As stated, the back door feels larger/longer than the front but that gets forgotten as soon as you fall into the rear seats, which are just as cossetting as the fronts. Plenty of legroom for me and likely almost anyone else here, and the seat of choice would be behind the passenger as the folding center armrest contains two buttons – the first controls the rear sunshade (also controllable from the front), which deploys to shade the rear seat area and automatically retracts and redeploys when reverse gear is selected.
And the second button though causes the front passenger seat to move all the way forward on its tracks as well as making the backrest go vertical in order to maximize the rear seat area on that side of the car. I neglected to ascertain if it would operate with an occupant in the front seat, presumably not. But a delightful feature. The rear seatbacks do not fold however the occupants of the rear seats do get their own fold down lit vanity mirrors as well as roof mounted speakers (as do the fronts). Vents for the rear are not just in the center console but also located on the back of the B-pillar.
The trunk, while quite large, is less deep (vertically) than I had anticipated. There is no spare underfloor (the tires are runflats). The battery though is located under the floor in an almost central location side to side as well as fore and aft. The trunk is however quite deep horizontally toward the rear seat bulkhead, a benefit of the length. I had occasion for an airport run with this car, however with only carry-on bags allowed on the flight this was no great test of the space.
The trunk can open electrically via buttons on the keyfob, trunklid or by swiping a foot under the bumper and can close electrically as well. Or it can just be done by hand, the electric motors don’t seem to mind and don’t resist this.
Let’s move on to the engine. Lexus couldn’t make the engine room appear any less engine-ish, with virtually the entire thing shrouded. For the first time, the Lexus flagship sedan does not utilize a V8 engine, something which was met with some surprise when released, but now appears somewhat prescient. Instead there is a twin-turbo 3.5 liter V6 producing an entirely acceptable 416 horsepower at 6,000rpm and generating 442lb-ft of torque at any point between 1,600 and 4,800rpm.
With numbers like those I’ll happily save the money to replace two spark plugs at some point in the future. This apparently translates into performing a 0-60mph dash in 4.6 seconds for a vehicle weighting around 4,900 pounds. Having not experienced this particular engine previously, I’m now quite excited to experience the new twin-turbo V6 in the new Toyota Tundra and the Lexus LX series and perhaps other models as well, surely there are significant similarities between them.
Between the engine and the ground lie the 10-speed Direct-Shift transmission (which can also be controlled by aluminum paddle shifters behind the wheel) and the full time all wheel drive system, both of which combine to make moving this device as simple as a thought and flex of a toe. The drivetrain is almost utterly silent, only at heavy throttle does a hint of something audible assault the ears unless in Sport S+ mode, then a very rich and melodic noise comes through, if genuine it’s remarkable in its tenor, if piped in digitally then it’s quite good and lots of fun.
But normally (any mode except Sport S+) this is as close as a modern internal combustion engine car gets to feeling like it uses purely electric power and perhaps even better as the normal sounds of driving are suppressed so well in this car that you don’t hear the tires or the wind or other noises from inside or out. There’s just a constant, relentless shove forward with very little aural sensation and one wonders how something so large and heavy can move so fast and so silently. The transmission switches gears both up and down virtually instantaneously and imperceptibly which just adds to the feeling.
As alluded to, there are several drive modes selected by a little wheel/pod attached to upper side of the instrument binnacle. Ranging from Comfort to Custom (user selected parameters) to Normal to Sport S and Sport S+, they alter the engine responsiveness and in-gear behavior as well as the suppleness of the suspension. While the suspension is remarkably good at suppressing intrusions in any mode, when in comfort it just glides as expected, Normal is still smoother than seemingly 90 percent of other vehicles, and the Sport modes are also completely livable.
The LS in F Sport guise wears 20″ “Dark Vapor” chrome finished wheels wrapped in Bridgestone Turanza EL450 runflat tires sized at 245/45-20. Modern 20″ tires, even runflats, are now apparently able to roll along without slapping or thumping noises, a remarkable advancement over years prior. They also grip. This car when pushed corners remarkably flat and confidently, with strong confirmation of a RWD-based chassis despite powering all four wheels and willing to rotate very well. In normal operation the torque is split 31%Front and 69%Rear, this can vary up to 48F/52R depending on road conditions.
