SPORTY LEXUS FLAGSHIP STEERS A STEADY COURSE


Lexus LS has form: as the LS 400 the luxury sedan, in 1989, led the introduction of Toyota’s premium arm Down Under, becoming the harbinger for a whole range of vehicles from compact hatchbacks to robust SUVs, embracing petrol/electric hybrid technology.

Lexus would be the first to admit it called on the Mercedes-Benz S-Class sedan as the template for what was to be its perennial flagship. Fast forward more than 30 years with the arrival of the upgraded LS 500.

An upgraded model has come onto the market, which the maker claims, introduces a new level of opulence and a wider application of advanced automotive technology in conventional or hybrid powered variants.

Standard features across the range include such things as suspension modifications designed to produce a more comfortable ride while maintaining the model’s dynamic character, the advanced Lexus Safety System+, while F Sport variants gain additional driver-assist features previously exclusive to Sports Luxury.

Under the bonnet is a 264 kW 3.5-litre naturally aspirated V6 hybrid powertrain in the LS 500h, or 310 kW 3.5-litre twin-turbocharged V6 engine in the LS 500. Both come in F Sport or Sport Luxury grades. Prices start at $195,953 for the former and $201,078 the latter, increases of less than one per cent.

Sport Luxury options are White, Black, Chateau and Hazel trims with premium ornamentations at no cost. Other trim and ornamentation combinations are available for an extra $10,000.

As well as a five-year unlimited kilometre warranty, LS 500 owners can take advantage of the exclusive Lexus Encore Platinum benefits. On test was an LS 500 F Sport model.

STYLING
Lexus is the first to admit the use, among other things, of the squared off Mercedes-Benz S-Class sedan as the template for the LS 400, which with corners knocked off and sharp angles rubbed out in its fifth generation in 2018, gave way to a sleek four-door coupe with the ‘500’ tag.

Now, with a 2021 update, LS 500 looks are further enhanced with an elegant new radiator grille, front bumper and tail-lamp highlights, as well as boosted LED headlamps featuring advanced BladeScan adaptive beam technology giving more precise illumination.

Further design enhancements include badging, dark metallic accents and grilles and 20-inch dark metallic alloy wheels. Lexus also offers Lustre Shadow, a new exterior paint finish across the range that incorporates flakes of aluminium in a mirror-like finish.

INTERIOR
While the cabin surroundings of the test car were generally pleasing to the eye, the garish white-and-black ‘marble cake’ leather trimmed upholstery was something of a shock. Whatever were designers thinking?

Ignoring that, the set-up makes the best of spacious room to move, while operating the conveniently positioned controls such as steering wheel, shift lever and pedals, for driving or while being ‘chauffeured’.

The familiar old-style analogue clock on the central dashboard, a feature of other Lexus cabins, is always welcome.

INFOTAINMENT
A new 12.3-inch touch-screen provides easy access to the multimedia system, which includes satellite navigation, access to Apple CarPlay or Android, plus superb all-round sound from a 23-speaker Mark Levinson audio, which incorporates DAB+ digital radio and DVD player and four USB points and AUX input.

ENGINES / TRANSMISSIONS
The LS 500 F Sport’s 310 kW twin-turbo V6 motor serves up maximum power of 310 kW at 6000 rpm and holds peak torque of 600 Nm between 1600 and 4800 rpm, the tasty combination, driving the rear wheels through a ten-speed automatic transmission.

SAFETY
Making its debut in a Lexus is a digital rear-view mirror, Its large display presenting real-time images from the reversing camera, providing improved vision in all weather and lighting conditions while ensuring the view is not obstructed by headrests or passengers.

The further advanced Lexus Safety System+ incorporates intersection turning assist, first seen in the new Lexus IS and designed to provide alerts and, if necessary, automatic braking if it detects an oncoming vehicle when turning right, or a pedestrian approaching from the front when turning right or left.

