Autolist rating: 4/5
But would we buy it? Maybe*
Price range: $76,025 - $85,245 including destination before options
- Redesigned for the 2018 model year.
- Turbocharged V6 is a gem.
- Infotainment system and controller are a nightmare.
- Overall, the LS splits the difference between lesser large sedans from Genesis and Cadillac and more prestigious cars from Mercedes, BMW and Audi.
What is it?
The LS is the big daddy Lexus sedan (Lexus being the luxury division of Toyota). The LS is a full-size luxury car, sitting atop a sedan range made up of the GS, ES and IS.
Lexus redesigned the LS for 2018, giving it an aggressive new exterior design that’s also longer, wider and lower than its predecessor, has a reimagined interior and, in a nod to emissions concerns around the globe, a twin-turbo V6 engine where a V8 once sat.
This fifth-generation LS sedan comes in two versions: gas (LS 500) and hybrid (LS 500h).
The gas model, which we tested, is powered by a twin-turbocharged, 3.5-liter V6 that makes 416 horsepower and 442 pound-feet of torque. This engine is paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission.
The LS 500h hybrid uses a 3.5-liter V6 and an electric motor to produce a total of 354 horsepower. This model’s transmission is a continuously variable automatic (CVT) one.
Rear-wheel drive is standard on both the gas LS and the hybrid LS; all-wheel drive is a $3,220 option on both.
The gas LS also comes in a stylish F Sport trim variant, aimed at dialing up the performance and handling of the sedan without adding any more power.
The LS lineup competes against some of the luxury segment’s heavyweights: the Mercedes-Benz S450, the BMW 740i, the Audi A8, plus the Genesis G90 and loaded versions of Cadillac’s CT6.
TLDR: Great turbo V6, more personality, backseat accoutrement
— What V8? Five minutes into driving this new LS with its twin-turbo V6 and we had forgotten all about the V8 it replaced. This V6 is a gem: smooth, powerful, quiet and the dreaded turbo lag on some engines never showed its face. If you weren’t paying attention in class, you wouldn’t know this engine wasn’t a V8 -- the highest praise you can give it.
— Cut out the boring. Previous LS models weren’t what you would call exciting, either in looks or in handling. This one gives you more of both. The styling -- for better or worse -- takes many more chances than the LS ever has before -- though some buyers will certainly be turned off by the all-angles face. And the handling, while not exactly dynamic, is definitely an improvement.
-- Touchscreen in the back. The irony of the LS and its awful infotainment system up front (see below) is that in the rear seats of our loaded, $100,000 test model was a wonderfully functional seven-inch touchscreen. Tasked with handling all the comfort needs of the rear passengers, this system proves that Lexus has the chops to execute a touchscreen interface properly. Put it up front guys!
TLDR: Awful interface, lacks charisma of German cars, polarizing face
— The infotainment system. A wonky touchpad in the center console controls the screen in the dash. But way too many functions for the car (stereo, climate control, etc.) are hidden below multiple submenus when they should just be controlled by hard buttons in the dash. This was a great way to ruin an otherwise solid car. If you’re considering an LS, be sure to spend some time during the test drive learning this system to make sure you can live with it. We wouldn’t want to.
— The invisible veneer. Lexus says this LS competes against the likes of Mercedes’ S-Class, Audi’s A8 and BMW’s 7 Series. But in reality, the intangible aura of luxury in those models isn’t as evident on this LS. It’s a fine car that pampers its owners, but those familiar with the aforementioned German vehicles will find something missing when they sit inside the LS.
— That face. Lexus knows it’s taking chances with the bold new face of this 2018 LS. Good thing, since the look isn’t for everyone. We didn’t hate it, but our biggest concern is how it will age. Generally, it’s edgy, risk-taking designs like this that become outdated the quickest. That’s not something you’ll see happen with a similar large sedan from the Germans.
5 stars of execution:
- The LS comes standard with a wide range of safety features: an advanced pre-collision braking system with pedestrian detection, lane-departure alert with steering assist, adaptive cruise control with all-speed functionality.
