2018 Lexus LS500h – Road Test Review – By Ben Lewis



What does it feel like to drive $104,000 of prime quality Lexus beef on the hoof?

It’s actually kind of unnerving.

We’ve occasionally driven cars that cost even more, but the mission of the LS500h is daily luxury.

Superb and supremely comfortable luxury, but daily nonetheless.

And this one’s a hybrid. We tested the 416 horse, twin-turbo V6 LS500 sedan a while ago, and loved it. And a part of that love came from the big sedan’s ability to lift up its figurative skirt and haul like a bat out of hell when it needed to.

But does a fuel-saving hybrid make sense in a large luxury car?

No one will question your sense of style.

Eight months ago, when we tested the LS500, no-one seemed to know what it was.

Familiarity breeds respect in this case – we had lots of oohs and aahhhs from people saying “new Lexus LS!?”

You’d have a difficult time picking out tester out as a Hybrid, outside of the subtle badging on the vehicle, and we’re fine with that – this is still one of the most gorgeous sedans on the road.

It makes a big impression, and it should – it’s the largest sedan Toyota’s luxury division has ever sold on these shores. It starts with wide-set triple projector headlights with signature L-shaped LED lamps. The Lexus massive spindle grill fits quite nicely in a vehicle with these proportions. It looks big, serious and expensive.

An inch longer, lower and wider than the previous model, the aggressive coupe lines and muscular contoured fender flares work to make it look much wider. Like our previous LS tester, the 500h rode on optional 20-inch, 10-spoke alloy wheels with vapor chrome finish that just look the business as the Brits say.

We say Atomic Silver is the color for this sedan – take a look at the pictures, and see how it releases a liquid, gold-bronze glow as the light hits it at the right angle. Simply, stunning.

No one will question your appreciation of the finer things.

If you think a fuel-sipping hybrid means cutting back on life’s luxuries, you’ll be enormously surprised by the LS500h interior.

A lovely combination of private business jet and museum of modern Japanese design, the interior is as breathtaking as the exterior – maybe even more so.

While your $79,500 LS500h might be a fine place to spend time, our tester carried the $12,270 Luxury Package and it is the entry price into a most exclusive club.

Membership includes 28-way power front seats with multifunction massage, semi-aniline perforated leather trimmed interior (smells fantastic), power reclining rear seats with remote adjustment for front passenger seat (basically folds it forward and out of the way so you can stretch out), and heated and ventilated front and rear seats.

More?

How about four-zone climate concierge (monitors cabin temp and number of occupants and constantly adjusts climate to make sure you’re individually comfy), wood and leather-trimmed rear center console with 7.0-inch touchscreen, power side window sunshades and rear seat knee airbags?

Actually, you can argue you had some self-restraint, because you could have popped for the Executive Package with Kiriko Glass, for a sweat-inducing $23,080! Yeah, we’re frugal…

The rest of the interior is much the same as our LS500 tester – with a more coupe-like feel, oodles of leather adorned with beautiful stitching, a concise instrument pod ahead of the driver and a jumbo-tron 12.3-inch center display. Beautiful vent lines blend into interior trim and look like a perfect wave to surf.

On our tester, you’d surf to the perfect sound track, thanks to the optional Mark Levinson, 23-speaker, 2400-watt Quantum Logic Immersion Reference Surround Sound Audio System. Fantastic sounds for a reasonable $1,940.

The only sour note in an otherwise flawless interior is the Lexus touchpad that allows you access to most of the info-tainment and other systems. It’s better than the old mouse-like controller, but still fidgety. Given the amazing experience the rest of the LS interior provides, we’ll live with it.

They may question your choice of powerplants.

This is where it gets interesting. On paper, the LS500h is a technical tour de force.

The LS 500h’s Lexus Multi Stage Hybrid System combines a 3.5-liter V6 Dual VVT-i gas engine with two electric motors, together delivering a total output of 354hp. Transmission is a four-stage shifting device, including a CVT transmission. Although the unit has four speeds, the D range has a simulated shift control pattern that delivers the feel of driving with a 10-speed gearbox – trust us you’d never know it was a CVT.

Doling out the power is Lexus’ Multi Stage Hybrid System, a breakthrough technology. In a conventional full hybrid vehicle, engine output is boosted by the electric motor via a reduction gear, but with the new Multi Stage Hybrid System, the power from the V6 engine and the hybrid battery can be amplified by the four-stage shifting device, allowing much greater drive power to be generated when accelerating from stationary and achieving a 0-60 time of 5.4 seconds.

Along with the advanced hybrid, the LS 500h is fitted with a compact, lightweight, lithium-ion hybrid battery 20 percent smaller than the nickel-metal hydride unit featured in the previous LS hybrid.

It all sounds impressive, but the hybrid is very Lexus-like, and doesn’t seem to want to wow you with its technology. That normally-aspirated V6 has a nice little growl to it, and it moves you along well, but there’s no super-stealthy, super-powerful feel to it. In fact, fuel economy be damned, we kept it Sport + mode most of the time to enjoy that V6 and a perter, more alert, driving feel.

We still managed to manage low 20 mpg’s – impressive in a huge sedan being flogged – but at the end of the day, for us, we’d rather have the 416 hp, twin-turbo V6 of the non-hybrid model. Massive power for a massively impressive sedan. We wouldn’t make anyone wrong for choosing the hybrid powertrain, but for the enthusiast the choice is clear.

No choice needed otherwise. Dynamically, the rest of the LS500h is the same as the regular 500 – comfy, quiet, capable – the ideal cruiser that will eat up long distances with incredible ease.

If you have to ask the price…

You’re ready to buy!

Our tester started out at $79,510 and it’s wonderfully-equipped at that price. But if you’re going to go big, we say, go big. Our tester also had the Lexus Safety System _ ($3,000), Adaptive variable air suspension ($1,500), Those gorgeous 20-inch rims ($1,200), Heads-up Display ($1,200), LED headlamps with adaptive front lighting ($300), The much-loved Luxury Package ($12,270), Mark Levinson Sound System ($1,940), Panoramic View Monitor ($800), Premium Wood Trim ($800) Heated Wood and Leather steering wheel ($410) plus a few odds and ends, and Delivery ($995), our bronze bombshell range the bell at $104,125.

Perhaps the h’s biggest competition is its non-hybrid sibling. For comparison, our recent LS500 non-hybrid was similarly loaded and came in at $98,930. 6 grand buys a lot of gas…

Competition is thin at this altitude, but we added up the goodies on the BMW 740e xDrive iPerformance and it came in at $112,600 – it should be noted that this is a plug-in hybrid powered by a 2.0-liter, turbo 4-cylinder.

The LS500h is a welcome member to the Lexus family, that continues to wow us with the styling, performance and quality.

The Lexus LS500h builds on everything we love about the LS500, and takes the hybrid to new, lofty heights.

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