I had a twinge of concern that it would be a bit of a pudding and it was not at all, while extremely capable and enjoying of super-legal speeds on the straight freeways it had no fear of ramps and flyovers as well as some twisty highway roads that were dispatched at giggle-inducing velocities. The LS holds up, it’s a very capable luxury cruiser with more than a few moves like Jagger.
I surprised myself by covering just under 400 miles in the LS this week and also surprised myself by the fuel economy, or rather the lack thereof that I experienced. The car’s Monroney claims 17mpg City, 27 Highway, with a 21 Average.
My driving consisted of an early Home-Airport-Denver-Home run that accounted for about 170 miles, as well as a local highway run for another 60 miles and then the rest was local, i.e taking one of the kids to camp and back, going grocery shopping, completing random errands the long way and other excuses to drive it for the remaining 160 or so miles. At the end of it, the calculated result was 18.2mpg. Yes, the performance is very impressive and the turbos are fun to exercise and 4,900 pounds plus me is, well, it’s 4,900 pounds plus me, let’s leave it at that. I just thought I’d be able to top at least 20mpg based on generally being able to hit at least the average with other cars.
The premium fuel requirement hurts too these days but then again the target buyer for this vehicle is likely not at all concerned with the price of fuel. If however that buyer is concerned about the use of natural resources (not the same thing), then the Hybrid option is available and returns on the order of 23/29/26mpg for an AWD model while giving up very little in terms of performance. Choosing RWD in either model improves on every one of the rated numbers above by between 1 and 2 for the regular-engined version and 1 and 4mpg for the Hybrid.
Initially I guessed that this car as I received it stickered right around the six-figure mark. Pleasantly surprised was I when I looked and saw that the base price for the 2021 LS 500 F Sport AWD is $82,850 plus the $1,025 destination charge (from Japan, at the Tahara, Aichi factory where all LS’s have been built).
That standard features list finally includes all of the safety gear in the Lexus Safety System + 2.0 (Pre-Collision w/ Pedestrian Detection, Lane Tracing Assist, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, Road Sign Assist, All-Speed Dynamic Cruise Control, and Intelligent High Beams), Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert (although rear side visibility was quite good), Intuitive Parking Assist with Auto Braking, LED lights all around, Power Moonroof (replaced on this one), Power Rear Sunshade, Hands Free Power Opening/Closing Trunk, Automatic Windshield Wipers, Headlamp Washers, First Aid Kit, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Dynamic Navigation, Various Connected Concierge-type Services, and a Lexus 12-Speaker Audio System (also replaced with an option).
The F Sport portion of the equipment consists of the External Styling differences noted above and the wheels, Six-Piston Front and Four-Piston Rear Brake Calipers, F Sport Tuned Adaptive Variable Suspension, F Sport Perforated Leather-Trimmed Interior With Ultrasuede Headliner and Heated Steering Wheel, Aluminum Pedals and Interior Trim, and the 28-Way Powered Front Seats with Enhanced Bolsters and Embossed Headrests.
As far as options are concerned, there actually were not that many of them. There was a 24″ wide (!) Head-Up Display for $1,220, the Mark Levinson Audio System detailed above for $1,940, Panoramic Roof for $1,000, All Weather Floor Liners with Cargo Tray for $295, Rear Bumper Applique for $95, Door Edge Guards for $155, and a set composed of a Trunk Mat, Cargo Net, Wheel Locks and Gloves for $305.
Altogether that brings the total to $88,885 for the vehicle seen here.
Lexus still regards the LS as their flagship and it surely is, for quite some time the phrase “the big Lexus” made it obvious that the LS was what was being discussed. However we now seem to live in a world where the SUV is taking over as the perceived higher status vehicle and there have been and still are larger Lexus SUVs, so now that phrase is less definitive.
It’s unfortunate that sales of the LS haven’t lived up to those of the past, but another factor is also new competitors in the market, not just perhaps Tesla’s Model S on the sedan front, but also hitherto unremarkable domestic as well as imported nameplate SUV brand offerings that now carry at least a veneer of convincing-enough luxury trappings and are fragmenting the market evermore.
