrow streets in urban centers. On the highway, steering response is pleasantly heavy with good on-center response.

    2018 Lexus LS 500h

    A heads-up display gives drivers basic information about speed limits and the optional active safety features. While I’m not a huge fan of lane-keeping assist, this system works well, with none of the annoying haptic feedback competitors use to warn drivers.

    Because electric motors develop maximum torque at extremely low speeds, acceleration off the line is exceptionally good, as well as in the 20-to-50 mile-per-hour range drivers use merging onto the highway. Engineers tuned the exhaust for a loud note when the driver digs into the throttle. I found it a bit weird, but some members of the intended audience might enjoy it.

    The optional air suspension continuously adjusts damping according-to road conditions and the driver’s style. The ride is smooth and compliant without feeling mushy. Four-wheel disc brakes with large ventilated rotors stop the sedan in firm, linear fashion.

    At night, the optional LED headlamps with adaptive front lighting on the test car provide long beams close to daylight in intensity that swivel in response to steering input, lighting dark corners of rural and suburban streets. Standard daytime running lamps make the LS more visible to other drivers in low light conditions.

    Visibility around the vehicle perimeter is good, thanks to a standard rearview camera and optional panoramic view monitor that project images on the center stack screen at low speeds. Together they eliminate any blind spots created by the vehicle’s pillars and rear glass. Standard blind spot monitoring illuminates LED signals in the side mirrors when vehicles in adjacent lanes pass through the driver’s blind spots.

    Luxurious interior

    2018 Lexus LS 500h

    The LS 500h interior is what one might expect of a high luxury sedan, with exceptional fit and finish throughout. Over the years Lexus designers have improved controls for the infotainment system, eliminating a lot of extraneous knobs and buttons. Most controls work via a touch pad device on the center console.

    The heads-up display gives the driver most of the essential road and speed information he or she needs, minimizing distraction.

    Seats in both rows are exceptionally comfortable with adjustable lumbar and leg bolsters. The four-zone climate control enables both rows of occupants to adjust the interior temperature to their liking.

    The optional Mark Levinson audio system utilizes a proprietary technology to decompress digital files, yielding equivalent sound quality to top end home audio systems. I listened to classical music during the test drive: the sound was close to a symphony hall.

    Standard safety

    The LS 500h comes with 10 airbags, cruise control, blind spot monitoring, lane departure assist, autonomous braking with pedestrian detection, intelligent high beam headlamps, stability control, traction control, antilock braking, tire pressure monitoring, LED headlamps and daytime running lamps, active headrests and a first aid kit.

    Lexus builds the LS 500h at its Tahara Aichi, Japan assembly plant.

    Like: A stylish, luxurious full-size sedan with abundant interior space, excellent performance and a high level of standard safety features.

    Dislike: Expensive option packages significantly increase the overall vehicle cost.

    Quick facts:

    Make: Lexus
    Model: LS 500h
    Year: 2018
    Base price: $82,730
    As tested: $107,720
    Horsepower: 345 HP (net system horsepower). 259 HP @ 6600 rpm (gasoline engine only).
    Torque: N/A
    Zero-to-sixty: 5.1 seconds
    Antilock brakes: Standard
    Side curtain airbags: Standard
    First aid kit: Standard
    Bicycle friendly: No
    Off-road: No
    Towing: No
    Fuel economy: 23/31 mpg city/highway

    Comments are closed.