LEXUS started life in Australia 30 years ago as the LS400, with a V8, so now there is the LS500.
Now, for the first time, the Japanese limo is offered with a twin turbo V6 instead. We’ll be reviewing the tasty V6 hybrid soon.
LS500 comes from the same studios which have input into Toyota stablemates, so there are styling cues common to the humble 2019 Camry. That’s not a bad thing. Both cars look handsome, and that’s something I can’t believe I’m saying.
New styling gives LS500 a stunning modern look.
A large “spindle” grille has a complex, hand hewn, cross-hatch effect. LED matrix lights are fully automatic with (progressive) LED indicators which sweep across the lighting array in the direction the car is turning. Distinctive DTRLs (daytime running lights) highlight the fluidic sculpting at the front end.
Despite being a very large car, the side profile manages a svelte, coupe-like silhouette with the waistline sweeping up as it crosses the rear doors. The rear window slopes majestically to a raised lip on the boot lid. This means headroom in the rear seats is cathedral-like and allows plenty of room for the rear seats to gracefully recline.
LED tail lights are enormous. They start from just behind the wheel arch, brightly lighting the rear corners even in foul weather. Deep surfacing along the doors is highlighted by chrome trim around the windows and on the lower body panels.
20” wheels in the F-sport Luxury have noise reducing channels within them to keep the cabin quiet-er.
No expense has been spared in the opulent cabin.
Starting at the front, the dashboard is asymmetrically carved to mold a cosy cockpit around a pampered driver.
Air vents disappear into the lines that sweep across the cabin between two swathes of stitching in the leather clad dash.
The centre stack looks strangely short because the centre console is so high. Buttons laid out under the vents control the climate system and include a neat scroll wheel for temperature.
One oddball LEXUS touch is a line of four, very small, direct-select buttons under the climate controls. They look to be very much an afterthought. These handy buttons give quick access to audio functions but look out of place. They don’t seem fit with any other controls.
Below these buttons is an optical drive to the over-60’s can play their CDs and DVDs. I doubt they’ll see much use. Surely both video and music can be stream from something less cumbersome than a disc? Cue: CarPlay, at least for audio, phone, and text.
Then we come to my pet hate, the centre console’s infotainment input pad. This track pad is used like that of a laptop. That’s fine on a PC but not so good on a car at 110KPH. It is ludicrously difficult to manipulate even when the car is stationary
The cursor jumps from option to option in some kind of demented polka. You spend half your time trying to fine tune your movements. Surely a touch screen is a much better option.
Driver instruments are inspired by the LFA super car, and closely resemble the luscious LC500 Coupe.
A smallish (8”) TFT screen contains travel and driver information and replaces conventional dials. It is not as configurable as I’d have liked.
I know what you’re going to say, “some people are never happy.” It can look cluttered but you quickly get used to it. You find yourself using the 600mm HUD (heads up display) instead. It projects speed and all other driving data directly onto the windscreen and is the widest HUD in class. It is easily the best I’ve used. In fact, it makes the usual driver display completely redundant.
A driver’s eyes need never leave the windscreen.
Drive Mode controls sit either side of the binnacle and look like Ewok ears. Here you can fettle your suspension and transmission settings.
A 12.3” screen in the centre stack displays the usual infotainment data. Directions, audio information can also be shown in the HUD. The driver can change what is seen in the HUD which appears to float at the end of the bonnet. It is disconcerting at first but quickly becomes an essential tool. It has the effect of being projected directly onto your retinas
All seats are heated and cooled and include a massage function. 28-way power seat controls can be found on the side of the seat in the usual spot, but more controls are contained deep in the infotainment menu.
The climate system includes a thing called “climate concierge”.
This brilliant system uses infrared beams to sense spots in the cabin where the temperature is not as selected. It then adjusts the system to change air flow, or will heat or cool seats as needed. It will even heat the steering wheel for a short while if it thinks your pinky is getting frosty.
It is a bit off-putting if you don’t know what’s going on, but left to do its own thing, LS500 will make sure each and every passenger gets the exact temperature they’ve chosen.
The massage functions can be found in the stupidly complex menu, and is called “refresh”. What a ridiculous name. Why not just call it “Massage”? “Refresh” sounds like a man will come with a warm towelette
Rear occupants are not left out either.
They have another control system in the form of a touch tablet. Unlike BMW’s 7 series, this tablet is fixed firmly to the armrest so your friends can’t purloin it. They can recline their seats individually, and heat or cool them. They can also refresh themselves if they feel the urge.
The passenger side rear seat has further party tricks in store.
It can move the front seat forward, then deploy a footrest which LEXUS calls an “ottoman”. That is extremely sexist, and should be renamed “ottoperson” forthwith.
Legroom is vast even with taller friends in the front pews. I was able to stop for a refreshing powernap on my road trip, but more about that later.
Interior options include Kiriko glass panels and hand pleated satin door trims for $9,880.
- Variable Drive mode controls
- Functions controlled by centre rear tablet and front centre stack
- Smart cruise control with queue function
- Voice control.
- Reclining heated/cooled seats with massage (4 seats)
- Power boot lid
- 600mm HUD
- 4-wheel steering
- Powered steering wheel adjustment
- Analogue clock
- 360 view cameras with multi-mode selection
- Rear seat ottoperson (AKA footrest)
- Active noise cancelling in cabin
- 23 speaker mark Levinson audio system
- Rain sensing wipers
- Auto LED headlights with auto high beam control
- Real wood trim
- Water repellent front window coating
- Dab radio (no CarPlay/Android Auto)
- Suede headlining
- Rear cooler box
- 4 zone climate control with nanoe (sic) technology
- Powered easy-shut doors
- Motor driven seatbelt retraction
- Run Flat tyres (no spare wheel)
- Pop-up bonnet (pedestrian protection)
- Adaptive suspension
Power from the all-new V6 is up significantly from the old 285kw/493Nm V8 model. It is 11% more fuel efficient too.
