by Gerhard Horn
The Lexus LS was the first car produced by the manufacturer, and it's an interesting case study in brand equity. Toyota knew it couldn't take on the establishment using its badge, so it created an entirely new brand to compete in the luxury car market. Not only did it do well, but it proved that overly complicated luxury barges need not be unreliable and costly to repair. And thanks to that, the LS 400 is a bit of a cult classic.
The fifth-generation LS has been around since 2017, facing stiff competition from the BMW 7 Series, Audi A8, and the Genesis G90. The latter can be considered an homage to Lexus, as Hyundai studied what Toyota did and implemented the same strategy. This car's biggest problem is the all-new Mercedes-Benz S-Class, however. For 2022, the LS is available with a twin-turbo V6 with 416 horsepower and 442 lb-ft of torque, or in hybrid format with 354 hp; the latter used to be a unique selling point. Where does that leave the LS now that almost every other luxury barge has also turned to electric power?
This year, the luxury automaker makes the Lexus Safety System+ 2.5 suite standard. It consists of driver-assist technologies like pedestrian and bicyclist detection, lane departure alert, and lane tracing assist. The hybrid LS 500h introduces Lexus Teammate and Advanced Drive. The latter is a system that detects driving conditions to plan and execute acceleration, steering and other demands. It makes driving easier by navigating supported interchanges and more.
Inside, the Mark Levinson sound system with 23 speakers can no be specced on the base model. Finally, hand-applied Haku door trim is now available with the Luxury and Executive packages.
See trim levels and configurations:
Subtle upgrades or not, the new Lexus LS sedan remains a handsome barge. Last year introduced updated styling features such as a new front bumper incorporating squared air intakes. The spindle grille's color was been changed to dark metallic, while the LED headlamps were upgraded to new three-projector LEDs, and the chrome trim in the rear light clusters had been replaced with piano black. F Sport models have lower radiator grilles that wrap around to the side profile for a more aggressive stance, while the 500h hybrid comes with a blue Lexus badge. The base model has 19-inch wheels, while the F Sport and 500h have 20-inch wheels in unique designs. A glass panorama roof can be optioned onto the gas models, although a power moonroof is standard across the lineup.
As a large luxury barge, the LS comes with impressive dimensions. The total body length is 206.1 inches, housing a 123-inch wheelbase. The overall width with the mirrors folded is 74.8 inches. The rear-wheel-drive models are 57 inches tall, while the all-wheel-drive models sit 57.5 inches from the ground. The lightest model is the standard RWD LS 500 with a curb weight of 4,696 pounds. A twin-turbo F Sport AWD with all the luxury trimmings weighs in at 4,960 lbs and the hybrid weighs 5,093 lbs.
There are a total of nine colors available, including Eminent White Pearl ($500), Iridium ($500), Atomic Silver, Manganese Luster ($595), Caviar, Obsidian, Matador Red, Nightfall Mica, and Ultra White ($500). Certain hues are not available across the lineup, however, with Ultra White only available on F Sport models, while you can't have this model with Eminent White Pearl and Nightfall Mica. The two Mica colors are as exciting as it gets, but the available hues suit the car's upmarket nature well.
Sprint times are meaningless in this segment, but in case you're wondering, the twin-turbo V6 LS 500 can do 0 to 60 mph in a claimed 4.6 seconds, while the hybrid takes 5.2 seconds to do the same.
Traditionally, this segment was limited to V8s and V12s, but the world is changing. Lexus is nearly at the forefront and only missing a plug-in hybrid derivative. Instead of using its 5.0-liter naturally-aspirated V8 engine (a glorious engine), Lexus uses a twin-turbo 3.5-liter V6 engine. On the hybrid side, it also uses a V6 engine (not the same engine), sans turbochargers, but working together with two electric motors. Why not use the existing V8 engine? That particular powertrain does a stellar job in performance models as it loves to be revved. In a luxury barge, you want low-down torque for effortless acceleration from a standing start. A top speed of 136 mph applies to all variants.
