The Lexus LS500 Is What a Japanese Luxury Sedan Should Be

2019 Automobile All-Stars contender.

The Lexus LS500 was among the 24 standout vehicles competing for a coveted 2019 Automobile All-Stars award. See the rest of the field here, and go here to see the winners!

When Lexus launched the original LS in 1989, carrying sedate styling while providing a Japanese interpretation of the Mercedes S-class experience for E-class money, restraint was the theme. Jump ahead 30 years, and lavish SUVs are cannibalizing luxury sedan sales. Clearly, radical change was needed, and the new LS500 delivers transformation in spades.

"I think everyone has realized by now that the S-class is pretty much unbeatable when taken as a whole package," contributor Jethro Bovingdon said. "Well, the LS is a world away from the S-class, and it couldn't be anything but a Japanese take on luxury. We should celebrate any car that does the unexpected, and I really admire the wacky styling and unique interior. And the LS drives pretty well, too."

He's right. There's a fresh, coupelike seating position along with quick steering and newfound agility at the expense of isolation compared to previous LS models. Gone is the V-8, replaced by a twin-turbo V-6 with more power and "an almost sporty engine note," Bovingdon remarked. We applaud Lexus for taking risks with the LS, even if those risks end up being polarizing.

Speaking of, the provocative cabin sparked controversy thanks to its distinctive mix of Kiriko glass and origami-style, hand-pleated door panels. "What an exciting, beautiful, modern interior—very unexpected," contributor Ronald Ahrens noted. Added executive editor Mac Morrison, "I am absolutely a fan of the cabin treatment. Different and cool."

Others were less impressed. "Inside, never has such a collection of well-thought-out materials and design components come off as so chintzy," daily new editor Conner Golden said. Editor-at-large Arthur St. Antoine piled on: "I wouldn't be able to put up with that bejeweled interior trim without gagging." Its interior stylings are clearly a matter of taste—and part of a $23,100 interior package if it isn't yours.

One cabin feature you're stuck with, though, is the infotainment system, which received a proper flogging from editors. "The interface's twitchy mouse is a big miss," contributor Basem Wasef noted. (Morrison said the same thing—until he figured out how to change the touchpad's reaction speed in the settings menu.)

Although Bovingdon also had his issues with the controls, he found a lot to like about the LS: "Of course the touchpad system is truly, truly hateful, and I could easily see why that might be a deal breaker, but the rest of the car has a charm and character about it I really enjoyed. It's a cool object, the LS, and a quality item."

2019 Automobile All-Stars
The Winners | The Contenders | The Venues

2018 Lexus LS 500 Specifications

PRICE $76,225/$112,520 
(base/as tested)
ENGINE 3.5L twin-turbo DOHC 24-valve V-6; 416 hp @ 6,000 rpm, 442 lb-ft @ 1,600-4,800 rpm
TRANSMISSION 10-speed automatic
LAYOUT 4-door, 5-passenger, 
front-engine, RWD sedan
EPA MILEAGE 19/30 mpg (city/hwy)
L x W x H 206.1 x 74.8 x 57.1 in
WHEELBASE 123.0 in
WEIGHT 4,905 lb
0-60 MPH 4.6 sec
TOP SPEED 136 mph
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