Lexus LS500h 2021 Executive Innovation test: differentiating luxury


More than a flagship model, the Lexus LS is also the flagship of the Japanese brand, which for more than 30 years has successfully established itself in the global automotive landscape as a premium manufacturer. At the start of 2017 at the Detroit Motor Show, Lexus lifts the veil on the fifth generation of its top-of-the-range sedan by confirming its success in imposing hybrid technology on this segment and by pushing the design gimmicks involved in the installation to the extreme. 'a true visual identity of a brand common to the entire range. Here we are trying the Facelift version unveiled at the end of 2020.

An old memory

In 2018, my esteemed colleague Jean-Baptiste was full of praise for the first discovery on the blog of this fifth generation of Lexus LS (test to be re-read here). Long fascinated by this car with the delicious taste of exoticism in our French automotive landscape, I have since started to think of a way to allow me to one day get behind the wheel of this fabulous beast which persisted in recalling its existence in a corner of my head every time I checked Lexus test availability. It ended up gradually out of my mind, helped by the fact that I strongly doubted the interest for the Japanese brand to offer this type of car to test in France in the years to come, as its sales had to be confidential. . What was not my surprise a few weeks ago when I discovered through my walks on Instagram a “story” shared by the press officer of the brand proudly displaying the Lexus LS500h Facelift for a face to face with the Mercedes S-Class of the latest generation. The rest you know it, a phone call, a reservation for a weekend, and here I am all excited to finally touch one of the cars that intrigued me the most until then.

Facelift under the radars

To be honest, the passage through the "Facelift" box of the Lexus LS500h had completely passed me under the radar. It was by noting the recent license plate of the test model that I began to suspect that something had been hatched in the past months for Lexus to replace its test model with a brand new brand new one. .

On the aesthetic side, the updates remain very thin. The front optics lose finesse and form a single compact unit, much like the stylistic update on the RC Coupe, incorporating the typical checkmark-shaped daytime light signature previously placed under the main headlight assembly. The front end becomes even more massive, if it wasn't enough before. At the rear, also a single micro-change, the lights lose their horizontal chrome and become more massive here too. The stern (it is the case to say it given the size) is probably the part that I like the least about this Lexus LS. Lack of finesse, very American in the lines in short. The fact remains that we can easily agree on one thing: the Lexus LS impresses. First of all, because of his size. Its dimensions are quite eye-catching. 5m24 in length, the Lexus LS is positioned from the start as one of the most imposing in its class. This is 6 cm longer than an Audi A8, 12 more than a BMW 7 Series but 5 less than the last Mercedes S-Class. Its configuration then. While the use of neutral colors suits this sedan wonderfully, the choice of Moon Gray with pearly accents and depth that is difficult to capture in images is more appealing than it seems. Finally, the use of chrome in the grille, around the windows, on the door sills, on the trunk and even on the rims is surprising.

Simplified range

For this 2021 vintage, exit the 100% thermal with the 3.5 L Biturbo V6 of 417 hp, the Lexus LS only offers one hybrid engine: an atmospheric 3.5 L V6 of 299 hp associated with an electric motor of 179 hp for a combined power of 359 hp. The sedan remains available in 2 or 4 wheel drive. As usual with the Japanese, few or no options available, only the levels of finishes give you access to a wider choice of equipment. The LS is therefore available in 4 trim levels: Luxury, F-Sport, Executive & Executive Innovation. This latest level includes for the first time at Lexus a digital central mirror that reflects the image captured by a camera located at the license plate level, next to the rear view camera. Confusing to use and not necessarily very practical. The range starts at € 102,990 and our test model is priced at € 155,690, including two options: the exterior paint at € 2,700 and the black leather interior and exclusive black Haku wood inserts, invoiced at € 10,000. just that…

Private lounge

Let's talk about this interior, which in itself deserves a complete article. If the colors chosen do not mark at first glance by their originality, the choice of materials is itself free from any criticism. Leather covers almost all of the elements on board, except for the lower part of the door trims. The dashboard cap, the glove box, the upper part of the doors, the armrests, the attention to every detail flatters the discerning eye. The headliner as well as the upper part of the door trims are adorned with Alcantara and a black wood veneer that we remember fondly on the inner part of the rim of the steering wheel as well as around the gear selector. The 12.3-inch central screen is the only update on board and for the occasion, makes the use of the Apple CarPlay / Android Auto compatible multimedia system particularly easy since it becomes 100% tactile when stationary as working. One then wonders why Lexus saw fit to keep the touch pad, which is not very ergonomic. The front seats are obviously electrically adjustable in 18 positions and offer massage, air conditioning and heating functions from the first trim level. 5 massage modes are available, adjustable in intensity on 5 levels. The only downside, even if you will say that I quibble are ………. floor mats. Not very elegant, coarse stitching, surprising finesse and hastily embroidered Lexus lettering, one even wonders if these are indeed the carpets specific to the LS. Surprising to find this kind of detail in such a beautiful setting.

The rear seats also deserve attention, especially the rear right-hand passenger seat. The Lexus LS comes standard with 5 seats, of which the middle one is more like a jump seat. But once that 5th place is sacrificed and the center armrest lowered, another world awaits you. For the rear-right passenger, it is no longer 18 but 22 possible adjustment positions. Individual air conditioning, electric sun blinds on the passenger windows, the two rear quarter panels on each side and also the rear window (which can be triggered from the driving position), 7 massage functions available at 5 intensity levels, two tablets touchscreen, HDMI port, DVD / Blue-ray player, heated / air-conditioned seats and the possibility of lying down almost completely for the right rear passenger who is once again the place to be aboard this Lexus LS. Of course, this is nothing new. Many manufacturers have offered this kind of seat on their flagships for several decades now, but this is the very first time that I can experience this kind of position in a car and I do not shy away from my pleasure.

