by Roger Biermann
If ever proof was needed that Lexus can take on the best European cars on the market, the 2019 Lexus LS 500 is it. Under the hood of this full-size luxury sedan is a twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 engine that produces 416 horsepower and 442 lb-ft of torque, driven through a ten-speed automatic transmission to either the rear or all four wheels. Lexus has built this vehicle for prestigious levels of comfort, and every aspect of the LS, inside and out, tangibly denotes just that. However, BMW and Mercedes have dominated in the luxury vehicle arena for many years, and it could prove to be a challenge for the LS 500 to match up to what the BMW 7 Series and Mercedes Benz S-Class have to offer. Still, with superb build quality, a vast range of appreciable vehicle features, and an exceptional predicted reliability rating, the Lexus LS 500 can stand its ground in this segment. To its credit, the luxury five-seater is not quite as expensive as many of its rivals; priced between $75,450 and $84,670 the LS 500 offers a value-for-money option without sacrificing opulence, elegance, and style.
Coming into 2019, the LS 500 offers more connectivity, additional safety elements, and added flexibility to the customization options. The infotainment system has been updated for Amazon Alexa integration allowing for a virtual assistant to start the LS, lock and unlock its doors, and check its fuel level. Apple CarPlay functionality is also now standard, although Android Auto has still not been made available. The optional Lexus Safety System + A package has received a semi-automated lane-change advanced driver-assist feature, and a 24-inch head-up display can now be purchased as a stand-alone option. There is also a new wheel design offered in the optional Executive Package.
The Lexus LS 500 rides atop 19-inch ten-split-spoke aluminum noise-reduction wheels and an adaptive variable suspension. It offers a stately, striking body design with a dominant grille that truly catches the eye. Fitted with triple-projector ultra-compact LED headlights with intelligent high beams and cornering lamps, LED taillamps and turn signals, the LS 500 is styled to have both contemporary and chic elements along the exterior. Standard on the sedan is a power moonroof as well as electrochromic auto-dimming exterior mirrors and puddle lamps.
Situated in the large, luxury sedan segment, dimensions of 206.1 inches in length are standard, although a fraction of an inch less than main rivals. At 123 inches, the wheelbase is not quite as long as the BMW or Mercedes sedans, and its 74.8-in width offers the same potential for a spacious cabin as the others. The all-wheel variant is marginally taller at 57.9 inches (57.5 for the rear-wheel-drive), and runs higher off the ground in rear-wheel configuration; ground clearance ranges from 5.9 inches to 6.5 inches. Rear-wheel-drive models weigh in at
4,707 pounds, while the all-wheel-drive model has a curb weight of 4,905 lbs. In comparison to rivals, the LS 500 is on the heavier side.
For 2019 the LS 500 can be customized in any one of ten exterior paint options including Eminent White Pearl, Liquid Platinum, Atomic Silver, Caviar, Obsidian, Matador Red Mica, Satin Cashmere Metallic, and - when paired with specific interior material or trim options - Autumn Shimmer and Nightfall Mica. Additionally, Manganese Luster is available at an additional cost of $595. The added cost for Manganese Luster is a worthwhile investment, complementing the silver accents and classy appeal of the LS 500. If the buyer wants to keep cash-in-hand to spend on add-on equipment or features, Matador Red Mica is a brilliant choice as well as it accentuates the sporty appeal of the LS.
Rigged with a twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 engine and ten-speed direct-shift automatic transmission, both the rear-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive LS 500 make the 0-60 mph dash in a matter of 4.6 seconds (according to Lexus). The Mercedes Benz S-Class S560 reached 0-60 mph in a marginally faster time of 4.2 seconds. There is only the single powertrain setup for the gas-powered LS 500, so it doesn't get better than 416 hp and 442 lb-ft of torque for this range. Every element of the LS 500 luxury sedan is aimed at providing luxury, so while performance is not at the top of the priority list, the engine’s capabilities are noteworthy. Both the powertrain and transmission place preference on consistency and efficiency over energy and speed, and the adaptive variable suspension system is tuned to maximize ride quality and comfort.
On both the rear-wheel or all-wheel-drive models, a twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 engine has been tuned to produce 416 hp and 442 lb-ft of torque that’s sent to the tarmac through a ten-speed direct-shift automatic transmission. Throttle response from the powertrain is average, at best; although generous power is delivered from the V6 engine at higher revs, the engine does tend to lag at initial pressure on the gas pedal and needs some encouragement to tap into available power. That being said, the LS 500 still impresses with vigorous low-end thrust, and the smooth and subtle shifts of the automatic transmission get the sedan to cruising speed rapidly. Once at speed, the V6 engine livens up nicely, allowing for effortless acceleration to higher speeds aimed at overtaking. In most scenarios, the transmission manages to remain constant with seamless upshifts when climbing to speed, and just as smooth downshifts. However, the programming can be lethargic to slip into a lower gear when the engine demands more power. Activating the Sport mode energizes responses overall, yet doesn't force revs up unnecessarily or make the throttle responses erratic.
