We all know the Lexus LS story. Not only did it kick off Toyota’s new luxury brand for 1990. But it ushered in an entire new segment of prestigious Asian-built sedans. Well now a 5th generation LS arrives to tempt us with even more luxury and technology than we’ve ever seen before from a Japanese flagship. Looks like we’re in for a real treat!
While for the most part, Lexus has been on a full court press to change their staid and soft image over the last few years; when it comes to the 2018 LS 500 sedan, the mission is a different one, convincing people to buy the all-new 5th generation of their luxury flagship sedan instead of the high-zoot SUV they likely came looking for at the dealership.
One thing the LS clearly has going for it; it remains quite pleasant to drive, even with the improved dynamics that come from now riding on a stretched version of the LC Coupe’s platform. But as in most things Lexus, it’s mostly due to all of the electronic aids that are in play, many of which are integrated into the VDIM, or Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management.
It’s still a heavy beast, about 5,000-lbs. depending on fitment, but the updated Adaptive Variable Suspension helps to control the transfer of it.
Cruising down the highway, you’ll find everything you expect in a Lexus and more, meaning near-total isolation from the outside world and oodles of luxury.
Most notably, this LS trades in its V8 for a twin-turbo V6. But not to worry, the 3.4-liter delivers more power than the V8, and feels much better when delivering it; and the majority of the LS owners would never lift the hood anyway to know the difference. Horsepower is now 416; torque at 442 lb.-ft.
It runs through a 10-speed automatic transmission in both rear or all-wheel-drive, and we found its operation very quick for a luxury ride.
And speaking of quick, the available F-Sport package provides the best driving experience, and it’s quite a good one; though, you’re not fooled into thinking your driving skills are delivering the mechanical precision. It’s more along the lines of, the car knows what to do, so just put things into motion, and enjoy the increased clip through the corner.
And things held up really well when we pushed even harder at our test track. Despite its heft and large footprint, our all-wheel-driver stayed commendably flat, and proceeds confidently wherever you point it.
Keep it pointed straight and it pulls hard and relentlessly. Power builds rapidly right from the get to, and it rifles through gears almost as quickly. We hit 60 in just 5.2-seconds and cleared the ¼ in 13.6-seconds at 103 miles-per-hour. Yeah, you definitely won’t miss the V8.
We’ll go out on a limb and say you won’t miss the previous gen’s boring exterior either. The new LS is longer; but there are also some seriously sporty lines to go along with those dynamic credentials.
There’s a coupe-like roof line naturally, along with exaggerated fenders; and whether you like or not, the front end is dominated by their infamous spindle grille, which we think works well here.
Inside, things are not quite as appealing as the LC Coupe. The linear dash is here, along with many unique shapes and materials; but the overall theme is a little harder to determine.
Material quality is quite good, as you’d expect; but there are puzzling aspects like the imprecise and frustrating touch panel controller, and the digital gauge cluster that provides a wealth of information, yet seems to leave a lot of empty space in the I.P.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings with all-wheel-drive are 18-City, 27-Highway, and 21-Combined, and we averaged a fine 23.9 miles-per-gallon on Premium. Still, that’s a slightly worse than average Energy Impact Score of 15.7-barrels of yearly oil use, and CO2 emissions of 6.9-tons.
A hybrid LS version remains available, and will get you up to 33-mpg in the city.
The biggest LS tradition of all, is offering an amazing amount of luxury and comfort for not a whole lot of money. Fortunately, that continues with base pricing of $75,995.
The LS of course, launched the Lexus brand, and over the last 28-years, they’ve certainly gained ground on the German luxury brands they were oh so obviously copying. But with the 2018 LS 500, Lexus seems to have abandoned that approach, now carving out a niche that is all their own making. We applaud that strategy and think it will lead to bigger things for the LS, and Lexus.
Engine: 3.4 liter
Torque: 442 lb.-ft.
0-60 mph: 5.2 seconds
1/4 mile: 13.6 seconds @ 103 mph
EPA: 18 mpg city / 27 mpg highway
Energy Impact: 15.7 barrels of oil/yr
CO2 Emissions: 6.9 tons/yr