Never mind the explosion of upper level pickup trucks that in many cases offer just as much if not more interior space, very attractive accommodations, and don’t carry much if any fuel economy penalty anymore either. On the other side of the ledger are more traditional sedans, including for example Toyota’s own Avalon. If the badge itself is not critical (admittedly a huge “IF” to some and in some professions and circles it can still matter), then as far as space and accommodations go, I found myself wondering repeatedly if the one I tested recently at almost exactly half the sticker price of this LS might not offer a very good real world option as well.
While the power of the LS was quite attractive, I find opportunities to use that ever more fleeting as well as less necessary when much more humble conveyances do far more than meet minimum expectations and are generally finished quite well too. That said, I have always been impressed by Lexus’ LS models and certainly appreciated the opportunity to experience the considerable charms and wiles of this latest one.
Thank You to Lexus for providing us this 2021 Lexus LS 500 F Sport AWD and a tank of fuel!
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When you noted that you had not seen any other versions of this car during the week you had this one, you were exactly right in reading my mind that I could not recall seeing any either.
It has finally happened. I look at a flagship Lexus – traditionally my very favorite kind of vehicle, a large, powerful high-quality sedan – and I go “meh”. I guess this means I am in tune with the market when I find my self showing more interest in big pickups and SUVs than in a car like this. I think that the large wheels disguise the scale of this car, making it look smaller than it is.
The fuel mileage is surprising. It would be interesting to do a side-by-side comparison of mileage between this car and the previous V8 version. I guess the old conventional wisdom is still true – a turbo V6 only improves fuel mileage over a V8 when you are not using that (or those) turbo(s).
That’s the thing: this just doesn’t scream “flagship” to me. This LS looks and feels more like a plus-sized GS.
I also agree with your assessment of the turbo V6. I get that engine’s very capable, but I’d rather have what’s under the hood of the LC 500, instead.
Every new LS has had the impossible task of replicating the success of the 1990 LS400, and it seems each new one since about 2000 has landed farther from the mark than the last. Lexus stuck to the initial winning formula, providing an impeccably-built and refined sedan at a bargain of a price compared to the Germans, but that initial splash cannot be replicated and the executive sedan world seems to prioritize flash and prestige over genuine quality for their short lease periods, so the Germans regained their lost ground.
I’ve only seen one of the new LSs out on the road. It was a metallic brown and it was stunning. In person, they have far more presence than the Audi, BMW, and Mercedes. There will be the same old comments about the big grille, but out in the wild this design works surprisingly well. I don’t like the dashboard design, however. Materials may be faultless, but the area to the right of the steering wheel where touchscreen, origination point for the horizontal dash lines, and gauge binnacle all meet is a complete mess. The analog clock slapped onto the touchscreen is tacky. Compare this dashboard to the 2016 model year, and I’d gladly sacrifice access to Kiriko glass and folded velvet fabric on the doors for the much cleaner old design.
Lexus’s hard shift to daring modern design works extremely well on the LC500. Here, it seems a little too try-hard to me. If this isn’t the final generation of LS I’ll be somewhat surprised given the poor sales numbers and market shift to SUVs, EVs, and EV SUVs. Shame, it’s an iconic model. It simply may have run its natural course.
The LS430 is commonly regarded as the best generation.
The LS430 debuted in 2000.
This here is that 2016–a proper dashboard design and integration of an analog clock:
The side view looks like a Tesla Model S to me. A design that has been out there for almost a decade. A beautiful design, but still…
Thanks for a typically thorough review. You also answered my question about my neighbor’s new car. I had only seen it from afar and thought it might be a new Genesis, but after seeing this article I looked closer this morning while walking the dog and saw that it is indeed a new LS Hybrid.
That is, I believe, the main problem with executive class sedans. My neighbor is a retired doctor in his late 70s. If he were even ten years younger, he would have bought an SUV or crossover, perhaps the RX hybrid, instead. The market for sedans narrows yet again.
To add to your point about the age demographic, I know several older folks who have migrated out of sedans and into crossovers or SUVs because the lower sedans have become difficult to get into and out of (and if not for themselves, for friends or family members who are not as mobile as they once were).