- The 2018 LS has not yet been tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or the independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
- As large sedans go, this one starts at a competitive price ($76,025), relative to the Germans’ sticker prices that start in the $83,000-$90,000 range. The options add up quickly though, and a reasonably equipped LS 500 with rear-wheel drive and the options you’ll want runs about $90,000.
- That price is still thousands cheaper than a German sedan with the same features; plus, Lexus is among the highest-rated brands for both reliability and customer satisfaction. But the cost is also considerably more than a loaded Genesis G90 or Cadillac CT6.
- Remember though that, while the Lexus’ price advantage over the Germans’ is nice, we still missed the extra level of premium quality they offer.
- Thanks to the switch to a twin-turbo V6 from an old-school V8, this fifth-generation LS gets a nice bump in efficiency over its predecessor.
- The EPA rates the rear-wheel-drive LS 500 at 19/30/23 mpg city/highway/combined. That’s better than most of its large luxe sedan cohorts.
- Shoppers with a green conscious can also opt for the LS 500h hybrid model, a rarity in this segment. The EPA rates the rear-wheel-drive hybrid LS at 25/33/28 mpg city/highway/combined; the all-wheel-drive hybrid drops each of those figures by two.
Driving experience? YES
- The excellent turbo engine in the LS 500 is a key reason we loved driving it. This is how you swap from a V8 to a turbo V6: with the power, torque and smoothness of the former and fuel economy and emissions of the latter.
- The rest of the driving experience is perfectly fine and will suit the needs of anyone looking to be pampered by their big ol’ sedan. Despite the bold looks, this isn’t a sportscar and doesn’t handle like one, but it at least keeps up with its peers in terms of dynamics.
- We’re giving the LS a no here for two reasons. First, the infotainment system and the touchpad that control it are cumbersome, poorly executed and downright frustrating. That Lexus hasn’t learned from the mistakes of others in this area (like the BMW 7 Series more than a decade ago) is surprising.
- Second, as we’ve already mentioned, the LS just can’t match its segment’s leaders in ultimate refinement and indulgence. It feels like just a nice car, rather than the pinnacle of execution and craftsmanship that you’d expect in this stratosphere.
Total Rating: 4 stars
What’s it gonna cost me?
The base LS starts at $76,025 for the rear-wheel-drive model.
Standard features include a moonroof, 12.3-inch infotainment and navigation screen, LED headlamps, heated and cooled front seats, faux-leather seats, 20-way power driver’s seat, heated steering wheel, pre-collision braking, lane-keep assist and blind-spot monitoring.
The performance-oriented F Sport model starts at $82,025 ($6,000 more than the base LS). This version gives buyers a slightly more in-your-face grille than normal, unique wheels that are wrapped in stickier, performance-oriented tires, larger brakes, a retuned suspension and chassis, 28-way power seats (that’s a lot of ways) and a variety of other upgrades.
The LS 500h hybrid starts at $80,535 for the rear-wheel-drive model.
All models (LS, LS F Sport and LS hybrid) can be had in an all-wheel-drive trim for an extra $3,220.
There are a wide variety of option packages you can add to any model; our AWD LS 500 was just past the $100,000 mark, thanks to lavish options.
As mentioned, the Lexus LS occupies a unique space in the large luxury sedan segment. It’s pricier than the Cadillac CT6 and the Genesis G90, but it’s cheaper than the Audi A8, Mercedes S-Class and BMW 7 Series. This makes sense, since that’s where it falls in prestige and execution as well.
If you’re OK with the higher cost, there’s currently not a more indulgent sedan than the Mercedes S-Class. If you’re ok with less brand recognition and slightly anonymous styling, take a look at the Genesis.
*Would we buy it?
We would recommend the LS if:
- You can live with the infotainment system's foibles.
- You're looking for a large luxury sedan that splits the price/execution difference between the more expensive Germans and the cheaper Hyundai/Cadillac models.