2019 Lexus LS Review

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2019
The Car Connection
2019
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Martin Padgett Martin Padgett Editorial Director
February 25, 2019

Buying tip

The 2019 Lexus LS 500 is soft and gentle, and the F Sport only turns up the intensity a bit. Given that, we’d choose the hybrid for superior fuel economy.

Drivers may not find much to lust after in the 2019 Lexus LS, but it pampers like few other luxury sedans.

From its lofty perch at the top of its lineup, the 2019 Lexus LS sedan can see the future coming. The world of leather-lined four-doors snaking their way up driveways of the well-heeled is coming to an end, with crossover SUVs ready to take over.

Even Lexus has a new flagship crossover SUV on the way, which will almost certainly relegate the model that vaulted Lexus over Mercedes and BMW in 1990 to the back corner of showrooms.

But the 2019 Lexus LS is prepared for what’s to come here. It’s ready for another market, a flashy four-door that feels more at home in Beijing than in Baltimore.

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The 2019 LS earns a solid 7.4 out of 10 on our scale. It’s supremely comfortable, built to a standard rarely seen, and can be fitted with luxury features unimaginable even a few years ago. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

This year, the LS gains new wheel designs and finally gets Apple CarPlay compatibility paired with Amazon Alexa.

The LS comes in three versions: the rear- or all-wheel drive LS 500, the LS 500 F Sport, and the hybrid LS 500h. All share a long, tapered body that blends the brand’s “spindle” grille with more voluptuous curves than other models sitting across the showroom. Inside, the LS better channels the future with its horizontal lines dressed up in a variety of wood or aluminum trims or even crystal interior trim.

Underhood, the LS 500 uses a twin-turbo V-6 that’s new to the brand to put 416 horsepower to the ground via a 10-speed automatic transmission. The LS 500h swaps in an older V-6 paired to lithium-ion batteries and electric motors. Acceleration is brisk thanks to 354 horsepower, but the 33-mpg highway rating is even more impressive. Unfortunately, Lexus piped in fake noises that make the LS 500h sound like a video game.

Standard coil springs give the LS a good, if perhaps too plush ride, but most models are likely to leave dealer lots with an air suspension paired with adaptive dampers instead. The LS doesn’t have an especially athletic feel, even in F Sport guise, and its suspension seems tuned to swallow poor pavement instead of slicing across a curvy road. Dull steering doesn’t help.

Where the LS comes into its own is inside. Its seats are plush, supportive, and ready for the days when cars will motivate themselves from point A to point B and back. Its 28-way adjustable front seats are covered in fine leather and its Mark Levinson audio system belts out tunes. This year’s addition of Apple CarPlay is a welcome one that relieves drivers most of the frustration of dealing with Lexus’ infotainment software.

The LS hasn’t been crash-tested by either the NHTSA or the IIHS and likely never will be. However, its collision-avoidance suite is substantial, including automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control.

8

2019 Lexus LS

Styling

The 2019 Lexus LS is a cut or three above when it comes to its gorgeous interior.

Compared to the devilish Lexus LC coupe, the 2019 LS 500’s charms are subtle. Its exterior pushes the envelope in some ways, but peddles restraint in others. It’s far more compelling inside, with a horizontal, asymmetrical dashboard design that emphasizes the car’s width.

We rate it at 8 out of 10. The 2019 Lexus LS gets a point for its exterior and doubles that for what happens inside. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Outside, the LS is elegant, with Z-styled headlights carved around its wide grille. Depending on the model, the LS’ grille is finished in a handful of textures that help distinguish performance from luxury or (relative) frugality. Given how rare the LS is, however, that differentiation is more about style than practicality. You’re not likely to find two LS sedans parked next to one another.

The LS’ long roofline covers a trio of side windows on each side that give it a gentle, elongated look. There’s just one wheelbase on offer, in contrast to many of its competitors that offer short- and long-wheelbase configurations. At the rear, the LED taillights give the LS a signature look that works well. Whatever the LS says now, it’s certainly in contrast to its staid, conservative past.

