Striking Expression: Lexus LS 500 Test Drive

1 year ago
Striking Expression: Lexus LS 500 Test Drive

The new Lexus LS 500 is more handsome and comfortable than ever before.

By Yessar Rosendar

Last April ForbesLife Indonesia got a chance to review the Lexus LS 500, the top of the line model of the brand’s flagship sedan that was introduced recently by Lexus Indonesia to the market. The new Lexus LS can be summarized in one word: striking. The fifth generation of this full-size executive sedan has been completely redesigned, and one big change is its more coupe-like silhouette. With the new sportier design, the car evokes a persona closer to a Maserati Quattroporte or a Porsche Panamera. The brand’s design also seems to finally come to maturity as now the unorthodox grill design is better integrated with the exterior design of the car. The beauty of the car also goes below skin deep, as it features an all-new chassis, a new twin-turbo V6 engine, and enhanced comfort.

While sporty outside, it is also sublime to experience being the driver of the LS 500. The seating position was spot on and makes one feel like one is driving a sports sedan—especially when switched to sports mode. The car is also surprisingly quite capable in the handling department, being agile and quickly responding to inputs. The LS 500 is based on the same platform as the Lexus LC 500, the newest sports car from the brand that features an all-new platform. The LS also adopts the same front midship layout as the LC, giving it a lower center of gravity that enhances handling. That said, it is still a long car and one can feel the rear end trying to follow the front. Still, this car provides plenty of fun, but one just has to remember that it weighs 2.4 tonnes and is a 5.2 meter long car. The new 3.5 liter V6 engine has a great sound, adding to the sports car ambience.

For the fifth generation Lexus LS 500 uses a 3.5-liter twin turbocharged V6 petrol engine, a change from the 4.6 liters naturally aspirated V8 in the previous generation. The turbocharging offsets the downsizing of the engine, and it generates a respectable 415 horsepower (a 9% increase from the previous generation). On paper the car can propel from a standstill to 100 km/h in 4.5 seconds and the powertrain package was able to deliver a sporty drive. The power from the engine is distributed through a 10-speed automatic transmission, a first for a premium passenger car according to Lexus, and it’s the same transmission found in the Lexus LC 500. While it’s a torque converter automatic, the car can shift fast. The 10-speed transmission also benefited normal driving as it can provide an optimal gear for all conditions, with the higher ratios able to deliver a smoother drive while the shorter ratios in the lower gears helped acceleration at lower speeds.

The car’s most unique approach is the influence of Japanese hospitality or omotenashi. The concept translates into a car meant to take care of the driver and passengers by anticipating their needs, and giving them comfort and protection. It is small details, often overlooked, that make the difference, such as the car will lower itself when someone opens the door, and one doesn’t have to slam the door close as it will softly vacuum itself shut. Even the air conditioner is equipped with infrared sensors that will measure the body temperature of the passengers and adjust the AC on the fly.

Being inside of the LS 500 is definitely comfortable, and our test unit featured an elegant burgundy colored leather throughout the cabin. The interior design was a refreshing approach and offered something different from its European rivals. Japanese hospitality influenced the interior design, with the front dashboard featuring a line that was inspired by the Koto, a Japanese musical instrument. The wood panel has a unique pattern and the shift knob in the front designed and shaped like a small stone from a river that was surprisingly ergonomic to hold. Being inside the car is like being in a Japanese Zen garden or an art gallery on wheels. In the front there is a 12.3-inch center display and the driver side also has a 24.4 inch heads up display. The rear passengers get 11-inch displays.

The most important element for a car of this class is the comfort of the rear seats—where the owner might likely spend much time—and the LS 500 is as appealing as its European rivals. The left rear seat is done in an ottoman style and it can be almost fully reclined to full flat bed with the front seat pushed forward. The rear seats can recline up to 48 degrees, making it one of the most relaxing seats in its class, and more than the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, that can only recline 43.4 degrees. The comfort of the seat is enhanced with a shiatsu-inspired massage function available in all four seats. The most comprehensive massage programs can be found in the rear seats, with the seat able to give a top to bottom full massage.

The cabin was also very quiet, as it is aided by active noise control. The quiet cabin makes it easier to appreciate the Mark Levinson sound system in the car. Of course, the setup for the LS is the finest from the American high-end audio brand, and powered with a 2,400 watts amplifier that channels the sound through 23 speakers (including four in the ceiling and the largest subwoofer ever in a Lexus). The system provided a superb sound quality and the sound is aided by surround sound technology. The sound quality is one of the best in its class, on par (if not better) than the Burmester sound system in the Mercedes-Benz S-Class.

The car however has a few areas for improvement. The trackpad to control the entertainment system and other functions of the car for the driver is still not the most intuitive and the system itself is not that user friendly. Fortunately, the system is better for the rear seats and most of the functions such as the seat position, massage, and entertainment system can be controlled via the touch screen on the center arm rest. The sunroof is somewhat small. There is also a cooler compartment in the back that can only accommodate two soft drink-sized cans, no luck for those who wish to chill a bottle of bubbly.

On the whole the LS 500 sets its own benchmark, offering a different approach from its European rivals, and combining cutting-edge technologies with style and comfort. Priced at Rp 3.495 billion (off the road), it comes in around Rp 1 billion more expensive than its competitors. The LS 500 is a great option for those wanting something different, that combines prestige, style and comfort while having peace of mind, as the brand is well known for its reliability.

Photo Location: Fairmont Jakarta

Written By
Yessar Rosendar