Sharing a platform with the LC coupe, the all-new 2018 Lexus LS continues its luxury mission with an elegant design, opulent interior with plenty of rear seat room, and an abundance of luxury touches. But the V8 is gone, the steering system lacks precision, the LS 500 F Sport's ride is on the firm side, while the infotainment system is hampered by a distracting touchpad and lack of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay capability.

Best Value

Available in standard 500, 500 F Sport, and 500h trims, pricing for the 2018 Lexus LS begins at $76,025 (including destination) and rises to over $111,000 for a fully-optioned all-wheel-drive model equipped with such niceties as Kiriko Glass interior trim, hand-pleated leather upholstery, front and rear seats with Shiatsu massage, and a 24-inch color head-up display. A single engine and transmission are offered: a 416-horsepower, 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged V6 mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission.

At this price point, a high level of standard equipment is expected, and the LS doesn't disappoint. In addition to the usual power features, 4G LTE WiFi, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather seating (heated and ventilated in front), paddle shifters, auto-dimming outside mirrors with reverse auto tilt-down, a moonroof, a 12.3-inch infotainment screen with premium audio, a remote touch interface with dynamic, cloud-based navigation, traffic, and weather, and LED headlights, daytime running lights, and tail lights are all standard.

Safety features include a rearview camera, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, forward collision warning with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, lane keeping assist, lane departure warning, automatic headlights with high-beam assist, and adaptive front lighting.

Optional safety features include a 25-inch head-up display, Intuitive Pedestrian Alert, Front Lateral Side Pre-Collision System with Automatic Braking, Active Steering Assist, and Head-Up Display Integration, front cross-traffic alert, Road Sign Assist, and Lexus CoDrive (combining adaptive cruise control with lane keep assist – may apply a small steering correction).

Here's how we'd build it:

  • Model: 2018 Lexus LS 500
  • Engine: 3.5-liter twin turbocharged V6
  • Output: 416 hp / 442 lb-ft
  • Transmission: 10-speed automatic
  • Drivetrain: All-wheel drive
  • MPG: 18 City / 27 Hwy (premium fuel)
  • Options: Adaptive Variable Air Suspension System with Rapid Height Function ($1,500), Heated Wood- and Leather-Trimmed Steering Wheel ($410).
  • Base Price: $79,245 (including a $1,025 destination fee)
  • Best Value Price: $81,155

Performance

Lexus LS

The new twin-turbo 3.5-liter V6 is able to deliver maximum twist at just 1,600 rpm, where the extra enthusiasm – featuring a zero-to-sixty time of 4.6 seconds in rear-whee-drive LS 500 models – is welcome in a vehicle with a curb weight that ranges from 4,707 to 5,093 pounds.

The LS 500h pairs a 3.5-liter engine with two electric motors, a 44-kw lithium-ion battery, and a four-speed automatic transmission. They hybrid system is good for an EPA-estimated 25 miles per gallon city, 33 mpg highway, and 28 combined with rear-wheel drive or 23/31/26 mpg with all-wheel drive.

Our time behind the wheel was exclusively spent in the LS 500 F Sport with continuously active dampers, air suspension, active sway bars, rear-wheel steering, and driver-selectable Eco, Normal, Comfort, Custom, Sport, and Sport Plus driving modes.

The F Sport suspension works best on smooth roads, where it manages to effortlessly eat up mile after mile on the interstate in serene silence. Activate the adaptive cruise control for a small taste of the automated systems to come, and it maintains a set speed and minimum distance from the vehicle in front. Steering inputs are read accurately, while the brakes have a nice initial bite, are easy to modulate, and offer plenty of feedback.

At the same time, there's not much on-center weight to the steering, while the F Sport package doesn't do the suspension any favors. When it encounters uneven road surfaces, the stiffer damping and run-flat tires contribute to a ride texture that – even in comfort mode – is rumbly over low-frequency bumps and road imperfections and where tar strip-induced tire slap noise is even more evident given the extreme silence of the cabin.

Style

Longer, lower, and wider, with an extended tapered roofline, and with model-first teardrop-shaped side windows behind its rear doors for improved visibility, Lexus' new flagship sedan, although not as stylistically ambitious, borrows a number of styling cues from its stunning coupe counterpart with a more elegant fastback silhouette, Z-shaped headlights, and a multi-faceted rendition of the brand's hourglass grille that's engineered to glint, even in low light.

That sensuous sheetmetal is wrapped around a driver-centric cockpit with a staggering number of trim choices ranging from bamboo and blonde leather to a hand-folded, pleated-fabric and Kiriko cut-glass package. Drivers face a low dash and wasp-waisted binnacle of electroluminescent gauges as well as a 12.3-inch infotainment screen above the center console, while front seat passengers see a backlit panel of glass etched with a Kiriko glass pattern. The opulence continues with LED ambient lighting, floating door arm rests and, on 500 F Sport models, heavily sculpted seats that squeeze wider hips.

Back seat passengers are equally cosseted – the Executive package kicks things up a notch with four-zone climate control, 22-way heated and cooled rear seats, and a right-side rear seat with a raised ottoman, massage functions, 48-degree backrest recline, an access mode that pushes the right front seat forward 40 inches, and a rear armrest with a touchscreen panel to control climate, entertainment, and lighting functions. Ingress and egress are improved on air suspension models, which can rise an inch, while trunk space is very good at 17 cubic feet. The LS 500h hybrid's trunk space drops to 15.2 cubic feet.

At the same time, we continue to be flummoxed by Lexus's choice of an infotainment interface. Here, the haptic-feedback joystick has been replaced by a touchpad similar to those found on laptops. Though an improvement, it's a slight one and remains irritating and often too distracting to operate while driving. In addition, despite a plethora of apps, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay remain MIA – even with the optional Mark Levinson audio system.

The Best and Worst Things

The Lexus LS' lovely design and spacious, striking interior represent a major step forward.

Unfortunately, the uber-annoying haptic-touch joystick has been replaced by a touchpad that's nearly as irritating and distracts from what is otherwise a useful and intuitive infotainment system.

Right For? Wrong For?

Lexus LS

A stunning design, luxurious interior, and a wide range of advanced safety features should appeal to safety-focused and style-conscious buyers.

Enthusiasts, however, will be turned off by a bounding air-sprung ride, a steering system that lacks precision, and handling that, even in the F Sport, can't hold a candle to German rivals.

The Bottom Line

Despite its performance limits and finicky infotainment interface, the 2018 Lexus LS is a solid choice for a big, relaxed luxury cruiser thanks to its stunning new design, supreme comfort, and opulent features.