Inside, the LS’ interior charms with its real wood, leather, and metal trim. Ambient lighting keeps even dark hues from feeling confining. The dashboard’s wide infotainment display sits front and center, while the passenger stares at a panel of etched glass that might be the 21st century equivalent of a blank canvas for what’s to come.

The best part of the LS might be its tremendous degree of customizability. Buyers of big sedans have migrated strongly toward SUVs, so it’s quite possible that no two LS sedans will leave the automaker’s factory with the same appointments. Black and red are startlingly cohesive together, but our money would be on either the cut glass trim or the bamboo band blond leather. Semi-aniline hides add to the luxurious look and feel.

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2019 Lexus LS

Performance

The 2019 Lexus LS doesn’t reflect the brand’s renewed emphasis on performance despite twin-turbo power.

While the flagship LC coupe is geared to take on the best sports cars and grand tourers Europe has to offer, the 2019 Lexus LS is aimed at a much different competitive set. Despite the brand’s renewed commitment to performance, the LS can best be described as exceedingly plush. That ride quality and its strong powertrains merit a 7 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The LS lineup is broken down into two powertrains and two and a half models: the standard LS 500, sharpened LS 500 F Sport, and electrified LS 500h.

Lexus LS 500 and F Sport

With a new twin-turbocharged V-6, the LS 500 leaps forward in engineering sophistication to keep pace with its European rivals, and on paper it’s got the guts. The boosted 3.5-liter V-6 makes 416 horsepower and 442 pound-feet of torque, enabling a run to 60 mph in just 4.6 seconds and a top speed of 136 mph. Rear-wheel drive is standard and all-wheel drive is available, while all LS 500s get a 10-speed automatic transmission that boasts quick, smooth shifts.

With standard coil springs and optional adjustable air suspension, the LS’s ride can best be described as coddling, and no matter the spec, this car is built for comfort over sport-sedan bona fides. Even selecting the F Sport trim, which adds a bit more engine growl, some improved handling components, and additional Sport drive select modes, doesn’t transform the experience, making this trim more a visual effort than anything else.

Despite its leisurely manners the LS feels like a much smaller car than it is on the road, largely thanks to a small steering wheel with a tight turning ratio and rear-wheel steering.

Lexus LS 500h hybrid

In the past, hybrid Lexus models took a big hit in the performance department for big gains in fuel economy, but the new generation has leveled the playing field substantially. The LS 500h is powered by a 3.5-liter V-6 with two electric motors, a 44-kwh lithium-ion battery, and a trick 4-speed automatic transmission made solely for hybrid functionality. One motor is in use at low speeds, and the gas and second electric motors kick in for more power at a higher rate of speed. Unfortunately, the LS 500h cannot be plugged in, and its relatively small battery allows for only a few miles of electric-only operation.

On the other hand, this powertrain makes a combined 354 horsepower and manages an average highway fuel economy of 33 mpg. The list of vehicles that hit this figure and can also reach 60 mph in just 5.1 seconds is exceedingly thin and makes the LS 500h a surprising choice for sleeper performance car.

We could live without the LS 500h’s piped-in engine noise, which feels forced and inauthentic. If you’re buying a hybrid for the engine sound, we have some questions for you.

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2019 Lexus LS

Comfort & Quality

In the 2019 Lexus LS, the car that shook up luxury sedans over two decades ago is at its best quality level ever.

The 2019 Lexus LS is the highest quality vehicle to wear the badge since its original iteration, with an opulent interior and more space than ever. We give it 10 out of 10 for the sumptuous seats, ample storage and passenger space, and top-tier fit and finish. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

No long-wheelbase model needed here, the 2019 LS has a wheelbase that is 1.3 inches longer than the extended version of the previous generation, making for a cavernous interior with incredible room for four occupants. A lowered ride may make ingress seem more difficult, but models equipped with air suspension can rise more than an inch to greet you.

