What’s new for 2021?
Finally, Lexus has listened and added a new 12.3-inch multimedia touchscreen for all LS models. The fussy touch pad continues but it’s now enhanced by shortcut buttons and the infotainment screen has been moved forward in the very pretty new dash design. The more minor changes include fine tuning of the suspension and chassis for a smoother and more comfortable ride.
The suspension features revised spring and damper rates for improved damping performance. To better control vehicle body roll in turns, the diameters of the front and rear anti-roll bars have been optimized. For the 2021 model year, larger front and rear liquid-filled bushings also aid in creating an even plusher ride.
Under the hood
What hasn’t changed is the silky smooth 3.5-liter, twin-turbo V6 engine which generates 416 horsepower and 442 lb-ft of torque driven through an excellent 10-speed transmission. It has received updated piston technology for low emissions and quieter operation and the shift logic of the 10-speed automatic transmission has been tweaked to optimize the engine’s power.
It’s a great engine and works perfectly with this car, I just wish this engine was spread around more models, but rumors are that Lexus is developing a new twin-turbo six for future and current models.
The LS 500 weighs in at a hefty 4,707 lb but this doesn’t stop it from going from 0-60 in 4.6 seconds, quick enough and with plenty of power for all occasions. The best part it does it in near silence, unless you turn the round knob to Sport or Sport +, then a better than expected exhaust sound tingles your ears.
My 2021 Lexus LS 500 rear-wheel drive tester had an Eminent White Pearl exterior and a Palomino or Art Wood Organic interior and came with the Luxury Package which includes Adaptive Suspension, UV and infrared cutting glass, Power Rear Shades, Ultrasuede Headliner, 18 way power reclining rear seats with heating, 28 way power front seats with massage feature and a host of other features designed to make your journey as luxurious and comfortable as possible.
There are 3 choices to choose from the LS 500 is the base model, but you would hardly call it that, there’s also a hybrid Lexus 500h and a sporty Lexus LS F, all available in rear or all-wheel drive. At first glance the big Lexus (just over 17 feet) is striking to look at and boldly chiseled, with the darker spindle grille the showpiece mixed in with a host of creases and sharp angles.
There have been some subtle changes the most obvious is the new headlamp design with integrated daytime running lights. At the rear, piano black accents replace the chrome trim in the taillights, and it works, the car looks long and slender but never bulky and is more aggressive than any previous edition.
On the road
Despite being 17 feet 2 inches long the Lexus LS 500 has fairly sporting pretensions and can move quite rapidly when the dial is turned to Sport + and it doesn’t, at all, compromise ride quality. Things do soften up in Comfort or Normal mode which is expected but handling response and steering is still excellent.
The suspension definitely has more of an edge in Sport and Sport + mode which equates to fun when things get twisty. Yes, this Lexus will hustle if asked to and in Sport + it holds onto gears nudging the rev limit, eager to please.
What astounded me was not so much the acceleration off the line but the power and torque at speeds above 70mph, it pulls like a train. There’s one particular incline East of San Diego as you head into the mountains on the way to Tecate. There’s a straight bit with broken lines where the Lexus was able to pass 4 or 5 cars in a row and still kept pulling all the way to the top.
Take the speeds down to comfortable cruise and this car has the A8, 7 Series of S450 beat. The ride is pillowy soft, the cabin is supremely quiet and with the delightful Mark Levinson’s 23 speakers cranked up, you are in a world of you own. What Lexus has done here is created one of the best big luxury sedans on the market……..Save the sedans please!
The Interior is next level
As previously mentioned, Lexus has added a 12.3-inch display positioned closer to the driver which is a huge plus and almost negates having to use the clunky touch pad. The Enform system menus are still tricky to use but now you can simply plug in your smartphone and use full-screenor .
Up front there are new seats that offer thicker cushioning and the armrests also are plusher. If you can’t find a comfortable position in the 28-way powered driver’s seat, then you must not be human. I found the seats to be gloriously comfortable on every trip I made, whether it was a commute, to pick a loaf of bread or a trip to the mountains, it always felt like an event.
The interior design is very bold with swooping, dramatic lines, pleated door panels, which are very elegant, the whole look is refreshing and contemporary.
The Luxury Package $12,000) offers rear seat passengers the most luxury especially in the seat behind the passenger; sit yourself in that seat, pull down the center armrest and a touchscreen gives you complete control, even for the side and rear shades and the sunroof shade. A one touch button seamlessly glides the front seat as far forward as it can go, tilts the back rest forward and bows the headrest in deference. Now you can recline, while listening to all 2,300 watts of the 23 speaker Mark Levinson audio system. It’s all simply joyous.
All this does cost quite a lot over the standard base price of $75,000, with the Luxury Package, Head Up Display, Mark Levinson Sound System, Heated Wood and Leather trimmed Steering Wheel, Lexus Safety System Plus, and a Panoramic Glass Roof take the out the door price to $98,080.
If you do spend the extra $3,000 for the Safety System Plus you get active steering assist, curve speed reduction for the adaptive cruise control, lane-change assist, and front cross-traffic alert.
Lexus has succeeded in not copying its German competition of Audi, BMW, and Mercedes, and have created a big luxury sedan that’s distinctly different. It’s definitely not a true sports sedan, but after driving it for a week this LS 500 is more fun than Cadillac’s CT6, and its V6 plays a tune you wouldn’t have expected.
2021 Lexus LS 500 RWD Numbers
BASE PRICE: $76,000
AS TESTED PRICE: $98,080
VEHICLE LAYOUT: Front-engine, RWD wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan
ENGINE: 3.5 liter twin turbocharged V6, Aluminum block and cylinder heads,
POWER: 416 hp @ 6,000 rpm
TORQUE: 442 lb-ft. @ 1,600-4,800 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 10-speed automatic with manual shifting mode
0-60 MPH: 4.6 sec
TOP SPEED: 136 mph
CURB WEIGHT: 4,707 lb
CARGO VOLUME: 16.95 cu. ft.
OVERALL LENGTH: 206.1 in
WHEELS: 20 inch split 5-spoke forged alloy wheels
TIRES: Bridgestone Turanza 245/45
EPA COMB/ CITY/HWY: 23/19/30 mpg
OUR OBSERVED FUEL ECONOMY: 14.9 mpg
PROS: Beautiful and very different interior, sport mode is fun, tons of torque at higher speeds
CONS: Options get pricey, fiddly infotainment system