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Old 10-13-2019, 08:08 AM   #1
Scooby Guru
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Join Date: Nov 2004
Default 2019 Lexus LS500h

Thirty years on from the launch of the Lexus brand, Toyotaís luxury unit is now firmly ensconced in the premium automotive firmament. While the Lexus lineup has grown substantially over the years, especially on the SUV side with everything from the compact UX to the gargantuan LX, the two original sedans, the ES and LS are still with us. The fifth-generation LS debuted two years ago with a bold new look and lots of technology.

The LS (then called the LS400) came out of the chute in a very conservative suit that at the time was justifiably accused of being a Mercedes-Benz S-class knock-off. It was an excellent luxury sedan with a degree of serenity and smoothness that rivaled Rolls-Royce combined with the reliability of a Toyota and unparalleled customer service. Over the years, the LS moved away from the faux-Mercedes design but retained a bit of a wallflower look. Even when the fourth-generation got the brandís new spindle grille design in 2012, it still declined to scream ďlook at me!Ē

Generation five changed that with a more pronounced interpretation of the grille and lights that draw heavily on the gorgeous LC coupe. In fact this LS is very much the elder, more mature brother of the LC. The grille is large and prominent, but the creases pulling away from it give the whole face a sleek look that doesnít come across as overbearing. Sculpted lines continue down the flanks to a tight tail that is also reminiscent of the coupe.

Like its predecessors, the LS has rear wheel drive as standard and all-wheel drive continues as an option. One notable change is that this is the first generation of LS that doesnít have a V8 engine under the hood. The standard LS500 is now motivated by a twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 generating 416-hp and 442 lb-ft of torque.

The LS500h hybrid that I tested carries the same powertrain that debuted in the LC500h coupe, a 3.5-liter naturally aspirated Atkinson cycle V6 paired with the new Lexus Multi-stage hybrid system. This new generation hybrid system is something of a departure for Toyota. It has the usual two-motor-generator setup with a planetary gear set attached to one motor. That motor acts as a variable ground to enable continuously variable ratios.

This then feeds into a more conventional four-speed automatic gear set that provides a broader operating window for the system. If this all sounds vaguely familiar, itís same basic concept behind GMís old two-mode hybrid system that debuted on its trucks and SUVs just over a decade ago. The extra gears allow the system to achieve higher efficiency at highway speeds. On the rear-drive LS500h, it manages 25 mpg city, 33 mpg highway and 28 mpg combined. With all-wheel-drive, the numbers drop by 2 mpg across the board.

The new LS is about 200 lbs lighter than before and with a smaller lithium ion battery replacing the old nickel metal hydride unit, it also has significantly more trunk space at 17 cubic feet compared to just 13 cubic feet before.

The cabin remains largely a wonderful place to spend time while traveling. The materials feel like something that belongs in a $100,000 car with soft, supple leather, wood and metal. There is also one of the largest heads-up displays Iíve yet encountered in a production vehicle and it remains very visible with polarized sunglasses.

There is one notable fly in the interior ointment. The LS still has the same trackpad interface now found in several Lexus models including the LC. The user interface on the central display is rather mediocre and having to use the pad to navigate it only makes it worse. It features haptic feedback as the cursor hits targets on the screen, but because it is a relative motion pad like the ones found on computers, it can often take multiple swipes to get where you want to go. Itís just a bad user experience whether using it while driving or standing still. The improved voice recognition helps overcome this but even that is still not good enough. The LS has support for Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa voice services which helps if you use those systems. If like me you are an Android user, Android Auto hasnít yet arrived.

The LS has the usual full array of driver assist systems including adaptive cruise and what Lexus calls Lane Tracing Assist (LTA). LTA is a lane centering system that does a decent job of keeping the car evenly between the lane markings as long as the road is straight or at most mildly curved. However, even some highway curves proved too much for the system to hold, allowing the car to drift beyond the paint lines. Suffice to say, you need to keep your hands on the wheel.

One unique aspect of the LS is the front cross traffic alert. This functions in same way as the rear cross traffic alerts increasingly found on many new vehicles. A pair of short range radar sensors in the front corners detect traffic approaching from either direction at an intersection. When vehicles are detected approaching from either side, bright flashing sequential arrows that indicate the side and direction of travel light up in the HUD to provide an alert before you cross the intersection or turn. It also works in parking lots when you are pulling out of a space and hopefully this will be coming to more cars in the future.

When I owned an early LS400/ CS 400 back in 1991, the original LS600h a decade ago, they were definitely biased toward a quiet, serene environment and they were soft. In the Akio Toyoda era, the LS has definitely adopted just a bit of aggression in the exhaust note and more controlled attitude toward driving dynamics. While the LS isnít likely to be quite as at home on a track as the LC is, it can certainly handle lifeís corners and twists much better than in the past. Acceleration also comes with a pleasant enough soundtrack albeit not quite what youíll find in a Supra and when cruising on the highway, the serenity is still there.

When I reviewed the original LS hybrid, I complained that electrification didnít bring along a whole lot added performance or efficiency while carrying a substantial $16,000 cost premium. Today, the hybrid is no longer marketed as a V12 performance equivalent and actually provides a more substantial boost in efficiency for a premium of just $4,500. Thatís a lot more reasonable and if you can live with a slight step down in performance from the twin-turbo V6, itís probably worth it. If that trackpad doesnít drive you bonkers, the LS is a great place to spend time as either a driver or passenger. As tested with most options, my example came to $97,350 delivered.
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Old 10-13-2019, 02:05 PM   #2
Papi Chulo
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Yeesh, that looks awful.
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Old 10-13-2019, 06:10 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by godfather2112 View Post
Yeesh, that looks awful.
Just as with the Cherokee, IS, Toyota corporate face on everything (Prius V, ugh) your eye will become accustomed to it in a year or two.
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Old 10-13-2019, 06:22 PM   #4
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That new hybrid system is very interesting:

Start at 1:14 or so to get to the meat of it. 4-speed planetary gearset behind the usual 2 motor-generator power split device. 10 virtual speeds created as a result, with the benefits of better use of the engine for acceleration at low speeds, lower rpm at higher road speeds, and electric-only operation up to 140 km/h in the RC, at least.
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Old 10-14-2019, 12:53 AM   #5
White out
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Overall, that car has such a great design (inside and out), yet all I can see is the grill. It's about time for that design element to be retired.
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Old 10-16-2019, 07:22 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by White out View Post
Overall, that car has such a great design (inside and out),
I'm still waiting for them to retire that trackpad so I can buy a Lexus.
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