Limousines take us there in style, whether to the airport, a wedding venue, or chaperoning us to a sad graveside farewell. These days, what we call a limousine is just as likely to be a large utility vehicle as it is a full-size sedan. The trend to SUVs continues unabated, with even livery services using them.
Lexus, like Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz, still offers a full-size sedan model. Although not quite as large, the Cadillac CT6 and Lincoln Continental are also counted. Add the Genesis G90 and Kia K900 to the mix and you’ll still find an assortment of large four-door models with all the luxury trappings included.
Earlier this month, we had the pleasure of reviewing the Lexus LS 500h, a hybrid version of this marque’s flagship sedan. Choose the standard model and you’ll find a potent twin-turbo 3.5-liter V6 engine under the hood. Opt for the hybrid, and the engine loses its turbos and operates in the efficient Atkinson cycle. But this model also gains a pair of electric motors, ensuring that propulsion remains strong with its combined 354 horsepower.
Gas and Hybrid Choices
Lexus offers both the LS 500 and 500h in rear- and all-wheel-drive configurations. Power travels to the wheels utilizing an automatic transmission. The gas model has 10 forward shift points; the hybrid comes with four.
The 2020 Lexus LS 500 with rear-wheel drive is available in LS 500 ($75,450), LS 500 F Sport ($81,450), and LS 500h ($80,010) trims. Choose all-wheel drive and you’ll add $3,220 to your cost. All models incur a $1,025 destination charge; taxes, tags, and the title are extra. Just so you know, a fully-equipped model can cost you more than $100,000. That’s still cheaper than comparable Mercedes-Benz S-Class and BMW 7 Series models, but closer to the Audi Q8L.
If you like Lexus’ styling, then the LS should meet your expectations. Its elongated body is marked by beautiful character lines and deep sculpting. The front end features the brand’s distinctive spindle (hourglass) grille with deep cutouts at the corners and sleek headlamps imparting luxury and sportiness.
The same theme brings up the rear with its bright lighting and embedded exhaust outlets two features of note. Chrome touches abound, although they’re not overwhelming. Handsome exterior color choices and attractive wheel options supply flair.
Inside, the LS is a showcase of comfort and opulence. We found the cabin one of the roomiest, quietest, and most luxurious in its class. Beautiful choice leathers cover many surfaces, including the seats, door inlays, and dashboard. The fit and finish is spot-on; the look is exquisite.
Whether you’re considering the gas or the hybrid model, Lexus supplies package options that only increase the luxury offerings. All models have full LED lighting, alloy wheels, a moonroof, a power hands-free trunk, and keyless entry with push-button start. You’ll also find heated and ventilated front seats, 16-way power-adjustable front seats, a heated steering wheel, a power rear sunshade, and dual-zone automatic climate control.
For a limousine-quality experience, the four available package offerings are worth exploring.
For $3,730, the Interior Upgrade package includes such features as semi-aniline leather upholstery, a 28-way power-adjustable and massaging driver’s seat with cushion extender, ultra-suede headliner and sun visors, and heated rear seats.
Building on the first choice is a $12,290 Luxury Package. Here, you’ll gain a 28-way power-adjustable and massaging passenger seat, four-zone automatic climate control, 18-way power-adjustable and reclining rear seats, power side window sunshades, and a rear-seat center console with a seven-inch touch screen display.
Combining the features of the first two packages, the $17,790 Executive Package pulls out all the stops. Here, you’ll find such features as power-retractable front headrests, a front passenger seat extender, a right rear passenger power ottoman, 22-way power-adjustable massaging rear seats, and additional wood and leather touches. The final upgrade brings in Kiriko glass trim, a $23,100 all-inclusive package.
Individual items are also available and include a panoramic glass roof ($1,000) and a 23-speaker Mark Levinson surround-sound stereo system ($1,940).
Tech & Safety
Lexus has long been known for its cutting-edge tech and safety features. But it’s much more successful with the latter than the former, and for reasons we’ll discuss here.
