by Adam Lynton
While many may think the big news for the new Lexus LS is the decision to drop a V8 in favor of a twin-turbo V6, perhaps the model we should be most interested in is the hybrid. The Lexus LS500h is the latest in a long line of hybrid’s developed by Toyota, but it pairs with a new design with more aggressive styling, impressive levels of safety and technology, and a single wheelbase option – a long one. With significant enhancements coming from every rival, the Lexus LS500h needs to carve itself out as a king of its niche.
The Lexus LS has always provided buyers with a luxury interior, but for 2018 the new model elevates itself in stature to a point that even S Class buyers might get jealous. Levels of refinement are vastly improved thanks to active noise cancellation using the speaker system, in addition to plenty sound deadening. 28-way power adjustable seating provides an ideal position for any occupant, with the long wheelbase affording masses of space for both front and rear occupants. Heating, ventilation, and massage functionality are found on all seats, and the rear items can recline up to 48-degrees without compromising legroom. Interior ambience is further enhanced by ambient lighting and several wood trim options.
The trackpad-controlled infotainment system is still not the most intuitive, though it features a larger surface area and can be operated by pinch and swipe commands as with a Smartphone.
Luxury sedans of this size and level of opulence are hardly supposed to be sports cars. The LS500h displays a deep knowledge of this and eschews sporty pretenses in favor of comfort. Ride comfort is plush and cloud-like, with adaptive damping mated to front and rear multilink suspension – a setup shared with the LC500. Multiple drive modes are available; including sportier ones that firm up body control; but the relaxed comfort mode is the one the LS500h is happiest in.
Despite the comfortable pretense, the LS is now lower than before. This inherently minimizes body roll and lowers the center of gravity for improved handling. Optional air suspension is available that can raise the ride height for improved access, but the biggest benefit is magic carpet ride quality. Among other tech, the LS500h can also be equipped with variable ratio steering and optional rear wheel steering to help minimize the effects of the long wheelbase.
New for this generation of Lexus LS, the addition of an electrified alternative provides a cleaner, more efficient alternative to the non hybrid version. The LS500h makes use of a 3.5-liter V6 paired with a self-charging lithium-ion battery pack and two electric motors. Total system horsepower rests at 354 horsepower, but the torque-fill is the most noticeable advantage. The LS500h features a 4-stage continuously variable gearbox that simulates a traditional 10-speed for improved economy – rated at 33 MPG on the highway by the EPA.
In line with the Lexus LS’s approach to luxury and refinement, plenty of standard equipment can be found on the LS500h, including high-end audio and Smartphone connectivity. But there’s also innovative new technology like tri-beam LED headlights and a new intuitive pedestrian detection system that monitors pedestrians at the roadside and will brake and even steer out of their way. Adaptive cruise control with forward collision avoidance is also standard, along with lane departure warning, lane keep assist, and blind spot monitoring. When the LS500h is crash tested, expect it to fair exceptionally well.
The 2018 Lexus LS500h ups the luxury game substantially. Spacious accommodation, luxurious features, extensive safety, and a comfort-bias that few in this segment can match all contribute towards what is arguably one of the finest luxury sedans around. The hybrid drive systems add another layer of depth that few can match.