The twin-turbo delivers all of its torque from 1,600 rpm to 4,800 rpm, while the electric motors in the hybrid ensure you get a decent dose of pulling power from zero rpm. The V8'' talents would have been wasted on this car, but the available engines suit the LS perfectly. All gas-only LS models are RWD, but AWD is available across the range. The hybrid comes with AWD by default.
The twin-turbo V6 engine offers impressive specs, delivering 416 horsepower and 442 lb-ft of torque. That's more than enough for a luxury barge, though this particular engine does have a narrow powerband. Thankfully, it never feels stressed, thanks to a ten-speed automatic transmission. If you've ever wondered why you need more than six ratios, the LS's gearbox is the answer. It can hustle off the line when you want to but can also idle along at the speed limit in top gear.
The hybrid uses a more complex setup that doesn't work as well as we had hoped. Lexus claims this engine delivers 354 hp, but no torque figure is provided. Like other Toyota/Lexus hybrids, the LS 500h uses a CVT transmission, but it also has a four-speed automatic bolted to its back. It sounds like a super-smart engineering solution, but it comes across as unrefined. In cars like these, the gearbox's main job is to provide power to the wheels effortlessly. Gear changes should not be felt or heard. Once you forget the car even has a gearbox, you know it's working perfectly. This is not the case with the hybrid. It looks like a good idea on paper, but it comes across as coarse and ungraceful in reality - two words you never want to see in the road test of a large luxury sedan.
Lexus always turned a blind eye to what the Germans were doing. While Mercedes-Benz, Audi, and BMW were tuning some sportiness into their luxury barges, Lexus soldiered forth with the squishiest suspension setup possible. The current LS made a slight miscalculation by forgetting its roots. It arrived on the scene with an adaptive air suspension and driving modes called Sport and Sport+. Instead of being more dynamic, the LS 500 felt confused. It was the most fun LS to date, but the sudden onset of bumps into the cabin was disconcerting. We know what Lexus was trying to achieve, but was it a good idea? We don't think so.
Thankfully, the recent updates to the suspension and refinement overhaul of the current LS 500 are closer in execution to the original LS 400, and that's fine by us. Let the Germans compete amongst themselves to see who can build the sportiest luxury limousine. We prefer our barges soft, silent, and sofa-like. Cars like these should alleviate high blood pressure. They should be sensory deprivation forts of solitude for the wealthy, which is precisely what the LS now provides.
According to the EPA, the RWD LS 500h hybrid AWD should do 22/29/25 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles. The RWD twin-turbo V6 has gas mileage figures of 18/29/22 mpg, while the AWD model should be capable of 17/27/21 mpg.
The hybrid's figures are undoubtedly more impressive than the twin-turbo, but how much better could they have been if the LS was a plug-in hybrid? In the big scheme of things, the hybrid's figures just aren't that impressive, and if fuel economy is a significant concern, you'd be much better off looking like a plug-in alternative like the Volvo S90 T8. The 22.2-gallon in the hybrid tank is good for 555 miles between refills. The twin-turbo has a slightly smaller gas tank at 21.7 gallons, so can manage around 477 miles in RWD guise.
Straight off the bat, we have to mention the new infotainment screen which was introduced last year. The old system was a real frustration - you could only operate it via a ridiculous mousepad, which was infuriating. The new interface is a touchscreen, and thank goodness for that. The rest of the interior is superb. And by that, we mean as good as anything else in this segment. In some cases, even better.
You can tell Lexus thought about what luxury means. As we've stated before, it's about simplicity, ambiance, quality materials, and silence. The LS hits all these targets. Yes, it has several interior gadgets we'll get to eventually, but the essential functions are so easy to control: you turn the radio on by pressing the volume button. There are also two buttons for skipping tracks and another two buttons for swapping between radio and media. The climate controls are even easier to operate, and Lexus deserves a round of applause for keeping the significant controls separate and not within a silly sub-menu.
We also love the fact that Lexus embraced its country of origin. The black leather with Kiriko glass trim is an obvious homage to Japan. It's lovely to see Lexus embrace its roots rather than try and copy what the Germans are doing.
