Nice Drives: 2023 Lexus LS500

Lexus’s 2023 LS500 doesn’t rewrite the playbook

by Isaac Bouchard

Courtesy Lexus

When the Lexus LS400 debuted in 1989, it radically changed the luxury sedan scene. It was better built, more refined and higher tech than the established competition, and it really put the upstart brand on the map. It is hard to imagine Lexus recreating that magic today; the competition is much fiercer and the center of gravity for luxury vehicles has shifted to SUVs. That context is essential for understanding the current LS500; a lovely four door that doesn’t radically rewrite the playbook.

Courtesy Lexus

The LS500 certainly looks desirable; sleek and sexy, with big wheels that seem to push the fender forms upwards and out; a fastback roofline and well-integrated, bold Lexus grill. Inside, it’s still contemporary and bold, even after being on the road for five years. Lexus finally updated the infotainment to their latest system; one no longer has to twiddle about with a little mousepad. The supportive front chairs offer 28(!) adjustments by Lexus’ count, and the LS’ rears are comfortable as well, though having to duck under the sloping roof is something those used to crossovers will have to get used to. Trunk space is generous.

Courtesy Lexus

This LS500 seemed to ride better than ones tested over the last few years, absorbing pavement blemishes with less disruption to the sedan’s occupants. This is essential to maintaining the bubble of refinement a flagship must project. The Lexus is certainly quiet in terms of road and wind noise, too. Despite the F Sport name, this is not the kind of sedan that encourages drifting around onramps or journeying up to mountain passes early on a Sunday morning just to unravel some twisty roads. The LS500 succumbs to understeer too early, and doesn’t telegraph its intent well enough for that—somewhat surprising insofar as it shares a chassis with the incredibly interactive LC500 coupe. Likewise the Lexus’ powertrain, a 3.4-liter, twin-turbo V6, isn’t responsive enough (blame the 10-speed transmission programing) nor evocative enough in sound to egg one on. It is torquey and refined though. Its 416hp and 442lb-ft get the Lexus to 60 in 5.4 seconds. That’s obviously quick enough, but competitors are more than a second faster. This powertrain also doesn’t return particularly good economy; there is room for Lexus to show their hybrid expertise here.

Courtesy Lexus

The LS500 represents excellent value—something it shares with the original. Most competitors have moved into the $100,000-150,000 price range, while the Lexus costs about the same as a loaded pickup truck. Combined with the level of pampered service the Lexus dealer body provides, and the inherent reliability and durability the LS series has become famed for, and it still seems an attractive proposition, if not the earth-shaking icon it once was.

EPA Ratings: 17/27/21mpg
0-60mph: 5.4sec
Price as tested: $88,545
Rating: 3 Stars
Here is what Lexus has to say.

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