2021 Lexus LS 500 | Review

2021 Lexus LS 500 | Review

There’s something to be said for having, or at least aspiring to have, “the best” of anything. Edward Lewis (played by Richard Gere) in the movie Pretty Woman was asked “why do you have the penthouse if you’re scared of heights”. He astutely responded, “because it’s the best”. Aside from the achingly pretty LC500 coupe and convertible, (and the aging LX 570) the LS 500 sedan is the most expensive vehicle in the Lexus lineup, from a starting MSRP perspective at least. Since the LC is a bit of a niche model, and the LX is almost old enough to drive itself, I consider the LS 500 the top of the Lexus lineup. So, when they dropped a new LS off for a week, not long after driving its baby brother ES 250, I was excited to tool around DC in it.

2021 Lexus LS 500 | Review
She’s got some curb appeal

LS 500 Overview

The Lexus sedan lineup is actually pretty simple. IS, ES. LS. If you remember your alphabet, you’ll get the picture; the higher the letter, the larger and more luxurious the car. The LS dates back to the late 1980s and established Lexus as a company that could actually build a full-size luxury car. With a long hood, big engine, and incredibly comfortable interior, in my opinion, the “personal luxury car” never left. It just sprouted some back doors, and actually got a bit smaller. The 206 inches long LS seems more “personal” than 230 inch Mark V coupe.

Anyway, the LS is currently in its fifth generation, and while it’s not nearly as aged as the LX, it’s been around since the 2018 model year. For 2021, it comes in three trim levels including base LS, LS F Sport, and LS Hybrid variants. Starting price is $76,000 for a RWD LS and $79,250 if you want AWD.

2021 Lexus LS 500

All non-hybrid models have a 3.5L twin-turbo V6 with 416 horsepower and 442 lb-ft of torque. That, according to Lexus, is enough to push the big car to 60 mph in just 4.6 seconds. That’s not just fast for a full-size sedan, that’s just fast. Especially in a vehicle without sporting pretensions that weighs 4,700-4,900 pounds. As James May once said, a great luxury car should just be about effortlessly getting up to speed. More on the driving experience later, but that’s pretty spot on for the LS 500. Add an adaptive suspension, 10-speed automatic, big brakes, and big wheels, and you’ve got yourself a pretty solid option in the full-size segment.

Features are extensive, some of my favorites included:

  • 28-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with multifunction massage and cushion extender (optional)
  • Four-zone Climate Concierge with climate-comfort front and outboard rear seats, infrared sensors, and air purifier
  • 22-way power-adjustable rear seats with butterfly headrests, memory, and multifunction massage with heat (optional)
  • Kiriko Glass with hand-pleated interior door trim (optional)
  • Semi-aniline leather-trimmed rear armrest with 7.0-in touchscreen controller (optional)

Any car with massaging seats, from this LS to the last Expedition I tested, is going to get my aging body’s attention. This sucker even has them in the back, my daughter stretched out in the reclining seats, dropped the rear shades remotely, and lounged. It’s a great place to spend some time.

Our car specifically included the Luxury Package which gets you a lot of stuff, but it’s a $12,710 add-on and requires the addition of the adaptive air suspension ($1,400) and the panoramic view monitor ($800).

  • Adaptive Variable Air Suspension with rapid height function
  • UV- and infrared-cutting window glass
  • Power full-coverage rear window sunshade and power rear window sunshades
  • Panoramic View Monitor
  • Ultrasuede headline and sun visors
  • Semi-aniline leather-trimmed seats with premium stitching design
  • Semi-aniline leather-trimmed door armrest and center console trim
  • Semi-aniline leather-trimmed rear center armrest
  • Power-adjustable front headrests
  • Premium Wood
  • 28-way power and pneumatic driver’s and front passenger’s seats with cushion extender
    and massage feature
  • Automatic power lift-up buckle for front driver’s and passenger’s seats
  • 18-way reclining power rear seats, including two-way cushion tilt and memory feature
  • Four-zone automatic climate control with infrared temperature sensor
  • Heated and cooled rear seats
  • Rear 7.0-inch high-resolution touchscreen controller
  • Rear seat cushion airbags (2)

2021 Lexus LS 500 | Review

Here is the final breakdown of our Lexus LS loaner’s pricing. It starts at $76,000 even and then adds:

  • Lexus Safety System+ A(AP) $3,000
  • Digital Rearview Mirror (DM) $200
  • Head-up Display (GH) $1,200
  • Luxury Package (LL) $12,710
  • Mark Levinson (ML) $1,940
  • Panoramic Glass Roof (PR) $1,000
  • Heated Wood and Leather-Trimmed
  • Steering Wheel (WS) $410
  • Premium Paint $595
  • Delivery, Processing, and Handling $1,025