A rather sexy engine note can be had if you stick the loafer all the way to the Axminster, but that sort of nonsense is not encouraged. You’re sitting in a place of quiet contemplation, not on Danny Riccardo’s lap although……
We covered 2,200km on our Sydney-Melbourne road trip. Our fuel consumption got down to around 8.1L/100k. We didn’t so much drive, as waft. It was like being gently conveyed by Aladdin, while being pampered at a day spa. The only thing missing was a built-in foot rub.
LEXUS says the engine has Laser Cladding, so it must be good.
It is complemented by the delightfully smooth 10 speed automatic we first saw in the LC500. Steering is a complex rack-mounted electric setup, and steers all 4 wheels to get the 5235mm saloon around corners like a cat on carpet.
None of that nasty column mounted stuff here. Only the best will do.
4-wheel-steering also makes parking incredibly easy. A quick flick, and you’re in that tight spot at Coles before you can say, “bring your own bag.”
LEXUS spokesman, Nick Raman, says “customers weren’t using, and didn’t want automatic parking, so it was removed in the new car.” For 200 grand, I’d want it anyway, even if just to show the kids how smart the daddy is.
Smart cruise control and active lane control relieve the driver of much of the burden of long distance travel. I fear most LS500 owners drive further than the office, or airport, but it is nice to know that car is more than capable of continent-hopping. You can’t let go of the wheel as yet, but it is remarkably good at consistently aiming for the middle of the lane.
It watches out for others trying to ruin your day too. It is clever enough to warn you if you try to change lanes into a carelessly meandering Mondeo. Should you fail to notice, LEXUS will steer you back into the lane whilst giving you a jolly good chastising. It’s like being spanked by your naughty nanny.
Normally you can’t wait to get out of the car for a stretch, but the big LEXUS was the best place to enjoy meals and coffee. Why would you want to sit if a dodgy diner when you can have a posh ham sandwich while getting Shiatsu ‘d.
It is advisable to stop for frequent breaks, and the car makes sure you do. She can be quite the nag.
On one occasion I stopped for a power nap. I raised the Ottoperson, reclined the rear seat, and took 40 winks. The rear cabin was serene, cocooned, and private, even in full daylight. The rear window and doors have built in electric blinds which can be raised from either the front or back seats.
Auto high beam is smart, but other drivers continually flashed me, and not in a good way.
Even though they weren’t being dazzled, they saw bright lights and panicked. I got bored with this dissention and resorted to giving them a blast of full-on-LEXUS high-tech high-beam. They stopped their whinging pretty damned quick once hit with two and a half million lumens of Japanese knowhow.
Adaptive High beams light the road ahead but dim only the section where oncoming cars are detected. It really is very clever.
If you drive up behind a set of tail lights, either side of the of the road remains in high beam but the car in front sits in a pool of half-light. It may cause the driver in front to think your full beam is on making them quite cross. As you pass them, the side beam lowers and front beam comes on, then once fully clear, the full magnificence of the night turns to day.
Driving an LS500 is like being in an exclusive high-speed gent’s club.
- 5L V6, turbo
- Power/Torque – 310kw @ 6,000rom, 600Nm @ 1,600rpm
- 10 Speed auto
- Electric gear selector
- Variable height Air suspension
- 0-100 – 5 seconds
- Auto Pilot and smart cruise control
- Lane Warning and active guidance
- 360° Reversing camera
- Cross traffic warning
- Blind spot monitoring
- Vehicle safety monitoring.
- Traffic notifications
- Handsome coupe-style looks
- Classy cabin design
Not So Good Bits
- No CarPlay/Android Auto
- Moody infotainment interface
- Run flat tyres
It would be churlish of me not to mention how special driving an LS500 makes you feel.
For years LEXUS has been “not quite there yet” in public opinion, as least in Australia. In recent years however, that has changed. Perhaps it is because the design direction feels a little less grand ma, and a little more gran prix. I get it, LEXUS is still seen as posh sister of Toyota, but surely that’s a good thing.
Only cockroaches and Toyotas will be left after the nukes hit.
You have the rock-solid Japanese reliability, with a soupçon of CALTY design which is Toyota’s hip, hop, and happening design team in California. There is definitely more than a little Americana about new LEXUS with their heavy emphasis on lines, crevices, creases, and folds, both inside and out.
Unlike the current Prius, LS500 manages a successful mix the daring and playful. It stops just short of alienating existing customers, while attracting new ones.
Tech, while not cutting edge, is keeping up with the Joneses in every way except for infotainment.
The sound system is superb, and on a long trip, the gentle hands of a Zen master keep your nether regions in tip top shape.
I can hear the howls of disapproval as I compare LEXUS favourably with the Europeans, but try googling Euro brand recalls sometime. Europeans can come over all moody at the drop of a hat, and sit sulking soporifically at the side of the road, but only at night and in the most appalling of downpours.
Then there is the cost of parts.
Of course, all new cars are a nightmare if you manage to trash something as innocuous as a bumper cowl. But, consider this: would you rather buy a Toyota part, or something for a Jaguar, Alfa, BMW, Mercedes, or Audi? I put it to you, you’ll have to fork over many more shekels for the latter.
Facts and Figures
Price: from $203,236 (drive away NSW)
Engine: twin turbo 3.5L V6, 310kw/600Nm
Transmission: 10 speed Auto
Warranty: 4 yrs/100,000km (LS comes also has 10-year unconditional roadside assistance)
Alan Rating: 9/10