Sedan sales have taken a back seat lately to SUVs and crossovers, but the 2018 Lexus LS 500 isn’t your typical sedan. It’s a high-end luxury car with opulence and – if you opt for the F Sport trim – a hefty dose of sport thrown in.
Powered by a twin-turbocharged V6, the LS 500 takes a thin slice of the wind with its coupe-like silhouette. Longer, lower and wider than the model it replaces, the LS has a sleek and sexy profile.
The flagship of the Lexus brand, the LS has been around for nearly three decades but still makes a strong statement in the luxury sedan segment. The LS is available in three trims: the LS 500 in rear drive or AWD, the LS 500h Hybrid and the LS 500 F Sport, which was my test car for the week.
The F Sport trim adds a hefty $9,700 to an already hefty $81-grand MSRP. Upgraded, 23-speaker Mark Levinson sound and other extras brought the bottom line of the test LS 500 F Sport to $94,940 plus freight. The 2018 LS 500 starts at $75,000 and the LS 500h starts at $79,510.
Not for every driver’s budget, this LS is a superb car with fabulous styling, all the luxury you can imagine and then some. It’s not a perfect car, but it comes close.
The new LS is about a half-inch lower to the ground, with a lower trunk and hood height. I really liked the new triple projector headlights with three cool light lines across the lenses. The LS also debuts two new wheel designs this year, one 19 inches and one 20 inches.
Inside the surprisingly roomy cabin, fit and finish are superior. The comfortable perforated leather seats are heated, cooled and infinitely adjustable. Contrasting stitching across the dashboard is nice, and the entire interior dresses to impress.
Interior lines are complemented by the suede headliner. In a thoughtful design move, the driver’s seat extender rolls out instead of sliding it out, thus eliminating the notorious crumb and French fry catching seam.
Navigation and infotainment are where the LS excels…and occasionally frustrates. The LS is a sophisticated and technological car with no less than 20 buttons on the steering wheel – ten on each side, plus paddle shifters. The 12.3-inch high-res screen is terrific, but the smallish laptop-style touchpad that governs it takes a lot of practice to master and use. Also, there are too many hoops to jump through when performing simple tasks like turning on seat heating or cooling.
On the road, though, you forget about the touchpad and enjoy the ride.
The 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 dishes out 416 horsepower and 442 lb.-ft. of torque for a thrilling ride. Mat the pedal and the new 10-speed automatic transmission smoothly begins its task. Or, you can use the paddle shifters for a more driver-involved experience. Lexus says the top track speed of the LS is 136 miles per hour. And it gets really good mileage(30 mpg highway) for a car with this much power.
Driver selectable modes include Eco, Normal, Comfort, Custom, Sport and Sport + settings. Those settings are adjustable by two prominent knobs on either side of the driver’s information center. They look out of place there and would be better off located on the console.
Usually when I get into a car as sleek and sculpted as this, I prepare myself for a cabin that’s cramped for my 6-foot-1 frame. Not so with this LS. Headroom in the rear seat was more than 37 inches, which was plenty. Rear seat passengers get their own pushbutton climate control with two vents for each passenger. Rear seat passengers can also operate the rear sunscreen with the push of a button.
The 2018 LS 500 has not been safety tested by the government nor the insurance industry, and likely won’t be this late in the year because it is a fairly low-volume car. But it has 10 standard airbags and a host of sophisticated safety equipment and technology including collision warning systems, adaptive cruise control, lane departure assists and intelligent high beams.
2018 Lexus LS 500 F Sport
3.5-liter turbocharged V6
$94,940 plus freight
EPA mileage estimates:
19 mpg city/30 mpg highway/23 mpg combined
Estimated highway range: