I’ve long admired the Lexus brand. The name immediately conjures thoughts of refinement, luxury, comfort, reliability and exquisitely smooth rides. The company is also unveiling sportier, sexier models to change its public persona. Aggressive grilles, rakish silhouettes and incredible tech are now luring buyers of all ages.
Like other premium lines, Lexus is aiming to break some molds to attract the up-and-coming young consumer. So, when I was offered the opportunity to put their new flagship LS 500 through the paces, I was intrigued after drooling over the astute product-placement rides in Black Panther. Meaning, if it is good enough for a superhero, who am I to argue?
The LS 500 is a sublime driving experience for those desiring both creature comforts and some grin-inducing fun when the mood strikes. It strikes the perfect balance of sumptuous luxury with sparkling performance, including worthy acceleration, steering, handling and enough cool technology to wow any gadget geek. It’s now every bit as capable as the premium German counterparts—think utter comfort over spine-tingling performance. I know the hard-to-impress valet attendants were smitten.
The latest LS 500 is a true head-turner. Its long sexy, swoopy lines appear aerodynamically perfect. The lovely shimmering Caviar black metallic tester screams serious business with a bolder front, eye-catching Spindle Grille (fits this car perfectly), unique bumper and generous air scoops underneath. Triple projector Ultra compact LED headlamps generously illuminate the road, as does the auto high beams. The rear large trapezoidal dual chrome exhausts and unique 3D LED taillights motivated many positive discussions from the neighbors.
Low-profile run-flat rubber and 20” polished Vapor Chrome wheels are the perfect accessories to the robust appearance. I found myself glancing back several times when walking away from the vehicle.
Thankfully, the LS 500 delivers more than just an alluring figure. A new twin-turbo 3.5-litre V6 delivers 416 horses and 442 lb-ft torque. A capable 10-speed transmission shifts effortlessly in four driving modes (ECO, Comfort, Sport S and Sport S+). I quickly dialed in the Sport choices that tighten up the steering feel, suspension tautness and rev points to handle any winding road with aplomb. Yet, it didn’t kick up the RPM needlessly when cruising. In addition, the library-quiet engine will delight those who enjoy their driving in utter peace.
The LS 500 tours wonderfully, barely breathing at 80mph. The standard rear-wheel drive (AWD is a $3,250 option) feels very planted, confident and secure, even in high winds. Even with the low-profile rubber, the LS 500 soaks up the numerous North Texas road imperfections with aplomb. This is a smooth ride where you could cut a diamond without any mistakes.
Large 14” brakes stop you in quick fashion without a struggle. Which is nice, since it’s over 4,600 lbs. and hits 0-60 in 4.6 seconds. Mileage is quoted at 19/29. I observed 20/31 in fairly spirited driving with premium petrol. Pinch me.
The Adaptive Variable Air Suspension raises and lowers for improved driving dynamics and accessibility when entering/exiting the vehicle.
The interior is absolutely sublime. Top-notch materials everywhere, abundant contrast stitching, supple and gorgeous Quilted-Stitch Semi-Aniline and unique wood trim surround you in utter magnificence. The sport leather-wrapped and heated steering wheel is terrific. Thoughtful touches include windshield-wiper wash fluid emitted directly from the blades, instead of sprayed on the windshield, to prevent messy overspray.
The cabin’s design includes lovely swoops, curves and unique fabrics and wood. One interesting note is actual artwork on the passenger side dash. I’m not sure it’s necessary, but you quickly become accustomed to its presence.
The standard 28-way power driver seat cuddles you in supportive comfort with lumbar support, power side bolsters, massaging both front seats (some of the best ever) and an extendable lower cushion. They automatically and quickly heat and cool based on your desired cabin temperature. I desperately want one for my office desk.
Cabin room is very generous and full-sized adults fit nicely in the rear seats. A rear power sunshade is available. Sightline visibility is excellent. Storage is ample for knickknacks. The large, wide trunk (16.9 cubic feet) will easily fit two large golf bags sideways, but the rear seats don’t fold down. Rear legroom is vast, and passengers can adjust everything including vanity mirrors and climate control from a rear center console.
For those who click all the boxes, get the Executive Package ($17,630) adding 22-way power rear seats with Shiatzu massage, power recline with sliding Ottoman, and Panoramic roof. Very luxurious indeed.
The updated technology is truly impressive but requires a bit of a learning curve due to the vast array of selection as you access the infotainment via a trackpad or touchscreen. Once comfortable, you’ll enjoy a plethora of choices literally at your fingertips via the Lexus Remote Touch mouse-like control on the console. A huge 12.3” high-res infotainment screen displays radio, climate controls, seating climate/massaging levels and 360-degree camera in English, French or Spanish. Plus, there’s an old school tuning dial around a volume knob to quickly select stations and loudness. It’s simply genius in its simplicity, and other car companies should borrow the idea immediately rather than constantly hitting a touchscreen. Plus, the key fob actually fits comfortably in your pocket rather than feeling like an oversized anchor. Perfect.
A huge optional 24” Head Up Display is crystal clear; displaying speed limits, traffic signs/alerts and help warn the driver when a pedestrian or vehicle is on a track to collide with the vehicle. The automatic Parking Assist pops up to expertly navigate tight spaces. Being a flagship, the LS 500 possesses all the latest safety features one expects.
The tester included the optional sublime Mark Levinson 23-speakers; 2,400-Watt Quantum Logic Immersion Preference Surround Sound system (whoa, that’s a long title!) delivers euphoric acoustics. It really is something to behold. Lexus Enform software utilizes Apple Car Play, Android Auto and Amazon Alexa apps, allowing you to voice respond to texts displayed on the screen, play from mp3 playlists and initiate turn-by-turn navigation. The Lexus App allows you to remotely start the car, lock/unlock your doors and locate the vehicle of its last parked location. Curiously, there is no wireless charging feature for phones, and the camera view/auto hold buttons should be in the large center console rather than in relatively obscure places.
The 2021 LS 500 continues to raise the formidable Lexus bar in the premium luxury sedan market. Excellent reliability and top safety ratings round out an exemplary package for those desiring worthy performance, sexy lines, quiet opulence and technology. I strongly suggest you give it a go.
Golf Bags: 2
Curbside Appeal: Gorgeous, stately statement
0-60: 4.6 seconds
MPG: 19/30. Observed 19/29
Must Haves: Luxury package
Warranty: 4-yrs/50,000 miles basic & 6 yrs/70,000 powertrain
Base Price: $76,000
Price as Tested: $88,605
Who Buys It? Those desiring an ultra-premium cruiser with capable driving power
Finish Line: Decidedly upscale package of performance, luxury and flair