Out with the Old, In with the New
The words “all new” can’t be thrown around casually in the automobile industry. Legally, for a car to be advertised as “all new,” well, it has to be “all new.” Not a little, but a lot. For Lexus, meeting this legal standard was a breeze as the 2018 LS 500 and LS 500h are really and truly all new compared to the previous year’s models.
Lexus gathered members of the international press in San Francisco in September to introduce the all-new 2018 Lexus LS 500, 500 F Sport and 500h. The final all-new “L” model is the LC hybrid, which Clean Fleet Report will review in December.
The “L” designation from Lexus is all about luxury, something they deliver with the new LS models. Dictated by the Lexus philosophy of Takumi (“artisan” in Japanese), the attention to detail is shown throughout the cars’ designs. Starting with the signature chrome-trimmed grill, which has up-to 7,000 individual surfaces, Takumi continues through the supple and comfortable interior that includes handmade origami-inspired pleating on the door panels.
The fifth generation LS, which first came out in 1989 and is the flagship in the Lexus line, is bigger, sleeker, more powerful, fuel efficient, luxurious and has a more modern exterior design and an interior that is unique to Lexus and far different from its European competitors.
Lexus says the 2018 LS 500 delivers a “new level of flagship luxury in every aspect.” A strong statement in a segment that abounds with very fine cars from manufacturers doing their best, through design and marketing, to outdo each other.
This introduction to the all-new 2018 Lexus LS line is an overview. Full reviews on each model will appear soon on Clean Fleet Report.
The 2018 Lexus LS 500 and 500h each have a new engine and transmission. The 500 goes from being powered by a V8 to a 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6. The hybrid 500h has a naturally aspirated 3.5-liter V6 and two electric motors and generators. The 500 gets a new 10-speed automatic transmission while the LS 500h has a multi-stage hybrid transmission coupled to a four-speed automatic. Both cars come standard with rear-wheel drive (RWD) and all-wheel drive (AWD) as an option.
As a result of these drivetrain changes, both cars have increased fuel economy while also achieving more horsepower and torque. The specs and EPA mpg ratings are:
LS 500 RWD – Twin-Turbo 3.5-liter V6
416 horsepower (HP) – 442 pounds-feet (lb.ft.) torque
19 city/29 highway/23 combined
LS 500 AWD – Twin-Turbo, 3.5-liter V6
416 HP – 442 lb.-ft. torque
18 city/27 highway/21 combined
LS 500h RWD – Non-aspirated, 3.5-liter V6
354 HP – Torque Not Reported
25 city/33 highway/28 combined
LS 500h AWD – Non-aspirated, 3.5-liter V6
354 HP – Torque Not Reported
23 city/31 highway/26 combined
First Drive: On the Road
Based on the all-new Lexus global architecture for their luxury cars (internally known as GA-L), the balance on the cars was excellent: 53 percent front/47 rear on the LS 500 and 51/49 on the LS 500h. This balance was apparent when diving into sharp corners, especially where a downward curve demanded the front end not compress on the inward wheel or the rear end slip out. The AWD models we drove added additional grip and confidence in the tightest-of-tightest corners. It was a pleasure being able to toss around cars that weigh just a tick under 5,000 pounds, have a 123-inch wheelbase and measure at 17 feet.
Acceleration in the 2018 Lexus LS 500 with the 3.5-liter twin turbo was smooth and quick. There was no perceptible turbo lag, which has much to do with twin water-to-air intercoolers, mounted directly on top of the engine, that reduce the air pressure in the intake tract, and, in turn, the lag.
Zero to sixty times of 4.6 seconds are achieved by using the driver-controlled drive modes of Normal, Sport S and Sport S+. Whether using the paddle-shifters or leaving it in Drive to go through the 10-speed automatic, Normal was fine for highway cruising, but we tended to select Sport S+ and leave it there. Driving enjoyment with instant acceleration? Yes, you, too, will leave it there!
