Where is a chauffeur when you need one? Because I surely needed one recently along with the 2020 Lexus LS 500h that arrived in my driveway for a week. One look at the back seat will tell you why. It puts the E in Executive sedan. It’s less of a back seat and rather more of an indulgent executive lounge, complete with outstanding massaging seats and its own digital concierge console. Yes, a girl could certainly get used to this!
Lexus’ flagship LS 500 sedan is a showcase of luxury, comfort and detailed craftsmanship, from exquisite Kiriko glass on the door panels and rich leather upholstery to exceptional displays and quite possibly the most robust massage seats in a vehicle I’ve ever experienced. It also comes with a three-figure price tag.
The LS 500h, redesigned in 2018, is more “stately-looking” than aggressive, with an elegant, sleek and sophisticated exterior featuring Lexus’ signature grille and chrome trim. It’s loaded with LEDs from the sharp angled triple-projector LED headlamps and daytime running lamps up front to the LED combo tail lights in back. Adaptive front lighting is optional. Standard auto dimming mirrors adorn the exterior. 19-inch wheels are standard but this vehicle is equipped with optional 20” split 5-spoke forged alloys.
Being stuck in rush hour traffic is no match for the LS 500’s interior. In fact, equipped with an optional top of the line Executive Package, you might opt for the longer route home.
The interior of my test drive vehicle is filled with real wood and leather, along with high grade metal and glass trim. Supremely comfortable quilted-stitch perforated semi-aniline leather seats envelop riders in heat or ventilated comfort and offer multi-function massage. The greatness of the massage seats cannot be understated. They are the best I’ve experienced in a vehicle and are designed to replicate the Japanese shiatsu technique. You access the function via a button on the center console. My only issue is that it took me awhile to find it in the menu, where it is called “seat refresh”.
While the entire cabin is filled with premium materials, no design element garners more attention than the Kiriko Glass that adorns the interior door trim. It’s simply stunning. Lexus says the glass is designed by hand, then a laser-scanning technique is used to create its etched pattern and luminous glow. Each piece of glass requires up to 147 points of polishing, which can take up to two hours to complete. The glass is complemented by hand-pleated door trim.
Back to the driver’s seat, which is 28-way power adjustable, you grasp the optional heated wood and leather-trimmed steering wheel with paddle shifters, a favorite of mine in terms of cushion and comfort. The drive mode selector is integrated high in the dash behind the steering wheel. A bright, colorful tachometer displays a crisp and clean layout that includes a digital driver display area and road sign recognition. Stitching around the tachometer is another very detailed touch. An ultrasuede headliner and sun visor along with a moonroof are above.
The LS 500’s 12.3-inch infotainment screen could double as a billboard it’s so big. Well, not quite, but you get the idea. Unlike the one in the new 2020 RX, it’s not a touchscreen. It’s controlled via Lexus Remote Touchpad as well as controls on the center stack and on the steering wheel. The infotainment system remains a bit hard to navigate despite Lexus’ continuing efforts to improve it and make the touchpad larger. But the screen itself has exceptional resolution and graphics, and there is no sun glare because it’s set back into the dash. It also houses an integrated backup camera with dynamic gridlines and al panoramic view monitor is optional.
I found the center stack and console to be all in all user friendly. The center stack curves forward with a slight slant, putting climate and audio controls within easy reach. A glossy black center console is where you’ll find a short, likeable, leather-wrapped gear shift knob and two cup holders. The aforementioned Remote Touchpad takes up a lot of real estate. You’ll also find buttons for the EV Mode, power sunshade and seat functions. Two buttons missing from the console are instead placed closer to the steering wheel: the electric parking brake and brake auto hold.
The LS is roomy both up front and in the back, where leg-room is especially exceptional. In fact, one look at the inviting rear seats you’ll wonder if you really need to work from a coffee shop. It’s huge back there, almost lounge-like, and with 22-way power massaging and heated seats, there’s really no better way to work, am I right? The power reclining seats also sport butterfly headrests, and in between, a huge center console drops down to reveal a 7-inch digital touchscreen concierge that controls the climate, audio and chair functions. The right-rear power recliner has a sliding ottoman and there are seatback compartments for storage.
The icing on the cake is an optional 23-speaker Mark Levinson sound system. It’s out of this world fantastic and yes I did spend more than a few minutes listening to tunes while relaxing in the rear seats. The $1940 upgrade replaces a standard 12-speaker system.