The LS also joins the IS with standard Lexus Connected Services, which include Automatic Collision Notification – the ability to generate an automatic emergency call to a round-the-clock emergency call centre and relay the vehicle location in an accident requiring intervention, or if an airbag, of which there are ten, deploys.

A full-colour head-up windscreen display provides driving info without the driver having to look away from the road ahead.

DRIVING
The LS 500’s 3.5-litre twin-turbocharged V6 engine features re-engineered pistons reducing noise when the engine is cold, while dual variable valve timing adopts hydraulic control on the inlet side to reduce weight while maintaining the engine’s strong torque over a broad rev range. More weight loss is obtained with a new one-piece intake manifold made from aluminium instead of cast iron.

Running on the recommended 95 RON petrol, Lexus claims a combined urban / highway fuel consumption of 10 litres per 100 kilometres. The LS 500 F Sport on test returned figures of 11 and 5.9 litres per 100 kilometres respectively.

While the F Sport is the performance model – zero to 100 km/h in 5 seconds – the adaptive variable suspension incorporates height adjustable multi-link front and rear air system, with the F Sport adding front and rear stabilisers producing the calmness of cruising we have come to expect from a Lexus flagship.

Standard 20-inch wheels are wrapped with a new run-flat tyre designed with a lower vertical spring rate to reduce the impact of road surface blemishes further adding to ride comfort.

The LS 500 is a ‘lolly jar’ brimming with sweet temptations picked through a plethora of easy-to-reach controls including buttons, knobs, switches, pedals, paddles and a touchpad enough to satisfy the ultimate tech-savvy motorist.

Having previously found the Lexus touchpad a tad ticklish to control with the left hand, the LS 500 version appears to have become more positive in reaction to the touch.

Alternatively, for those seeking a relaxed no-nonsense experience of comfort and convenience at the pinnacle of Lexus luxury, the LS 500 F Sport will do nicely, thank you.

SUMMARY
On introduction to Australia, the Lexus LS 400 set the highest standards of craftsmanship finish and automotive technology not found in cars outside the super-luxury European sedans. More than 30 years later the LS 500 flagship continues the line.

AT A GLANCE

MODEL LINE-UP
Lexus LS 500 and LS 500h F Sport: $195,953
Lexus LS 500 and LS 500h Sports Luxury: $201,078
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Lexus dealer for drive-away prices.

SPECIFICATIONS (Lexus LS 500 F Sport 3.5L twin turbo V6 petrol, 10sp automatic, RWD)

ENGINE:
Capacity: 3.445 litres
Configuration: Six cylinders in ‘V’ formation
Maximum Power: 310 kW @ 6000 rpm
Maximum Torque: 600 Nm @ 1600-4800 rpm
Fuel Type: Petrol 95 RON
Combined Fuel Cycle (ADR 81/02): 10.0 L/100km
CO2 emissions 227 g / km

DRIVELINE: Ten-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive

DIMENSIONS, WEIGHT AND CAPACITIES:
Length: 5235 mm
Wheelbase: 3125 mm
Width: 1900 mm (mirrors folded)
Height: 1450 mm
Turning Circle: 11.2 metres
Gross vehicle mass: 2670 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 82 litres

BRAKES:
Front: Ventilated disc
Rear: Ventilated disc

STANDARD WARRANTY:
Five years / unlimited kilometres

RATINGS:
Looks: 8/10
Performance: 7/10
Safety: 7/10
Thirst: 6/10
Practicality: 5/10
Comfort: 8/10
Tech: 8/10
Value: 6/10
Overall: 6.9/10

About Derek Ogden

On graduating with an honours degree in applied science in London, Derek Ogden worked for the BBC in local radio and several British newspapers as a production journalist and writer. Derek moved to Australia in 1975 and worked as a sub-editor with The Courier Mail and Sunday Mail in Brisbane, moving to the Gold Coast Bulletin in 1980 where he continued as a production journalist. He was the paper's motoring editor for more than 20 years, taking the weekly section from a few pages at the back of the book to a full-colour liftout of up to 36 pages. He left the publication in 2009.
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