2021 Lexus LS

By January 27, 2021

The LS sedan was the first vehicle to wear the Lexus badge—and the model still sits atop the luxury lineup, in LS500 and LS500h form. Despite new engines, new tech, and more than 30 new model years, the Lexus LS retains all the goodness that made the original model such a standout among full-size luxury sedans.

The 2021 LS gets lightly revised headlights and taillights. The old infotainment controls have been tossed in favor of a more intuitive touchscreen.

The LS500 remains the cheaper of the two LS models. It is also the more traditional choice, featuring a twin-turbo V-6 making 416 hp and a 10-speed automatic. That may not sound very traditional, but it’s certainly the more conventional choice versus the hybridized LS500h, which gets a V-6 sans turbo paired to an electric motor and a small battery pack. It makes 354 hp.

Of the two, the hybrid is unsurprisingly the fuel-economy champ at 25 mpg city, 33 highway, 28 combined. That beats out the 18/29/22 mpg of the regular LS500. All figures reflect rear-drive cars; optional all-wheel drive reduces those ratings slightly.

Lexus isn’t stingy with safety equipment. The LS gets standard automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and active lane control. Opting for the Lexus Safety System Plus package allows the LS to merge into an open lane of traffic after the turn signal is tapped and steer itself around pedestrians and cyclists at city speeds if the driver does not.

The LS hasn’t been crash-tested by either major testing body, and we don’t expect that to change anytime soon.

Model Lineup

The LS500 comes in both standard trim and F Sport duds. The LS500h doesn’t offer the F Sport trim. Standard equipment doesn’t really vary between these three trims, but a few extravagant option packages let buyers configure their own ritzier versions.

The base LS500 begins at $77,025 and comes standard with a 12.3-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, navigation, 19-inch wheels, leather upholstery, 12-speaker audio, and heated and cooled front seats with 16 ways of adjustment.

The F Sport begins at $80,625 and is primarily concerned with aesthetic upgrades, such as unique 19-inch wheels, sportier instrumentation, exclusive dark trim inside and out, and sport seats with more aggressive bolsters.

The LS500h costs about $80,000, and its standard equipment is similar to that of the base LS500.

Exterior

The 2021 revisions further refine what was already a sharp sedan. Of course, the most polarizing aspect of the LS remains its nose, which wears a large, elaborate hourglass grille that is flanked by thin headlights and big air ducts. Nothing about this design blends into the background. In a segment of conservative styling, the flamboyant Lexus is clearly the rebel.

The rest of the car has more universal appeal without being any less expressive. Lots of character lines and general sense of muscular fluidity define the LS aesthetic, and we find it an attractive one.

Interior

The LS is best appreciated from the cockpit, where beautiful detailing and first-rate materials abound on nearly every surface. In an effort to promote its heritage, lots of the special touches take inspiration from traditional Japanese culture, such as the pleated door trims and the available Kiriko cut glass trim.

The most important update for 2021 regards the infotainment system. Last year, the 12.3-inch screen could only be controlled via a remote touchpad, which was nothing less than finicky even on the best of days. This year, the system finally is updated for touchscreen capability. Even though the screen is recessed under the dashtop, making it a bit of a reach from the driver’s seat, haptic control is still ideal compared to the touchpad. The updated system also now has Android Auto integration, something older models lacked.

With at least 16 ways of adjustment and standard heating and cooling, there is no rational reason to upgrade from the excellent base seats. But this is a luxury car, and rationalizing isn’t necessary to splurge on the available 28-way power seats.

Also available: the option to turn the back seat into executive-class accommodations. For $17,100, the Executive Package will eliminate the rear bench seat for two individual seats that get heated and cooling functions, 22-way adjustment, massaging, and an ottoman. Dual-zone climate control for the rear is also included, as is a 7.0-inch rear touchscreen.

Cargo space is right in line with other big sedans at around 17 cubic feet, though the LS500h loses a couple cubes to its battery.

Driving Impressions

It’s easy to look on a specification sheet and find the LS behind in some categories. Its German rivals offer thundering power and assertive sport models—and fire-breathing supersedans. Lexus doesn’t. It pays homage to its brand reputation for serenity, and that’s where it excels.

The 416 hp and 442 lb-ft of torque from the 3.5-liter twin-turbo V-6 should be quick enough to satisfy most buyers. While the hybrid trims output to 354 hp, it cruises softly and silently. In either case, drivers are rewarded more than the slightly louder, stiffer F Sport.

Big luxury sedans are all about finding serenity on four wheels, and the LS delivers that with each click of the key fob. It’s why we would avoid the F Sport and stick with the other models’ swell isolation and pillow-soft ride. It caters to drivers who don’t care about careening through corners, and does it fabulously.

Final Word

The 2021 Lexus LS is a fantastic full-size cruiser with enough options to indulge anyone shopping for a big sedan. We’d start our shopping with the LS500 and rack up the options from there.

 

—by Anthony Sophinos, with driving impressions from The Car Connection

 

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