When Toyota put the luxury segment on notice with the introduction of the Lexus brand back in 1989, Lexus proved that a brand from Japan could compete with the best from Germany. Since then Lexus has continued with the same formula that continues to churn out well built, luxurious models, but their styling has yet to ever be called exciting or stunning, except for the LFA supercar.
Now Lexus is ready to mix things up. It started with the sexy LC coupe and now the 2018 LS flagship sedan has received a through makeover that ditches those boring exteriors from the past. Taken as a whole, the 2018 Lexus LS could easily be called the most stylish LS ever. The 2018 Lexus LS incorporates the latest iteration of the Spindle Grille, which might be its most aggressive application yet. The huge grille is so in your face that it may be a bit polarizing, especially if you like a little more subtlety when it comes to automotive design.
As you move back towards the rear, you’ll notice that the 2018 Lexus LS has a much more sculpted exterior than before. The boring box has been thrown out and replaced with a curvaceous exterior that makes the BMW 7 Series and even the all-new Audi A8, look a bit boring. Even the roofline with its rounded design helps the 2018 LS stand out and at the rear the stylish taillights and aggressive rear bumper give the LS a sportier look than before.
Inside the “style” theme continues with an interior that is anything but conservative. This time the designers went all out with an elegantly styled dashboard with higher quality materials and stylish door panels that give the LS an interior that not only feels more futuristic, but also more luxurious than ever before. There were a few qualms with the new interior though. For starters, the stylish roofline eats into rear headroom a bit, since a few of our 6 foot tall friends found the headspace in the rear a little less than ideal.
While we can forgive a little bit of headroom for style, the bigger issue with the interior is the frustrating infotainment system. The infotainment system features a very large 12.3-inch screen, which is great, but its track pad controller isn’t very easy to use and can be a bit distracting. To access your music selections, set a destination in the navigation system or even adjust the massaging seats, it can be quite a task. Also while Lexus seems like it’s going to finally jump on the Apple Car Play bandwagon, since the new UX crossover is getting the connectivity, the Lexus LS doesn’t offer it, yet.
The infotainment system may have its flaws, but the new head up display is a little more advanced. The 24-inch display is massive and not only displays pertinent information like your speed and engine RPM, but it is also integrated with the Pedestrian Alert and Front Cross Traffic Alert systems to display warnings if a pedestrian or vehicle is crossing in front of you. This is great when you’re moving, but it can be a little distracting when you’re sitting a stop light, since it flashes a warning each time a car passes in front of you.
Your rear seat passengers will feel like they are riding in first class, since the two outboard seats not only recline, but they have the same massage functionality as the front seats. The massaging and climate controlled rear seats are part of the Executive package that also adds four zone climate control, power side window shades, a 7-inch touchscreen in the rear and semi-aniline leather.
Besides the forgettable styling, previous LS models have never been too engaging to drive. Sure the LS has always had a “library quiet” interior and its suspension has managed to make sure you never felt an of the road’s imperfections, but it came with a cost – fun. Now the the Lexus LS feels more like a sports sedan with its tighter suspension and more lively steering. The adaptive suspension also does a good job at keeping body roll in check.
Under the hood the LS offers two options, the LS 500 is powered by a 3.5L twin-turbocharged V6 with 416 horsepower and 442 lb-ft. of torque, that’s mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission or the LS 500h hybrid, which is powered by a 3.5L hybrid powertrain with 354 horsepower. Both the LS 500 and LS 500h are available with rear or all-wheel drive. The rear-wheel drive LS 500 is rated at 19/30 mpg, while the all-wheel drive version is rated at 18/27 mpg. The rear-wheel drive LS 500h is the most fuel efficient option with its 25/33 mpg rating, while the all-wheel drive version is still impressive at 23/31 mpg.
On the road our LS 500 tester felt sportier than we expected. The twin-turbocharged V6 feels punchy and you’d easily mistake it for being a V8. With a 0-60 mph time of 4.6 seconds, the LS 500 is definitely no slouch.
The future of large sedans is constantly called into question given the fact that crossovers are now the chosen vehicle by the masses, but it’s good to see that Lexus just didn’t thrown in the towel with the LS. Rather than create another well built box, Lexus has finally made the LS a stylish, first class sedan. Will it have the same effect on the segment that the original did back in 1989? We’ll see…
The 2018 Lexus 500 starts at $76,025, while the LS 500h starts at $80,535 with the destination fees.