Like naval fleets, automobile manufacturers have flagships. Commanding officers, weaponry or distinguished flags aren’t involved. Still, carmakers’ highest-profile vehicles are their proudest presentations.
Luxury brands thrive on their top-line offerings, which for the upscale division of Toyota is the Lexus LS 500.
Redesigned inside and outside last year, the 2019 LS 500 retains the full-size luxury sedan’s finer attributes. Its uber-quiet ride is complemented by its interior designer’s best traditional touches. Technology is top-shelf.
Well-heeled German brands Audi, BMW Mercedes-Benz and Swedish rival Volvo all attract high praise for their handsome, forward-thinking exteriors designs. But with the South Korean-made Genesis, Lexus has infiltrated the former monopoly of European manufacturers’ often exalted luxury sedan loftiness.
The powerful sedan has angular, sleek lines and is near stealth. Occupants have much else to praise, but the LS 500’s commanding presence quickly attracts attention.
The five-passenger cruiser is available in one trim level. It’s equipped with a 3.5-liter, twin-turbocharged V6 with 416 horsepower a 10-speed automatic transmission. Five drive modes are offered. Rear-wheel drive is standard; all-wheel drive is optional. A hybrid version is also available.
Acceleration is swift and steady. The 0-60 miles per hour standard is achieved in 4.9 seconds. Gas mileage averages are 19 miles per gallon in city driving, 30 miles per gallon on the freeway. The LS 500 is equipped with 10 airbags.
Manufacturers can’t slack when determining the equipment lists of their luxury vehicles. The LS 500 fares well.
The standard features list is comprehensive: 19-inch wheels, an adaptive suspension, LED headlights, a sunroof, a hands-free trunk and power-closing doors.
Leather upholstery, power-adjustable heated and ventilated front seats, a heated leather-wrapped steering wheel, 16-way power-adjustable heated and ventilated front seats, and a power rear sunshade are also included.
Standard driver aids include: front and rear parking sensors, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, forward collision warning, pedestrian detection, lane keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams and automatic wipers.
With its vast 2018 redo, only a handful of changes differentiate this year’s offering. Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa join the technology features stable. A 24-inch head-up display and an upscale wheel design are new as stand-alone options.
The LS 500 is satisfactory without options. Its base price is $75,200. The Executive Package ($23,110), one of the priciest available among mainstream manufacturers, offers worthy items. But there’s also ill-conceived, unnecessary opulence.
Power front seat belts and reclining and heated rear seats? Perfect. Power side-window sunshades? It’s a luxury car, right?
But while revered as hand-cut Japanese glassware, the Kiriko door trim, which debuted in 2018 models, looks like afterthought chunks of costume jewelry. The hand-pleated interior door panels resemble corrugated cardboard.
A few other options, a Mark Levinson audio system with 23 speakers ($1,940), a panoramic glass roof ($1,000), panoramic view monitor ($800) and 20-inch forged alloy wheels ($2,450) are justifiable extravagances. But with a few other odds and ends, the sedan’s top price is a pause moment — $111,925.
For years, Lexus has defended its futuristic-looking trapezoid grille as something different in an industry of beige. But at best, the grille is upside down; at worst, it defines ugly.
The Lexus infotainment center is operated by a touchpad on the console. It’s a sensitive contraption and provides plenty of opportunity for distracted driving.
Article Last Updated: March 7, 2019.
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A sports, travel and business journalist for more than 45 years, James has written the new car review column The Weekly Driver since 2004.
In addition to this site, James writes a Sunday automotive column for The San Jose Mercury and East Bay Times in Walnut Creek, Calif., and a monthly auto review column for Gulfshore Business, a magazine in Southwest Florida.
An author and contributor to many newspapers, magazines and online publications, James has co-hosted The Weekly Driver Podcast since 2017.