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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.

2023 Lexus LS 500h AWD review

2023 Lexus LS 500h AWD right front
Mark Savage
Savage On Wheels
2023 Lexus LS 500h AWD right front

No car is perfect, but the luxurious full-size Lexus LS 500h sedan wants to be, and edges closer to it with each iteration.

The 2023 LS (Luxury Sedan one supposes) exhibits the usual stunning styling with its big grille that is a love it or hate it design, but a handsome profile and gorgeous interior.

But let’s get right to the biggest improvement, one that was long overdue. Lexus has axed the annoying console touchpad that had been intended for adjusting the infotainment screen for virtually all cockpit functions, especially the radio. Gone!

Now there’s a fine 12.3-inch touchscreen that’s simple to understand and operate. Hallelujah!

That may seem a small improvement, but it’s amazingly important to the enjoyment of such a fine sedan that is so close to perfection in nearly every other way. Oh, there’s the looks that are enjoyable, and the test car was slathered in a deep Nightfall Mica (metallic dark blue) that oozed premium paint job.

But the 500h is the top-level Lexus sedan and touts a hybrid system to help extend its fuel economy while also giving it low-end power and smooth operation from a stop. That’s when the EV power of the hybrid system helps it pull away from stoplights with authority, yet effortlessly thanks to its automatic CVT. That continuously variable transmission is only in this particular LS model, the lower trims running on pure gas power are shift via a 10-speed automatic.

Ultimate power in the hybrid with dual electric motors to power its AWD system is 354 horsepower. That’s a combo of hybrid system and a 3.5-liter V6. The base and F Sport models tout a 3.4-liter twin-turbo V6 that makes 416 horsepower but has a lower EPA gas mileage rating. Both are available as rear-wheel-drive or AWD.

In the hybrid, the EPA numbers are 22 mpg city and 29 mpg highway, while the gas-only LS is rated 18 mpg city and 29 highway. One can see the hybrid helps primarily on the city driving end. I managed 24.1 mpg in a mix of the two.

But one expects sufficient, if not generous, power in a big luxury sedan, along with a cushioned well-controlled ride that coddles its occupants. The Lexus LS provides that but also adds six drive modes to increase or decrease acceleration exuberance along with ride and handling quality.

Sport and Sport+ speed up acceleration, but the firm ride and steering effort. Some may find that effort too heavy for daily driving but is certainly fine for a highway jaunt. Comfort and Normal modes ease up the steering effort while also helping the suspension dampen severe bumps and potholes. Eco is for stretching gas mileage and slowing acceleration while a Snow setting allows for better acceleration in the winter wet. Of course, with AWD standard, traction is good to begin with.

Being a 5,000+ pound vehicle, the LS 500h’s emphasis is always on luxury and delivering a sturdy, substantial feel in both the driving effort and passenger comfort. No disappointments here.

Lexus designs a useful and luxurious interior with white quilted leather seats and door trim plus accents that give the LS some elegant pizazz, if that makes sense. For instance, the door inserts feature black wood with metal inserts that create an elegant design, while spreading across the dash are thin metal strips that fan out sort of like thin sword blades. Sharp!

That’s the luxury look, but there’s so much more here starting with a power tilt/telescope steering wheel and 28-way power adjustable heated and cooled seats with a massaging function, and that’s just up front. You get the massaging options via two screen touches. Just power up the feature and choose from five settings, Centripetal, Centrifugal, Lower Body, Upper Body and Lumbar.

Not sure what Centripetal even means, but it seemed to massage from bottom to top, while Centrifugal starts at the shoulders and works down. Intensity levels also can be adjusted. Please don’t stop!

Folks ask if this is dangerous because a driver might doze off during such a massage, but no. Think of this more as a stimulant for blood flow as you settle into a seat for a long cross-country drive. The massage is actually more likely to keep you awake.

But the passenger and folks in back could snooze as a giant armrest folds down between the rear seats and includes a touchscreen with controls to recline the seats, turn on heat or cooling for the cushions, and also will massage its occupants. That my friends, is luxury that even your old Aunt Ida could appreciate.

