Fuel-Sipping Flagship Sedan
The 2019 Lexus LS 500 is a big, bold, beautiful flagship sedan that competes with cars like the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and BMW 7-Series. Redone in 2018, it moves into 2019 with a few small updates. You can choose from the “regular” LS 500 or the hybrid LS 500h.
The wide-mouthed spindle grille and sharp details evoke a certain “Lexusness” that stands out well against the recognizable flavor of those German luxury leaders. Coming from the company that gave us the Prius hybrid, the LS 500h, while not as “green” of car as a Tesla, does deliver significant fuel economy improvements.
The non-hybrid LS 500 uses a 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged V6 to provide 416 horsepower and 442 pounds-feet of torque, for a 4.6-second zero-to-60 time. Its EPA mileage numbers are 19 city/29 highway/23 combined. The available all-wheel-drive model posts slightly lower numbers.
Compare that to the hybrid LS 500h, which uses a naturally-aspirated 3.5-liter V6 and two electric motor-generators powered by a compact, lightweight lithium-ion battery. The battery is charged up by regenerative braking. This model is a trifle slower from zero-to-60 at 5.1 seconds, but pushes the EPA fuel economy to 25 city/33 highway/28 combined. It also boasts EPA green numbers of 7 for Smog and 6 for Greenhouse Gas. Range is an impressive 622 miles (varies depending on speed, weather, etc.).
That means that the hybrid version of Lexus’ massive, 2-1/2-ton flagship car gets better fuel economy numbers than Lexus’ non-hybrid smaller ES (26 mpg combined) and IS (24 mpg combined) sedans!
A Big Car with Amenities
Naturally, there’s room for five, and the 2019 Lexus LS 500h offers every amenity imaginable when you factor in the vast menu of options. Most notable is the Executive package, which adds the price of a base-model Camry to the total ($23,080). But what you get is remarkable. Most visually striking is the first use of beautiful Kiriko glass in a car, on the doors. It gives the interior a shimmer, especially against the beautifully hand-pleated door trim with “floating” armrests that are back-lit at night.
The supremely comfortable quilted-leather seats offer an amazing 28-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with multi-function massage. The rear seats recline, there’s a four-way “climate concierge,” and power side window shades.
Going along with the theme of large numbers, the stunning Mark Levinson audio system ($1,940) features 23 speakers and 2,400 watts of power! The head-up display ($1,200) stretches 24 inches across the left half of the lower windshield.
Lexus uses a touchpad to control the numerous options on the large center display screen. I got pretty good at sliding and flicking my fingers to adjust things like the level of seat heating or audio selections. My car had Apple CarPlay integration, a handy feature that projects your phone content onto the main screen. You can use Siri to do verbal texting, phone calls, and other interactions. This car also had Alexa compatibility, but I didn’t use it.
The List of Add-ons Continues
The Lexus Safety System is a $3,000 option as well, although many safety features are part of every Toyota and Lexus today. I was saved by the pre-collision active braking. One night, as I backed out of a dark driveway, the car stopped suddenly, and red capital BRAKE flashed on the head-up display. Yes, there was a parked car behind me that I couldn’t see. The cross-traffic alert notifies you of cars moving across your path ahead with bright green arrows moving in the long head-up display area. That’s why they made it two-feet long.
There’s more! The wheels on my car were upgraded to 20-inchers ($2,450), and the Manganese Luster paint added an additional $595.
The 2019 Lexus LS 500h is a smooth riding limo, especially with the optional adaptive variable air suspension ($1,500). I can’t say I thought much about it, but traveling was serene under any circumstances. If you want to configure your experience on one of the two “horns” on the instrument panel you can twist to “Eco,” comfort, or two higher-performance drive modes—Sport and Sport +. I stayed mostly in Eco mode, but sampled the others briefly. If you want to open up the LS 500h on a winding back road or on a freeway entrance ramp, the Sport settings will let you unleash yourself.
More big numbers come when pricing this special car. The base price is $79,710, plus $1,025 for delivery and handling. But with the long list of options, my car topped out at a knee-weakening $118,010. But it’s hard to imagine how you could pack more content and driving pleasure into a luxury sedan. While many people are moving to crossover sport utilities, there’s still a viable sedan market, and the LS 500h is one of the fanciest ones you’ll find, while still providing decent fuel economy.
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Road Test: 2018 Lexus LS 500h
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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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