As with most luxury sedans, the LS 500 has been purposefully designed to deliver a superior ride quality and comfort-oriented driving experience. High-quality build is expected in a Lexus, and, subsequently, driving should follow suit. An adaptive variable suspension, together with well-cushioned seats makes for phenomenal ride comfort in the LS 500. General feedback suggests that the suspension conveys a firmer ride than rival sedans, which can be remedied by opting for the air suspension add-on. Overall, road imperfections are effectively dealt with, and at low speeds, road undulations are almost imperceptible.
The steering wheel is light and adequately responsive to driver inputs, but on the downside means that the generally effortless feel disconnects the driver from road somewhat. Switching to either the Sport or Sport+ modes slightly firms up the steering, allowing for more engagement with the tires and asphalt. Similarly, braking in the LS 500 also feels somewhat detached, as there is little pressure from the pedal. Despite this, brake response at low to moderate speeds is adequate. With its imposing dimensions, braking from higher speeds can feel a little alarming. The LS 500’s handling dynamics are not at all sporty, with body roll manifesting the instant the full-size sedan enters a turn at speed.
For the more spirited driver, the F-Sport model is a bonus. It significantly improves handling at the limits and kits the LS 500 out with enhancements such as 20-inch wheels, six-piston front brake calipers with 15.7-in ventilated discs, four-piston rear brake calipers with 14.1-in ventilated discs and a sport-tuned adaptive variable suspension. Along with this, the F-Sport package equips the exclusive optional Performance Package which adds rear-wheel steering, active stabilizers, and variable-ratio steering to the vehicle.
Fuel economy estimates for the LS 500 are more or less in line with class rivals, earning a mile better than its Mercedes counterpart and a mile less than the BMW on average. The twin-turbo 3.5-liter V6, ten-speed auto transmission powertrain is most efficient when linked to the rear-wheel drivetrain, resulting in EPA estimates of 19/30/23 mpg city/highway/combined. When configured to the all-wheel drivetrain, the LS 500 performs less efficiently, earning EPA estimates of 18/27/21 mpg. The 21.7-gallon gas tank takes premium unleaded fuel only and in mixed driving conditions, the rear-wheel-drive model could cover almost 500 miles on one tank, while the all-wheel-drive version can manage 455.7 miles in total.
The opulent cabin of the LS 500 is warm and welcoming, adorned with high-quality, soft-touch materials and trims that are designed for optimal comfort, and styled for elegance and passenger convenience. Seating is exceptionally supportive and snug, and are ergonomically positioned to maximize space for all occupants in the cabin. With generous room around the interior, passenger space is abundant (although the rear seat offers less legroom than some rivals). As in most sedans, the center rear seat would be most comfortably utilized by children. The interior offers upholstery in leather with a good range of color and trim options. An Interior Upgrade Package is also available and adds leather upholstery with quilted stitching, 28-way power-adjustable driver's seat, and heated rear seats, to name but a few. Occupants are further indulged by the comprehensive, and high-quality, premium Lexus infotainment system.
The LS 500 seats five occupants, though the center rear seat is most fitting for children. In fact, it is better utilized folded down as a center armrest. The seats are comfortably cushioned and supportive, suitable for the daily traffic slog or extended road trips. Although the front seats can be adjusted in many ways, getting to an optimal position may be unnecessarily complex as the seating controls are located in a complicated menu. The steering wheel adjusts for both rake and reach, optimizing driver position for visibility and ease of access to all controls.
Head and legroom are adequate throughout the cabin, with a little less space in the back. The wide-opening doors make ingress easy, though the broad door sills make for a bit of a stretch with egress. With the rear seats in a reclining position, the easy-access function is a must, otherwise exiting will require some effort.
A wide range of interior materials and colors are available, corresponding to available trims. This includes a black leather interior, which is complemented by either Gray Sapele Wood or Art Wood Organics trim. The Parchment leather interior can be paired with either open-pore Brown Walnut or Art Wood Organic trim. An interior upholstered in Chateau leather can feature open-pore Brown Walnut trim or Laser Special trim. The warm Flaxen leather option is paired with Shimamoku Espresso Wood while Noble Brown leather is paired with Art Wood Herringbone trim. Finally, the White Leather option is matched with Art Wood Herringbone as well, with all available options creating a plush and premium look overall.
The trunk in the LS 500 opens conveniently wide and holds a capacity of 17 cubic feet. This is only slightly less than what the Mercedes and BMW have to offer and is sufficient to hold enough luggage for an overseas vacation for two. The sides of the trunk do taper inward further towards the seatbacks. The power open and close trunk lid is a considerable convenience and is operated by waving a foot beneath a sensor located under the rear bumper.
In-cabin storage is suitable; there is a cavernous compartment beneath the center front armrest where one could store a purse. A decently sized glove box is available, and wide, deep door pockets can fit water bottles, smartphones, and other mid-sized items. The rear cabin doors also hold sizeable door pockets, and the center seat folds down to act as an armrest that features a moderately sized storage compartment.
The LS 500 is released with SmartAccess technology, and push-button start/stop as standard. Drive Mode Select with Sport S+ and custom modes, heated leather-trimmed steering wheel with paddle shifters, 16-way power-adjustable heated and ventilated front seats, power-adjustable headrests, and dual-zone climate control are equipped. With the focus of the LS 500 on passenger enjoyment, the cabin is also embellished with a power moonroof, power automatic closing doors, and a power rear sunshade. As a passenger-centric vehicle, safety is a priority; thus, standard features include the Lexus Safety System + 2.0, blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, and intuitive parking assist with auto braking.
The infotainment system is comprised of a 12.3-inch color LCD multimedia display, connected to a Lexus 12-speaker premium audio system with a touchpad-style interface. The central display screen is crisp, and the audio system is decent for a standard setup. The unintuitive touchpad-style interface remains an unfortunate drawback with Lexus and appears on many of the other Lexus vehicles too.
The Lexus Enform App Suite 2.0 is included, allowing for dynamic voice command with Bluetooth connectivity. The system is not compatible with Android Auto but does allow for Apple CarPlay functionality and Amazon Alexa integration. The Lexus Enform Remote app is also on board, as are two USB ports in both front and rear armrest bins for device connectivity and charging. Enform Wi-Fi with complimentary 4GB/one-year trial rounds out the infotainment system, together with Dynamic Navigation and a three-year complimentary trial to boot.
The 2019 Lexus LS 500 has not been subject to any recalls and has not received any driver complaints to date. JD Power rated the 2019 LS 500 with an above-average and near-perfect rating of four-and-a-half out of five for predicted reliability. Furthermore, Lexus’ warranties remain admirable, offering one-year/10,000-mile complimentary maintenance, a four-year/50,000-mile basic warranty, and a six-year/70,000-mile powertrain warranty. This level of coverage is on par in comparison to the warranty plans provided by chief class rivals.
Neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Association nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has crash-tested and evaluated any year model of the Lexus LS 500. It is typical for high-end luxury vehicles not to be assessed by these recognized authorities, and should not detract from perceived safety standards for this vehicle. Featuring a wide array of available driver aids and crash-mitigation technology, the LS 500 is a very safe sedan.
The LS 500 features a comprehensive range of vehicle safety features and advanced driver assists as standard. The Lexus Safety System + 2.0 consists of pre-collision technology with pedestrian detection, lane tracing assist, lane departure alert with steering assist, road sign assist, all-speed dynamic radar cruise control, and intelligent high beams. Blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, intuitive parking assist with auto braking, and a rearview backup camera are also featured. The Lexus Enform Safety Connect and Service Connect capabilities are complimentary for the first ten years of ownership as well.
The LS 500 is an exceptional luxury sedan and offers excellent value for money at its price range. It is one of the more affordable luxury sedans on the market, yet it is equipped with a host of significant vehicle features at the base level. It is supremely well-built and fitted with highly compatible and refined underpinnings. Additionally, it has been given an above-average predicted reliability rating and is covered by substantial manufacturer warranties. It features a dependable range of standard safety tech and advanced driver assists as well as optional semi-automated driving features. In terms of performance, the LS 500 is on par with class rivals, offering decent fuel economy estimates and a respectable maximum travel distance on a full tank of gas. Ride comfort is top-class, and the cabin is as extravagant as a king's chariot. Some rivals do offer more in terms of technology, especially as the LS still lacks Android Auto functionality; the continued use of the clumsy and distracting touchpad-style interface with the infotainment system remains a negative but doesn’t detract from the overall brilliance of the vehicle.
The rear-wheel-drive 2019 Lexus LS 500 is the cheapest model, with a base MSRP of $75,450, before tax, registration, licensing, and Lexus’ delivery, processing and handling fee of $1,025. Buyers can expect an MSRP of $78,670 for the all-wheel-drive model. Dealership prices may vary, and dealer-specific incentives could include price-altering accessory options. The cost of the LS 500 increased only marginally from the previous year model as the LS received a significant redesign and substantial upgrades in 2018, resulting in minimal updates moving into 2019.