Also in the roomy back seat are power side window sunshades controlled on that console screen. In fact, it activates screens for all three rear windows on each side, even the tiny triangular ones that are behind a passenger’s head. Naturally a power sunshade can be deployed in the wide rear window and even the driver can control that from up front.

Overhead is a small sunroof with manual shade and there’s also a rockin’ 23-speaker Mark Levinson surround sound stereo system. Again, that’s all controlled via the main touchscreen with easy to understand controls. Lexus also includes a digital assistant system called to attention via “Hey Lexus” commands. Pretty simple, like Alexa and similar voice-activated devices.

2023 Lexus LS 500h AWD rear seat
Mark Savage
Savage On Wheels
2023 Lexus LS 500h AWD rear seat

There’s also a rearview camera in the mirror. Pretty cool and high-def. Great at night.

The front seatbelts feature a power lift-up feature so it’s easier for the driver or front passenger to reach back and find the buckle — a bit of extra luxury to be sure.

The tester added a superfluous dash camera system for $375, but that’s more for show and tell than anything useful.

Meanwhile, a full bevy of standard safety equipment is included, everything from road sign detection and lane change assist up to parking sensors, blind spot monitors and smart high beam headlights. No safety options are needed.

Toyota’s semi-hands-free driving aid known as Advanced Driving System is new to the LS, but I found it more annoying than helpful as it kept turning itself off and then saying it was ready a few seconds later. Standard smart cruise control is more useful and lane detection helps keep a car centered in its lane. No real need to enable a driver to stop holding the wheel.

On the practical side, the trunk allows 15+ cubic feet of cargo room, good for a family of four taking a trip with luggage. And not that gas prices will affect a purchase decision here, but the LS prefers premium fuel.

Then there’s the price for such luxury. A base LS with gas engine and rear-drive starts at about $79,600 and the sportier F Sport with more form-fitting seats and stiffer suspension lists at $82,500 with the twin-turbo V6. This 500h AWD lists at $113,935, including delivery and added just a few simple options to maintain its appearance, plus lighted door sills for $450. The total was $114,090, or more than my house cost 30 years ago.

That may seem outlandish, and it would be for many non-professional athletes or CEOs but consider its competition in the luxury world. There’s the Audi A8, BMW 7 Series, and Mercedes-Benz S Class. All are up there, with the Benz starting at $114k. For similar luxury and looks there also is the Genesis G90 sedan, which starts about $90k and could be had in all its glory and with AWD for just beyond $100,000.

So just how much one pays for luxury may depend on nameplate desires and the recognition they receive. Lexus is near perfection!

FAST STATS: 2023 Lexus LS 500h AWD

Hits: Beautiful inside and out, strong engine/hybrid system, easy handling, awesome ride. Comfortable and stylish interior with comfy heated/cooled and massaging seats front and rear, multiple power modes, big dash screen, heated power tilt/telescope wheel, sunroof, rear sun shields, full bevy of safety aids. No more touchpad!

Misses: Price, but not compared with competition. Hands-free driving was hit and miss and sedan prefers premium fuel.

Made in: Aichi, Japan

Engine: 3.5-liter V6 + multi-stage hybrid w/2 electric motors, 354 horsepower

Transmission: Automatic CVT

Weight: 5,093 lbs.

Length: 206.1in.

Wheelbase: 123.0 in.

Cargo: 15.2 cu.ft.

MPG: 22/29

MPG: 24.1 (tested)

Base Price: $113,935 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $105,557

Major Options:

Door edge guards, $155

Rear bumper applique, $95

Illuminated door sills, $450

Dash camera, $375

Test vehicle: $114,090

Sources: Lexus, kbb.com

Mark Savage writes the auto review column, Savage On Wheels, for WUWM (formerly for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) and Savageonwheels.com. He is the former executive editor of American Snowmobiler magazine and FineScale Modeler magazine, both part of Kalmbach Media in Waukesha.
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