2020 Lexus LS 500 Review by David Colman +VIDEO
If you can afford it you'll love it
By David Colman
Special Correspondent to THE AUTO CHANNEL
With a base price of $75,450, the LS 500 is a steal of a deal in the ultra-luxury sedan world. For comparison purposes, Audi's A8 starts at $83,800, BMW's 7 Series at $86,450, and Mercedes-Benz' S-Class at $94,450. Not only does the initial Lexus buy-in cost less, but over the long haul, maintenance and repair for the German fleet will prove substantially more regular and expensive. But be forewarned that the Lexus base price only gets your nose under the resort tent. If you want a fully equipped representative of the LS 500, you'll need to pay up for a laundry list of exorbitant extras. In fact, our bargain-priced Lexus ended up with a shocking final sticker price of $108,490, a sum that reflected $32,015 in options. Or in other words, enough extra charges to buy a base price LS plus a $30,000 Honda Civic Hatchback for good measure. Exactly how did this budget busting transformation take place?
Topping the nicety list is the astoundingly expensive $17,100 Executive Package. Here's what you get: quilted-stitch, perforated semi- aniline leather interior trim that looks spectacular in bright white. The matching headliner is crafted from ultrasuede. The driver receives a 28-way adjustable power seat with multifunction massage. Front seat buckles are fitted with powered receptacles. Heated rear seats tilt outward when the rear doors are opened to facilitate ingress. The outboard rear seats feature power reclining, and power sunshades are fitted to both rear doors as well as the back window. Four zone climate control insures that all quadrants of the cabin remain privately configured for temperature. A 7 inch rear touchscreen controller located in the retractable rear armrest allows aft passengers to control their environment to the most minute detail. The Executive Package, while admittedly pricey, adds an aura of exclusivity, beauty and functionality to the LS 500 that is nothing short of palatial.
The current 5th generation LS series was introduced in 2018. The rear wheel drive model we tested carries the least expensive base price available in the LS range. If you desire all-wheel-drive, that will cost an extra you an extra $3,220. The hybrid LS 500h starts at $80,010 (RWD) and climbs to $83,230 for AWD. A sportier, rear-wheel drive F Sport tops the price list at $81,450. Add AWD to the F Sport and the base price is $84,670.
Our test LS 500, like all members of the LS family, depends on a twin turbocharged V6 for motive power. This lively engine couples to a 10-speed automatic transmission for power distribution. The engine produces 416hp and 442lb.-ft. of torque. Although those output numbers look impressive on paper, the V6 Turbo LS fails to match its V8 predecessor for immediate response to throttle input. Nor does its engine issue the same decisive sound track as that of its predecessor. Because peak torque occurs at just 1,600rpm, you can depend on decent acceleration in almost any gear at any road speed. But if you choose to play the direct shift automatic like a musical instrument, this mechanism is game to participate in the fun. Just be sure to slot the somewhat confusing console shift lever into the proper gate before you play with the paddles at the steering wheel.
Lexus equipped our test LS with $2,450 optional split 5-spoke forged alloy rims fitted with run flat Bridgestone Turanza radials (245/45RF20). Adaptive variable suspension with quick height adjustment, a $1,500 option, insured level chassis height regardless of load or weight distribution. For its size, the big luxury sedan handles with surprising confidence. I wouldn't go so far as to call it nimble, but it does manage to acquit itself well, with minimal head toss on sequential turns, and good grip on dry pavement. Where its substantial curb weight of 4,707lbs. becomes most apparent is under heavy braking. That's when your required pedal modulation increases dramatically. When the LS suddenly transfers its substantial weight onto its front wheels, you will be depressing the brake pedal further than you had originally planned.
Lexus advertising claims that the interior of the LS is "Driver Centric." In some respects, the claim rings true. For example, our test car's optional $410 "heated wood and leather trimmed steering wheel" proved a joy to hold and manipulate. Its handsome appearance cues with the company's claim that the its design was "achieved by measuring the distribution of palm pressure" in order to "provide optimum grip everywhere on the wheel."
However, the vagaries of the ineluctable infotainment system left us stymied at performing the simplest of tasks, such as eliciting a full station channel listing for SiriusXM satellite radio. Is it really necessary to inform the system what "genre" of music you desire before providing abbreviated station lists? I think not.
Our fully optioned LS 500 was a curious blend of over-the-top hits like its show-car interior, and miss-the-mark shortcomings like its non-V8 motor and perplexing programming requirements. But if you can pare the extras to a precious few, the latest LS still represents great value compared to the luxury sedan brigade from Germany.
2020 LEXUS LS 500
ENGINE: 3.5 liter twin turbo V6, 4 cams, 4 valves per cylinder, electric intake valve timing
HORSEPOWER: 416hp @ 6000rpm
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 19MPG City/30MPG Highway
PRICE AS TESTED: $108,490
HYPES: Spectacular and Pricey Interior
GRIPES: Overly Complicated GUI, No Rear Wiper
STAR RATING: 8 Stars out of 10