2021 Lexus LS 500 Review

2021 Lexus LS 500 - The 2021 Lexus LS 500 AWD is the improved Lexus flagship


Price: $79,250

Pros-Posh. Roomy. Smooth. Fast. Good handling. New touchscreen. Rear or AWD. Less costly than rivals.

Cons-Average steering feel. Handling less athletic than that of rivals. Attractive but costly options.    

Bottom Line-Emphasis on luxury, not sportiness.

The Lexus LS launched the Lexus brand in 1990 and retains its position as the automaker's flagship model. Its last significant change was in 2018, when it was made longer, lower and wider.

Major rivals include the BMW 7-Series, Mercedes-Benz S-Class and Audi A8, which are more athletic. But the LS 500 undercuts them in price, although attractive  options can raise the list price to more than $100,000. My test car's base price was $79,250, but extras brought it to $110,225, including a $1,025 delivery charge.

Although less athletic than major rivals, the LS 500 is plenty fast, streaking from 0-60 m.p.h. in 4.8 seconds. It has a silky smooth twin turbocharged 3.5-liter V-6 with 416 horsepower and 442 pound/feet of torque that comes in at a low 1,600 r.p.m. It sure seems to eliminate the need for a V-8.

The large, heavy 206-inch-long LS 500 comfortably seats four tall adults and has a fair number of cabin storage areas.

The huge trunk has a low wide opening and power lid. However, there are no folding seat backs to provide more cargo room.

The car comes with rear or all-wheel drive (AWD), which my test car had. The LS long has had a smooth ride and it's better than ever because of suspension changes. They include improvements to the air suspension, revised dampers, new control arms and liquid-filled bushings.  

Estimated fuel economy is 17 miles per gallon in the city and 27 on highways with all-wheel drive or 18 and 29 with rear-wheel drive.

There are several LS four-door sedan models, but the more fuel-thrifty 354-horsepower hybrid gas-electric version (25 city and 33 highway) has been criticized for lacking the smoothness of the standard model. The hybrid model wasn't available for testing.

Changes for the latest LS 500 include a quieter world-class interior with a (much awaited) easier to reach and use touchscreen, darker slightly revised grille, new LED headlights, revised shift logic and an (optional) improved adaptive variable air suspension, which my test car had.

Cabin features include dual-zone automatic climate control, push-button start, heated and ventilated front seats and a power moonroof.. There's also  Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The steering is quick but has average road feel, and there is some body sway when taking curves at above-average speeds. However, new larger anti-sway bars help cut down on such sway. Stability is no problem, although this is no sports sedan. The emphasis is on luxury with a placid cruising nature. The brake pedal has a nice linear action.

I'd recommend the optional air suspension and Mark Levinson 23-speaker audio system. Other extras include hand-quilted leather on door panels, although they seem a little over-the-top. But the almost hidden door edge guards should be ordered to prevent paint chips from surrounding vehicles.

Still other options include 20-inch (up from 19-inch) alloy wheels with a machined finish, a heads-up display, leather interior trim, premium wood trim, power driver and passenger seat with massage and power rear seats.

A driver can choose these drive modes: Normal, Eco and Sport. Normal is best for routine driving. Change to Sport mode, which controls the engine, transmission and steering for curvy roads or such things as mountain driving. Even Sport mode didn't cause an uncomfortable ride with my test car's air suspension, although I could feel bumps more.

Safety features include a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane-tracing assist, lane-departure alert with steering assist, road sign assist, all-speed dynamic radar cruise control, intelligent high beams, blind spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, intuitive parking assist with auto braking, 10 air bags, "smart stop" technology and an especially handy backup camera with dynamic guidelines.

The very first LS didn't have much competition, but it was a solid upscale car and sold surprisingly well despite a relatively unknown name. Critics say it was deliberately underpriced to gain acceptance. The latest LS 500 now has the highly respected, established Lexus name and again has a very attractive base price. So it has much going for it despite increased rivalry.

Dan Jedlicka

Dan Jedlicka's Website

Dan Jedlicka joined the Chicago Sun-Times in February 1968 as a business news reporter and was named auto editor later that year. He has reviewed more than 4,000 new vehicles for the Sun-Times--far more than any newspaper auto writer in the country. Jedlicka also reviewed vehicles for Microsoft Corp.'s MSN Autos Internet site from January, 1996, to June, 2008.

Jedlicka remained auto editor at the Sun-Times until October, 2008, and continued writing for the newspaper's AutoTimes section, which he started in 1992, until February, 2009. While continuing his auto writings at the Sun-Times, he served as assistant financial editor of that newspaper from 1970 to 1973, when he began his automotive column.

He has appeared on numerous radio and television shows, including NBC's "Today," ABC's "20/20" and "The CBS Evening News." He was a host, consultant and writer for Fox-TV Channel 32's 1991 New Car Preview show and that Chicago-based station's 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1995 Chicago Auto Show Previews.

Jedlicka's auto articles have been printed in national magazines, including Esquire and Harper's. His auto columns have been reprinted in U.S. government publications and economic textbooks and he is profiled in the "World's Greatest Auto Show" history book about the Chicago Auto Show. In late 1975, Jedlicka was host and technical advisor for three one-hour television specials, "Auto Test 76," which aired nationally on PBS and were the first nationally televised auto road test shows.

In 1995, Jedlicka was the recipient of the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois Inc.'s Consumer Education Award, given annually to a person who has gained distinction in the field of consumer education. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award in the Media category and inducted into the Legends of Motorsports Guild at the Carquest World of wheels custom car show in Chicago in January, 2006.

Jedlicka was a member of the North American Car and Truck of the Year jury, composed of a select number of auto journalists from throughout the country, from 1995 until 2009. From 2010 to 2012, he was a member of Consumer Digest magazine's auto experts panel that gave Best Buy new vehicle recommendations.

He is a 1987 graduate of the Bob Bondurant Race Drivers School and later of the BMW "M" and Skip Barber Advanced Driving schools. He was a member of the U.S. team that participated in the 1987 1,000-mile Mille Miglia race/rally in Italy and has been a race winner at the Chicago area's Santa Fe Speedway.

Jedlicka has owned 25 classic cars, including 1950s and 1960s Ferraris and 1950s and 1960s Porsches, a 1965 Corvette, a 1967 Maserati and a 1957 Studebaker supercharged Golden Hawk. Jedlicka resides with his wife, Suzanne, in the Frank Lloyd Wright historic district of Oak Park. They have two children, James and Michele.

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