What it is: The Lexus LS was generally considered the best car that money can buy for nearly 20 years since its introduction around 1990. Now in the fifth generation as of the 2018 model year, buyers’ taste for cars has continued to fall in favor for trucks and SUVs. U.S. sales of the LS have been below 10,000 units/year for most of the 2010s, so this begs the question, “Does the LS actually matter anymore?” I would say that the answer is yes.
The LS has always been one of the first vehicles to get Toyota’s latest technology and the current version is a wonderful blend of comfort, luxury and tech. The latest exterior design leans futuristic and the large spindle-shaped front grille is a love-it or hate-it design that I think looks really striking. The best part of the LS is undoubtedly the interior. You are surrounded by premium materials that transcend what you would find outside of the finest restaurants, bars or hotels. I was initially struck by the wood that is set into the door panels and center console and that’s likely by design. They use Japanese artisans who spend two months across a 14-step process to create the unique design and patterns. The last time I reviewed the LS, the wood was actually replaced with optional Kiriko Glass Crystal, which is only available in the executive package. There are 10 different leather and trim options available, so there is assuredly something for everyone.
My test model was loaded with a bunch of great technology. There was a 24-inch wide, heads-up display ($1,220), adaptive air suspension ($1,500), a 23-speaker, 2,400 watt Mark Levinson stereo system ($1,940), 360-degree panoramic view monitor ($800), and as part of the $3,730 interior upgrade package, a massaging driver’s seat that I can not recommend highly enough. The Lexus Safety System+ ($3,000) adds dynamo radar-cruise control with lane-change assist, front cross-traffic alert, and a pre-collision emergency braking system. I would absolutely recommend every one of those options as they all provide great value.
The adaptive air suspension is wonderfully smooth and, combined with how quiet the car is, provides a very pleasant driving experience. The LS 500 is powered by a twin-turbocharged, 3.5-liter V6 engine producing 415 horsepower and 443 lb-ft of torque, which provides oodles of acceleration. You really have to pay attention because the car is so stable that you lose the feeling of higher speeds when you’re driving. Available for $4,560 more is the LS 500h, but it’s not immediately sure why. It has 61 less horsepower and gets marginally better gas mileage at 26 vs. 21 MPG for combined driving on cars with AWD.
MPG: 23 combined/19 city/30 highway
Price: $75,450 base price. $94,750 as-tested.
Upsides: Quiet. Fast. Luxurious.
Wrap-up: So yes, the Lexus LS is spectacular. In fact, it’s probably the best car that you can buy, and it’s been that way for a long time. Unfortunately for Lexus, this hasn’t led to an increase in sales because it’s not an SUV. Is the LS a bit gluttonous? Absolutely, but it’s really remarkable how premium of an experience you can get when the LS is priced $13,000 beneath a Panamera, $20,000 less than a Mercedes Benz S-Class, etc. If I was in the market, the LS is definitely my choice.