The LS is a commuters dream not just for the interior, but the ride and drive quality. Though I can’t help but wonder how the gas-only version compares to the hybrid powertrain. The hybrid’s 3.5-liter V6 engine is coupled with two electric motors and an electronically controlled CVT (paired with a four-speed automatic). While its 354-horsepower provides decent acceleration given that it weighs over 5,000 pounds, I wasn’t perhaps as “wowed” by the overall drive quality as I’ve been in other Lexus cruisers, though it was still quite comfortable. And to be fair, to really make a comparison I’d need to drive the 416-horsepower LS 500 twin-turbo V6 w/10-speed automatic. (I’ll be watching for Jerry Reynolds’ review on it coming later this month.) But going by this test drive alone, my initial impressions are that the hybrid’s didn’t provide as smooth sailing a ride as I’ve come to expect from Lexus and the engine wasn’t as quiet as I expected either. By the way, the LS is equipped with Smart Stop technology.
The LS’s low center of gravity made me feel connected to the road, but it’s not a sporty handling ride (and no one would expect it to be.) Optional adaptive variable air suspension with rapid height is designed to handle bumps in the road. Drive modes include Eco, Comfort, Normal, Sport and Sport+. There is also an EV mode designed only for use in slow speeds and short distances.
While a large sedan, I found the LS easier to maneuver than I thought it might be thanks to its trim turning radius.
Opening the trunk is a breeze with its hands-free power open/close and the trunk offers ample space along with a luggage net. The LS comes standard with carpet floor mats. Last but not least, you can’t ride in style like this without power sunshades, both for the passenger windows and out the back.
Lexus’ infotainment system offers Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa but my test vehicle is not equipped with Android Auto. The infotainment system allows you to pause live radio. I’m also super impressed with Dynamic Voice Command. It’s easy to use and it works consistently. The center console bin hides two USB ports along with a 12 Volt. The LS 500 offers an optional 24-inch head up display with easy to read graphics.
Lexus Safety System + 2.0 comes standard on the LS. It includes Pre Collision system with pedestrian detection, lane tracing assist with steering assist, blind spot monitor with rear cross traffic alert, intuitive parking assist with auto braking, road sign assist, all-speed dynamic radar cruise control, and intelligent high beams.
For $3000 you’ll get the added benefit of Lexus Safety System + A. It adds pre-collision w/ active braking, active steering assist, pedestrian alert, front cross traffic alert, and lane change assist.
What You’ll Pay
The hybrid model starts from $83,180 but options take you past $118K:
- Executive Pkg with Kiriko Glass ($23,060)
- Mark Levinson 23-speakers, 2,400 watt ($1940)
- Panoramic view monitor ($800)
- Heated wood and leather trimmed steering wheel ($410)
- 24-inch head up display ($1,400)
- LED headlamps with adaptive front lighting (300)
- 20” split 5-spoke forged alloy wheels ($2450)
- Adaptive variable air suspension with rapid height ($1500)
At this price point, the LS lacks some a few features I’d expect, namely wireless charging, changeable interior mood ambient lighting, and a larger panoramic glass roof. Though for me, the Kiriko glass and the exquisite massaging seats make up for those omissions.
The LS 500 is a luxurious, comfortable luxury sedan filled with beautiful trims that are works of art. But I might opt for the gas-powered only version over the hybrid, since I favor a more powerful turbo engine and it also costs less. Using the Lexus build feature, the rear-wheel drive gas-only model equipped like my 500h stickers for roughly $106,675, saving you around $16K. Either way you go, though, a chauffeur sure would be nice.
2020 Lexus LS 500h AWD
- What I liked most: The multi-function massage seats, Kiriko Glass, Mark Levinson audio system.
- What I would change: Tweak the hybrid powertrain.
- MSRP: $83,180 base price, total MSRP with transportation: $118,865.
- Fuel Economy: 23 city/31 highway/26 combined. (VS Non-hybrid AWD 18/27/21)
- Official Color: Atomic Silver.
- Odometer reading when tested: 972 miles.
- Weight: 5,027 lbs.
- Spare Tire: Run flat tires.
- Length-Width-Height: 206.1” long/ 74.8” wide/57.9” high.
- Fuel Tank: 22.2 gallons with the filler on the driver's side.
- Towing Capacity: N/A.
- 2020 Lexus LS 300h in a few words: By far Lexus' most luxurious sedan that is nothing short of a commuter's dream.
- Final Assembly Location: Tahara, Aichi, Japan.
- Warranty: 4-year/50,000 mile bumper-to-bumper, with roadside assistance, and 72-months/70,000 miles of power train coverage; 8-year/100,000 hybrid powertrain.
- Manufacturer's website: Lexus