2020 Lexus LS 500h AWD Review – Quietly Being Green
2020 Lexus LS 500h Fast Facts
3.5-liter V6 with hybrid battery pack and electric motors (295 hp @ 5,700 rpm, 354 hp total system, torque n/a as of press time)
Four-speed hybrid automatic combined with CVT that can replicate 10-speed feel, all-wheel drive
23 city / 31 highway / 26 combined (EPA Estimated Rating, MPG)
10.3 city, 7.7 highway, 9.1 combined (NRCan Rating, L/100km)
Base Price: $83,180 (U.S) / $134,200 (Canada)
As Tested: $107,605 (U.S.) / $134,200 (Canada)
Prices include $1,025 destination charge in the United States and $2,195 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can’t be directly compared.
Hey there, Mr. or Mrs. CEO who just got charged with making your company more “green”. Lexus has a car for you.
It carries a hybrid powertrain and boasts features meant to coddle.
You just have to get past the styling. This LS is curvy and bears a large “spindle” grille that has become a hallmark of Lexus of late — and that grille is quite polarizing.
Ostensibly meant to save fuel, the LS 500h still retains some of the sport characteristics of the “regular” LS, though it’s no F Sport. Yet luxury isn’t sacrificed at the altar of fuel economy.
Nor is acceleration. This is a heavy car – over 5,000 pounds with all-wheel drive – but there’s enough torque (Lexus’ press materials don’t list an exact figure, and I didn’t get a response by press time when I queried the brand) on tap to get you going with urgency. As for horsepower, the 3.5-liter V6 makes 295 horsepower on its own, and the hybrid system makes 354 total. One electric motor serves as a generator and engine starter and controls engine speed, the other drives the rear wheels. The battery pack is lithium-ion.
As for the tranny, it’s a weird one: It’s a four-speed automatic, but can drive like a 10-speed, thanks to the magic of tech. Lexus materials also say it is coupled to a CVT, but the four gears are at the output stage.
[Get Lexus LS pricing here!]
As might be expected, highway miles disappear with ease. Smooth and quiet are applicable keywords here.
Lexus steering is often light and artificial, with the ability to tighten up in certain drive modes, and that’s the case here. You can wring a bit of driving fun out of this thing in the sporty modes, but only a bit – it’s a 5,000-pound luxury hybrid. Keep expectations low. Use the sporty modes for passing/merging and be happy.
Inside, there’s a lot going on, and not all is good. I like the integration of the infotainment screen and the curves on the top and bottom of the dash look nice. The minimalist HVAC controls don’t sacrifice function for form.
But like with other Lexus models, there are control stalks sprouting off the side of the gauge cluster, and that look has never really worked. The oddly-shaped shifter looks low-rent for a six-figure ride, and the reviled touchpad control for the infotainment system is present. It does work a bit better than you’d expect, but it still overcomplicates controls that should be simple. It can also distract from the task at hand.
You know, driving.
If you can excuse some of the more questionable design elements, the rest of the cabin is typical for Lexus – quiet, comfortable, and mostly well-appointed. Any material that’s downmarket is relatively hidden from judging eyes. If it’s cheap(ish), it’s not applied to a common touchpoint.
Like most Toyota/Lexus hybrids, transitions from one mode to another tend to be seamless.
Six figures buys you a lot of car, and in this case, one option package alone is worth five figures itself. This really is a car for the CEO.
Just getting in the door requires you to drop 83 large. That gets you going with Apple CarPlay, navigation, the hybrid powertrain, 19-inch wheels, Lexus Safety System + 2.0 (pre-collision system w/pedestrian detection, lane-tracing assist, lane-departure alert with steering assist, road sign assist, all-speed dynamic radar cruise control, and intelligent high beams), blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, parking assist with automatic braking, auto start/stop, keyless entry and starting, rearview camera, LED lighting, heated and cooled front seats, heated steering wheel, moonroof, power rear sunshade, hands-free power open/close trunk, rain-sensing wipers, dual-zone climate control, windshield de-icer, headlamp washers, 12.3-inch infotainment screen, voice command, Lexus Enform communications suite, Wi-Fi, premium audio, smartwatch/Alexa integration, premium audio, and satellite radio.
We’re just getting warmed up.
Options included Lexus Safety System + A (pre-collision with active braking, active steering assist, pedestrian alert, front cross-traffic alert, lane-change assist, $3,000), adaptive air suspension ($1,500), 20-inch chrome wheels to replace the 19s ($1,200), head-up display ($1,200), adaptive LED headlights ($300), Luxury Package (aniline leather seats, 28-way driver and passenger seat with massage function, ultrasuede headliner, power front seat buckles, heated rear seats, power outboard rear seats with recline, four-zone climate control, power side-window sunshades, and touchscreen controller, $12,250), Mark Levinson audio ($1,940), panoramic view monitor ($800), premium wood trim ($800), and heated wood and leather steering wheel ($410).
The total package offers up the luxury that’s expected, and the 31 mpg highway isn’t something to sneeze at, especially given this car’s weight. This version of the LS does exactly what it’s supposed to do – be a comfortable cruiser that eats miles without a huge penalty at the pump, while offering some passing punch and being just competent enough when it comes to handling to avoid being a complete snooze.
If you’re the boss, and you want to be pampered while being green, this is for you.
[Images © 2020 Tim Healey/TTAC]