The surge in SUVs, crossovers and trucks hasn’t dimmed the sale of the hyper luxurious Lexus LS500 which sold more sedans in 2021 than in 2020, despite no dramatic changes since being upgraded in 2018 as the fifth generation.
Those previous refinements improved driving quality, reduced emissions, made leather seats plushier and added cabin knobs and buttons for an improved 12.3-inch touchscreen thus helping reduce reliance on the controlling but still twitchy and distracting center spine touchpad.
Minor changes were made in 2021 to the front fascia; the suspension and chassis were tuned to improve the sedan’s already impressive riding and handling, and the optional Lexus Safety System+ now includes more driver safety aids, like lane change assist and active steering assist.
However, while tweaks occurred, some things haven’t changed like the peppy twin-turbo 3.5-liter V6 engine we used in the 2021 LS500 rear-wheel-drive we tested (all-wheel-drive is also available).
The LS500 is the sole trim package and ours was heavily optioned, adding $21,055 for eight features for luxury, safety, comfort, audio, panoramic roof, paint, heads-up-display (HUD) and heated steering wheel.
The profile isn’t designed to “look hot” and the bland character (except for the signature spindle grille) hides a 4.6 second romp to 60 mph using manual paddles and Sport S+ drive mode, one of six drive modes.
The cabin’s Luxury Package added a rear pull-down center armrest with a 7.0-inch touchscreen with controls operating side, rear and sunroof shade screens, sliding the front seat forward, heating and cooling reclining rear seats and massaging front seats.
Inside the décor showcases wood, semi-aniline leather on doors, seats and dashboard with premium stitching, chrome accents and soft padding for a luxurious ambiance.
A hybrid is available along with an LS500 F-Sport variant with sportier exterior features, different cabin design, better brakes and sport-tuned suspension but no engine muscle change.
Behind the wheel, our handling was intuitively smooth and responsive with a cushioned ride on 20-inch wheels wearing summer tires manipulating an adaptive variable air suspension system.
Driver safety features included cutting-edge driver safety aids with standard Lexus Safety System+ 2.0.
Technical highlights included a 24-heads up display (undecipherable with sunglasses on, however), 23-speaker audio, a CD player, digital rear-view mirror, good voice recognition, navigation accuracy/ prompts, a 360-degree parking view and app connections. Reliability is among the industry’s best.
At a Glance
LIKES: Power, ride, luxury, comfort, quiet, handling, spare tire
DISLIKES: Options needed, bland exterior, no free maintenance, snug rear seats
BOTTOM LINE: Price worthy for performance, reliability and value
Fact File: Lexus LS500 RWD
3.5-liter V-6 twin turbo, DOHC w/variable valve timing
416 hp at 6,000 rpm
442 lbs.-ft. at 1,600 rpm
10-speed sequential automatic/manual paddle s
18 mpg city/29 mpg hwy
0 to 60 in 4.6 seconds
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Tom Crosby has written more than 1,000 automotive reviews and is a retired Vice President of Communications for AAA Carolinas. He has seen dramatic changes in the automotive industry over the past 25 years and ponders the advent of self-driving vehicles, electric-only vehicles, sophisticated in-car telematics, and the financial challenges facing automotive manufacturers in an increasingly congested worldwide market.