‘Anything you can do, I can do better’ is the usual chorus of luxury flagship models. The never-ending arms race amongst the few manufacturers that build such cars has intensified yet again with the latest generations. Lexus isn’t playing ball with the Germans anymore, though, and is doing things the Japanese way with the LS.
|Bodystyle: Saloon||Seats: 5||Price: From £72,595-£97,995|
Did you know? Lexus’ Takumi master craftsmen must display their dexterity by folding an origami cat using only their non-dominant hand.
We love that Lexus is making such a statement with the fifth generation LS. It’s not trying to be yet another ‘me too’ luxury offering, but instead an intriguing alternative.
Its interior design is truly special and the attention to the overall user experience is exemplary — so it should if it’s going toe to toe with the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, Audi A8 and BMW 7 Series. However, the Lexus LS is let down by a drivetrain that lacks refinement, and rivals offer a greater choice of engines, too. It’s notable weight also sours the handling, which is a shame as this chassis has promise.
The Lexus LS isn’t terrible, in fact it does have its charm, but this car doesn’t do enough to take the luxury crown. For now that stays in the hands of the S-Class.
Sense of occasion
We Don't Like
It weighs 2.4 tonnes
A hallmark of Lexus’ change in attitude can be seen the moment you set eyes on the new LS. It’s a striking thing to look at that contrasts the more subtle designs of Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
Its large chromed spindle grille dominates the front fascia giving it an imposing character from the outset. A pair of predatory LED lights sit in origami-inspired creases that dissipate into more flowing lines down the car’s length. The design crescendos with more chrome and distinctive lighting.
The Lexus LS isn’t a pretty car, but it is an intriguing thing to look at. Its complex shapes and intricate details will likely turn more heads than the 7 Series, A8 and S-Class combined.
Lexus aren’t just making a statement externally as the interior is another piece of design that you couldn’t mistake for anything else.
Its teared dashboard hosts sweeping lines, interesting shapes, and a large infotainment screen. You can option hand-folded fabric door inserts that give a more organic feeling to the cabin, or how about some dazzling Kiriko glass features? There’s something quite majestic about the inside of the LS that gives it a real sense of occasion.
It’s not just the design, but also the quality that defines this space. Everything you touch feels plush, expensive and made to last. Lexus’ Takumi craftsmen have excelled themselves here. Audi can produce a very fine interior, but the LS runs four rings around it.
In a luxury barge the rear space is just as important, if not more, than that in the front. There’s plenty of real-estate to stretch out in, but go for the top spec Premier model and you’ll be the envy of the business park. Tap the rear touchscreen and relax as the front passenger seat folds forward and your seat reclines. Relieve the stress of a busy day with the Shiatsu massaging seats that provide some of the most comprehensive massage functions we’ve seen in a car. The best part about these gizmos? Unlike on the German offerings, they’re not optional extras. You just pick the trim level that has the gadgets you desire.
Something else that comes at no cost is additional cabin space. There’s not a short or long wheelbase option, instead the universal size of an LS is 35mm larger than the old long wheelbase car.
This generation of Lexus LS is supremely quiet, too. Active noise canceling, just like a pair of fancy headphones, emits a frequency that cancels out unwanted sound in the cabin. It works remarkably well, delivering peace and quiet at cruising speed.
These cars can end up traveling vast distances delivering important people to important places, so having somewhere to store business essentials is key.
Open the tailgate and a slightly disappointing 430-litres is presented. It’s enough for a couple of big cases, and the Lexus’ boot is smaller than that of its competition. This is mainly due to the LS only being offered as a hybrid and the amount of space required for the necessary battery pack. The Audi A8, BMW 7 Series and Mercedes S-Class will all carry more stuff.
Technology is a point of pride in these top of the line cars as they are the embodiment of what a brand is capable of. Eventually these gadgets will filter down the range, but for now owners can enjoy being ahead of the curve.
Omotenashi is a Japanese word for hospitality, something that the LS is well versed in. Cars fitted with air suspension welcome occupants by rising 40mm to ease ingress as they approach the car. The car then gracefully settles back to its regular ride height before setting off.
Every LS comes with an 8-inch TFT driver’s display that dances and animates as you cycle through various modes, but more impressive is the huge 12.3-inch infotainment screen. That said, size isn’t everything as its touchpad interface is fiddly and the software nowhere near as user-friendly as BMW’s iDrive system.
