Road Test: 2019 Lexus LS 500

Lexus launched the LS in 1989, the first car to arrive with the brand’s introduction, and that changed the luxury automotive market. Here we are 30 years later, driving the redesigned LS 500, and while so much has changed on the technological front, the basic elements of the LS are still the same.

Detail, craftsmanship, quality, comfort, and elegance are Lexus staples. The LS builds upon them with technological innovations, supreme power, and agile handling.

The 2019 LS 500 is the ultimate luxury vehicle, but it expresses it with grace.

Powertrain

The 3.5L twin-turbo V6 churns out the power one would expect in a flagship sedan: 416 horsepower and 442 lb-ft of torque. Lexus tuned the engine and transmission to deliver instant acceleration and a constant supply of power. The various drive settings can be set using the dial on the upper right part of the dash, from Normal, Eco, Sport S or Sport S+ modes.

Power delivery is exceptional and the exhaust note is sumptuous. Whether around town or on the highway, we always felt we had more than enough power on tap.

The 10-speed automatic transmission is barely perceptible. Shifts are instant, buttery, and truly elevate the entire driving experience. The wide bandwidth afforded by 10 closely spaced ratios is ideal for all driving situations.

The AWD system on our tester features a TORSEN limited-slip center differential to further enhance grip, traction and cornering stability. The torque distribution can vary from 31 percent front / 69 percent rear on dry roads to as much as 48 percent front / 52 percent rear on slick surfaces.

20-inch wheels employ a brilliant appearance created using an electroplating technique known as sputtering. The wheel design features a hollow rim structure that helps reduce resonant sounds generated by the tires. Handling is superb, secure, and in Sport+ mode as engaging as any performance vehicle should be.

The incredible handling and refined ride are due in large part to the air suspension system as well as the latest Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) which continually adjusts damping control in response to driving operations and road surface conditions.

Safety and Tech

Lexus Safety System 2.0 is new this year and adds daytime bicyclist detection and low-light pedestrian detection along with Road Sign Assist (RSA) and Lane Tracing Assist (LTA).

Daytime bicyclist detection is part of an enhanced Pre-Collision System (PCS). Previously designed to detect a preceding vehicle or pedestrian, the Pre-Collision System now has the potential to detect a preceding bicyclist too.

The PCS was enhanced to detect a preceding pedestrian in certain low-light situations by increasing the camera’s sensitivity and dynamic range.

Road Sign Assist (RSA) is another feature we’ve come to greatly appreciate, displaying select road sign information in the instrument panel and head up display.

Of all the latest technology, the Lane Tracing Assist (LTA) is in our top five. The system is designed to detect lane markings to determine lane position, then places the LS in the center of the lane when working in conjunction with the All-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control. If the camera can’t pick up the lane markings, it can actually follow the car ahead of it.

But the neatest feature of all comes with the optional Lexus Safety System +A package. It’s exclusive to the LS and includes a Lane Change Assist (LCA) feature. When activated by the driver by holding the turn signal stalk down for more than a second, and with the Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (DRCC) engaged, the LCA system determines if a safe lane change can be made and then actively steers the LS 500 into the next lane.

On the infotainment front, LS 500 now comes with Apple CarPlay through the stunning 12.3-inch display. Amazon Alexa integration is also new. LS owners can ask Alexa the same information they do at home, and control smart home devices like lighting, thermostats, and security systems.

Lexus Enform Remote app also now works on smartwatches and Alexa-enabled devices at home to make it easier to lock and unlock the doors, check the fuel level and start the car remotely.

From a driving perspective, the 24-inch color heads-up display (HUD) is the most impressive we’ve ever seen. It projects a variety of information into the driver’s forward view, and in crisp color icons and font.

The Lexus Safety System+ A offers additional equipment and is available as an option. Both systems, in addition to other technologies, help to support more secure driving in a broad range of situations, providing the driver with information ranging from support status notifications to information on vehicle behavior during safety feature operation via the multi-information display and, when equipped, the large color head-up display (HUD).

Interior

Where to begin? The LS 500 is the most beautiful interior we’ve ever had the opportunity to spend time in. Every seating position is welcomed with the utmost in luxury, comfort, and craftsmanship.

Every single surface of the LS is soft touch, leather, or suede. It’s absolutely incredible. The design and aesthetics of even the floating door armrest simply takes our breath away.

In the front of the cabin is are wide yet supportive 28-way electric/pneumatic seats with cushion length extenders. Side bolsters inflate to brace the people sitting in them when driving through curves, ensuring exceptional comfort and a secure feel.

When starting the drive, the seat belts tug to ensure a snug fit and eliminate any slack; this is ideal for proper operation of the seat belts as part of the supplemental restraint system.

Lexus also optimized the LS 500 as a car to be driven in, lavishing considerable attention to the rear seat. The Executive package on our vehicle includes heating, cooling, massage, and a passenger-side seat which can be reclined up to 48 degrees, an angle which Lexus engineers say was chosen for its precise level of comfort while the vehicle is in motion.

All the settings, including shades in the doors, headrests, music, and more are adjustable in the large touchscreen located in the fold down center armrest. Illuminated vanity mirrors fold down from the ceiling in the rear as well.

And because the LS 500 is lower than previous versions for better handling, Lexus equipped the air suspension with an access function automatically raises the car to make it easier to step into or get out.

Summary Scorecard (1-10)
Ride and Handling10
Braking10
Powertrain and Fuel Economy9
Noise10
Headlights10
Interior Fit and Finish10
Seating10
Visibility8
Gauges and Controls10
Infotainment10
Crash-Avoidance10
Total Score97


Make: Lexus
Model: LS 500
Trim Level: AWD
Engine: 3.5L Twin-Turbo V6
Transmission: 10-speed Automatic
Options: Lexus Safety System+ A, Adaptive Air Suspension, 20″ Wheels, 24″ HUD, Adaptive LED Headlights, Executive Pkg, Mark Levinson Audio, Panoramic Glass Roof, Panoramic View Monitor, Premium Wood, Heated Wood and Leather Steering Wheel

Base Price: $78,420
As-Tested Price: $109,925

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