- What’s Best: The re-designed LS 500h has a much more exciting look than the outgoing model.
- What’s Worst: Lack of a V8 might turn off some potential buyers.
- What’s Interesting: The new Lexus multi-stage hybrid drive is a marvel in engineering.
When you talk about luxury automobiles, the Lexus brand has to be included in any conversation.
And when it comes to flagship sedans, the Lexus LS was once a sales leader in Canada and the U.S. when it took the world by storm in its debut nearly three decades ago.
With the LS, Lexus was then ready to take on the world, competing head-to-head with the best luxury sedans around the globe.
But in recent years, sales of the LS have begun to slide and German rivals like the Audi A8, Mercedes-Benz S-Class and BMW 7 series have regained market share.
So with a redesign of the LS for 2018, Lexus has added more pizzazz and excitement to the car, bringing in a bit of the ‘wow’ factor that may have been lacking of late.
The 2018 model marks the start of the fifth generation of the LS, sitting on Lexus’s new ultra-rigid global luxury platform that offers better agility and comfort— two of the benchmarks of a luxury automobile.
We were fortunate to test the LS 500h that offers a full hybrid powertrain, featuring a 3.5-litre V6 gasoline engine combined with two electric motors. In combination, they produce 354 hp. Lexus calls this its Multi Stage Hybrid System.
For those who don’t want to go the hybrid route, the other engine choice is a twin turbo V6, making 415 hp. Interestingly, unlike most of the European competitors; there is no V8 engine available.
Our LS 500h came with the Executive Package that includes a list of features longer than your arm.
Most notable are a heated steering wheel, air suspension, 20-inch alloy wheels, heated and cooled aniline leather massage seats, a 28-way adjustable power driver’s and front passenger’s seat and even a rear seat that moves fore and aft and reclines with an extendable ottoman at the touch of a button.
As mentioned earlier, the re-designed LS has a much more eye-catching look.
The love-it-or-hate-it Lexus signature spindle grille works on this model, in my opinion.
From the side, the sleek silhouette has a coupe-like appearance that belies the spaciousness inside, while from the front the look is aggressive and planted.
The grille is flanked by triple LED headlamps along with LED daytime running lights. LED taillamps also light up the rear of the LS.
The LS 500h marks the first use of the new multi-stage hybrid powertrain, designed specifically for high-performance luxury automobiles.
Lexus is the world leader in hybrid technology and this new system takes a leap forward, combining a 5.5 second 0-100 km/h sprint time with class-leading fuel efficiency, rated at 10.3/7.6L/100 km city/highway.
This hybrid has a simulated shift control pattern that has the feel of a 10-speed gearbox.
And no matter which powertrain you choose in the LS, you’ll be getting all-wheel drive— a welcome feature with our unpredictable weather patterns here in Canada.
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But it’s inside the luxury and beauty of the LS really shines through. The craftsmanship is superb, designed to delight the senses with sumptuous leather, layered herringbone wood trim and ambient lighting reminiscent of Japanese lanterns.
Fit and finish is first rate with sumptuous leather, comfortable and ultra-adjustable seats and the latest in technology and safety features.
And with its new longer wheelbase, there is even greater legroom for up to five occupants.
On the road, the LS 500h is smooth, comfortable and ultra quiet, but make no mistake, this is a heavy car, coming in at 2,370 kg.
Nevertheless, it handles well with responsive electric power steering, although the outright performance may not quite be up to the best the Germans have to offer.
There are seven drive modes to choose from— most drivers might opt for Sport or Sport+ for a more engaged feel.
From a technology standpoint, the LS 500h comes with Lexus Safety System+ which features the world’s first intuitive pedestrian detection with active steering.
Among the other high-tech items are a 24-speaker Mark Levinson premium audio system with XM satellite radio, SIRI eyes-free, a 12.3-inch LCD display, a 24-inch head-up display and a navigation system with Lexus remote touch interface and voice recognition.
I tested the 2018 model, but expect the 2019 to be relatively unchanged since this was a brand new design.
In short, the new LS 500h is a luxury flagship sedan that has grace and style combined with state-of-the-art hybrid technology and world-class performance.
There’s a lot to like here.