Price as Tested – $98,080

2021 Lexus LS 500 | Review

Interior

I normally start with the exterior, but that’s not what this car is about. It’s about driving rapidly from place to place in extreme comfort. Which it does as well as anything I’ve ever driven. I love the cross-country drive, but the older I get the more I want to just do it in a Q-ship like this LS. I see why most of those Cannonball records happen in big luxury cars.
Oh, before I forget, lest you think we don’t take your feedback, here is the rear. Regular (and insightful) commenter Sjalaxecutive aka Sjalabais noted that I forgot to post a pic of the back of the ES 250. Pardon the booster seat, but take a look at the optional seven-inch touchscreen that can control comfort, audio settings, and climate for second-row passengers. It is part of the Luxury Package that our car was equipped with, and a must for any LS owner in my opinion.
2021 Lexus LS 500 | Review
2021 Lexus LS 500 | Review
Across the interior, materials are high-quality, as you would expect. Not all of it is aesthetically pleasing in my opinion, but clearly, it’s built from very nice stuff. The attractiveness will obviously be subjective, I just felt like there were a few too many patterns and colors interspersed through the interior. There are also a few areas where practicality is slightly sacrificed for the sake of attractiveness, but it’s as usable an interior as you would want to see in a Lexus.
2021 Lexus LS 500 | Review
From a tech perspective, it is pretty good, perhaps not S-Class good though. I like that the head-up display (HUD) will show a bunch of other items and alerts including radio volume, cross-traffic alerts, etc. I found that it was much more useful than the average HUD. The center display is a relatively impressive 12.3 inches and includes Apple CarPlay, Amazon Alexa, Android Auto (it’s actually the first model year it has been included). Oh, and it’s got navigation if you haven’t been indoctrinated into the wonderful world of Waze.
Also, and this is a relatively minor positive note, the center console is hinged both ways, with a release on each side. There is also a channel on each side for your cell phone cord. Small details mean a lot in a car like this.
2021 Lexus LS 500 | Review

Driving

In a car that you could easily be driven in, it’s actually pretty good to drive. The LS 500 cruises along effortlessly like he would want a big luxury car to do. Like in a lot of cars, I’m not really sure what the point of the Sport mode is in the LS, so I didn’t really use it. I just left it in Comfort mode and allowed the big girl do her thing. As I said above, it’s easily one of the best long-distance cars I could imagine. That’s about all I have to say about that.
2021 Lexus LS 500 | Review

Summary

Candidly, the 2021 Lexus LS 500 is out of most people’s price range. If it isn’t, it’s one hell of a car. For those who can, and want “the best” from a full-size sedan perspective, it’s got to be on your shopping list. The number of creature comforts almost makes the high MSRP seem worth it. For those looking for a raging bargain on the used market in several years, the LS is likely going to age pretty well. Sure, some aren’t a fan of the grille, but I’ve grown accustomed to it, and it works on this size vehicle. On smaller cars, it seems overwrought, and on larger Lexus vehicles it’s overwhelming. The LS 500 is (ideally) a reliable entry into the full-size luxury segment, and one worth a look if you have the means.

Bonus Pics

2021 Lexus LS 500 | Review
2021 Lexus LS 500 | Review
2021 Lexus LS 500 | Review
2021 Lexus LS 500 | Review
2021 Lexus LS 500 | Review
2021 Lexus LS 500 | Review
2021 Lexus LS 500 | Review
2021 Lexus LS 500 | Review
2021 Lexus LS 500 | Review
2021 Lexus LS 500 | Review
2021 Lexus LS 500 | Review
2021 Lexus LS 500 | Review
2021 Lexus LS 500 | Review
2021 Lexus LS 500 | Review
2021 Lexus LS 500 | Review
2021 Lexus LS 500 | Review
2021 Lexus LS 500 | Review

4 Comments

  1. Ha, thanks for the honorable mention and good backseat photos! That’s one spacious sedan. I should love it. It’s got a good size, is a quality icon, full of features and, if taken well care of, probably has a future on BaT. This is a car that would work in business, as a family car, and should be fun, too. But the design is a massive hurdle on this one, inside and out. The front end, the doors from the inside, the dashboard, or even just the mirrors…what a terrible, overwrought design. To me, it looks like the villain car in a cartoon, Cruella De Ville would fit right in the back seat. I guess Lexus knows what they’re doing, but I couldn’t ignore the wild chaos everywhere.

    Fun fact, I didn’t know the LS was still available in Norway. Couldn’t find a new car for sale, I guess that is due to the price for the only available LS500h starting at 148,000$, topping at 201,000$. That’s an insane price for a Lexus, and I have to respect the company even trying to offer it.

    1. I guess it’s all relative, we have lot of what would historically be considered “over-styled” cars these days. I don’t think the LS is any worse.

      And happy to do the shout-out, always appreciate the comments!

    2. Excellent writeup (as usual) by Mr. Byrd, but Sjalabais you absolutely nailed my thoughts on this car. “Overwrought” is exactly how I would describe it. I’m sure it’s a very pleasant car to drive, but it can’t drive nicely enough to make up for the appearance. I like to enjoy the aesthetics of a design, but this car is just trying way too hard to be…. something. And whatever that something is, it’s something I want to avoid.

      1. I could sit for hours just looking at the doors. So many colours, so many lines that don’t add up. Luxury cars used to look like carved from one solid piece, Lexus is probably trying to break and “light” that up? Thanks to a good review, one can really take that in. The most coherent angle is the rear view, reminiscient of a Mazda 6…surely an unintended liklihood, hehe.

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