lexus - Lexus LS 500h 01 - Lexus LS 500h: Devil is in the detail

What is it?

Big, brawny, techy. It’s the Lexus LS 500h — the LS stands for Luxury Sedan, the ‘h’ for hybrid.

It’s a long, low machine, with sleek lines, and is a pretty decent punt along country roads.

Power comes from a V6 engine together with an electric motor. Peak oomph is rated at 264kW, while peak torque is rated at 350Nm (petrol engine) and 300Nm (electric motor).

Opt for the non-hybrid version instead and you get a twin turbo 3.5-litre V6 that’s good for 310kW and 600Nm.

Either way, the whole engine assembly is hidden by sound absorbing sheeting

Fuel consumption is a claimed 6.6L/100km.

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What’s it cost?

List price is $196,125, or just over $203,500 driveaway.

There are a few option packs, one of which includes hand-cut Kiriko glass and hand-pleated leather. These can bump the price up by more than $15,000.

Outside it’s 5235mm of sinuous sheetmetal. 

The front is dominated by the Lexus signature spindle grille. This is a bit special as it’s made from 5000 individual components. It’s sizeable and dominates the nose.

Headlights, tail lights, and driving lights, are all LED. The front lights are bracketed by sequential flashing indicators.

Emergency braking sees the rear lights flash to warn following traffic.

The shortish tail hides a small for its size 440-litre boot.

Safety levels are solid with 12 or 14 airbags depending on trim, plus Autonomous Emergency Braking, radar cruise control, and a pop up bonnet for pedestrian safety.

There is also front and rear Cross Traffic Alert and the usual assortment of electronic aids.

The interior is stitched beautifully and looks, and feels, sumptuous, with a substantial list of toys to play with.

The rear seats slide back and forth and have a massage function.

With four-zone airconditioning, sensors for each seat detect pressure and provide air flow if the seat is occupied.

The steering wheel is temperature controlled too.

A full colour Head Up Display is adjustable for height and brightness only.

There are a pair of blu-ray screens in the back with the player mounted in the centre console, and good sound from a 23-speaker Mark Levinson DAB audio system.

The front passenger has a panel that is lit internally and shows lines that follow the flowing design of the dashpad from one side to the other.

The driver engages gear via a rocker style selector and Park is a soft, one-touch button. 

Rear passengers have powered blinds for privacy and blocking the heat, and there is a blind for the rear window too.

However, there is no wireless charging and the 12.3 inch display screen is not a touchscreen, and that’s a shame.

Then there’s the much, and fairly, maligned touchpad that controls items such as radio and climate control.

Although adjustable for sensitivity, it isn’t user friendly. It’s not intuitive, it’s fiddly, and we could bang on a bit about how it needs to be changed for something better. 

Another thing that needs changing is the warranty.

Lexus lags by offering four years only and the distance is 150,000km — not unlimited.

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What’s it go like?

We went outside the box and took the LS from the Blue Mountains to Kiama in NSW, then west to country Robertson via the Jamberoo Road.

From there we drove a number of thin, curvy, back roads before rejoining the Hume for the drive north.

Up front, it’s a superb highway and freeway cruiser. The air suspension does an admirable job of handling most road conditions. 

What impresses though is how adroitly it handles country roads. Rough tarmac is the norm and the noise insulation is such that the 245/45/20 Turanza rubber dials out most roads.

It’s a gratifying drive for a driver, too. It can be hustled into corners at decent velocities before being hauled up safely with the energy recovering brakes. 

There are drive modes that are engaged via a binnacle mounted dial and they’re quite effective.

Steering is spot on across the board. Slow suburban speeds, medium suburban speeds, highway velocities and tight corners have the steering unfussed.

It’s beautifully weighted and instantly responsive. Climb up the Jamberoo Mountain Road and the nose can be shifted left or right as quick as thought.

The chassis sits flat on these winding roads, minimising movement in the cabin.

Get on to a straight road and it’s whisper quiet until the accelerator is used.

Geting off the line hard however generates a hair-raising note from up front.

Although it’s a V6, the tone is more akin to a flat plane V8. And although nominally a CVT auto, the 10 pre-programed “cogs” slide invisibly from ratio to ratio up and down the rev range.

The downside is minimal.

The air suspension isn’t quite as quick to react as traditional springs and some road intrusions are more keenly felt by the occupants.

In terms of fuel consumption, we saw a best of 9.7L/100km.

The Lexus was driven on a 70/30 urban to highway cycle, but as mentioned that highway loop included a drive to the beautiful seaside town of Kiama and back via The Giant Potato town of Robertson, near Bowral in NSW.

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What we like?

  • Better sporting manners than its size suggests
  • high class entertainment system 
  • Awesome highway cruiser

What we don’t like?

  • Economy not as good as expected
  • Damnable trackpad quirks
  • Occasional suspension intrusion

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The bottom line?

$200K is a heckuva ask for a car that’s up against something like an entry level 7 Series BMW.

Looks are subjective, and that grille isn’t for everyone. However it really is a fantastic DRIVER’S car and that is its biggest selling point.

The rear seat features are handy but potentially wasted unless the LS is used in its more likely environment as a chauffeured vehicle. 

The trackpad is widely disliked by reviewers too, and a simpler system can be found in cars Lexus positions the LS against. That’s, perhaps, where Lexus needs to focus a little more attention.

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Lexus LS 500h, priced from $196,125
  • 8/10
    Looks - 8/10
  • 8/10
    Performance - 8/10
  • 9/10
    Safety - 9/10
  • 7/10
    Thirst - 7/10
  • 7.5/10
    Practicality - 7.5/10
  • 8.5/10
    Comfort - 8.5/10
  • 9/10
    Tech - 9/10
  • 7/10
    Value - 7/10
8/10

Conole

Dave Conole hails from Perth where he co-hosted a car show on one of the city's major community radio stations. Although he's had formal training in stage, TV, and film, it's his face for radio that gave him his start in the automotive field, both reviewing and motorsport commentary. After moving to Sydney in 2004, Dave has worked for some of Australia's biggest media groups and is the anchor commentator at Sydney Motorsport Park. This has lead to anchoring major events such as the Top Gear Festival (and, no, he didn't get punched by Jeremy).