Priced from £72,595 Release date January 2018
If you’re after a large luxury saloon car, you’re rather spoilt for choice at the moment. Indeed, none of the key players are much more than two years old, aside from one notable exception: the Lexus LS.
That’s all about to change with the introduction of the fifth generation of Lexus’ flagship model. Where the old model was a cautiously styled shrinking violet of a luxury car, the new one is something quite different to look at. It’s much lower than before and the roofline is a nod to the popularity of cars such as the coupé-like Tesla Model S.
In the UK, there’s a choice of just one engine – a 3.5-litre V6 that’s augmented by a couple of electric motors fed by a battery pack in the rear. You do get some choice, though; both rear and four-wheel drive are available depending on the model you pick.
2018 Lexus LS 500h on the road
One of the major criticisms of Lexus hybrids has always been the elastic nature of the gearbox. Put your foot down and you’d find engine revs soaring, even if the car wasn’t gaining speed particularly quickly. To help combat this, the new LS 500h has an additional four-speed gearbox to help provide noticeable steps in acceleration like a regular gearbox.
To an extent, it does work, with engine speed dropping during bouts of intense acceleration as it changes gear. There is, however, still an initial spike of revs that reveals a surprisingly coarse engine note, given that it’s a six-cylinder petrol motor. We also found a noticeable delay between pressing the accelerator and the LS actually picking a gear to start gaining speed. All this means it can be tricky to pull away briskly yet smoothly.
Once it has stopped dithering, the LS certainly isn’t slow, even if it doesn't feel quite so effortless as high-powered diesel versions of the Audi A8, BMW 7 Series and especially the Porsche Panamera.
The LS can’t match those for ride and handling, either. On the smooth roads of Oman, you could always feel the car fidgeting just slightly while rougher surfaces would jostle you around even more. That might be acceptable if the LS cornered really well, but we found our test car’s air suspension allowed plenty of body lean even in the sportier suspension modes. At least the steering is pleasingly precise and grip levels are high.
Lexus also boasts Level 2 autonomy technology on the LS. Radar cruise control and lane keep assist do a good job of keeping the car in lane with little to no intervention. Our only complaint is that it had difficulty registering some of the more faded white lines on our route.
2018 Lexus LS 500h interior
Like the rest of the Lexus range, the LS’s interior is refreshingly different. Rather than try to copy the Germans, there is a distinctive style that you’ll either love or hate. What’s indisputable is that everything is beautifully constructed from fine materials that both look and feel great.
All models contain leather seats that get progressively posher as you go up the range and there’s the predictable choice of wood or metal inlays depending on model. Should you want to really stand out, top-spec Premier models have the option of cut-glass trim pieces and hand-pleated fabric on the doors.
There’s only one length of the LS, but that’s no issue as leg room is generous in the rear. Should you opt for Premier trim, you can electrically move the front passenger seat forward, recline the back seat and extend a footrest. Do this and you have more than a meter of rear leg room. With particularly thorough massaging seats and a thumping stereo, it’s an inviting and luxurious place to be.
Those up front should be pretty chuffed, too. There’s enough adjustment for everyone to get comfortable, a clear head-up display on all models and configurable dials. The infotainment system is less impressive; the display may be huge, but the touchpad control can prove fiddly to operate while driving.
Page 1 of 2