The interior seating and space send a mixed message. Rear passengers only get 38.9 inches of legroom and 37.3 inches of headroom, shrinking to 36.4 inches with the panoramic sunroof. This is perfectly ample for six-foot passengers but still below par in the segment. Even the Lexus ES has more rear legroom.
Perhaps this is a sign that Lexus designed the LS to be driven and not driven in. Front passengers get 41 inches of legroom and 37.3 inches of headroom, or a slightly lower 36.8 inches with the panorama glass roof optioned on. But then you get the optional Executive Package, which enables the right rear passenger to move the front passenger seat all the way forward, activating a built-in ottoman. That's lovely, but if you're buying a new car to be chauffeured in, this isn't it.
Even S-Class owners will be blown away by the LS interior. The base LS comes with three no-cost options, including Chateau or Black leather with open-pore Black trim or Palomino leather with open-pore Brown Walnut trim. There are seven other options, each one requiring an extra feature of some sort. The Black leather with Artwood Organic Gloss trim requires you to also add the 19-inch ten-spoke noise-reducing alloy wheels for some reason. In addition to Black, Palomino, and Chateau leather trim, you can also have White leather, either with Artwood Herringbone trim or Laser Special Black trim, but note the additional extras you'll be required to add on. We love the Black leather with Kiriko Glass trim. It looks sensational and comes with an interesting story dating back to the Edo period. Utterly magnificent. Only four of these options are available on the hybrid model, which is a bit of a letdown, though.
The F Sport only has three no-cost interior options, all of them on the sporty side. Nagari Aluminum trim is standard across all three, and the leather color options include White, Black, and our personal favorite, Circuit Red. The F Sport also has an Ultrasuede headliner and aluminum pedals.
Oddly, cargo capacity is almost always a letdown in this segment. The rear seats don't fold flat on many of the luxury barges, and some of the fancy optional extras take up what precious little space there is. A champagne fridge is a good example.
The hybrid model has 15.2 cubic feet of cargo capacity, dropping down to 14.1 cubes with a rear cooler. The claimed cargo volume for the twin-turbo model is 16.95 cubic feet. It easily beats the Audi A8's 12.5-cube trunk, though. The latest Mercedes S-Class also has a smaller trunk at just 13.8 cubes.
As is expected of full-size sedans that may be used for families, there is enough space to store your bits and bobs. There are standard door pockets, a pair of cupholder front and back, and a large storage cubby underneath the center front armrest.
Looking at the standard specification, you'll be left wondering why anyone would bother adding optional extras. Even the base model comes standard with 16-way power-adjustable heated and ventilated front seats, dual-zone climate control, a heated leather-trimmed steering wheel, power moonroof and rear sunshade, a parking assistant, active noise cancellation, voice control, and intelligent access with a push-button start. These are just a few of the many, many features, and there's still a host of optional extras to add, including an optional panorama glass roof, a head-up display, a surround-view monitor, and a swathe of safety features which we discuss in detail later on.
As alluded to earlier, the LS was the beneficiary of a much-improved infotainment system last year. It's a 12.3-inch touchscreen unit, and we can't thank Lexus enough for finally getting rid of the clunky Remote Touch Interface. It was an infuriating system that nearly ruined an otherwise brilliant package. The new interface is more intuitive and comes as standard with navigation, HD Radio, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, a USB port for audio, Amazon Alexa, and SiriusXM. A 12-speaker Lexus Premium Audio system is standard, but you can upgrade to a 23-speaker Mark Levinson system. It costs just $1,940 and is a must-have. This brilliant sound system is included as standard on the 500h model. The hybrid is also kitted out with a seven-inch touchscreen controller for rear-seat passengers which is an option on all other derivatives.
If you search for the word "reliable" in the dictionary, you'll likely find a picture of a Toyota. True to form, the Lexus LS is yet another reliable Toyota product. 20 years from now, we'll see the first 2018 LS models hit one million miles. The LS doesn't have a perfectly unblemished record, though. 2021 and 2022 LS 500h models were recalled for an issue where the stability control could be deactivated when the car is started. The 2020 LS 500, meanwhile, was recalled for a fuel pump that could fail.
