SEATTLE — With its 2019 LS 500 Hybrid, Lexus has pulled out all the stops. Having made a reputation, over the years, for having amazingly detailed interiors remains at the core of the LS 500h. While it is perhaps the zenith of Lexus’ somewhat polarizing spindle grill, it does wear it rather well. If you contrast it to the rest of the car’s design cues, it certainly fits right in.
When Lexus decides to go all in for making a luxury statement, it can do so with a great amount of flare and the LS 500h has that in spades. We have a very Japanese design going that combines sharp lines with roundness as well in a contrasted way that makes for a rather unique-looking luxury sedan.
That hybrid drive system:
This Hybrid model uses a V6 engine in conjunction with an electric motor that has a combined output of 354 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. While the torque number is quite lower than we expected, the added benefit of the electric motor helps you feel it sooner. The kicker here is that Lexus has mated it to a 4-speed CVT (continuously variable transmission) which makes for a more muted driving experience. It feeds an advanced all-wheel-drive system that does a good job of helping maintain traction during inclement weather.
Available drive modes include eco, normal, sport and sport+. Each one changes the engine performance, handling, steering wheel feel and shift patterns. In fact, if you shift into Sport+ mode, you’ll soon forget this car is a hybrid and as heavy as it really is. The car really springs to life and in fact will jaunt from a dead stop to sixty miles per hour in a mere 5.3 seconds. Not slow by any stretch. Especially for a hybrid. You’ll find the car riding on 19-inch alloy wheels with 245/50R19 V-rated, run-flat tires.
It’s what is on the inside that counts:
The primary reason for buying a top-end luxury sedan is for the experience and serenity one feels while driving or riding inside such a vehicle. It’s this particular area where the LS 500h really stands out. It was not long ago when one could easily make the case for the quality delta between high-end German sedans and Japanese. Not any more. Not only is the LS 500h interior incredible, it rises head and shoulders above the competition. There is simply no surface inside that feels or looks cheap. It’s as if Lexus slipped its design team a solid supply of steroids.
You see it in the folded fabric on the door inlays and the glass positioned around the door handle area and the speaker grills. The level of craftsmanship and attention to detail absolutely helps justify this cars price tag.
Seat comfort in all four locations are among the best you’ll find in any car, regardless of price. Not only are all four locations served with heated and cooled seats, the rear seats also have full control via a touchpad screen in the fold-down middle console. They have a recline position and the right-hand rear passenger seat can actually make the right-front seat move forward and fold for more leg room. Inside this car is nicer than some people’s homes. Yeah. it’s that good. Front seats even include a time-controlled massage feature. Why Lexus puts a timer on it, is beyond our comprehension. However, having massaging is still a much welcomed touch!
The large, infotainment screen is a nice feature, however, it’s still hampered by Lexus’ continued use of awkward interfaces. The glidepad, while perhaps a bit better than their “mouse” interface, still leaves a great deal to be desired. It simply doesn’t give the users a good sense of command when using it.
Our continued love and adoration of Lexus’ Mark Levinson audio system is confirmed in this car. Quite frankly, we have heard no better-sounding system in any other luxury brand. Without trying to resort to excessive hyperbole, you really do need to experience it to believe it. It even features speakers in the headliner to give you a far more 3-dimensional experience than what was capable in past generations.
On the road, the car – while in sport+ mode – handles above expectations. Given its heavy curb weight, we expected far less than what we experienced. While it still is a heavy luxury car, the steering and suspension helped it feel lighter on its feet. No doubt that some German competitors may handle a bit better, the LS 500h can hold its own. Toss in the renowned Lexus reliability and you’ve made a strong case for why this car is worth a high consideration.
Our test model carried a sticker price of $107,355 dollars. And while that is clearly a ton of money for a car, it’s totally on-point for a high-end luxury sedan of this caliber. Even though the Hybrid model drives well, it still leaves us scratching our heads for this reason. Why would anyone that has this kind of money to spend on a car, care about fuel economy? For a wealthy person, when the tank gets empty, they fill it, no questions asked. So it’s difficult to understand who the buyer is of the Hybrid versus the V8 model.
In the end, however, Lexus has done an amazing job of spoiling any occupant of its LS 500h with the lap of luxury. You’ll find it’s quiet, relaxing and everything one could hope for in a modern luxury car.