Arguably one of the more conservatively styled luxury brand flagships upon its launch for 1990, now in 2021 the recently updated Lexus LS is the polar opposite, sporting a longer, lower, and wider mantra infused with curvaceous yet also angular styling. The apparent dichotomy continues inside with again an evolution from an appealing yet predictably proper layout to today’s still perfectly functional yet visually perhaps outre style that is a bit of a feast for the senses, to be visually enjoyed as much as used to operate the vehicle.
Simply seeing the LS on screen or paper doesn’t accurately convey the same impression it does in person; the way the metal flows, the textures, shapes, and materials used inside, along with what is surely one of the sweetest powertrains extant. Not everyone will understand it either, alas, currently seeing the lowest sales numbers of any generation to date, the sedan’s form factor itself is facing a reckoning with this fifth generation of the LS, while it’s perhaps the finest one yet. In fact, this may be one of the first vehicles I’ve tested of which I did not see another example during my week with it. It’s not unlikely that you haven’t seen one within the last week (or perhaps month) either.
Did Lexus whiff it? Hardly, at least in aggregate, although there are some aspects that rankle a bit. It isn’t their fault that the luxury market has moved significantly toward the SUV form factor and thankfully for them, they have that aspect well covered with plenty of choices and there is likely room for even more at the upper end.
Of course the first thing seen (and usually commented on, at least in our Curbside neighborhood) is the grille. I’ll posit that the LS wears it quite well, and the car seems formed around it rather than having it tacked on. If anything, the version used on the standard model (as well as the Hybrid) is even better integrated overall than the one gracing this, the F Sport version, simply by dint of the coloring and surface detail of the “mesh” area, the standard item is more sculpted and very interesting to look at. In person, especially from a lower angle, it works.
Low is one of the operative words, and it’s startling how large the car really is, although it doesn’t seem it at first. I figured that it was around the length of the current Toyota Avalon, not a short or small car by any means, however the LS exceeds it in length by a full foot. It’s also two inches wider and over an inch taller, so perhaps not quite as low as it first appears and in fact taller than the original LS but lower than the last one. And, it must be said, all of the current dimensions are still smaller than those of the Mercedes S-Class, long the standard bearer of the segment.
While at one time the LS was available in two lengths, nowadays we are back to one for all variants. Differences are mainly in trim with the base model being offered in normal as well as F Sport versions, and then the Hybrid variant pretty much matching the standard car in all aspects bar the powertrain. Rear wheel drive is standard, but full time all wheel drive is available across the range and ours was so equipped.
The F Sport isn’t imbued with all sorts of extraneous doo-dads or questionable styling elements, externally the only real giveaways are a subtly different front fascia, darker colored chrome accents, different wheels, and of course the tiny fender and trunk badges. Remove those badges and nobody would know.
Even the Matador Red Mica paint color doesn’t really scream for attention and it’s available on the others as well. That paint though, you pay extra for the luxury model and there’s one area that you get something in return, the deep luster and surface smoothness are uncommonly good.
The front fenders aren’t simply extensions of the hood’s surface, they are separately sculpted to cover the tops of the tire circumference, and that shape blends back into the door. The door glass is completely flush with all of the pillars within the glass area, and the rear fenders bulge on top as well before integrating with the slightly raised trunk lid. The shapes and angles of the taillights mimic that of the brightwork around the license plate aperture and at the bottom are the two trapezoidal exhaust outlets.
The doors are hefty, and the rears are (or at least feel and act) longer then the fronts as in a proper flagship. While low, there’s no sense of having to thread any kind of needle while getting in either front or rear. The doors open so wide that there is real danger of needing to stretch farther than anticipated to grasp the seemingly floating handle in order to pull it shut, an automatic closing system all of a sudden seems like less of a needless extravagance.
Inside, this model was finished in black with Naguri aluminum trim, although there are multiple options available across the range, both in color as well as materials, even special Kiriko glass is an option for items that were rendered in metal on this one – don’t knock it, take a look at the website or other pictures, the glass is a very interesting effect and exactly the type of thing to make someone’s car be that much more special rather than the average punter being able to choose between tan and gray and silver painted trim vs fake carbon fiber as in the mass market.
Of course multiple woods are on offer too as well as laser cut and/or surface shaped variants as well. This is the type of car that it would be a shame to just buy off the lot, with so many different touchpoint options ordering something special is, I would think, a very large part of the overall experience.
Seats in this example look like there is some sort of texture effect, however what you are seeing is a black leather surface with a white interior (of the leather, not the seat itself) that is visible where the perforation pattern is. Designed with a pattern rather than just the entire surface, it creates a striking impression.
The seats themselves are of course heated as well as ventilated and while normally adjustable with electric controls, pushing a button with a pictograph of a seat makes a menu pop up on the 12.3″ touchscreen alllowing a total of 28 different seat movement options – this includes all seat and back bolsters, lower cushions, as well as the back cushions split into several segments and the headrests all being able to be adjusted independently of one another. I’d be best off getting my old orthopedist neighbor to help me select the optimum setting and then make sure that the memory function was enabled in order to save it, once lost it would likely never be duplicated.
Basically, everything that can be electrically adjusted, is, and this particular LS was actually one of the lesser equipped versions available. The seat moves itself back when the door is opened as does the steering wheel, and both reposition themselves when it’s closed again. The steering wheel has its button controls in a logical arrangement on its surface, and through the wheel at first it is surprising to only see one gauge. That’s the tachometer with the speedometer only shown as a digital readout in the center.