On the tech front, the Remote Tech controller manages most functions. It is a “scratchpad” type arrangement, where the driver runs his finger on the pad to control the screen. You may find it difficult to use, at least at first, with a long learning curve as you get used to positioning your finger just right without taking your eye off the road. And that’s the rub – you can hardly avoid distraction until you get used to this arrangement. When you do, you should find that it works as touted. The oversized display screen is easy to read and highly useful.
As for the standard tech features, the LS comes with a 12.3-inch display, a USB port, Bluetooth connectivity, a 12-speaker audio package, navigation, and Apple CarPlay smartphone compatibility. Android Auto is not yet a part of the smartphone integration for the LS, although it is beginning to appear in other Toyota/Lexus models.
Safety is one Lexus’ core strengths and that quickly becomes evident when reviewing the standard Lexus Safety System+ 2.0 found with the LS. This system includes such features as forward collision warning with pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, lane tracing assist, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, and front and rear parking sensors.
Also available is a surround-view parking camera system, automatic lane change assist, front cross-traffic alert, and a 24-inch head-up display. Our test model included each of the features, but we were especially impressed by the head-up display.
On the Road
We made several short trips with the LS, but it was one extended excursion topping 300 miles roundtrip that revealed the full competencies of our test model. The hybrid is an engineering marvel, as it uses the gas engine sparingly and the electric motors generously. Under full throttle, the two systems combine to heighten step-off acceleration and passing power. But the emphasis here is efficiency, something we witnessed.
Indeed, the LS 500h averaged 27.4 mpg, which was slightly above the EPA-estimated 26 mpg combined fuel economy. That’s excellent for a big sedan with more than three tons of weight and payload onboard.
The LS won’t win awards for steering feel or handling acumen, although when shifted to Sport mode, steering weight increases. But that comes at some sacrifice to fuel economy; you’ll want to operate this sedan in Eco mode for optimum efficiency.
As for the ride, the LS is soft, yet very comfortable. Some reports say the ride is bouncy, but the available adaptive suspension system should make a difference.
The front seats are wonderfully plush and supportive, but the same can be said for the rear seat. Yes, rear-seat legroom trails most competitors, but it is still quite comfortable. The right rear passenger has the best seat in the house, as local controls enable movement of the front seat to supply ample room for the ottoman and for reclining. This is where the LS truly serves as a limousine, although it is entirely useful for your personal needs.
The market for luxury sedans, especially of the flagship kind, has been falling for years. The demand just isn’t there, but manufacturers seem hesitant to abandon the segment. Indeed, not previously mentioned with this cohort are the Jaguar XJ and Volvo S90, each designed with executives and royals in mind. Thus, consumers have a choice of 10 or so models that bring some of the attributes of Rolls-Royce and Bentley to the masses.
As for the LS, we’d go with the hybrid, for the simple reason it still manages to supply robust power, while delivering excellent fuel economy. It’s at the top-of-the-segment in this department, building on its luxury, tech, and safety credentials to deliver a wonderful model.
2020 Lexus LS Specifications
|Price Range||$75,450 to $84,670|
|Engine No. 1||3.5-liter, twin turbo V6|
|Horsepower||416 @ 6,000 rpm|
|Torque (lb.-ft.)||442 @ 1,600-4,800 rpm|
|Engine No. 2||3.5-liter, V6|
|Horsepower||295 @ 6,600 rpm|
|Total System Performance||354 horsepower|
|Curb Weight (pounds)||4,740 to 5,247|
|Headroom (f,r…inches)||37.3, 37.3|
|Legroom (f,r…inches)||41.0, 38.9|
|Shoulder room (f,r…inches)||58.8, 56.4|
|Hip room (f,r…inches)||55.5, 55.1|
|Storage (cubic feet)||16.95|
|Gross vehicle weight (pounds)||6,020 to 6,205|
|Fuel Tank (gallons)||22.2|
|EPA Fuel MPG (city/highway/combined)||18/27/21 (turbo; AWD); 25/33/28 (hybrid; RWD); 23/31/26 (hybrid; AWD)|
|Manufacturing Plant||Aichi, Japan|
Data compiled by Tom Keegan. Specifications supplied by the manufacturer.