Lexus LS500h F Sport review
Power, economy and comfort: We review Lexus' hybrid luxury limousine.
It might seem crazy to talk about value when you're focussing on a vehicle that costs $190,000+, but hear me out. In a segment where BMW and Mercedes-Benz offerings start from $200,000, the Lexus LS500h makes a case for itself.
Our test vehicle was the F Sport edition which gains some extras like 20-inch rims, sport seating, F Sport branding inside and out, as well as a unique front bumper with black accents, which looks quite sharp, among other things.
There are other perks to consider here too, as the LS500h comes with a complimentary 3-year membership to Lexus Encore. There are loads of benefits and experiences in the program, but the main calling card is Lexus OnDemand. Say you are headed on a road trip, but fancy driving something sporty or want to head off-road, you can access other vehicles from the Lexus line-up, like a Lexus LC 500 or an LX 570.
What's the Lexus LS 500h F Sport like inside?
As you would expect from a Lexus, the interior is well presented and executed. On the LS500h, Takumi master craftsmen have joined together leather and Alcantara throughout the cabin, with the stitching patterns matching the interesting exterior. As a result, touchpoints around the cabin look and feel premium. In terms of quality, few do it better than Lexus.
Every luxury creature comfort you would expect is present, from electric-adjustable seats throughout (yes, throughout!), to dual-zone climate control that senses air quality and body temperatures.
Nestle in front of the leather-wrapped steering wheel and you have F Sport seats which are 28-way adjustable. Behind the wheel sits an 8-inch digital display which can be customised depending on the driving mode selected. There is also a physical tachometer ring that slides around depending on what you are looking at on the trip computer.
Looking above that is a Head-Up Display system that projects all the information you need to keep you out of trouble with the law and on your chosen path. It covers everything from the speed limits of your current road, to your actual speed as well as any upcoming turns you need to make, meaning you spend more time with your eyes where they need to be.
Shifting focus to the left and Lexus has fitted a large 12.3-inch infotainment screen. It's loaded with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and digital radio, all of which project sound through 23 Mark Levinson surround-sound speakers for crystal clear audio with ample amounts of bass. The screen integrates into a large recess in the dashboard which has some pleasing flowing line design elements.
The screen is controlled by Lexus' go-to trackpad, which isn't an ideal way of interacting with the system, but then again, if you are sitting in the back you don't have to worry about it.
One area where the LS 500h falls short on its competitors, though, is boot space. The boot is rated to carry 480-litres, which in truth is enough to accept luggage for a trip away, but in terms of numbers it is down on the Mercedes-Benz S-Class (510-litres) and has 35 litres less than the BMW 7-series (515-litres).
What is the Lexus LS 500h like to drive?
We spent a fair amount of time in the saddle of this luxury cruiser and were impressed by the blend of power and efficiency it has. Especially when you consider the size of the vehicle and that it has been designed to be as plush as possible.
Efficiency comes from the electric motor that is hooked up to a 3.5-litre Atkinson-cycle V6. It can cruise on just electric power alone and, when all is said and done, it will consume around 6.6 litres per 100kms over a combination of city and highway driving.
The 3.5-litre V6 under the bonnet is no slouch and isn't just there to charge the batteries, with the unit producing 220kW by itself and 263kW when combined with the electric motor.
It's a nice spin on the hybrid concept, where underpowered petrol engines often play backup to hybrid systems This combination is a nice surprise. It gets up and going quickly with zero to 100 being dispatched in 5.4 seconds. It also develops a bit of a growl when you plant your foot, not something we're used to in a hybrid.
Power is sent to the wheels through a new complex-sounding approach. Essentially there's a CVT transmission and a 4-speed automatic gearbox which together give up to 10 different gear ratios.
I won't go into too much detail but can say that it works smoothly and effectively around town in traffic and when you get your foot down.
To drive, the LS 500h doesn't feel as large as it is. Despite tipping the scales at just shy of 2.3 tonnes, it remains responsive and effortless to point around thanks to lightweight steering. When it comes to parking this rather long vehicle, parking sensors and reversing cameras help guide you into a spot.
I'm not buying this car to drive it
Naturally, in a vehicle like this, not all people who purchase it will be driving it themselves. To those people I say – the back row is probably the best place to be.
Seated in the back, you have the ability to move the front passenger seat to increase legroom at the touch of a button and with plush, supportive seats, getting comfortable isn't an issue. Electric privacy shades in the back keep the sun (or eyes) from getting in. If the temperature does dip, the outboard seats are heated and, again, all of these functions are just the touch of a button away.
You won't have any complaints about the ride, either. The Lexus LS 500h easily sorts out any imperfections in the road, no doubt aided by its air suspension system which helps the body of the vehicle maintain a flatter motion. It does all this, while limiting disruptions in the cabin, regardless of what is happening on the road's surface.
It is the type of ride you want in a vehicle like this.
How safe is the LS 500h?
Fitted with Lexus comprehensive Safety System+, both you and pedestrians are very well protected. In terms of individual technologies, the LS gets:
- Pre-collision System with pedestrian and daylight cyclist protection
- Blind Spot Monitoring
- Autonomous Cruise Control
- Road Sign Assist
- Adaptive High Beam
- Lane Departure Alert with Lane Tracing Assist
- Tyre Pressure Monitoring System
In addition to the technology above, being an F Sport trim, we had 10 airbags keeping us safe inside. Should the worst be unavoidable, a pop-up pedestrian sensing safety bonnet looks to protect vulnerable road users as much as possible.
Whether you are looking at the Lexus LS 500h F Sport to drive or to be chauffeured in, the level of craftsmanship and finish is seriously impressive. It has ample grunt, but is also quite economical and with its handsome styling, manages to turn some heads (although the demographic may be a touch older).
Don't let any preconceived ideas or stereotypes about Lexus fool you, if you look at the value and quality, the LS 500h could well be the pick of the segment.
Note: If you are looking for a vehicle where you won't be in the front for the most part, the LS 500h Sports Luxury takes it even further. Review to come.