Lexus LS 500h; a luxury hybrid to compete with Mercedes, BMW and Audi

Oct 16, 2019

With six Lexus models incorporating hybrid drive systems (UX, NX, RX, ES, LC and LS), the Japanese carmaker is considered by many to be the auto industry’s luxury hybrid leader. The LS 500h is the brand’s most recent example of its ability to continually evolve its product line. Introduced back in the mid-2000s, the fifth LS generation debuted in 2018. Lexus has created a premium car to compete with the Mercedes S-Class, Audi A8 and BMW 7 Series. Since its arrival in the marketplace, the LS 500h continues to be a seductive alternative to the Big Three.   

By John Coulter, Current EV CMO   

The stated goal of Lexus is to increase LS sales in Europe to 100,000 units by 2020, with 99% of sales being hybrids. “Not only will the LS symbolize the Lexus brand,” says LS chief engineer Toshia Asahi, “it will become the definitive new generation luxury car, embodying Japanese tradition and culture.”   

The hybrid remains unchanged for 2020, and still offers unprecedented performance, safety, personalized passenger comfort, and a sleek, aggressive driver command center.   

The LS hybrid design evolved repeatedly. Chief designer Koichi Suga: “our goal was to create a car that is longer, lower and wider with a more powerful presence.” This was achieved through the latest Lexus Global Architecture of Luxury (GA-L) platform that allows for dynamic proportions. “Our sketches were drawn with an emphasis on a flowing silhouette and large tires.” (20-inch alloys with noise-reduction technology).   

The flagship LS sedan seats 5 in executive-class comfort and uses a high-performance hybrid powertrain (354 Total System Horsepower) to provide an unparalleled ride.   

An example of LS 500h’s unique luxury: an Executive Package including Kiriko Glass can be added. Designed by hand to catch the eye and light, the glass accents installed as interior door trim provide a delicately etched pattern with a luminous glow. Based on a laser-scanning technique that creates data from 10,000 different cuts, each piece of glass requires up to 147 points of polishing, which can take up to two hours to complete.   

The same Executive Package adds 4-zone climate control, 22-way power-adjustable heated and cooled rear seats, a raised ottoman for the right rear seat with a multifunction Shiatsu Massager, and a touchscreen panel on the rear armrest to control features like the stereo, lighting, and climate control.   

Gear Patrol auto reviewer Will Sabel Courtney says of the car: “Big Car, Big Grille, Big Luxury. The latest generation of the Lexus LS is a big sedan with big shoes to fill. After all, it was the first-gen LS that launched the Lexus brand three decades ago, proudly proving to the world that the Japanese auto industry could build a car every bit as luxurious as the folks over in Germany. Since then, it’s been the standard-bearer for the brand – a car that, like Mercedes-Benz and its S-Class, stands as proof of what the company is capable of today and where it’s going tomorrow.”   

The car’s V6 engine is assisted by two electric motors and a 1.1kWh Lithium-ion battery. The transmission setup uses a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that works with a conventional 4-speed automatic to simulate the ratios found in the 10-speed found in the normal LS 500. A manual-shifting mode is also part of the package.   

Combined with a low center of gravity, All-Wheel Drive and an advanced Adaptive Variable Suspension, the LS 500h pushes performance to the next level. 0 to 60mph is achieved in 5.1 seconds.   

Though the LS 500h RWD is large and heavy (4,707lbs), it manages an EPA-rated 25/33/28 city/highway/combined MPG. Reviewers say the 500h gets 4-6 mpg better than the standard LS 500.   

Eco-Conscious drivers will like the fact that the LS 500h RWD has been certified as a ULEV – an Ultra-Low Emission Vehicle. ULEV is an acronym for Ultra Low Emission Vehicle. ULEVs release emissions that are 50 percent cleaner than the current average year's models. ULEVs take the LEV, Low Emission Vehicle, standard a step further but don't yet qualify for Super-Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle (SULEV) status. Lexus models are 50-state-certified, which means they meet both the Federal emissions standards and California emissions standards.   

The 2020 LS 500h starts at $79,960 with Rear-Wheel Drive, and at $83,180 with All-Wheel Drive. Make no mistake: this is one of the most expensive hybrids in the marketplace. Optional add-ons, accessories and tax push the car into the six-figure range.   

The hybrid gets effortlessly brought to a halt with 4-wheel power-assisted disc brakes with Electronic Controlled Braking (ECB), and a 4-sensor, four-channel Anti-lock Braking System (ABS). Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist complete the braking system package.   Standard features on the LS 500h RWD are numerous. They include:   

  • Adaptive Variable Suspension
  • SmartAccess with Push-Button Start/Stop
  • Power Moonroof
  • Dual-Zone Climate Control
  • Navigation System with a 12-inch touchscreen display
  • Apple CarPlay
  • Lexus Inform App Suite 2.0
  • Remote Touchpad
  • Backup Camera
  • Intuitive parking Assist with Auto Braking
  • Premium Triple-Beam LED Headlamps
  • 10 Airbags
  • Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM)
  • Lexus Enform Remote with Amazon Alexa and the Google Assistant compatibility, included for the first year of ownership
  • Lexus Enform Dynamic Navigation
  • 16-way Power-Adjustable Heated and Ventilated Front Seats
  • Heated Leather-Trimmed Steering Wheel with Power Shifters
  • Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross-Traffic Braking
  • Rain-Sensing Wipers
  • Power-Folding, Auto-Dimming Outside Mirrors
  • Lexus 12-speaker Premium Sound System
  • Dynamic Voice Command
  • Lexus Safety System+ 2.0
  • Lexus Enform WiFi
  • Active Sound Control and Noise Cancellation
  • Power-Adjustable Front Headrests
  • Lexus Multistage Hybrid Drive
  • EV Drive Mode

The hybrid has a 15.19 cu ft. trunk capacity.