Something else that comes standard across the range is a detailed head-up-display that features information on cruise control settings, speed and navigation. It’s a helpful means of being informed whilst keeping your eyes on the road.
Lexus aims to take climate control to another level with Climate Concierge. Luxury trim introduces a four-zone climate system that monitors occupants body temperature and adjusts accordingly. That’s some sci-fi inspired tech.
Luxury grade cars also receive an excellent Mark Levinson 23-speaker sound system. Whether you’re listing to Bach or Snoop Dog, you can enjoy the rich audio quality whilst getting comfy in your 28-way adjustable, heated and cooled, seat.
The Lexus LS features autonomy level 2, meaning that its advanced radar guided cruise control system will keep you in your lane and a safe distance from the car ahead. This puts it on par with many of its rivals, but the Audi A8 leads the field with autonomy level 3.
There’s only one engine option for the UK in the form of a 3.5-litre V6 hybrid. The LS 500h consists of a regular combustion engine and a pair of electric motors for a combined output of 345bhp. Considering the car’s size and 2.4 tonne weight, a 0-62mph time of 5.4 seconds for all-wheel drive models is pretty good.
There’s only one gearbox option, too. It’s a CVT that likes to pretend it’s a ten-speed automatic by using four gears and false ratios. Whilst this gets rid of the elasticated feeling of a regular CVT, we’d still rather a traditional set of automatic cogs.
There’s the choice of rear or all-wheel drive dependent upon which trim you go for. The entry-level and F Sport cars are rear-wheel drive only, but Luxury models get the additional choice of all-wheel drive. Top spec cars are endowed with all-wheel drive as standard.
The LS 500h silently pulls away using its electric motors and quietly hums as you potter about town at low speed. It’s a peaceful means of getting about with the lack of engine noise adding to the tranquility. However, when the engine is called upon, you soon know about it. Clashing with the gracious nature of the rest of this car, the engine is course and does little to blend itself into the background.
Where the Mercedes S-Class and Audi A8’s diesel offer that desirable low-down shove, the petrol V6 in the LS has to work harder. If you suddenly call for some performance the mooing CVT reveals itself and the revs abruptly climb skyward in order to make progress. You can hustle the car a bit better via its responsive wheel-mounted paddles, but again, it’s not what you expect of such a grand vehicle.
Handling and comfort
There are two types of suspension available on the LS. The base car receives regular springs whilst everything else gets air suspension. We found the latter to be pretty good at absorbing road imperfections when cruising, but harsh ruts at low speed thudded through the cabin. The standard 20-inch alloy wheels likely didn’t help.
The all-wheel drive car we tested benefited from the added traction and dutifully clung onto the Tarmac. Those who frequently encounter bad weather will likely take solace in this car’s all-wheel drive security.
The LS features six selectable drive modes that range from Eco to Sport S+. It’s sports setting increases the throttle response, the suspension becomes a little firmer and the engine a bit more vocal. Its precise steering combined with rear-wheel steering makes it keen to turn-in, but the car feels every kilo of its weight from then on with the body rolling noticably.
Comfort is where this car belongs and despite its relative lack of refinement getting up to speed, it’s very good at making long journeys comfortable. However, if you’re after ultimate refinement look no further than the Mercedes-Benz S-Class.
Engine choice: 3-litre V6 TDI
The new Lexus LS has yet to be tested by Euro NCAP, but we’d expect a five star rating judging by safety equipment and impressive performances from other models.
From the outset every LS comes with a host of airbags, lane keep assist, automatic emergency braking, brake assist, reversing camera and traffic sign recognition. This all comes standard and is part of Lexus’ Safety System+.
Safety System+ A is only available on the top spec Premier cars and includes a system than can detect a pending collision and take control of the steering in a bid to avoid a prang. It also has the ability to steer the car when cruising, though the driver must keep their hands on the wheel. Another useful feature of this safety package is Front Cross Traffic Alert. This system can spot hazards at a junction that the driver might have missed.
There’s a pair of Isofix points in the rear outermost seats to keep children in place. Unlike the Audi A8, you can’t option Isofix for the front.
The great thing about safety on the Lexus LS is that all but the most advanced systems are standard across the range. Many of its German rivals would have you ticking costly option boxes for the privilege.