The sedan style appeals to older buyers, but an increasing number of them are avoiding sedans for mobility reasons – So the sedan is left with a seriously shrinking demographic: Elderly people whose circle of passengers is still limber enough for them. 🙂
Who wants to drive with their head cocked? That’s anything but luxury.
7′ ceilings in new houses were once not uncommon. 8′ ceilings in new houses disappeared years ago, 9′ ceilings are the norm, and 10′ ceilings are increasingly common, never mind soaring cathedral ceilings.
If we like lots of room over our heads in our houses, why would we want to drive a luxury car with our head cocked? That’s not luxury.
And that explains the popularity of the pickup and SUV right there. Once you’ve experienced the extra room, you’re never going to want to step down in a low sedan again.
Lexus should have created a tall sedan, along the lines of the Rolls or such. This is a dead end.
Sometimes I feel a little like John Travolta at the beginning of Saturday Night Fever “De Hair, don’ touch de hair!”
While I’m hardly one that styles their hair even remotely excessively I hate it when it contacts the roof of a car, There are not many modern sedans with sunroofs that I fit into very well, but I’ve come to realize that perhaps my torso is a little longer than those of many others, one of the reasons I include my height and inseam in the reviews, so people can contextualize themselves in the vehicle. At 6’1″ with 32″ inseam (so 41″ remainder) this car with the panoramic and/or presumably the standard sunroof was not ideal. Even an inch would have made a big difference in that regard. I do also tend to keep my seat a little more upright than many others do, which may exacerbate that as well.
Sales figures of the LS line have been on a generally downward trend since the great recession, blipping when a new generation is introduced and then continuing down. Three large-ish SUVs (RX, GX, LX) in the showroom are also siphoning off some of that, of course.
My comment reflects the fact that cars have tended to mirror houses to some extent over the decades. Up through the 1920s, houses typically were narrow and tall-tallish. Starting in the 30s, residential houses started to look wider and lower. This culminated in the massive popularity of the ranch style house in the post war era through the 60s. Then houses started to become taller again, emphasizing vertical design elements as well as actual increases in height, both outer and inner, with cathedral ceilings and such.
This trend has only continued. Is it a sheer coincidence that these trend lines correspond to the trend lines in automobiles too, in terms of their basic proportions? Me thinks not.
As to the LS in particular, I haven’t seen a new one around here in some years. But there sure are a lot of Tesla Model S to be seen.
I much prefer 8′ ceilings to the 9′ or 10′ ceilings builders insist on using lately, though it’s usually back to 8′ once you walk up to the second floor. High ceilings drive up your A/C or heating bill, and I don’t want my house to feel like a gymnasium anyway. Lower ceilings feel cozier. I do think sedan roofs have become too low though, which is exacerbated by the rakishly sloped, rounded A pillars which require bending your head to enter the car and get seated. I think taller sedans would sell better; something like the Ford 500/Taurus from the ’00s would be perfect. I know those didn’t sell very well, but it was a different time and not everyone loved their styling (though I did). I imagine a higher beltline would be more accepted today.
Lexus LS has been in decreasing mode for years. The previous mode was in market for years without any upgrade. The current model is viewed as worse than the previous one by Consumer Report which for long time favors Toyota products. Lexus, and other two Japanese luxury bands, is struggling against other three German bands despite recent surge of luxury car buyers recent years. We can not say it is not good vehicle, but to the fair mind, if everything is equal, you will choose this LS over S-class, 7-series or A8L? Lexus last 20 years also missed the blooming China market, it was viewed as symbolic car in China until Chinese realizes the German cars fit their ego better if they are not indeed better. I will not shock to see one day Toyota stops selling Lexus. For business points of view, selling Toyota is very profitable now.
LS volume has been decreasing since the first generation, initially it was one of only two cars in the lineup. Currently the RX and the ES are the volume sellers, which is how it has been for some time now.
Toyota is not about to stop selling Lexus vehicles anytime soon. In the US, Lexus outsells Audi by a wide margin, is about on par with BMW and somewhat behind Mercedes. I don’t subscribe to CR and don’t own any of these particular brands currently, however having owned Audi, Mercedes and Toyota multiple times I will comfortably pick the Toyota-backed one to perform better over the long haul with less maintenance and repairs than any of the others. I believe overall statistics rather than solitary anecdotes bear that out.
