2018 Lexus LS: Video Review and Road Test
The 2018 Lexus LS enters the luxury segment at an uncertain time when well-heeled buyers seem more enamored with full-size SUVs than traditional sedans. As a result, Lexus has a tall order in attracting these customers while going head-on against rivals like the Audi A8, BMW 7 Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class. Still, the redesigned Lexus LS flagship has plenty to offer at prices that undercut the competition as Micah Muzio discovers in this Video Review and Road Test.
2018 Lexus LS Video Transcript
If you're looking to buy a full-size luxury car why would you choose a Lexus LS versus all these guys? Lexus's historically high resale values are one reason, but man, this is a luxury car. Maybe we can dig up some reasons that have a little more emotion. Design is one place to mine emotion.
In recent years Lexus has injected lots of visual interest into its lineup, as evidenced by the LS's sharp, athletic, yet stately exterior. Huge grilles are all the rage these days, but at least this oversized spindle is intriguingly intricate.
I think Lexus's design efforts are most successful inside. With these organic flowing lines and universally outstanding materials, the cabin feels fresh, inviting, and properly luxurious. Standout details include stylish floating arm rests, wood trim that gracefully imitates the arc of the door stitching, and a dual-action center armrest that, to be honest, is no more functional than one hinged at the rear. But it's still kind of neat and, most importantly, well-padded.
Of course, a luxury car ain't a luxury car without excellent seats. In that spirit, the Lexus LS has superbly comfortable seats that are extremely adjustable and offer a massage function that actually feels like a massage. Awesome but accessing the seat's full abilities is not simple. Seat-based controls handle the basics but for deeper adjustment along with heating cooling and massage functions, which are oddly labeled "refresh", you have to push a button then dig through on-screen menus using the Lexus remote touch interface. Doing so while driving could be dicey.
On that note the Remote Touch interface uses this pad to control a cursor on that 12.3-inch screen. When the cursor reaches a selection point the pad gives a little tap to my finger. I personally have no problem with the interface but some of my KBB compadres really do. Smart move: try before you buy.
One universal complaint is a lack of modern smartphone integration via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. While most car makers offer these technologies Lexus and parent company Toyota remains stubborn holdouts.
On a more positive note, Lexus has a knack for sculpting comfortable, supportive, pressure point free seats, a skill clearly applied in the LS. In back outboard headroom is great but legroom, while 3.4 inches larger than the previous LS, could be greater, especially considering the absurdly roomy back seats in non-luxury midsize cars like, let's say, the Honda Accord.
That said, the legroom issue has a solution. Sit on the right side and with a few presses you can shuttle the front seat forward to exploit the rear seat's 48-degree recline and optional ottoman. Control for these highly-adjustable seats occurs through a simple touchscreen housed in the center armrest. So if you want to adjust your seat, do it before someone steals the middle spot, which is, by the way, a marginal place to sit thanks to a large center tunnel and limited headroom up front.
The previous generation V8 engine has been replaced by a 3.5-liter twin turbo V6 teamed with a 10-speed automatic transmission sporting three overdrive gears that do their part to improve fuel economy. It might not sound as cool as a V8 but the turbo six can thrust the LS from zero to Are you not amused? Red lights!
There's also an LS 500 H hybrid that blends an efficient Atkinson cycle 3.5 liter V6 with two electric motors, a lithium-ion battery pack, and the odd combination of a planetary continuously variable transmission and a 4-speed automatic gear set. This setup delivers 0 to 60 acceleration a mere half second slower than the normal LS and fuel economy that's really good for a big ole luxury sedan. FYI, while the standard LS offers up to 17 cubic feet of trunk space, that number drops to as little as 14 cubic feet with the hybrid, smaller than a Toyota Camry's trunk.
From a driver engagement standpoint...oh hey...this cord just fell on my pants. From a driver engagement standpoint the steering wheel does not convey a strong sense of intimacy with the front tires. If you want a large luxury sedan that's also a top tier driver's car, there are better options. I did pass that guy pretty quickly though. One being the Lexus LS 500 F Sport, offering a 0-percent bump in power but bigger brakes, quicker shifts, and increased agility versus the non-F Sport LS.
Even so, when asked, the regular LS can hustle itself through corners quickly and with minimal body roll. Hustle a little bit too much and the brake pedal responds to your desperate stabs with a firm confident feel. Didn't hit that big cement mixer.
Really though, a large luxury sedan's prime responsibility is to smooth the world's rough edges. To that end bumps and potholes are greatly lessened by the standard adaptive variable suspension. Flip the drive mode selector from Comfort to Sport or Sport+ and the suspension and drivetrain sharpen their responses in the ways you'd expect. The selector is kind of a reach from the driver seat but there is no confusion about where to find it. Also if you like knurled surfaces this little guy is super knurled.
In standard roughly $76,000 form including destination, the Lexus LS features LED headlights, passive entry and push-button start, a power rear sunshade, a power trunk, active noise cancellation to maintain a serene driving environment, and Lexus safety system plus, which bundles adaptive cruise control, intelligent high beams, pre-collision with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, and lane keep assist. With the advanced package the LS gains front cross traffic alert, road sign recognition, Lane Trace Assist that uses the vehicle ahead to help judge where the lane is, and active steering assist that can intervene to avoid collisions with people and objects.
On the non-safety option roster are all-wheel drive with a Torsen limited-slip center differential, a smooth-riding air suspension that raises the ride height for easier boarding, a head-up display that greets the driver in spectacular fashion, a cool 360-degree camera system that lets you scan around the vehicle prior to departure, and a variety of interior motifs including hand-pleated upholstery and spectacular Kiriko-cut glass ornamentation, though I personally prefer the beautifully restrained and cheaper wood trim.
Reserved for the rear-drive gasoline-powered LS F Sport is a handling package with variable ratio steering, active rear wheel steering, and a sport-tuned air suspension. As mentioned, there are plenty of German, American, English, and even Korean competitors in the full-size luxury sedan space offering varying levels of luxury performance and technology. But even among this crowd the Lexus LS makes a strong case for itself where reliability, comfort, and style are concerned. And hey, if none of that stuff moves your needle remember, we'll always have resale values.