The LS’s supple thrones are adjustable 28 ways in the front, can be heated or cooled, and have multiple massage settings. Models equipped with the Executive package get four-zone automatic climate control, 22-way heated and cooled rear seats, a right-side rear seat with a raised ottoman, multiple massage styles, a 48-degree backrest recline, and the ability to push the front passenger seat forward more than 40 inches. A touchscreen panel on the rear center armrest controls climate, entertainment, and lighting. Truth be told, we were often happier riding in the back of the LS than driving it.

Trunk space is decent at 17 cubic feet of space for LS 500 models and 15.2 cubic feet on the LS 500h to account for the additional battery power. A surprising number of storage cubbies can be found throughout the interior, making for a car that’s both useful and exceedingly well-crafted, albeit with more interesting drivetrain sounds than the Lexus sedans of the recent past.

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2019 Lexus LS

Safety

While no crash test scores are available, the 2019 Lexus LS boasts an impressive suite of active safety tech.

For its relatively low sales volume, neither the NHTSA nor the IIHS have crash-tested the 2019 Lexus LS and likely will not do so. Without crash-test scores, we are unable to give it a rating for safety, but should mention the impressive suite of active safety features. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The 2019 LS includes a full suite of safety features as standard, including forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warnings, automatic high-beam headlights, and adaptive cruise control. While it’s not “self-driving,” the LS can also keep you in the lane on the highway with minimal input from the driver and can follow the car in front no matter the speed.

Beyond what’s included, an Advanced Safety package adds a pedestrian detection system with active steering that can steer around obstacles at low speeds; for 2019 the optional head-up display can be had without this package, displaying huge amounts of information across the bottom of the windshield.

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2019 Lexus LS

Features

The 2019 Lexus LS has no shortage of options, but still lags behind the times in terms of infotainment.

With a wealth of standard and optional luxury and tech features, the 2019 Lexus LS is one of the most impressive vehicles on the road, but one key area is still lacking a modern touch. We give it 8 out of 10 for features, including a stellar service reputation. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

As standard, the 2019 LS 500 includes power adjustable leather seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, navigation, a 12-speaker audio system with Bluetooth and USB, active noise cancellation, and 19-inch wheels. Options include a 2,400-watt Mark Levinson audio system with 23 speakers, one of our absolute favorite stereos on any vehicle. The Executive package adds the royal treatment to the rear seat, and for 2019 new wheel designs are available that measure up to 20 inches.

Opting for the F Sport trim adds distinct styling features, unique 20-inch wheels, 28-way power sport seats, a gauge cluster with a nifty movable center gauge and digital display, suede-like headliner, and aluminum trim and pedals.

Each LS sedan comes with a 12.3-inch infotainment display with a touchpad interface, and while it is improved over previous Lexus systems, it still feels behind the times compared to highly advanced systems from Lexus’s chief German rivals. Part of this is due to the inherent problem of operating a touchpad while driving, but much is down to slow responses and questionable ergonomics. Thankfully, the system now includes Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Amazon Echo functionality, which lets you bypass the frustrating Lexus system for most functions.

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2019 Lexus LS

Fuel Economy

A hybrid option helps average fuel economy, but the 2019 Lexus LS performs surprisingly well without it.

The 2019 Lexus LS benefits from both forced induction and hybrid technology in the fuel economy department, posting impressive numbers for a full-size luxury sedan.

Based on the gas mileage of its more popular non-hybrid edition, we rate it 4 out of 10 for fuel economy. Hybrids would earn a 5. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The EPA rates the LS 500 sedan at 19 city, 30 highway, and 23 combined mpg for rear-wheel-drive models, while opting for all-wheel drive drops those numbers to 18/27/21 mpg.

The rear-drive hybrid LS 500h does much better at 25/33/28 mpg, while all-wheel drive still comes with a slight penalty for 23/31/26 mpg. All versions of the 2019 LS require premium fuel.

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$75,450
MSRP based on LS 500 RWD
 
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7.4
Overall
Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 8
Performance 7
Comfort & Quality 10
Safety N/A
Features 8
Fuel Economy 4
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  • 2019 Lexus LS arriving
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