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2018 Lexus LS 500 Overview
Lexus breaks new ground for 2018 with the introduction of its latest flagship sedan, the LS 500. Replacing the LS 460 at the top of the automaker's lineup, the LS 500 carries on the tradition of high-end, highly refined, and well-equipped LS sedans going back to the birth of the Lexus itself in 1989, when the original LS 400 was one of just two cars offered by the upscale automaker. As the lineup expanded through the decades, the LS went through various revisions and name changes, with the LS 430 (2001-2006) and LS 460 (2007-2017) following in the footsteps of the original LS 400 sedan. With each update, the LS received increasingly larger engines, improved styling, and more sophisticated features and mechanics. That holds true with the newest LS as well, which marks the debut of the luxury sedan's fifth generation.
With the unveiling of the first LS sedan nearly 30 years ago, Lexus gave discerning buyers a viable alternative to the competitive luxury sedans from European automakers like Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Jaguar, which had long controlled the segment. Once again, Lexus is pulling out all the stops with its newest LS, which showcases many of the automaker's latest styling themes and cutting-edge features. Highlights include the LS 500's futuristic coupe-like design, its all-new GA-L global luxury-vehicle platform, a new twin-turbo V6 engine, one of the world's first 10-speed automatic transmissions, an upgraded interior, and newly available safety and tech features. The automaker's goal is to once again raise the bar for luxury sedans, and at a first glance, it certainly appears as though Lexus has achieved that goal.
The 2018 LS 500 makes its initial impression visually, thanks to an eye-catching exterior design. The changes start up front, with a newly sharpened nose bearing a striking resemblance to the business end of an open-mouthed shark. Sleek and fluid, the LS 500 looks like it could cut through the air—or the water—with barely a ripple left in its wake. Lexus claims its new hourglass-shaped grille, which flares wider at the bottom than at the top, features 5,000 individual hand-adjusted mesh surfaces that change appearance in different light. The stuttered air scoops on either side of the grille are set back under the headlights and extend almost to the forward wheel wells, creating a distinctive layered look when viewed from the side. The wheels have been pushed toward the corners, providing better balance and handling but also giving the sedan a long, low, athletic look, with sidelines flowing naturally from front to rear.
By using lightweight materials like aluminum and high-tensile steel for much of the body, Lexus was able to shave more than 200 pounds from the LS 500's weight when compared to the previous version. This weight reduction allowed designers to improve body rigidity and upgrade the powerplant and suspension without making the car too heavy. The new flagship sedan shares its GA-L rear-wheel-drive (RWD) platform with the 2018 LC 500 coupe, although the LS 500 gets a stretched version with a wheelbase measuring 123 inches (compared to 113 inches for the LC 500 and 121.7 inches for the previous year's long-wheelbase LS trim). Overall, the new LS sedan measures 206.1 inches from nose to tail, compared to the LC 500’s 187.4 inches.
The LS 500 sedan sits at a 0.6-inch lower ride height for a lower center of gravity and improved handling and stability. The longer and wider body also distributes the car’s weight more evenly, resulting in a smoother ride. Lexus improved bracing in the LS 500's engine compartment, upgraded its stabilizer bars, and stiffened the suspension towers to add rigidity while ensuring good agility. Like the LC 500 coupe, the sedan rides on an updated multilink suspension that makes extensive use of aluminum to keep weight down. The new LS 500 offers a range of 19- and 20-inch wheels in 5 different designs, most of which are optimized for quiet over-the-road performance.
For 2018, Lexus has incorporated F1 technology into the LS 500's new twin-turbo 3.5-liter V6 engine. Designed to minimize noise, vibration, and fuel consumption, this V6 pumps out an impressive 415 hp and 442 lb-ft of torque and drives the sedan from 0-to-60 in about 4.5 seconds—matching the speeds of competitive V8-powered sedans, Lexus notes. The V6 links to a new 10-speed automatic transmission, which the automaker claims is a first for the RWD luxury sedan market segment. Additionally, the transmission's gear ratios are closely spaced to achieve an optimal balance between responsiveness and smooth acceleration.
The latest generation of the automaker's Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM) system monitors and manages the LS 500's new engine, transmission, platform, suspension, braking, and steering. The system uses sensor inputs to anticipate the driver's actions and appropriately adjust acceleration, agility, handling, safety, and lateral forces. Drivers can select from Normal, Sport, and Sport+ modes to ensure good handling and ride comfort on all types of road surfaces or use the available paddle shifters mounted on the steering wheel, should they wish to take control themselves. An available air suspension system raises the car and adjusts the seats when the driver activates the smart key, making it easy for passengers to enter and exit the car, and lowers the ride height for better fuel efficiency and handling when on the road.
The LS 500’s cabin is an airy, expansive, and quiet space where passengers can stretch out and enjoy the ride—thanks to the sedan’s long roofline, wider body, and numerous noise-suppression features. Both rows of redesigned seats are roomy, supportive, and almost armchair-like. The dashboard's fluid design feels aquatic, thanks to swooping horizontal lines that extend around the passengers on the sides. The outer armrests and the foot-wide padded center console are carefully positioned at the same height, adding to seating comfort, and Lexus designed the ambient lighting to resemble Japanese lanterns. Owners can add available 28-way power-adjustable front seats as well as heating, cooling, and Shiatsu massaging seat functions. Other upgrades include a 3D Surround Sound Mark Levinson audio package with in-ceiling speakers and a 12.3-inch screen, as well as an optional 24-inch color heads-up display that Lexus claims is the largest in-car display in the world.
The LS 500’s 6 side windows, a first for a Lexus sedan, include triangular windows behind the rear seats for additional interior light. The outer slide-type moonroof helps ensure maximum headroom. Second-row passengers will find their seats as comfortable and spacious as those in the front, with plenty of legroom, ample armrests, and a padded center console. Again, owners can add heating, cooling, and massage functions to the rear seats, as well as an ottoman and reclining seatbacks. The warm, comfortable cabin can be further enhanced by an array of available natural wood trims with various Japanese-inspired patterns, layers, and crisscross effects.
Beyond the base LS 500 sedan, Lexus recently announced a performance-oriented F Sport package with a unique grille and rocker panels and special 20-inch wheels. The interior gets a sporty makeover as well, with an F Sport steering wheel, aluminum pedals, and front sport seats with Ultrasuede upholstery. Opting for the available F Sport Handling package further adds dynamic handling and a sport-tuned air suspension.
As with all its vehicles, Lexus makes safety a priority with the LS 500. The Lexus Safety System+ suite comes standard and includes dynamic radar cruise control, intelligent high beams, and a lane-departure alert with steering assist. An Advanced Safety package is also available and adds Intuitive Pedestrian Detection with Active Steering, which can automatically brake and steer around a pedestrian. Lexus claims another world first with this feature.
Lexus is shooting for the stars with the new LS 500 and has staked a lot on its flagship sedan, which will be sold in 90 markets across 6 continents. It will no doubt be competing against the best sedans from BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar, Audi, and others for a long time to come.
Rob has been a contributor to CarGurus since 2007, and an automotive test-driver and writer since the early ’90s. He’s test-driven everything from BMWs and Jags to Bentleys and Saabs, with an occasional Range Rover, Ferrari, Porsche or Lamborghini thrown in. He also created the annual Car of the Year and Exotic Car of the Year awards for Robb Report magazine. He currently resides in California.
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