As far as I understood, until relatively recently, the Chinese market viewed all Japanese cars negatively, I believe that viewpoint has been changing rapidly over the last few years, just like everything in China has been changing rapidly. While the Germans sell more there (and WAY more than they do here in the US), Lexus as of 2019 was selling 200k Lexus vehicles there that year with large year over year increases, while the US absorbed just under 300k in the same year. It is entirely possible that in the next few years Lexus starts to sell more total vehicles in China than in the US, which will likely hold more or less steady as it’s a more mature market.
Without a real EV on its product line up, I doubt Lexus will sell more vehicles in China and US. First those three German bands offer variety of good vehicles to customers, we witness the increase numbers of German vehicles on the street. And Tesla and NIO offer very good and technology advance vehicles to the trend setters. What Lexus offerings are mostly dressed up Toyota based on the new Camry platform.
One of the best reasons to buy a Lexus LS instead of a big German sedan has long been reliability, especially as the car got older – German luxury cars have a reputation for becoming expensive to maintain once past the warranty period. Unfortunately, Lexus seems to be having trouble getting all these gadgets to work properly – the new LS is rated “much worse than average” in the current Consumer Reports survey, a rare place to find any Lexus or Toyota.
Anyway, the car leaves me a bit cold anyway. Despite the abundance of features, the power, and the smoothness, it still looks like a Camry inside. A luxury car should look and feel special in a way this one doesn’t.
The German bands solved reliability problems long time ago not by improving the design and components but by financial engineering — selling vehicle via leasing. Let the inspired luxury owners to take the hit. This approach makes the only desirable to own a Lexus is its resell value. But is it the real concern for the real luxury car buyers? Also, the reliability of German cars have been somewhat improved. Until last November, my 2003 ML 350 had been my dally vehicle without major problems for 16 years—this is one of most unreliable cars on the market.
Oh, my. I long have respected Lexus and Toyota from not too afar, and believe that the new Camry, in particular, looks somewhat more impressive than ever. This design, though, seems like a total miss. The exterior screams mid-market compromise, length and girth notwithstanding, and the interior fails entirely. Even the seats look like something out of a Rav 4 (though presumably not so much if directly viewed, rather than through means of a photograph?). The door panel is the worst of all, and might be the most schizoid, homely such surface or collection of surfaces I have ever seen on a vehicle.
It looks like Lexus has abandoned it’s core value and appeal, that of a conservative luxury car done better. They were great for people that actually purchased their cars and held onto them for a long time. The reliability and conservative styling made them satisfying cars for their owners. The initial and the following ones, which led to good resale value. The acceptance of widespread leasing makes other less reliable and long lasting cars more attractive. Land Rovers are extremely popular and they still are considered to be quite unreliable as they age, but with a two or three year lease, who cares?
The big Tesla has been around and visually unchanged for quite a few years. Right now their cachet retains their status appeal, but will a repeat buyer want to buy an identical car over and over? Lexus now knows why Cadillacs used to vary the height of their talfins, you’ve got to change them up to keep buyers interested!
I needed to see this LS next to a Model S. Yes, the influence on it (and others) is rather unmistakable.
Wow! I could see a resemblance but it’s way more than I thought in profile
Where the Lexus is lacking is its flat sides, the Model S looks wider in other angles
The new LS seems like a disappointment and a downgrade from the previous generation. It almost seems the main purpose of the LS these days is to steer customers into a high margin CUV.
From the side it has plain but attractive lines. The rear is also unoffensive, but the front end is saddled with the jarring corporate Lexus predator face. The interior looks cramped for a flagship luxury car and the small greenhouse means it likely has poor visibility. The black monotone plastic interior which looks acceptable in a Camry looks cheap in a Lexus. If they used some real wood or real carbon fiber to break up the acres of black plastic it wouldn’t be as bad.. At least they kept the painted silver plastic trim to a minimum. Yes the car will likely be reliable compared to its Euro competitors, but then so are Lexus CUVs.
The interior is spacious, except for headroom if long of torso as I explained. Legroom and general space around the interior are better than in most other sedan-style vehicles as is ingress and egress.