On the road, cry and serenity

If the displayed performance is almost surprising in terms of the weight / power ratio, everything aboard this Lexus LS exudes calm and serenity, each movement of the body, each acceleration, each braking needs to be meticulously broken down to adopt a senator's pace. as neutral as possible and do not rush your passengers, who at this price level will often be “important” people. Businessmen, ambassadors, statesmen, wealthy landlords, and some of the best. 0 to 100 km / h is shot in 5.5 seconds, the same time as a Yaris GR to compare. As you can imagine, the character of the two beasts remains poles apart. Combined with a 10-speed gearbox (the same as on the Lexus LC500), the naturally aspirated 3.5L V6 turns out to be rather noisy at the slightest frank push. It must be said that the automatic gearbox is in fact a converter box (aaah the mythical Toyota CVTs) with artificial complement ratios and is therefore not suited to a rhythmic driving but rather favors a stabilized speed at low revs to the benefit of the tranquility of your passengers via spectacular soundproofing and consumption easily maintained under 9 L / 100 km on the highway. However, the engine responds to the finger and the eye and the toll exits are an opportunity to demonstrate that this liner knows how to spank a good part of the rolling stock in a straight line if the need to disturb the nap of the VIP passenger arises. made felt.

The Lexus LS500h comes with all the driving aids that allow level 2 autonomous driving. You can learn to drive smoothly, starting with the handling of the two pedals. A slight pressure on the accelerator pedal will wake up the V6, whose quiet purring will not disturb the peace of your passengers on board and will allow you to get out of almost any situation where gaining speed is necessary. Only the brake pedal takes a little practice before it is fully understood. Low pressure barely slows down the LS’s nearly 2.3 tonnes of unladen, while a few millimeters more propels occupants forward with heavy braking. A spongy character not so compatible with the conduct of a master driver. It is therefore at a steady pace over the long haul that the Lexus demonstrates the full extent of its expertise by offering services worthy of Emirates Airlines Business class, even for the driver. The latter benefits from an absolutely complete and surprisingly wide head-up display containing all the information essential to driving, including driving mode, current speed and direction reminders. The Mark Levinson Reference Surround Audio System envelops that will have the chance to listen to one of the purest acoustic experience I have ever heard in a car, if you can still call it a car. Far from the extravagance of the Scene Mode of the Bowers & Wilkins Volvo system so acclaimed by the media (including ours and I agree that this is a real master's cost to have experienced it), the 23 high- Speakers transcribe with disconcerting fidelity the slightest note both from my playlist “100 masterpieces of classical music” as from my favorite U2 albums. Enough to make you want to give up everything to become a driver aboard an LS.

The icing on the cake, I could not resist the urge after seeing a test of the 2018 version on video insisting on the acceptance of the LS in the face of a “authoritative steering wheel” to see by me- even what a few frank stresses on the mechanics and the chassis could give. 5 driving modes are then available to you. Efficiency, Comfort, Normal, Sport & Sport + with even the possibility left to the driver to deactivate ESP via the upper dial to the left of the dashboard cap. If the beast accuses its weight and suffers from a pre-dominant roll from the first tens of km / h reached, its stability and its rigor of heading in long curves as in steep bends are to be positioned at the rank of excellence. at least as much as its surprising agility, once again in view of its very American size. The air suspension with controlled damping does great things in handling and absorbing unevenness in the surface. The behavior is relatively healthy for anyone who wants to rush his beautiful limousine (or to escape a bunch of big SUV thugs). The box is for its part, even in Sport + completely pick up in its 10 reports whose passage from one to the other results in unpleasant bursts of the whole body which is felt right down to the bottom of the driver's back, which is why the exercise quickly cut short.

Exotic pricing and positioning

If the large sedan market in France turns out to be totally dominated by the German trio and in particular by the Mercedes S-Class which can argue without complex being the master in the field of avant-garde in the segment, the Lexus LS has at less for it the art of cultivating its difference over the generations and without blushing to confirm its positioning exclusively turned towards the hybrid by eliminating its thermal version, at least on the old continent. This choice still earned it an honorable score of around 9.0 L / 100 kms on average on our test, figures that the competition achieves without too much difficulty…. but in Diesel. Not the most technological, not the most economical either, the choice of the LS is made in full knowledge of the facts and if two more arguments were needed to convince you, know that it will be one of the best ways to look like the Honorable Harvey Specter (for fans of the series Suits) without going through the law studies box, and on the other hand, the penalty displayed by the LS500h in 2021 is between € 3,331 and € 5,105 depending on the version chosen. Hurry before the weight penalty sticks its nose in there …

Some numbers

Dimensions: 5235x1900x1460
Curb weight: 2280 kg
Boot volume: 430 L
Tank volume: 73 L
Combined consumption announced (WLTP): 7.1 L / 100 kms
Average announced CO2 emissions (WLTP): between 171 and 178 gCO2 / km
Displacement: 3456 cc
Max power: 359 hp at 6,600 rpm
Max torque: 500 Nm at 3000 rpm
Max speed: 250 km / h
0 to 100 km / h: 5.5 sec

Photos / video credits: Maurice Cernay

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