Car of the Year Car Reviews

Lexus LS: 2019 Motor Trend Car of the Year Contender

Defining the mission of Lexus' flagship sedan

Defining the mission of Lexus' flagship sedan

WE LIKE Agility for a big car, fuel economy, thumping stereo

WE DON’T LIKE Rough ride, inconsistent brakes, infotainment interface

The flagship sedan that panicked German luxury automakers 30 years ago still has some chops, but it seems Lexus engineers and product planners were conflicted as to the mission of the latest edition.

Angus MacKenzie was unimpressed: “A harsher powertrain, noisier suspension, and worse body integrity than the car that launched the brand. It beggars belief.”

Chris Theodore was similarly let down. “Dynamically, the LS was surprisingly agile for such a behemoth, but the experience went downhill from there,” he observed. The F Sport suspension we tested ruins the magic-carpet ride of past Lexuses, allowing impacts to harshly penetrate the cabin. The brake-by-wire system was erratic in its responses. And the lane keeping system lamely ping-ponged the car between the lines.

Although the twin-turbo V-6 is a lively base engine for most Lexus drivers and scored well in fuel economy, the lack of a V-8 offering raised eyebrows. The piped-in engine sounds were a headache-inducing mashup of “puppy growls and gear whine,” an acetaminophen-seeking Christian Seabaugh said.

Alisa Priddle noted the suave, detailed interior design with swooping and arcing “art wood,” leather trim, Alcantara, and metal details. But back-seat space is less than in competitor cars, especially in the footwell.

Plus, Lexus continues to insist on installing its distracting, touchpad-based infotainment system. Seriously, piloting a curse-inducing cursor through four menus to adjust heated/cooled seats? One saving user interface is the radio-tuning concentric outer ring of the volume knob. You’ll want to play with that as you crank the optional 2,400-watt Mark Levinson stereo to “Hello, Cleveland!” concert volumes.

Akio Toyoda has challenged Lexus to passionately embrace its sporty side. Unfortunately, the LS merely gives drivers an awkward shoulder hug.


2018 Lexus LS 500 F-Sport 500h AWD
Base Price/As tested $82,225/$101,905 $83,955/$107,950
Power (SAE net) 416 hp @ 6,000 rpm 295 hp @ 6,600 rpm (gas)/100 hp (elec)/354 hp (comb)
Torque (SAE net) 442 lb-ft @ 1,600 rpm 257 lb-ft @ 4,900 rpm (gas)/150 lb-ft (elec)/350 lb-ft (comb)
Accel, 0-60 mph 5.8 sec 5.5 sec
Quarter-mile 14.2 sec @ 101.2 mph 14.1 sec @ 98.0 mph
Braking, 60-0 mph 114 ft 123 ft
Lateral Acceleration 0.88 g (avg) 0.80 g (avg)
MT Figure Eight 26.0 sec @ 0.72 g (avg) 27.0 sec @ 0.65 g (avg)
EPA City/Hwy/Comb 19/30/23 mpg 26/35/30 mpg
Vehicle Layout Front-engine, RWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan
Engine/Transmission 3.4L twin-turbo DOHC 24-valve V-6/10-speed automatic 3.5L Atkinson-cycle DOHC 24-valve V-6 plus elec motors/4-speed auto + cont variable auto
Curb Weight (F/R Dist) 4,959 lb (52/48%) 5,211 lb (52/48%)
Wheelbase 123.0 in 123.0 in
Length x Width x Height 206.1 x 74.8.0 x 57.1 in 206.1 x 74.8 x 57.5 in
Energy Cons, City/Hwy 177/112 kW-hrs/100 miles 130/96 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 Emissions, Comb 0.85 lb/mile 0.66 lb/mile