As I also explained there are multiple interior finishes available with lots of wood and other material options in the non- F Sport trims. This one happens to be the black interior with metal and Ultrasuede trim accents. Other colors are available There is no painted silver trim, the silver stuff on the doors etc is all metal. My photography is likely to blame for any non-premium look that you might be seeing.
I don’t really see what else they could do. For years (decades?) Lexus were constantly accused of being too conservative and “boring”. Then they do something more dynamic, add a “sport” trim to everything that is quite good in most applications and now they are accused of the interior being too black and monotonal.
The market is (and has been) moving away from sedans as I also stated. It doesn’t really matter what sedan gets created, while there is still plenty of volume in sedans as a whole the overall format is shrinking, no matter the segment it’s in. Even in new areas like EV’s, the Tesla Model S (sedan/liftback) does not see a huge number of sales and the Model 3 (sedan) was going gangbusters until the Model Y was released, now that’s the bulk of sales.
Oh dear, surely the photos of that interior are not representative? It looks like the greyed-out insides of a slightly grubbily cloth-seated rental Corolla. Given that Our Correspondent in Colorado fairly recently showed us a spectacular-looking Avalon interior, complete with everything including Talbot-Lago pigskin leathers, one presumes that a different combination looks a good deal less $39-per-day-not-including-taxes than this does.
That grille, with two fingers either side pulling the mouth open, still looks impolite, but I have to say when I saw one of these new LS’s locally, I relied a bit on the shape to identify the car, so that’s job done. Crass, but effective, I suppose. Truth is, I had to look more than once because I thought it might be a posh Camry at first, which says something not so effective about a rather undifferentiated design, or my eyesight, or possibly both.
Got to agree that a requirement to drive about on a tilt makes the car a complete fail in my book: 6’1″ is no longer an especially tall person any more (unless the photos are always shopped and Our Correspondent’s knuckles usually drag in real life?) Lexus sure aren’t looking to capture, say, the Dutch market.
Most interesting on the 18 mpg, but without a hybrid, 4,900 far-too-manyfull pounds and 4.5 second-levels of push are just going to need an unavoidable amount of hydrocarbons melted whether by six cylinders or sixteen.
The interior is black on black with zero gray. My choices are either to shoot it looking somewhat light and capture the details or have it go coal black and not see much. Sadly there is no budget or talent for significant color correction. The Lexus.com website has lots of that though for perhaps a better representation. Or you’ll just need to take my word for it that it does not look like a rental Corolla…
Holy cows, that’s not grey? Incredible. I take back the joke about my eyes, and make an urgent appointment instead.
Frustratingly, the Aus website has all of the interior pics….in the same scheme as above! Now I really want to see inside one, as the website pics don’t exactly flatter it either.
For your amusement, this 500F is $217,000AUD on the road here – in fairness, there’s a lot of tax on exxy cars, in this case nearly $50K worth. That’s a lot of Corollas!
Yep, black. The suede on the door panels, ceiling, pillars, and part of the seats sometimes come off as charcoal I suppose depending on how it’s handled. But not gray. The rubber moldings around the door openings might be a decent gauge in that respect as they’re always black. Otherwise it’s mainly to do with how light reflects to the camera on some surfaces vs others.
What do your Corollas cost in comparison to ours?
To my surprise, close to $30K, but Toyota has done some repositioning upwards and re-equipping lately, for eg: moving the brand-new Yaris right upmarket, starting PAST the Corolla (go figure). Still if we take off the $50K Fed taxes – there’s a hefty lux tax kicks in about $75K – that’s only 6 Corollas, I guess.
Interesting review on a car that is perhaps not for me from a brand that isn’t either, but I started to warm to it as I read the review and saw the interior. Now there’s no Jaguar XJ to choose, that interior looks as good as any to me, and the ability to avoid some of more gauche wood trimmed options might tempt me.
To my eyes, a more tasteful interior than a Bentley and more special than a BMW; not sure if the M-B S class wouldn’t top it though
When the front-end design change first hit, I was instantly drawn to it though I did not find it attractive. I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t take my eyes off of it, but then saw a picture of my moms ’61 Plymouth Suburban wagon. Bingo.
You want another laugh? Pull up a head-on picture of a Port Jackson shark and look at the front of a 61 Plymouth. Love that car’s amazing dashboard but that grille is grotesque!