When Toyota pulled the wraps off their then-new Lexus luxury arm way back in 1989, Americans were left agape as they comprehended the debut brand's sleek and modern LS 400 flagship. That sedan, which was the result of Toyota's multi-billion dollar pursuit to build a better luxury car than anyone else, immediately established street cred for Lexus while sending competitors into a cold sweat. However, the world has since changed, and the ideals of the LS sedan are no longer quite as novel. To rekindle the fire, Lexus has introduced an all-new LS for 2018, with the hopes of recapturing that same quiet but distinctive elegance which separated it from the crowd thirty years ago.
What's New for 2018
The LS is all-new for 2018.
Choosing Your Lexus LS
In a sign of the times, the big LS loses the eight-cylinder motivation which has been found under it's hood since time immemorial. In its stead are two V6 variants: the twin-turbo 3.5-liter which powers the LS 500 and the LS 500 F Sport, and a hybridized 3.5-liter for the LS 500h.
The LS 500's 3.5-liter V6 uses those two turbos to make a total of 416 horsepower and 442 lb-ft of torque - an improvement over the 360 horses and 347 lb-ft of the old V8. Also impressive is the bump in efficiency, with the new model garnering an EPA rating of 19 miles per gallon city and 30 highway for rear-wheel-drive versions and 18/27 for all-wheel-drivers. And to ensure there is no lingering doubt about the dearth of V8 power, the twin-turbo six will outgun the old LS in the 0-60 mph test by getting it done just 4.6 seconds.
The 3.5-liter V6 in the LS 500h swaps out the twin-turbos for dual electric motors and a 44kW battery. The resulting 354 combined horsepower and 5.1 0-60 mph time isn't as potent as the non-hybrid, but when it comes to fuel economy the hybrid will handily outdo the regular model. Specifically, the EPA rates the rear-drive version for 25/33, while all-wheel-drive models are good for 23/31. While the standard LS 500 uses a ten-speed automatic transmission, the 500h uses a traditional four-speed automatic that is paired with a CVT. It is intended to provide the "instinctive" feel of a traditionally-geared ten-speed automatic but with the efficiencies of a continuously variable unit.
Whether buyers purchase their big Lexus sedan in hybrid or non-hybrid form, they'll be getting a boatload of features and technologies. These include a heated and leather-trimmed steering wheel, 16-way power seats that are heated and ventilated, dual-zone climate control, sunroof, navigation, and a 12.3-inch infotainment display. To keep things appropriately hushed, there's active noise cancellation and active sound control. A standard 12-speaker sound system livens things up when the silence becomes overbearing. The Lexus Enform services are also complimentary for ten years and provides services such as maintenance information, roadside assistance, and smartphone-managed controls.
A number of packages can be added on to either the 500 or 500h, and they range from merely expensive to cash-in-the-401k absurd. The most sane upgrade for either model is the $3,730 Interior Upgrade Package. It includes semi-aniline leather trimmings and upholstery, as well as suede headliner, a wood-trimmed steering wheel and shifter, throne-like 28-way power front seats with multi-function massage, and heated rear seats. Unfortunately, Lexus does demand that anyone opting for this package purchase one of three available wood trims ($800) and the $410 heated wood-trim steering wheel. Additionally, 500h buyers must purchase the $220 Cold Weather Package. This bit of chicanery makes the effective price come up to $5,160 for the LS 500h or $4,940 for the LS 500.
Appearing deceptively afforable is the $3,000 Safety System Plus A. This packages includes a suite of active safety features, including all-speed adaptive cruise control, active steering assist and heads-up display integration, intuitive pedestrian detection alert, road sign assist, and a pre-collision system with front cross-traffic alert and automatic emergency braking. To get this, you'll need to also buy the $800 surround-view camera, $1,220 head-up display, nicer wood trim, heated wood wheel, $1,500 adaptive air suspension, $300 LEDs, $1,200 20-inch wheels, and the Interior Upgrade Package. The total price is $12,790 - a tad more than the advertised $3,000.
Taking things up a notch is the $12,290 Luxury Package. Checking this box off nets buyers a passenger-seat power cushion extender, the 28-way power front seats from the Interior Upgrade Package, a remote adjustment for the passenger seat, four-zone climate control, power rear window sunshades, a wood- and leather-trimmed rear-center console with a seven-inch touchscreen, rear-seat knee airbags, rear-seat touchscreen controls, semi-aniline perforated leather upholstery, and heated and ventilated front and outboard-rear seats that are also power reclining. Again, Lexus pulls a fast one and stipulates that buying this package means you need the adaptive air suspension, $1,200 20-inch wheels, $800 panoramic roof, and the heated wheel and fancier wood trim upgrades demanded by the Interior Upgrade Package. Total out-the-door price? A cool $17,000.
There's also the $17,100 Executive Package on tap. It includes a number of the Luxury Package goodies as well as 22-way power multi-function massaging rear seats, right-side power rear recliner with ottoman and shiatsu massage, and butterfly power-retractable headrests. Unsurprisingly, getting the Executive Package means buying the adaptive air suspension, fancy wood, and heated wood-trim wheel, as well as $2,450 20-inch rims and the $1,940 23-speaker Mark Levinson sound system. Out the door cost is $25,000.
That's steep for any automobile that isn't a Rolls-Royce, but it's not quite the most expensive choice on the menu. That honor belongs to the Executive Package with Kiriko Glass, with a price of $23,100 before any of the mandatory add-ons. This package enhances the contents of the regular Executive Package with hand-stitched pleated leather trim and - don't be too surprised - Kiriko glass. It demands the same additional extra-cost features as the Executive Package, along with the panoramic roof. Total cost is $30,200, or about what an average family car goes for these days.
Standalone options include a $1,000 panoramic glass roof, $1,500 adaptive air suspension, $800 surround-view camera, and a $1,940 Mark Levinson Sound System. To save a few bucks, there's a 19-inch wheel option that provides a $40 credit. Twenty-inchers are available for $2,450. Any other options alluded to above are unavailable by themselves - they can only be had as a mandatory upgrade to certain packages. AWD is $3,220 across the board.
Aesthetically, there's ten different paint colors as well as leather-and-trim combinations, though some of these hues and interior trimmings are only available with certain options and packages.
It might be hard to believe, but it wouldn't be too difficult to rack up fifty grand in extra with the LS. To avoid falling in that trap, we would recommend getting the Safety System Package and calling it a day. Even though it does cost a steep $12,790 after all is said and done, it comes with every feature you'll ever need and then some.