While the temperature and fuel level are in small areas flanking it, the rest of the center portion can be varied as to the information presented. On this F Sport version that whole gauge though can also slide to the side and then it displays the same information in a different format at the touch of a button. It’s not that just the digital display moves electronically, but there is a physical bezel around that tachometer, it physically slides to the right about two inches. Very odd and hard to envision until seen. At the end of the day though, it’s still a similar display so not something most would move often if at all.
For those interested in keeping track of soft vs hard materials, it’s a pleasure to report that the entire door panel is soft with the exception of the control buttons and the metal areas. So the upper, the middle, the handle, as well as the lower sections including the door pockets, everything yields to an exploratory touch. The dashboard is the same. The pillars and headliner (where it flanks the optional panoramic sunroof) are finished in a very rich feeling Ultrasuede material.
That material is also used on portions of the seats as well as the doorpanels (the patterned stitched section). The sunroof is composed of two sections and while the front and rear of the cabin each have their own electrically retractable sunshades controlled independently from one another, the front section can slide back and open externally by sliding over the rear portion.
This was done to not impinge on headroom as much as in a traditional setup, however the frame still managed to get in the way of my 6’1″ with 32″ inseam, managing to brush my hair and once uncomfortably causing me to impale my head on the button of the ballcap that I was wearing when a dip was traversed at speed. I found myself traveling slightly slouched to the side, which sort of negates the healing effects of the sublimely adjustable seats. My problem, not yours, unless you are otherwise blessedly long of torso too.
Lexus has started to abandon its generally unloved touchpad coupled with cursor puck system, now just leaving the touchpad with a few quick menu buttons around it, but really having no need for it as the touchscreen itself is close enough to just tap as needed for pretty much everything.
The navigation worked well and I had actual uses for it this time, but curiously the speech pattern of the synthetic voice was highly irregular compared to other brands’ current systems and seemed a decade old with notable gaps between words and phrases as they were joined together into something not really resembling normal speech. Additionally while the camera system worked as well as they all do (good) the resolution was surprisingly poor, and not at all what I would have expected for a car uncomfortably close to (and in some cases exceeding) six figures. There are cars at a quarter of the price with better camera graphics if perhaps not the same size screen.
What is good though (and is becoming more common elsewhere as screens increase in size) is the ability to easily section the screen in order to have it perform and display multiple functions at once, i.e navigation and radio or radio and trip economy or whatever else might strike one’s fancy.
While interestingly styled with the silver multi-bladed accent piece swooping traversing the dashboard and incorporating the center vents, functionally it’s as one would expect with the screen up top and its smooth surface also encompassing a traditional timepiece with it on the left side.
Below that are the center vents and right below that the HVAC controls. Temperature is selected via small thumbwheels that spin freely if pushed and released and feel sort of like mini version of the older Mercedes system which in my own cars I always used it to increase or decrease the amount of airflow by raising or lowering the temperature instead of letting the car’s brain do it for me. The instant gratification of being able to change that without selecting the fan speed itself was just as enjoyable now as it was back then, well done, Lexus! Of course it can also do it all for those that would rather just set and forget.
To the left of those controls is one of the more delightful items, those being the milled solid two-level knob of the audio controller. The main knob controls the volume and is light enough to juuuuusssssst rotate with the surface pressure of one finger while the ring around the base of it is the tuner. Fortuitously I enjoy three satellite stations located very closely to one another on the dial (33, 34, 36) and in this case it was easier to just flitter between them rather than using the on-screen preset buttons.
Below that the faceplate and CD slot for the frankly stupendous Mark Levinson audio system which in this case is officially named the “Mark Levinson 23-speaker, 2400 Watt Quantum Logic Immersion Reference Surround Sound Audio”. It is as impressive as it sounds and once again as in another Lexus reviewed prior, allowed me to hear notes I was not aware existed on various tracks and turn the volume up so loud while remaining perfectly clear while my passengers asked me to turn it down.
This is the system I want. It should be available in any vehicle on earth but it is not which makes me have a sad. I can be a bit of a cheap bastard but I would happily pay the $1,940 that this particular option commands, it’s a bargain. And I absolutely love the patterned texture of the metal speaker grilles in the rear doors.
On the horizontal surface of the center console resides the button to select Park as well as the shifter and a cover for two cupholders. Behind that the redundant trackpad, buttons for the rear screen, and two others to call up the seat climate control and the finer seat adjustments via the screen. Under one’s elbow is the storage compartment with padded lid that has buttons on both the driver and passenger sides and is hinged both ways for everyone’s convenience.
The shifter is yet another twist on the art or science of monostatism, in this case actually improving as to shift into drive or reverse the shifter must be pushed left and forward or left and back, not unlike in a manual transmission vehicle but on a minimal scale with “throws” that measure in millimeters. As a result it does not require actually looking at it to operate it and manages to always look neat, tidy, and centered which I suppose is the point of this style of shifter.
There is not any obvious place to store a phone so the cupholder does a fine job of it while concurrently ruining any aesthetic qualities extant and worse, in my opinion at least, was that there was no wireless charging pad. The rich are different, I suppose, and happily pay extra for options that are standard in all manner of lesser vehicles these days. There are a multitude of USB plugs in the center console though in order to allow an unsightly wire to be draped towards the cupholder phone storage area.
Please select Page 2 below to continue…
Pages: 1 2