Each LS sold in the US comes with a four-year/50,000-mile basic warranty and a six-year/72,000-mile powertrain warranty for added peace of mind. Hybrid components get eight-year/100,000-mile coverage. Finally, Lexus throws in complimentary scheduled maintenance too, but only for the first year or 10,000 miles.
Neither the IIHS nor the NHTSA has subjected the Lexus LS to review for safety. Thankfully, it does come with a long list of active and passive safety features, and the manufacturer has a long history of producing five-star vehicles.
The traditional safety kit includes ten airbags (and optional rear-seat cushion airbags available on the LS 500, which are standard on the LS 500h), ABS brakes, traction and stability control, tire pressure monitoring, a rearview camera, and adaptive LED lights. On the driver assistance side, each LS comes with the Lexus Safety System+ 2.5 as standard, a new introduction this year. It includes forward collision detection with auto braking, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, low-light pedestrian and daytime cyclist detection, lane departure alert with steering assist, all-speed adaptive cruise control, road sign assist, and lane tracing assist. The LS 500h comes with a surround-view monitor which is optional on the other trims. In addition, the LS 500h now boasts Lexus Teammate with Advanced Drive capability. Another feature of Teammate is Advanced Park for convenient, hands-free parking.
Optional extras that can be had as part of package upgrades include the Safety System+ A suite with dynamic radar cruise control and lane change assist, pre-collision detection with intersection support, active steering assist, and a head-up display. Front cross-traffic alert can also be optioned on.
Previous model years left us wondering whether the LS was going through an existential crisis. The suspension setup was too stiff to provide the plush ride expected in a luxury barge. This would have been fine if the LS was an engaging car, but it's simply too big for that. The only way to make an LS sportier is to go the whole nine yards with a dedicated LS F model.
Thankfully, Lexus rectified this problem with this most recent round of suspension and refinement updates. The LS has gone back to its roots, and that's a good thing because the new LS is a sublime car. In our opinion, it's the only real rival to the S-Class. Genesis still has a few years to go, the Audi A8 is too old, and the radical new BMW 7 Series still needs to prove itself on the road. We also worry about the new S-Class and long-term ownership. Yes, the technological advancements are stunning, and the digital center cluster is magnificent to behold, but what will it look like ten years from now? We know the LS will still be cruising along effortlessly, which is why we recommend it as a long-term ownership experience.
For the new model year, Lexus has streamlined the LS lineup in the USA. It now consists of the LS 500, LS 500 F Sport, and LS 500h. The gas models models are RWD as standard, while AWD adds $3,250 to the price. The price of a Lexus LS in 2022 looks as follows: The base LS 500 has an MSRP of $76,100, increasing to $79,700 for the F Sport. The price jump from the F Sport to the 500h hybrid is significant, with the latter costing $112,000. These prices exclude the destination charge of $1,075 and other miscellaneous fees.
There are three models in the LS range: LS 500, LS 500 F Sport, and LS 500h.
The standard and F Sport models are powered by the same 3.5L twin-turbo V6 engine developing 416 hp. The hybrid model is powered by a naturally aspirated 3.5-liter V6 and two electric motors.
A base LS is equipped with 16-way power-adjustable heated and ventilated front seats, dual-zone climate control, a heated leather-trimmed steering wheel, a power moonroof and rear sunshade, a parking assistant, active noise cancellation, voice control, and smart access with push-button start. Last year, Lexus included a brand-new 12.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system with shortcut buttons for essential audio functions and climate control. The Lexus Safety System+ 2.5 suite is also standard and consists of forward collision detection with auto braking, blind-spot monitoring, low-light pedestrian and daytime cyclist detection, lane departure alert with steering assist, all-speed adaptive cruise control, road sign assist, and lane tracing assist.
The F Sport is not just a style package, though you do get 20-inch Dark Graphite alloy wheels. It's the most fun to drive, relatively speaking, thanks to six-piston brakes in the front and four-piston brakes at the rear, as well as an F Sport adaptive suspension. We love the LFA-inspired dials and the magnificent F Sport seats.
