2018 Lexus LS 500 Review and Test Drive

Terry Box | January 24, 2018
2018 Lexus LS 500 Review and Test Drive

Long lustrous bodies and lush leather interiors just don’t dazzle the way they once did.

Maybe we got distracted by Stormy Daniels or something.

As you may have heard, luxury cars -- those posh six-figure pinnacles of cush for the tush -- struggle now to attract well-heeled buyers, many of whom want high-dollar SUVs and crossovers instead.

Isn’t that a bit like giving up fine wine for a stout, oversized mug of beer, by the way?

Maybe. Despite that trend, though, Lexus chose to spend a substantial sum to restyle and thoroughly upgrade its soft, silent flagship, the LS sedan.

It shows. The 2018 LS 500 I had recently flashed all-new lines and curves, a stunning interior, all-wheel-drive and a Euro-feeling twin-turbo V-6.

Now if it can at least slow the great truck migration that last year figured heavily in a steep 25 percent drop in sales.

Actually, the dark metallic brown LS I had seemed a tad irritated with it all. It’s fighting time, I guess.

For better or worse, a clumsy, exaggerated spindle grille – kind of resembling the top of a giant Texas barbecue grille – remains the most familiar aspect of the new LS.

Just ignore it.

Sublimely fierce headlamps squeezed that misshapen maw, cutting back into a subtly taut body that doesn’t much resemble any previous LS sedan.

A broad, slightly raised hood, for example, topped front fenders that featured a slight curve on their tops and wheel-openings pushed to the corners of the body.

Meanwhile, a prominent Infiniti-like character line sailed through huge doors and onto rear fenders wearing strong shoulders.

Chromed multi-spoke 20-inch wheels wrapped with 245/45 tires kept the LS grounded, while its top slid down onto sleek, well-formed rear pillars.

High-mounted taillamps completed the new look, wrapping around a slightly raised trunk that reminded me some of big BMW sedans.

While not breathtaking like the original Audi A7, the new Lexus does convey cool conservative – kind of like a CEO with a pinky ring.

Likewise, the numbers on the new 3.4-liter V-6 engine in the LS – which replaces a 4.6-liter V-8 – don’t stoke big expectations initially: 416 horsepower and 442 lb.-ft. of torque in a car weighing nearly 5,000 pounds.

The surprisingly lively engine, tied to a 10-speed automatic and all-wheel-drive in my LS, consistently acted like an over-achiever. (And incidentally, it has 30 more horsepower than the last 4.6-liter V-8.)

With electric-like smoothness – and no lag I could detect – the engine boiled up waves of torque on take-off, surging nicely to 60 mph in about 5 seconds, according to Car and Driver.

Although the pre-production model I drove had no window-sticker, Car and Driver estimates it should be good for 18 miles per gallon in the city and 27 on the highway.

Moreover, it sounds slightly more sporting than the V-8, meaning you can actually hear the faint tenor of six healthy cylinders when you step into the accelerator.

The transmission also does its part, clicking off quick, tight shifts that keep the engine in its power-band.

As you might expect, the steering felt more luxo-cruiser than canyon-carver – quick, but a tad too light and numb.

To my surprise, though, the LS’ politely firm suspension did a decent job, allowing some lean but keeping the big sedan under control.

It also allowed the LS to turn into corners with a bit of enthusiasm – something else I hadn’t expected.

Granted, it still doesn’t handle like a BMW or Mercedes-Benz, but it can be pushed some now and might be better on the interstate than its counterparts.

The LS will likely start at around $75,000 when it begins arriving next month, and some in the industry expect the car to push close to $100,000 with options.

Based on the exquisite tan interior in mine, I figure I somehow got one of the Mack Daddy models ($90,000-plus).

First, it had four adjustable bucket seats – two in front and two in back, obviously – with consoles in soft tan leather between both.

A broad flat-top dashboard in pliable black material dropped gently down to a recessed area at mid-dash containing a large display screen shaded from outside light.

Beneath it, a sleek horizontal panel contained buttons and knobs for the controls, while nifty strands of aluminum trimmed the mid-dash.

I can’t tell you about all the safety-nannies the new car had on board because of the lack of a window-sticker, but they routinely agitated me with various beepings and vibrations.

Fortunately, I could usually focus on flawlessly sculpted tan door-panels that complemented soft tan-leather seats with decent bolsters and perforated centers.

The back seats were just about as pleasant, offering immense leg- and head-room, and of course the entire compartment felt tomb-like with its silence – when I didn’t have Fred Eaglesmith or the Drive-By Truckers on the stereo.

As you may recall, Lexus got its start in the U.S. in 1989 with a low-key LS sedan and isn’t about to abandon the car now.

This time, though, Lexus wants you to notice it.

2018 Lexus LS 500

  • What I liked most: The finely styled and stitched interior, as well as the hearty new engine
  • What I would change: Give me one switch to easily turn off all the beeping safety-nannies that Lexus feels I need
  • MRSP: Base price, estimated $75,000; as equipped, estimated $90,000-plus
  • Fuel Economy: Rated at 18 miles per gallon in town, 27 on the highway and 21 mpg combined with filler on the left
  • Official color: Autumn Shimmer
  • Odometer reading when tested: 5,136 miles
  • Weight: Approximately 4,900 pounds
  • Length-width-height: 206.1 inches long/74.8 inches wide/57.9 inches tall
  • Fuel-tank capacity: 21.7 gallons
  • Towing capacity: Not available
  • Spare tire: Temporary compact
  • 2018 Lexus LS 500 in a few words: A crisp redesign and re-engineering that give the big sedan a bit more presence and personality
  • Warranty: Four-year, 50,000-mile basic with six-year, 70,000-mile powertrain protection
  • Final assembly location: Tahara, Japan
  • Manufacturer’s website: www.lexus.com
  • E-mail me at terry@carprousa.com 
Tags: 2018 Lexus LS 500
Rodney .
WHY do we tell Toyota how "good" these hideous grills look on these otherwise beautiful cars? Now Honda did it to the brand new Accord.
David L.
Terry, honestly... you NEED to do your own video review. I believe that we would ALL love to see you start doing this.... and, soon.