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2018 Lexus LS 500h Overview
At the Detroit Auto Show earlier this year, Lexus introduced its new flagship LS 500 with twin-turbo V6 power, and at the more recent Geneva Motor Show, the automaker unveiled its highly anticipated hybrid version of this full-size luxury sedan—the LS 500h. Built on the new Lexus Global Architecture – Luxury (GA-L) platform also found underneath the new LC Coupe, the 2018 LS 500h looks remarkably similar to the standard LS 500 on the exterior, with little more than a few hybrid badges and a blue ring around the Lexus emblem to set it apart.
Like the standard LS 500, the LS 500h comes with a 3.5-liter V6 engine under the hood. It’s not a hot twin-turbo unit, however, as it’s coupled with the Lexus Multi-Stage Hybrid system that includes 2 electric motors and a new lithium-ion hybrid battery. The battery is reportedly 20 percent smaller but also has a higher power density than the nickel-metal hydride unit in the old LS 600h L, which is the model that this car replaces. The LS 500h also uses a novel transmission system that combines a hybrid 2-motor continuously variable transmission (CVT) with a 4-speed automatic to imitate the feel and shift of the standard LS 500’s 10-speed automatic. This system is reportedly not plagued by the “rubber band” feel of many traditional CVT automatics, and it does come with a manual shifting mode.
Although it’s a hybrid, the LS 500h is no slouch in the power department, with 354 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque for the whole system and a 0-to 60 time of 5.4 seconds. That is of course still well down from the 415 hp and 442 lb-ft of torque that you get in the standard LS 500 and even further from the soon-to-be-announced LS 500 F Sport’s power figures, but it’s more than adequate. The LS 500h is available with either rear-wheel drive (RWD) or all-wheel drive (AWD). It features a multi-link suspension, and the GA-L platform is reportedly very rigid and has a low center of gravity as well as even weight distribution. Of course, the big appeal of a hybrid is fuel efficiency, but while the numbers haven’t been announced yet, expect them to be better than the unimpressive 19 mpg city, 23 highway, and 20 combined of the outgoing LS 600h L, which was in fact one of the least fuel-efficient hybrids on the market.
Lexus drew inspiration for the LS 500h’s interior design from the Japanese concept of selfless hospitality, or “omotenashi.” The cabin is available with beautiful hand-pleated origami-inspired interior door trims and glass ornamentation made using Japanese Kiriko techniques. The rest of the Japanese-themed interior is similarly pleasing, with natural woodwork and sliced wood bits throughout. The front and rear seats come with heating, cooling and massaging features, and an optional extending leg ottoman can be added to the rear seats. As far as interior comfort goes, the LS 500h’s 123-inch wheelbase makes the car 1.3 inches longer than the old LS 600h L, and Lexus claims it offers more rear legroom than any previous LS model.
While it hasn’t been crash tested yet, it’s reasonable to assume the 2018 LS 500h’s rather new platform and rigid chassis will perform well. In terms of safety features, an available Advanced Safety package includes an industry-first Intuitive Pedestrian-Detection system with active steering within traffic lanes. Pricing hasn’t been announced for the 2018 LS 500h, but it’s expected to be priced similarly to the outgoing LS 600h L, which came in at just over $120,000.
Since 2012, Andrew Newton has been writing about cars both old and new. Andrew has been an associate editor at Sport Car Digest as well as a contributor to sites like BoldRide and JamesEdition. He was also the Education Manager at the Larz Anderson Auto Museum in Brookline, MA before becoming the Auction Editor at Hagerty Classic Car Insurance. He currently splits his time behind the wheel between his NA Miata, 1994 Corvette, and Triumph TR6.
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