As the halo model, the 500h comes with the advanced hybrid powertrain, a 23-speaker Mark Levinson sound system, 20-inch noise-reduction wheels, and a surround-view monitor as standard. It also gains the new Lexus Teammate with Advanced Drive.
Each LS comes with a long list of standard features, which we think is plenty. But if you have money to splurge and you want even more, there are a host of optional features available, although most are for the base model. The Interior Upgrade Package ($3,530) includes quilted-stitch perforated semi-aniline leather interior trim, a 28-way power-adjustable driver's seat, heated rear seats, an Ultrasuede headliner, power front seatbelt buckles, and a wood- and semi-aniline trimmed center console. On the downside, this package requires further extras that raise the price by at least $4,980 in total.
The $11,935 Luxury Package adds power side-window sunshades, 18-way power-adjustable rear outboard seats with a reclining function, a seven-inch rear-seat touchscreen interface, and the contents of the Interior Upgrade package mentioned above. Unfortunately, the Luxury Package also requires numerous other extras that will raise the overall price of the car by a minimum of $17,000. This package isn't available to the F Sport.
At $16,855, the Executive Package is also available to the LS 500, aimed at rear-seat comfort and adding to the contents of the first two packages with a rear-seat ottoman, 22-way power-adjustable rear seats with seat heating and a massage function, and butterfly power-retractable headrests. Yet again, other compulsory extras must be bundled with this package - most notably the adaptive variable air suspension - increasing the price by over $25,000 in total. Exclusive to the base LS 500, the Executive Package with the stunning Kiriko Glass interior trim will set you back $22,855 on its own, minus other required extras.
For the F Sport, there's the $7,800 Dynamic Handling Package for RWD trims only, and adds variable gear-ratio steering, active stabilizers, and active rear steering. Other compulsory extras add up to a total cost of $10,000.
There are a few standalone options available, including the $1,220 24-inch color head-up display, the $1,940 Mark Levinson sound system, an $800 surround-view camera, and a panorama glass roof for $1,000.
The hybrid powertrain is unrefined, which rules it out for us. The F Sport model's firm ride spoils the LS's overall luxury feel, which leaves just the base model. That's fine by us. With prices starting at $76,100, you can splurge on quite a few big options before you get close to base S-Class money ($111,100). We'd add the Executive Package with Kiriko Glass inserts, which automatically adds the adaptive variable air suspension with rapid height function and a slew of luxury features. The total comes to $106,775 including the destination charge. That's still less than a base S-Class, but also a lot more car for the money.
The ES is an LS for half the price. You might not think a comparison between the two is fair, but the ES has more rear legroom than the LS. The ES is the thinking man's limo. There are some notable sacrifices, however. The ES uses a naturally-aspirated 3.5-liter V6 producing 302 hp, and there's also a cheaper model with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder. You also lose out on some of the ultimate luxury features, like the LS's beautiful leather seats and trim in lower trims, and the new 12.3-inch touchscreen interface. But, in terms of ride and handling, it's remarkably similar to the LS. The focus is on comfort rather than performance, making the ES a wonderfully relaxing car to drive. Yes, the LS is undoubtedly better, but we're not convinced it's twice as good. If you can't stretch the budget to LS territory, a top-spec ES would be a near-perfect alternative.
The new Mercedes-Benz S-Class isn't the revolutionary machine it once was, but it remains the benchmark in this segment. The classic styling conceals an incredibly advanced car that is easily superior to the Lexus in terms of tech. Even the base S500 has a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, a 12.8-inch OLED touchscreen, augmented video for navigation, and the advanced MBUX system. With 429 hp, the S500 isn't as quick as the LS 500, but it has a remarkably composed ride that makes choosing between these two models difficult. With nearly five inches of additional rear legroom, the S-Class is the easy choice for being chauffeured in. Then again, at over $111,000, the S-Class's starting price is far higher. The Merc's abundance of tech can also feel less inviting than the Lexus's more familiar cabin. This is a tough call, but at the base price, we'd pick the Lexus. When both cars are fully loaded, we'd opt for the S-Class.
The most popular competitors of 2022 Lexus LS: