2021 Lexus LS 500 AWD Review
Rarely do the options on a test car add up to even more than a modestly priced car or crossover itself, but that’s what happened with this week’s high-lux Lexus LS 500 AWD.
The sumptuous near limo added roughly $30,000 in options (14 to be exact) to crest $110,000. Now don’t take that as a criticism because let’s face it — neither you nor I can afford a luxury sedan dripping with such opulent style and oozing electronic gadgets that one might imagine sending Jeff Bezos or Richard Branson into outer space.
This is a CEO-mobile and competes with the likes of Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi’s long stretchy sedans that feature the same sort of goodies and enough interior leather to make a cattle farmer blush.
Everyone can appreciate such plushness. My 12-year-old grandson quickly declared, “This is the type of car I want.”
Certainly there’s plenty to like, starting with the dynamic exterior styling that continues inside with cool dark wood trim with silver etched patterns that blend with the spiffy satin chrome streaks across the dash and air vents.
Some declare the expansive Lexus spindle grille “too much,” but it has grown on me as all luxury makes have expanded their grilles and nose-mounted logos like a fairgoer’s waistline after wolfing down an entire box of cream puffs.
The way the hood and lights meld into the highly creased nose and grille is brilliant. Likewise the taillights are artistic expressions rarely found in today’s auto designs. And as I have mentioned, the interior is equally pizzazzy. This one featured bright white leather seats with stitching and quilting to set it way apart from the competition while overhead is a white ultra-suede headliner to brighten the interior that otherwise has a black dash and door tops.
Unsurprisingly, the interior coddles while the undercarriage excites, starting with a twin-turbo 3.5-liter V6 hooked up to a silky 10-speed automatic. Smooth is exactly what you’d expect, but how about 416 horsepower along with a torque rating of 442 pound-feet?
A romp down a highway entry ramp easily puts the Lexus at 100+ mph and there are six drive modes to help you get there. Eco won’t, but Normal, Comfort, Custom, Sport, and Sport+ can — especially the sportier settings that firm the steering and adjust shift points to emphasize power.
The older and wiser drivers may also like the LS’s velvety ride and easy handling, too. The Lexus’s steering effort is mild and easy in all but the Sport settings, thus easy to park while still being super stable on a highway romp.
Inside the LS is board room quiet (active noise control) and the leather seats are incredibly soft.
Adaptive variable air suspension ($1,400 option) here softens things too, along with adjusting car ride height. Lexus says this also allows the driver to raise or lower the car a bit for comfortable entry and exit.
Beyond style the LS has loaded the interior with so much extra it’s hard to wrap up in a paragraph or two. But the $17,580 Executive Package adds that soft semi-aniline leather plus 28-way (crazy) front seats with a Shiatsu-inspired massaging feature. Five quick choices there and all can be tweaked for more specific functions and at various massage pressure levels.
The rear seat gets the same treatment with a seven-inch display screen that adjusts everything, plus allows the passenger-side rear seat to be reclined nearly fully while extending a footrest for a special rear seat passenger. Those seats in back are “only” 22-way adjustable, but front and rear seats both feature stylish butterfly headrests.
Naturally all seats are heated and cooled and the steering wheel is heated, although I could find no wireless charger here, which is an odd thing to be missing. There are plenty of plug-in ports, though.
That mega-package also adds the ultra-suede head liner, four-zone climate controls and spiffy power rear sunshades: two for each side window and one big one for the rear window. It retracts automatically if the car is put in reverse, allowing for better rear visibility.
One could argue that’s plenty of luxury, but wait, there’s more!
A 24-inch heads-up display adds $1,200, a panoramic glass sunroof adds another $1,000 (there’s a second stationary sunroof over the back seat with a power sun shade), and a panoramic view monitor is $800.
The premium wood trim mentioned earlier costs $800, the heated leather and wood-trimmed steering wheel is $410, and illuminated door sills run $450.
Almost forgot, the test car also packed a Mark Levinson 23-speaker audio system that costs more than a monthly mortgage payment at $1,940. Wow!
Good news too because Lexus has added a 12.3-inch touchscreen for the info screen and to control that radio. It works fine, mostly negating the need for the console’s awkward touchpad. Get this, a CD player is included too. Bravo, us oldsters! Plus much of the fancy seat gyrations, heat and cool are adjusted via the screen. Screen visuals are fine too.
Other pluses include a power tilt/telescope steering wheel, power trunk release and closure, and all the safety equipment you’d expect. Although oddly Lexus charges $3,000 extra for its Lexus Safety System+, which includes pre-collision warning with active braking, active steering assist, pedestrian alert, front cross-traffic alert and lane-change assist. I would expect all that on my luxury car starting at $80,275, including delivery.
The test car also included AWD, a major boon in these northern climates as the car is rear-drive otherwise. That is included in this model’s base price, or is $3,250 extra if you order it on the base $77,025 RWD LS 500. A hybrid model also is available, starting at $84,000.
Not that fueling costs will likely worry potential LS owners, but the car uses premium fuel and is rated 17 mpg city and 27 mpg highway by the EPA. I got an even 20 mpg in about a 60/40 mix that was heavier on highway driving.
On the more practical side its 16.9 cubic foot trunk is generous and will easily hold a couple bags of golf clubs.
Bottom line? People with $100,000 car budgets, or companies that will lease them such cars, can get everything they want in an LS 500 plus maybe a few things they didn’t even know they wanted or needed. LS equals Luxury Sedan!
Overview: 2021 Lexus LS 500 AWD
Hits: Beautiful styling inside and out, smooth power, velvety ride, easy handling, six drive modes and AWD. Hush quiet interior, big screen, wide HUD, massaging heated/cooled seats, heated wheel, power rear sunshades, two sunroofs, full safety lineup, 23-speaker stereo, plus CD player.
Misses: No wireless charger, touchpad still backup for touchscreen and some would say giant grille is a bit much.
Made in: Tahara, Aichi, Japan
Engine: 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6, 416 hp
Transmission: 10-speed automatic
Weight: 4,696 lbs.
Wheelbase: 123.0 in.
Length: 206.1 in.
Cargo: 16.9 cu.ft.
Base Price: $80,275 (includes delivery)
Major Options: Lexus Safety System+ (pre-collision w/active braking, active steering assist, pedestrian alert, front cross-traffic alert, lane change assist), $3,000
Adaptive variable air suspension w/rapid height adjustment, $1,400
Executive package (semi-aniline leather trim interior, 28-way power driver/passenger seats w/massage, ultra-suede headliner, power front seat buckles, butterfly headrests, 22-way power rear seats w/butterfly headrests & memory, message, heat, and 7-inch touchscreen controller, right-rear power recliner w/ottoman, 4-zone climate controls, power rear sunshades), $17,580
Digital rearview mirror, $200
20-inch split 10-spoke alloy wheels w/gloss black & machined finish, $920
24-inch heads-up display, $1,200
Mark Levinson 23-speaker audio system, $1,940
Panoramic glass roof, $1,000
Panoramic view monitor, $800
Premium wood trim, $800
Heated wood/leather trimmed steering wheel, $410
Illuminated door sills, $450
Rear bumper applique, $95
Door edge guards, $155
Test vehicle: $110,225
Editor's Note: Mark Savage's auto review column, Savage On Wheels, looks at a new vehicle every week and tells consumers what’s good, what’s not so good, and how the vehicle fits into the marketplace.