Driving Experience: Exterior
Longer and lower than the outgoing LS, the all-new 2018 LS 500 has a ground-hugging look and even an optional air suspension that refines the ride further. The LS 500 has been redesigned with more pronounced wheel arches. The Lexus signature chrome-trimmed, spindle grill is even bolder. The new grille mesh, under certain lighting, sparkles, reflects and shows-off those thousands of surfaces.
Framing the grill are sleek LED projector headlamps. Integrated LED fog and daytime running lamps in the form of an “L” wrap the front edges.
Lexus has designed the LS 500 with a coupe-like silhouette that offers excellent visibility, but also does not compromise rear passenger headroom. The roofline has a downward sweep that ends at a comparatively short trunk lid, leading to very attractive LED tail lamps that wrap gently around the fenders. It’s all finished-off with dual, rectangular chrome exhaust tips.
Driving Experience: Interior
Road noise? “What road noise?” is the proper and only response. Wind whooshing by was nonexistent, thanks in part to the low 0.27 coefficient of drag.
The interior (nine choices of color and trim levels) is beautifully designed and outfitted in top-shelf materials. Leather abounds, with the laser-cut wood inlays playing off each other nicely. Legroom is excellent throughout the cabin and, in the rear, the ride experience surpasses premium and edges on true luxury. The rear seat can only accommodate two passengers, as the center seating area has been replaced with a console that is only missing a Cappuccino machine to cap-off the sit-back-and-relax environment.
All seating surfaces feature soft, supple leather. The center console has remote and button controls for audio, video, seat heating, cooling, massage and vibrate, and seat adjustments such as recline and lumbar, as well as for the headrest adjustments. A nice touch are the power rear and side door sunshades. The rear shade automatically retracts when putting the car in reverse.
The rear legroom equals that of First Class at 30,000 feet, so after adjusting the power seats, choosing heat or cold, setting the massage and vibrating levels, using the remote for the video monitor and selecting your desired media, it is time to put on the headphones and instruct your driver to take you wherever you need to go—but in no rush, of course!
The infotainment (entertainment and information) system (with navigation) features the excellent, home-quality, 23-speaker, 2,400 watt-equivalent, 3D Mark Levinson surround sound system. The system includes all the expected apps and entertainment sources and is what Lexus says is an “audio experience unparalleled in any Lexus.”
The cockpit design is driver-friendly, featuring a dual-zone automatic climate system with dust and pollen filters, digital and analog clocks with the digital clock being GPS connected, lighted vanity mirrors front and rear, a center console storage box and cup holders. The interior also has a power tilt and sliding moonroof, power windows with one touch up/down, power door locks, Smart Access with push button stop/start, 12V power outlets, folding and electrochromic heated, outside rear view power side mirrors.
Safety and Pricing
The LS line-up is well equipped with all the latest active and passive safety features, advanced safety technology and driver support systems.
The 2018 Lexus LS 500 has a base starting around $75,000.
Observations: 2018 Lexus LS 500 and LS 500h
The value of attending a launch event, such as the one Lexus had for the 2018 LS 500 and 500h, is that the automotive writers have the opportunity for one-on-one time with the engineers, product planners and designers. Between one of them riding shotgun on a test drive and talking over breakfast or dinner or even a few drinks, it became crystal clear Lexus is very proud of the all-new 2018 Lexus LS 500, LS 500 F Sport and 500h. Clean Fleet Report will have the chance over the next few months to drive and review all the new Lexus models, so look for our reviews throughout 2018.
Until then, we will leave you with the observation that any of the 2018 LS are a true pleasure to drive or ride in. They have a level of luxury—plus sophisticated and advanced driver technology systems—that are second to none.
The Lexus “L” series is all about luxury. But performance and the hybrid fuel economy were not forgotten in the process. Go see for yourself at a Lexus dealer in February 2018, and keep checking back with Clean Fleet Report for our reviews on what we know are excellent cars.
Whatever you end up buying, Happy Driving!
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Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.
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