Although a hybrid model of the LS 500 exists, there is only a single gas-powered LS 500 variant, available in either rear-wheel or all-wheel drive. Regardless of the optioned drivetrain, the LS 500 is equipped with a twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 engine producing 416 hp and 442 lb-ft of torque mated to a ten-speed direct-shift automatic transmission. The rear-wheel-drive derivative is advantageous for better fuel economy estimates, while the all-wheel-drive model is the optimal choice for all-weather conditions and rougher terrain. Equipping the vehicle with the optional F Sport trim converts the base model into a sport-oriented variant, with mainly performance-based enhancements and styling upgrades.
The LS 500 can be customized by adding on the $3,730 Interior Upgrade Package, which elevates in-cabin upholstery to quilted-stitch perforated semi-aniline leather trim. Furthermore, it adds an Ultrasuede headliner and sun visors, semi-aniline leather-trimmed door armrests, wood- and semi-aniline leather-trimmed center console, power front seat belt buckles, 28-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with multifunction massage, and heated rear seats.
For a further $12,290, the Luxury Package can be added, and includes all the features from the Interior Upgrade Package as well as a 28-way power-adjustable passenger seat with multifunction massage and cushion extender (featuring remote adjustment), 18-way power-reclining outboard rear seats with memory function, four-zone Climate Concierge with climate-comfort front and outboard rear seats, infrared sensors and air purifier, power side-window sunshades, semi-aniline leather-trimmed rear armrest with seven-inch touchscreen controller, and rear-seat knee airbags.
Building on these features, the Executive Package will add everything from the Luxury Package plus butterfly power-retractable front headrests, 22-way power-adjustable and heated rear seats (all with memory and multifunction massage capabilities), and a right-rear power recliner with sliding ottoman - all for $17,100. For an additional $3,000, the Kiriko Glass and hand-pleated interior door trim can be included for a truly glamorous look.
Available for the sport-oriented F Sport is the extra Performance Package. With an additional cost of $9,700, this further equips the vehicle with variable gear-ratio steering, active rear steering, and active stabilizers.
Lastly, the Lexus Safety System+ A costs $3,000 and consists of Lexus CoDrive including enhanced all-speed dynamic, radar cruise control, and lane change assist, pre-collision system with active braking, active steering assist, head-up display, pedestrian alert, and front cross-traffic alert.
The only real decision to make when purchasing an LS 500 is whether you require the all-wheel-drive or not; choosing the rear-wheel-drive will spare you $3,220. Whatever the decision, both models are equipped with identical powertrains and offer the same level of vehicle features and access to optional packages and standalone preferences (however, we do recommend equipping the Safety System+ A to bring the LS 500 in line with what top-end rivals offer in terms of driver aids). If efficiency is a priority, then its noteworthy that the rear-wheel-drive model is slightly more economical than the all-wheel-drive in terms of gas mileage. For those looking for a sportier character, we recommend the F-Sport and the Performance Package, although this will significantly up the overall price by more than $16,000.
At first glance, the BMW 7 Series is a bigger vehicle than the LS 500 and features foldable rear seats that subsequently offer more interior space and better cargo volume. Although it has a more complex infotainment system and several additional technology features, the BMW system is easier to get accustomed to and far more intuitive than that of the Lexus. The 7 Series features the adaptive variable air suspension as standard, while it represents an additional cost on the LS 500. That said, the base LS 500 is around $7,500 cheaper than the entry-level 7 Series model, and has a more powerful engine that produces notably higher horsepower and torque. The LS 500’s powertrain is covered for two-years/20,000-miles more than the 7 Series, and it is given a higher score for predicted reliability. While the 7 Series is the superior sedan in most areas (especially at higher trim levels), it comes at a much higher price. Fundamentally, the Lexus offers a value-for-money luxury sedan that can hold its own against the BMW and would be the better investment between the two.
What’s nice about the Mercedes Benz S-Class is that it is available as a sedan, coupe, and a convertible. At the entry point to the range, the S-Class falls into a higher price bracket than the LS 500, but it comes standard with an air-ride adaptive suspension which makes for superior ride quality. In terms of on-board technology, the S-Class offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality, as well as an infotainment system that works seamlessly and intuitively as opposed to the clumsy and bewildering system on the Lexus. The standard sound system in the S-Class is also preferred to the basic set up in the LS 500 - in fact, it is one of the best in this class. The LS 500 features a broader range of standard safety features and advanced driver assists and seems very similar and evenly matched. Due to the S-Class’s top-notch tech and better standard suspension, it comes out on top in this comparison.