Wow, just wow. Simple words, I know, but still ever so apt for the new Lexus LS500. Lexus has given the flagship sedan a new engine, suspension and a delightfully glamorous interior that will have genuine buyers and stickybeaks sitting up and taking notice.
One would expect a car of such obvious comfort to be packed full of features and Lexus doesn’t disappoint. So, you can expect your LS500 Luxury Sport with heated and cooled seats, four-zone climate control, 22-way power adjusted massage seats, electric rear side sunshades, rear cool box, rear entertainment system., advanced Bluetooth connectivity, 12.3-inch multimedia screen with panoramic view monitor, GPS navigation with cockpit view, reversing camera with surround view and a 23-speaker Mark Levinson sound system to name a handful.
We had a week in the hybrid version and had to be persuaded to take it back.
The LS500h sports the updated Lexus spindle grille an imposing attention-grabbing piece of art that took designers more than six months to refine. It is bold and modern and sets the tone for a dynamic first impression.
New LED headlights and running lights join those dramatic air inlets below the bumper to further cement the understanding that this Lexus luxury sedan is marching to its own drummer, leaving more conservative rivals to hum their own tune.
The jaw-dropping interior will have you ensconced in the lap of luxury, it’s like wrapping one of those beautifully soft cashmere blankets around you and settling back for the ride. It is apparent that Lexus has spared no expense in the quality and fit of the chosen materials with supple leather ably accompanied by stylish woodgrain and swathing silver accents.
Given its limousine intent, it makes sense that the reclining rear seats are the most comfortable in the house. Very tall passengers may find headroom a tad tight but odds are they won’t be complaining when they are lying back with the Shiatsu massage going.
There are ample cupholders and deep door pockets, storage in the bin of the centre console and even a cool box just for the hell of it.
The boot though, at 440-litres in our LS500h Luxury Sport, seemed a bit on the small side but managed a couple of medium-sized suitcases.
The LS500h features a 12.3-inch multimedia screen in the front through which the driver can control proceedings as well as two 11.6-inch LCD touchscreens for the rear seat passengers to control their seat functions and comforts.
While these systems are somewhat functional, it is an irony that Lexus has not complemented luxurious design with as favourable multimedia technology. The touchpad and toggle that controls the main screen is clumsy while navigating the system itself takes some patience.
Bluetooth connectivity is simple and the 23-speaker Mark Levinson sound system is flawless. There are two USB ports in the front and rear and a 12V plug.
ENGINES / TRANSMISSIONS
Lexus has replaced their V8s with twin-turbo V6s which seem remarkably capable. The petrol-electric LS500h features a different 3.5-litre V6 (220kW and 350Nm) than the conventional LS500. There are also has two electric motors driving the rear wheels. Total power output is 264kW. It is important to note that this is not a plug-in hybrid – the electric units are charged through regenerative braking and by the petrol engine.
The hybrid’s transmission is little bit complicated combining a four-mode with a CVT unit. It can sometimes feel clunky and not as rewarding as the 10-speed automatic doing duty in the petrol LS500.
The LS500h has not had a crash test in Australia but is equipped with most of those safety offerings we expect from modern luxury cars. This includes ten airbags, pop-up bonnet for pedestrian protection, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, auto adaptive high beam, adaptive radar cruise with distance control, lane-keep assist, lane departure warning and front and rear auto emergency braking.
Interestingly, the LS500 gives no indication that Lexus is on par with the autonomous vehicle technology being advanced by its German competitors with things like automated parking functions missing from this luxury limo.
Buckle into the LS500h and take a minute to enjoy your surrounds. The driver’s seat is decidedly comfortable and it is super easy to find that optimal position. At almost 2.3 tonnes this LS500h is a beast of a car but still manages to do most things with great finesse.
There is a little hesitation at take-off but that is easy enough to compensate for and once the LS500h takes a breath it is reassuringly confident. It is a dream to manoeuvre – surprising, I know, given its size – with a reasonably good turning circle (11.3m) and gives an accomplished performance even in tight supermarket carparks.
If are looking to push a car quickly through corners or one that offers a dynamically sporty performance, then the LS500h is not for you. It will, however, reward a more cultured stance and a driving philosophy more attuned to its cruisy intentions. This is a car to enjoy at leisure, that is really at its best on longer trips and prefers a no-fuss restrained approach.
The air suspension does well enough here but it can settle harshly on the odd occasion. Steering feel is as you would expect, braking is excellent and LS500h is hardly flustered in a crowd.
The switch from electric to petrol is seamless and we always get a kick watching the battery regenerate through braking or simply slowing down. Of course the electric motor helps with fuel consumption too with the hybrid using just 7.5L/100km during our week in the hot seat.
Lexus offers this flagship sedan with a four year/100,00km warranty but no capped-price servicing program. Servicing intervals are a recommended 15,000km or 12 months with the first service free.
Lexus has done well in offering an upmarket competitor with heart. By focusing on the way the car makes you feel in lieu of just practical modernities, Lexus has found a way to allow the LS500 its own spotlight.
AT A GLANCE
Lexus LS500h pricing and specifications:
Price: from $195,500
Engine: 3.5-litre V6 petrol-electric hybrid
Output: 264kW and 650Nm
Transmission: Continuously Variable Automatic
Fuel: 6.6L/100km (ADR Combined)
Warranty: 4 years/100,000 kilometres
Safety Rating: Not rated
WHAT WE LIKED:
WHAT WE DIDN’T:
CVT can be annoying
Dated infotainment system