2020 Lexus LS500 Long-Term Introduction: How We Did Spec It
Meet our latest Four Seasons car, which happens to be Lexus’s flagship.
Thirty years ago, Lexus introduced the first LS400, a car that singlehandedly redefined the definition of roadgoing luxury—and what it would cost to obtain—in this country. Today there's a whole generation of motorists who don't remember just how impactful the LS was, but we were there, and believe us, every luxury vehicle you can buy today, from Alfa Romeo to Lexus and every other marque in between, shows some of the influence of that first Lexus flagship.
But what impact is Lexus having on the industry today? From the outside, they seem to be just another luxury brand, one of many trying to reach the standards that they themselves set so long ago. We decided it was time for Lexus's 30-year checkup in the form of a Four Seasons long-term test of today's LS.
Our obvious choice would be the F Sport model—#NoBoringCars and all that—but not all of Automobile's staffers buy into the idea that a luxury car has to be a sport sedan as well. Consider our last Four Seasons luxury car, the BMW M550i, was a fine chariot but drew strong criticism for not living up to the sporty pretense of its "M" label. Lexus cars generally don't get credit for driving as well as they do—many of us maintain that the GS450h hybrid is a hidden curvy-road gem—but we decided from the get-go that we weren't after a sporty (or even pseudo sporty) ride. When the time came to spec out our LS, we were going first class all the way.
We started with a basic LS500, passing on the hybrid powertrain in favor of the 416-hp twin-turbo V-6. We also went with rear-wheel drive, because we're not dead and the car will spend the vast majority of its time in the Los Angeles area. With a $76,475 base price, this is the least-expensive LS model, but it's anything but basic—standard equipment includes a leather interior with 16-way heated and cooled power front seats, a heated steering wheel, a power trunklid, a sunroof, Android/Apple connectivity, and a built-in Wi-Fi hotspot.
And then we hit the options the way a junkie hits the needle.
Lexus has been touting the influence of traditional Japanese art forms on its interior design, and that factored heavily into our decisions. The LS offers several color and wood options for the cabin; we opted for white semi-aniline leather and herringbone-pattern wood, which we thought would pair nicely with the LS's brown dash and carpets, while also highlighting details like the "floating" door armrests. Our color choice carried an $800 upcharge for the "art wood" trim and required us to upgrade to 28-way massaging front seats, four-zone climate control, rear seats with heating, cooling and a recline function as well as a touch-screen control panel, rear-seat knee airbags, and power side-window sunshades. Poor us.
Normally all these extras come with the $12,290 Luxury package, but we went one better with the Executive package, which includes all of the above plus massaging rear seats and a fold-out legrest on the right side. With the front passenger seat scooted forward—all with a tap on the touch screen, of course—the LS's executive right-rear seat is as close as you'll get to lie-flat business class in a sedan. Cost: $17,100. To put that in perspective, Toyota will sell you an entire Yaris for just $1,500 more.
But we weren't done. Our interior color also required upgrading to an adaptive variable air suspension ($1,500), 20-inch wheels ($1,200), a panoramic parking camera ($800), and a heated wood-and-leather steering wheel ($410). No problem, as those were all features we were interested in anyway. We decided to try out the widescreen head-up display (HUD), though it seems a bit pricey at $1,200. We're not sure why adaptive headlights that turn with the steering wheel aren't on the standard-equipment list, but for $300 we threw them in.
The LS comes standard with a comprehensive safety package, and for $3,000 we upgraded to Lexus's Safety System A. It expands the collision-detection system to include objects off to the side of the fenders and will provide steering as well as braking input to avoid a collision. (Hopefully we won't have to test that in the real world.) It also adds pedestrian-detection alerts in the HUD, front cross-traffic alert, and automated lane-changing.
We also opted for a rear sunroof, 23-speaker Mark Levinson audio, and illuminated door sills. Clear vinyl film to protect the door edges and top edge of the rear bumper seemed like a good idea, as did a trunk mat, wheel locks, and leather "key gloves" (because why should our keys suffer?).
