Lexus' uber luxurious hybrid saloon tested on Irish roads
Pros: Design masterpiece, high-level finish, different to the rest
Cons: Fiddly infotainment, smaller boot than rivals
The LS is the pinnacle in Lexus luxury, and almost three decades after its original launch, a new fifth generation model takes standards to a new level. The all-new LS 500h merges the latest and greatest Lexus hybrid technology with ultramodern styling and limousine-levels of cabin comfort. The new LS is unashamedly different to its rivals which include the Audi A8, BMW 7 Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class amongst others, but is it luxurious enough to challenge the class elite? We spent a week driving it on Irish roads to find out.
What is it like?
The new LS demands attention in a way that few other luxury saloons can. It is quite a departure from its predecessor in terms of styling which was a rather anonymous-looking car, with a huge and intricately-detailed spindle front grille, swooping side lines and imposing 20-inch multi-spoke cast alloy wheels. The LS is 35mm longer than before too, and it is only available in one wheelbase variant unlike the A8 or 7 Series. We drove the top-specification Luxury model which is fitted which is equipped with features such as adjustable air suspension.
The LS is suitably lavish inside with wooden trim and and soft-touch leather upholestery throughout. The LS’ driver’s area is surrounded by high-grade materials, while the cabin is roomy, quiet and bolstered by splendidly-comfortable seats. The LS is best-enjoyed from the rear seats though, as the seats recline with the touch of a button through a touch screen controller. Electric sun blinds cover the windows for added ambience, and the semi-aniline leather upholstery is soft to the touch. Head room is slightly restricted in the rear seats for taller passengers, particularly in the middlemost seat.
Up front, the LS boasts an integrated 12.3-inch infotainment screen and a mouse-style touch pad controller, however the system takes getting used to initially. There is also an 8-inch digital driver’s display which relays information such as speed and hybrid charging information. There are plenty of areas to store items throughout the cabin, though the LS’ 430 litre boot is over 100 litres smaller than that in the latest Mercedes-Benz S-Class.
The LS 500h mates a 3.5-litre naturally aspirated V6 petrol engine to a pair of electric motors for a combined power output of 359bhp. The system offers lots of low down grunt and it can sprint from 0-100km/h in 5.4 seconds and go on to a top speed of 250km/h. The LS 500h alternates between petrol and electric power rather seamlessly, and it is incredibly relaxing to drive around town in electric mode, while the automatic 10-speed CVT transmission shifts with accuracy. We achieved circa 9l/100km in fuel economy during our time with the LS 500h, while annual motor tax is rated at €390.
For a car that weighs well over two tonne, the LS corners much more nimbly than you’d expect. Our test car is fitted with air suspension which is included on Luxury specification and above, and it caresses the road smoothly. The suspension raises and lowers at the touch of a button for easier access to the passenger seats. The LS we tested is equipped with two-wheel-drive although all-wheel-drive is also available in the range.
Prices start from €112,750 for the base LS 500h Executive, and equipment is generous with 19-inch cast alloy wheels, Adaptive Variable Suspension, Lexus Safety System +, a 12-speaker Pioneer sound system, Lexus Premium Navigation, leather upholstery and the 8-inch colour digital driver’s display all included.
The Luxury model that we drove starts at €122,750 and adds 20-inch wheels, air suspension, a 23-speaker Mark Levinson surround sound system, air-cooled front seats and upgraded semi-anilane leather upholstery There is also a sportier F-Sport model starting from €122,750, with added dark 20-inch wheels, F Sport leather upholstery and various enhancements in the cabin.
Carzone verdict: 4/5
The fifth-generation Lexus LS is a design sensation, with mesmorising exterior styling and a beautifully-constructed cabin to match. It is in an intriguing alternative to the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and BMW 7 Series, and it is the only fully-hybrid option in the class. The LS’ advanced CVT automatic transmission lacks refinement when pushed, while the infotainment doesn't impress like the systems in rivals offerings. In a segment that is mostly dominated by German-built saloons, the LS is refreshingly different and offers something quite different to the norm.
Test Car Details:
Model driven: Lexus LS 500h
Prices from: €112,750
Annual Road Tax: €390
Engine: 3456cc six-cylinder petrol and electric motors
Top Speed: 249km/h
0-100km/h: 5.4 seconds
Transmission: CVT Automatic
Body style: Saloon
Boot Space: 430 litres
BMW 7 Series