There are 11 different colours to choose from, ranging from executive tones of grey to a more vibrant red. A non-metallic black is the only standard colour with everything else costing £675. That undercuts the optional paint choices on an S-Class, but unless you customise the hue on an A8, Audi don’t charge a penny for their eleven standard paints.
Lexus has one of the most straightforward trim ranges to understand. Where Mercedes can bamboozle you with option packs and Audi charge a lot for its toys, it’s refreshing to see the LS take a different tack.
The range kicks off with the standard LS 500h which comes with the large infotainment screen, 20-inch alloy wheels, heated front seats, leather upholstery, 360-degree camera and a loads of safety kit without you having to spend any extra. Not only is it generously equipped, but at under £73k it’s competitively priced, too.
£80k gets you into Luxury trim which comes with all of the above but adds luxuries such as 28-way adjustable seats, premium audio system and a hands-free boot lid. You can also option all-wheel drive for £2,600 to give your LS all-weather dependability. An Audi A8 comes with all-wheel drive standard, but you’d end up spending more on the equivalent options.
F Sport brings a more athletic tone to the LS with dark grilles and alloys, sports seats and sporty bodywork. Its suspension has also been tweaked for more vigorous driving. It costs the same £80k as Luxury trim, so there’s no price penalty if you fancy the F Sport.
Top dog Premier comes loaded with everything, including all-wheel drive, for £98k. Reclining Ottoman seats with massage function and the more advanced safety systems Lexus offers are at your disposal. Premier allows you to make your car feel truly special with the Kiriko glass and hand-pleated door inserts. It might cost a hefty £7,600 premium but it gives you an interior unlike anything to come out of Germany.
The Lexus LS is competitive on price and distinctive enough to make buyers consider it as an alternative to Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz. It’ll be a rare choice, too, with Lexus only expecting around 100 to arrive in the UK each year.
Size and Dimensions
Max towing weight unbraked - braked
The sole choice of powertrain is a 3.5-litre V6 hybrid. Lexus is firm in its belief that this is the right platform for the job, delivering up to 43mpg combined.
Looking at the similarly powered V6 Audi A8 with its mild hybrid system, the LS does better than Ingolstadt’s claimed 38mpg. However, many competitors offer frugal diesel options that boast efficiency of up to 50mpg with all-wheel drive.
Company car buyers will be interested to know that the Lexus LS has a lower BIK rate than the equivalent long wheelbase Audi A8 and Mercedes-Benz S-Class at 28%. At the 40% tax rate that works out to be about £675 a month. However, BMW offer a plug-in hybrid 7 Series that has BIK of just 13%.
Reliability and servicing
It doesn’t get better than Lexus, according to recent surveys. The Japanese brand is renowned for its reliability, even more so than its German counterparts.
Every Lexus comes with a three-year 60,000 mile warranty, but the LS 500h benefits from a five-year 60,000 mile cover as it’s a hybrid. An extended warranty is offered to cover your car for up to ten years and 140,000 miles, but it costs £1.5k a year, or £2.4k for two years.
Lexus customer service is well known for going above and beyond to make customers feel valued — something to consider when you’ve invested big bucks in a brand.
The Lexus LS tackles its rivals head-on when it comes to pricing. Starting at £73k it’s in the same ballpark as a Mercedes S-Class, but more expensive than an entry-level BMW 7 Series or Audi A8. That said, by the time you spec the usual suspects to the same level of equipment found in the most basic LS, the Lexus represents good value.
The Lexus is predicted to hold more than half its value on the used market after three years, which is good by luxury saloon standards and helps to make for competitive monthly PCP rates. However, according to Lexus’ website, you’ll need a hefty deposit of around £21k. to get a rear-wheel drive Luxury model for £800 a month. Dependant upon what you’re using an LS for, it might be worth considering leasing the car.
Pricing the Lexus keenly will grab traditional German luxury car buyer’s attention, and maybe even their cash.
The Luxury model comes loaded with plenty of tech including a premium sound system and a 28-way adjustable seat.
If there is such a thing as a cost conscious buyer for this sort of car, the good news is that the LS comes loaded with toys as standard.
It’s Premier for you with its reclining rear seats and four-zone climate control.
The S-Class is still king of hill when it comes to luxury. It’s a costly car, but often you get when you pay for.
A better car to drive, but there are better to be driven in.
The XJ is getting on a bit now, but it still has its charm.
Tesla Model S
Cheap to run and impressive performance, but nowhere near as luxurious as its rivals.