The only notable option we didn't choose was the Kiriko glass upgrade, which includes hand-pleated door trim on the interior. It's available only once you spec the Executive Package and is a $6,000 upgrade; our excuse for not buying it was that it's offered only with a monochromatic black interior, which we decidedly didn't want. Lexus will pair the glass trim with white leather in the limited-run LS Inspiration Series, and we're hoping it will eventually once again offer it with other colors as it did when the fifth-gen LS was introduced.
Finally, after much intraoffice debate, we opted for a lovely shade of metallic blue called Nightfall Mica, not unlike the color that adorned our M550i. Total tariff for our big Lexus cruiser: $106,645, a proper luxury price tag to go with a proper luxury car.
And so our Four Seasons test begins, and it will be a unique one. Yes, there are some technical details we'll be tracking closely, like the twin-turbo 3.5-liter V-6, which supplanted the LS's traditional V-8 in 2018. We want to know if a smaller forced-induction engine can impart the same luxe vibe of a big V-8, and whether we'll reap any significant fuel-economy benefit. But mostly, we just want to see how the big Lexus makes us feel. Is Lexus still at the top of the luxury game? Is it still setting the pace for other brands to follow, or has it fallen toward the back of the pack? Stay tuned over the next 12 months, and we'll tell you.
Our 2020 Lexus LS500
|PRICE||$76,475/$106,645 (base/as tested)|
|ENGINE||3.5-liter twin-turbo DOHC 24-valve V-6/416 @ 6,000 rpm, 442 lb-ft @ 1,600-4,800 rpm|
|LAYOUT||4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, RWD sedan|
|STEERING||Electric speed-sensing power assisted|
|TURNING CIRCLE||37.4 ft|
|BRAKES, F/R||Vented disc/vented disc|
|TIRES||Bridgestone Turanza EL450, 245/45RF20 99V|
|L X W X H||206.1 x 74.8 x 57.1 in|
|TRACK, F/R||64.2/64.4 in|
|HEADROOM, F/R||36.8/36.4 in|
|LEGROOM, F/R||41.0/38.9 in|
|SHOULDER ROOM, F/R||58.8/56/4 in|
|CARGO CAPACITY||17.0 cu ft|
|WEIGHT DIST F/R||53%/47%|
|EPA MILEAGE||19/30/23 (city/hwy/combined)|
|FUEL CAPACITY||22.2 gal|
|FUEL RANGE||666 miles (est)|
|0-60 MPH||5.1 sec (mfr)|
|TOP SPEED||136 mph (mfr)|
|Lexus Safety System + 2.0 (Automatic collision braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert and assistance, road sigh recognition, adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams)
Blind-spot monitor with rear cross traffic alert
Parking assistance with automatic braking
LED headlights, taillights and DRLs
16-way power front seats with heating and ventilation
Heated leather-trimmed steering wheel
Power rear sunshade
Hands-free power trunklid
Rain-sensing windshield wipers
Dual-zone climate control
12-speaker premium audio with 12.3" display, navigation and Apple CarPlay
Lexus Enform Remote with Alexa Skill integration, WiFi, and Destination Assist
First aid kit
|Lexus Safety System + A (Active steering assistance, lane-change assist, front cross traffic alert, pedestrian detection in HUD, expanded forward collision detection), $3,000
Adaptive variable air suspension, $1,500
20-inch wheels with Vapor Chrome finish, $1,200
24-inch head-up display, $1,200
Adaptive front headlights, $300
Executive Package (Quilted perforated semi-aniline leather interior trim, 28-way power front seats with massage, power-reclining, heated and cooled, massaging outer rear seats, four-zone climate control, power side sunshades, rear-seat touch-screen controller), $17,100
23-speaker Mark Levinson audio system, $1,940
Panoramic glass sunroof, $1,000
Panoramic parking camera, $800
Premium wood trim, $800
Heated wood- and leather-trimmed steering wheel, $410
Door edge film, $90
Rear bumper applique, $95
Illuminated door sills, $450
Trunk mat, cargo net, wheel locks, and key gloves, $285