A full-size luxury car from Lexus, the LS 500h traces its roots to the LS 400 that debuted in January 1989. The 2018 model marks the fifth generation. Much evolved in almost all aspects when compared to the first generation LS, the current car appears bold, confident and even ostentatious. The low stance and a taut skin with well inscribed lines remind one of the Italian Maserati rather than the understated Mercedes-Benz S-Class. They are all fine automobiles in their own right. If the LS 500h stands apart for its Japanese pedigree — it is a part of the Toyota family — it also reflects the extraordinary qualities the brand is known for.
The large front spindle-shaped grille of the LS 500h looks highly aggressive. Incorporating 5,000 individual surfaces, it appears three-dimensional. Adding a touch of sportiness, the grille is accompanied by Z-shaped head lamps, which seem to resemble lightning streaks. Lines that define the long flowing body sides are supported by a strong shoulder-line, and an arching roofline. The massive 20-inch chrome wheels look mighty impressive. Structured on a wheelbase of 3,125mm, the LS 500h looks attractive but not as striking when viewed from the rear.
Sit back and Relax
Extending a feel of plushness and luxury, the cabin of the LS 500h is inviting. The rear seats look like a throne each with a chunky armrest in between them. The armrest can be folded to make space for three to sit in good comfort. Look for more comfort, and the rear seat can recline its back to a good 48-degrees or simply flip it. There is a cooling and massaging function too. Lexus is claimed to have worked with Shiatsu massage experts to get the pressure right, and at the right places. The amount of pressure applied can be customised to one’s preference. The climate control system of the LS 500h employs a matrix of infrared sensors to measure the occupant’s body temperature. For ultimate comfort, the front seats slide away and fold down. The doors open wide to aid entry and exit. The ‘lift’ feature of the car’s pneumatic suspension helps.
The screen-based interface is not the most user friendly. Shuffling through or to get to the hidden menus may prove difficult. That said, the Mark Levinson Reference series audio system (with a 16-channel amp) provides high-quality sound. Feeling big from behind the wheel, the LS 500h shrinks around the driver when it gets going. The 359bhp (including 60bhp from electric drive) produced by the hybrid powertrain that consists of a 3.5-litre petrol engine and an electric motor, the car feels highly agile and responsive. With ergonomics that are spot-on, the LS 500h simply shrinks around the driver. It feels far more compact than its size and dimensions would suggest. It may perhaps have to do with the weigh distribution and placement of the batteries, but the car simply feels different on the move. This is especially the case in S+ mode. The car exerts vice-like grip and provides immense confidence to push it. The strong and seemingly unrelenting pull makes it easy to dig deep into the three-digit territory. The artificial-sounding snarl from the exhaust grabs attention of those in the vicinity, and even as the big car tackles corners admiringly well. The steering is a bit light, but accurate.
Quick and assuring, the 10-speed auto transmission of the LS 500h does a good job in helping it deliver a strong performance. Clocking 0 to 100kmph in a little under 5.5 seconds, the car feels at home in the city, and on the highway. The ride quality is quite pliant and the refinement levels are high. In a segment that is highly demanding and competitive, the LS 500h brings a breath of fresh air. Priced Rs 1.77 crore ex-showroom, t the LS 500h fits snugly into the world of high-end luxury cars.
Pros: Hi-tech hybrid that drives like a conventional car, loaded