2018 Lexus LS500 RWD with LLS+A – Road Test Review – By Ben Lewis



$98,930.

That’s the first question, isn’t it?

So, if you had to ask, now you now.

That’s if you know what it is.

And frankly, a lot of people, didn’t.

Oh, sure they knew it was a Lexus, but even in the premium rarefied air the previous LS model cruised, the new model looks so different, so more upscale and personal, they thought it was some new super-sedan from Toyota’s luxury division.

Jaws Will Drop

Based on the same chassis as the gorgeous LC coupe, the new LS as just as thrilling – if a bit more reserved, due to its place in life as a sedan. It does have gravitas, though – it’s the longest Lexus ever sold in the US, over an inch longer than the previous long wheelbase LS, and is also an inch wider and lower. And for those of you playing at home, it’s less than an inch shorter than the Mercedes S-Class.

 

 

More than just larger, it is sleeker, more coupe-like, and much more evocative. That could be good or bad, because this is no luxury sedan trying to blend in the background – this is The luxury flagship.

The front end features the prominent spindle grille, now with a unique mesh rendition, flanked by slit-design 3-projector lamp headlights underscored by L-shaped LED lamps. Come around the sides, and the coupe-like profile is clear, while flared fenders give a dynamic muscular look. Don’t blame us, but we see some Infiniti in the window’s profile. To give you a sense of how large the LS is, the optional 20-inch forged wheels on our tester looked handsome, but it seems like an even larger wheel would possibly fit.

While our tester looked aggressive and sleek, especially in its rich Manganese Luster exterior, it was not an F Sport model, that looks even sportier, we’d be tempted. This is a Lexus you really want to be seen in.

 

Your jaw will drop.

While the exterior is gorgeous, it can’t hold a candle to the interior which is truly a work of automotive art.

It starts with getting in. Since the LS is lower than previous versions, models like our tester with the air suspension automatically raises the vehicle, and widens the driver seat bolsters for easy access. Wow.

And if that’s not enough, you settle into the most comfortable front seats we’ve experienced – optional 28-way adjustable models with butterfly/retractable front headrests. Oh, and did we mention they have a massage feature? Shiatsu is just one of the available styles!  There’s only one possible place we would rather sit, and we’ll get to that…

Everything feels surprisingly cozy and personalized with massive amounts of stitching found everywhere. The Instrument display puts everything in a small pod ahead of the driver (reminding us a little of the original IS300) while a massive 12.3-inch center display that sweeps across the rest of the dash. On the center console a stubby little shift lever feels just right to the hand, while Lexus touchpad is still fidgety. Years better than the old “mouse controller”, though.

The beauty of the wood design captures the eye, and inspired by Japanese Shimamoku wood patterns look like beautiful little pieces of hand crafted art. Our tester had the Art Wood Organic that layers the wood and applies a natural gloss coating that gives the pattern the impression of a flickering flame.

Our tester had the Executive Package, which also features Kiriko Glass ornamentation – a world first in a production car that draws inspiration from Japanese Kiriko glassware. Hand-folded pleats on the door trim – a process that took four years to develop – and that can be done only by human hands. A single cloth sheet is folded like origami paper and carefully overlapped the next.

This kind of quality, artistry and devotion to detail is so uniquely Japanese – and so perfectly applied by Lexus, that it just raises the game for any manufacturer, anywhere. Truly amazing.

And if you don’t like the particular color combination of our tester, you have a choice of nine interior color schemes, and nine choices of interior trim.

Back to the best seat in the house. In the Executive model, that must be the rear seat on the passenger side. It starts with more legroom than any previous generation LS (3.4-inches more), with a control that allows you to clamshell fold the front passenger seat ahead of you. Do so, and you recline the seat up to 48 degrees (best in class!) Our 5’10” tester stretched out in nearly-obscene comfort.

Of course, there’s more, the available “Relaxation Seats” feature a warming function and uses air bladders in the seatback and cushions, that strategically apply pressure to the occupants’ body, while also warming the shoulder and lower back area. More? You can choose from three full-body programs (Refresh, Stretch and Simple) and four that target specific places (Upper Body, Lower Body, Shoulder and Lumbar).

And while enjoying our massage, our ears were treated to the optional Mark Levinson Quantum Logic Immersion (QLI) audio system with 16-channel, 2400 watts amplifier, and 23 speakers in 16 locations throughout the car, including the ceiling! Those speakers get extra work, employing Active Noise Control in the cabin that detects and cancels certain engine frequencies using antiphase sound from the audio speakers.

Combine all this, and you might understand why we spent more time in our LS500 than just about any tester in recent memory, but logged the fewest miles. We were just luxxing out in the back…

Your buns will be hauled.

Perhaps a little rude, actually, comported is probably the better word. The 500 part of the name is a misnomer, as the LS is now powered by an all-new twin-turbocharged, 3.5-liter V6, pumping out an impressive 416 hp and 442 lb.-ft. of torque. For comparison, the previous model’s 4.6-liter V8 served up 386 hp and 367 lb.-ft. of torque. Here, less is more. Much, much, more.

Combined with an all-new 10-speed automatic (last model on had 8!) and the LS500 easily dispatches 0-60 in under 5 seconds. This is a very smooth, linear powerplant, and even popping into sport mode, it isn’t designed to raise the hairs on your arms – it’s too well-mannered for that. You get a nice whisper of exhaust note as revs climb, but we bet they’re saving some of the sportier tuning for the F-Sport model.

Ditto the handling. Which should by no means you think less of the LS – the handling is nice and tidy for such a huge sedan, grip is good, and steering has a nice weight to it, and feels good. It’s just so seductive to cruise along serenely, getting massaged and being immersed in fantastic luxury and sound to want to hunt down a twisty road.

As you would expect, the LS has all the current safety/semi-autonomous features you’d expect, and they work very well.

 

$98,930 you say?

That seduction must have a strong pull, because the price seems a bargain for all you get. The LS Starts at $75,000, and our tester added Manganese Luster exterior ($595), Executive Package ($17,100) 23-speaker Mark Levinson Audio ($1,940), Adaptive Air Suspension ($1,500), Panorama Glass Roof ($1,000), Panoramic View Monitor ($800) and delivery ($995).

Over at Mercedes an S560 comparably equipped to our LS500 rang the bell at a massive $121,860. A loaded BMW 740i came in at a lofty $108,800.

We love the bold step forward Lexus has taken with their luxury flagship sedan. Like the original LS400, it takes the fight to the Mercedes and BMW, and gives them a solid punch square in the jaw. Unlike the original LS400 which was so German, it should have had a lederhosen leather interior option, the new model is perfectly happy being a uniquely Japanese version of superlative luxury.

It doesn’t have to try to be anything else than what it is. The superbly beautiful, capable and luxurious Lexus LS500.

 

About The Author

Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round -- whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, or learning to surf.