This Car Review Is About: The Luxury Sedan in the luxury arm of the Toyota family called Lexus. Named the LS 500h, with the h standing for hybrid, it’s a long, long, car that’s packed full of tech, niceties, and a couple of quirks.
What Does It Cost?: $196,125. That’s before options, government charges, and delivery charges at the dealership level. It’s a fair bit of coin and places the LS 500h firmly in the same area as the Audi A8 and entry level BMW 7 Series. However, the Lexus website indicates a driveaway price of not much more than $203,500 for the LS 500h in Luxury trim. Add in the Sports Luxury package and that’s up to $209,400. From here there are enhancement packs that include items such as handcut Kiriko glass and hand-pleated black leather.Under The Bonnet Is: A ten ratio, super slick, automatic that is bolted to a battery pack and 3.5L V6. Peak power is quoted as 264kW. The non-hybrid version has 310kW and 600Nm from a twin turbo V6. Peak torque figures are 350Nm (Petrol Engine) and 300Nm (Electric Motor). Economy is quoted as 6.6L/100km. Emissions are 150g/km. We reached an average of 9.7/100km on a 70/30 suburban/highway cycle.On the Outside It’s: Dominated by that air intake that’s made of 5,000 individual pieces. Lexus handcraft the spindle grille and in their own words: “The design process behind the grille would be considered extravagant if the result were anything less than visionary.” Indeed. The 5,235mm length starts with that, and that huge grille sees full LED illumination either side, both in headlights and the separate driving/indicator lights.At just 1,450mm in total height, the LS looks longer than that length measurement suggests. Such are the proportions that the driver is placed at the halfway point of the car. Subtle lines highlight the gentle upswing of the rear window line before a surprisingly small bootspace of 440L finishes with LED tail lights. Both front and rear indicators follow the Audi-eque style of flashing longitudinally in sequence, rather than all at once. Rubber is Bridgestone’s Turanza and at 245/45 front and rear on 20 inch diameter chromed alloys, it makes for an impressive footprint.On The Inside It’s: An impressive place. There are: Heated and vented front seats with three memory positions. Heated and massage capable rear seats. Blu-ray player and screens for the rear seats. 23 speakers of DAB quality sound from Mark Levinson. 12 airbags. Quad zone airconditioning. A passenger side section of the dash that lights up internally. Mood lighting. Rear and side window sunshades, which sees the rear lower on engaging Reverse… And that damnable touch interface on the centre console. It’s time to bench it and go for something ergonomically and user friendly. There’s also no wireless charge pad…The centre console houses some operating buttons and one is for the height adjustable air suspension.Back to that touchpad. Even allowing for touch and sensitivity setting changes, it’s not intuitive in usage. The cursor on the 12.3 inch display screen never seems to correctly line up with the icon being sought, some options are a swipe as opposed to a click like a mouse, and the menu system itself doesn’t always make for user friendly interpretation. To reverse that, Lexus has sensors that engage the aircon for seats that read a body seated upon it. Driver only, and the screen shows aircon only for that seat.The seating position for each pew is simply operated. The driver’s seat moves when power is switched off to provide lift and space for easier exit from the car. The rear seats have multiple modes for top of back, lumbar, and lower back massaging. It makes for interesting passage for the rear seat passengers, especially those that are in late primary and early high school. Because there is a screen each, their comfort level is higher than a single roof mounted screen. However, their centre fold out console which has a touchscreen for aircon and audio, allows the rear seat passengers to control audio for the front seats too…a separate audio source for headphone wearers would be more suitable.For the driver there is a classy looking binnacle and dash. Leather material surrounds the area and is stitched. The screen is full colour and changes in look depending on which drive mode is selected via the toggle dial on top left. Normal mechanical analogue gauges on either side show fuel and temperature. There is a HUD as well. This shows a broad variety of info but the display is limited to being adjustable for brightness and height only.Design wise, the dash showcases and mirrors the grille. Sine wave lines stretch from side to side, and in front of the passenger is a translucent panel that is lit internally to match the lines. The stitching in the seats in the test car also matches the stitching and dash, making for a cohesive appearance. What’s also cohesive is the feel of the centre console storage lid. Buttons on either side allow the lid to be opened in either direction. It’s a small yet eminently usable feature.Out On The Road It’s: A mix of power, grace, sportiness, and hmmm. It will launch, and hard, from a standing start. It will handle back country roads, of rutted surfaces and sweeping corners, as easily as it does smooth highways and suburban roads. It can be driven with verve and a nod towards sports as equally well as it can be driven gently and politely. The hmm is the reaction time from the air suspension.
As much as the LS 500h can waft along, hit anything of a height of five centimetres or more at certain speeds, and rather that “pillow” over the top, there’s a solid bang instead. It’s a small jolt, to be sure, but a jolt nonetheless. It isn’t a common occurrence either, as the car isn’t intended to be driven in such environments to invite those intrusions.We took the LS 500h on a drive loop from the Blue Mountains to Kiama via the Hume Highway, the Mount Keira road near Wollongong, then back via the Jamberoo Road through to Robertson, home of the The Giant Potato, then back roads north through to Mittagong and along the Hume again. It’s a superb and relaxed cruiser on the freeway, with plenty of noise insulation keeping the extraneous noises to a minimum.Sink the slipper and the V6 roars into life. There’s an odd note to it, but in a good way, with a hint of V8 to the tone. Acceleration is indecent for a big car, and the power steering assistance is calibrated to provide instant response to the slightest touch. Drive itself is engaged via a rocker switch selector, with Park engaged via a push button.Get into the winding roads heading down to Wollongong and out from Kiama, and the chassis sits flat, allowing the steering and drivetrain to perfectly combine for a drive experience best described as exhilarating. The Lexus can be pushed hard, harder than expected, with a surefooted and confident approach. Range Road, just to the south east of Bowral, the home of the Don Bradman museum, showcases the ability of the chassis, with varying road conditions meeting sweeping turns before sharp corners that test the brakes and handling. Apart from the aforementioned bang from the suspension occasionally, the LS 500h shone brightly.What About Safety?: A four position camera system allows for 360 degree viewing and the high definition display screen makes for crystal sharp viewing. Depending of trim level there are ten or twelve airbags. The LED headlights are adaptive in direction and the rear lights flash under emergency braking. Naturally Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Blind Spot Monitoring are standard, as is Autonomous Emergency Braking and Pedestrian Detection. Radar Cruise Control with distance adjustment is perfect for the highways and freeways. The bonnet is pedestrian friendly, with an emergency pop up system if the sensors read an impact. There is also Front Cross Traffic Assist, alongside Lane Keep Assist and Roadsign Detection. The Front Cross Traffic Assist is very handy in areas such as the Kiama lighthouse carpark.And The Warranty Is?: Still just four years or 100,000 kilometres. On a service booking, Lexus may provide a loan car or organise a pickup & return for a home or business address. More info on owner benefits can be found here.
At The End Of the Drive. The question is simple. Is $203K worth the ask? This car will appeal to a wealthy and retired audience, or perhaps a niche chauffeur service. There is no doubt at all that the car can be driven in a hard and sporting manner just as easily as its more likely purpose. The trackpad interface is only a small part of the experience, yet it’s a series of papercuts that overcomes any supposed advantage. The economy could be better too, but again the intended market wouldn’t worry about fuel costs. As an example of technology in an automotive sense, it wins here.
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