Test Drive: Lexus LS 500h: on unequal terms

Let’s face it, this Japanese limousine offers luxury and comfort that are no match compared to the segment’s German stars. Unfortunately, in Europe, and even more so in Belgium, the only available engine is far from ideal with our tax regulations. However, this did not prevent us from having a lot of fun behind the wheel.

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A 3.5 V6 lump with electrical assistance powers the Lexus LS500h. It is not very popular with European enthusiasts… Diesel- and, more specifically, plug-in hybrid-powered competitors are springing up all over the place to meet European requirements. And these get all the thumbs up. However, this Lexus latest upgrade offers a driving experience that is second to none compared to its German rivals. The multi-adjustable driving seat allows you to find the perfect position and the dashboard offers all the usual toys. There’s a 12.3’’ touchscreen that makes the touchpad redundant. Fit and finish is quite breathtaking and the materials are all high grade ones. The German competition plays on a more spectacular appearance while proposing a more intuitive use best suited to our tastes. Eventually, the autonomous driving assistance and parking systems have also been improved.

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I like it

Being less dynamic than a Mercedes S-Class, the Lexus is more of a long-distance effortless cruiser. The engine is really quiet and enjoyable, having been perfected for more than 15 years now. The 359 bhp available are delivered smoothly and bring complete peace of mind to the driver. As we said, the interior is particularly well thought out and both the haptic and sensory experiences are a real pleasure. You’d almost want to leave the steering wheel to someone else and take advantage of the lavish and supremely comfortable rear seats. Just select the relax position: the rear seats extends automatically to support the legs, while the backrest inclines to a 48° angle – the value got defined after extensive static and dynamic tests with people of various builds. They automatically adapt their temperature to the body one of each occupant. Obviously, a massaging mode is standard as well.

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Quite clever

The LS500h offers five driving modes: Efficiency, Comfort, Normal, Sport & Sport + allowing to deactivate the ESP via the funny top wheel located on the left of the dashboard top. Even though this limo can’t hide its 2270kg, its stability and handling in all types of corners are at least as good as its surprising agility. Admittedly, our test car was a “Privilege” version and there is an F-Sport trim that is more inclined to dynamic driving.  We stress the air suspension and controlled damping does a great job of handling the car and absorbing any road surface defects.

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I don’t like it

As mentioned above, there are still a few cultural differences between our European habits and the Lexus way of doing things. However, we eventually got accustomed to the Japanese mentality and gradually found our way in the various infotainment system menus. Let’s just mention that its design is still not up to the German brands standards. In the end, such a tasteful classicism could prove perfect for customers less interested in some “show off” technology than others.

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Why I buy it

Compared to the more popular limos available in our country, the Lexus LS500h can boast a fairly restrained price tag that most of the time offers higher equipment levels. In addition to the classic and simple basic version, three trim levels are available : Privilege Line, F-Sport Line and President Line. The materials are exquisite and you can even opt for Kiriko glass accents on the more expensive version. All three versions feature an automatic 4-wheel drive chassis.

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Why I don’t buy it

Depending on trim level, prices range from €99,500 to €137,150. Compared to the German competition, this remains on a reasonable side. However, the 10-speed automatic gearbox doesn’t appreciate to be rushed in. Fuel consumption is on the highish side. During the test, average fuel consumption got to 11.9 l/100 km over about 350 km. There’s an 82 litres fuel tank but petrol prices being what they are at moment, it means you’d have to budget for it. Boot capacity is 430 litres but it could have better, considering the size of this limo built exclusively in Japan. (Translation: Dimitri Urbain)

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