2019 Lexus LS500 Review: Built For Comfort More Than Speed

2019 Lexus LS500 Review: Built For Comfort More Than Speed

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2src19 Lexus LS5srcsrc F Sport

2019 Lexus LS500 F Sport on a hill in Northbrook, IL, on August 28, 2019.

Robert Duffer

The tail of the storm fringed the undivided highway. Lightning zippered the sky and the rolling dells of the Missouri Ozarks with bursts so explosive and mesmerizing they left tracers in our vision. On the other side of the road was the last glimpse of dusk. Between it was the 2019 Lexus LS500 in F Sport trim. 

Normally the last leg of this pilgrimage is highlighted by leaving the highway and exercising the vehicle on undulating, twisty roads that have more deer crossings than oncoming traffic. In the light of day, the well-paved asphalt is a driver’s dream. This time, skirting an electrical storm with intermittent black-out rain that would rage throughout the night, I was relieved to be in the LS 500 full-size sedan.

As intended, the flagship sedan represents everything good about Lexus: the cabin was sanctuary from the storm, and from road and vehicle noise; it was smooth and composed and spacious and comfy, even after seven hours of driving. It provided not only comfort but confidence that if the storm double backed and gave us the worst of it, the LS 500 would prevail on the other side. 

New for 2019 after the fifth-generation model was redesigned for model year 2018 is the addition of new standard safety features in Lexus Safety System + 2.0. The plus adds bicyclist detection during the day, as well as road sign assist, which posts speed limits and curves and other road signs in the instrument cluster and head up display. 

This was helpful as the darkest night settled in. As much as I liked the wide, crystal clear head-up display projected out beyond the hood, I had to turn it off to better see the road over each hill. The intelligent high beams were super helpful in detecting the one or two oncoming vehicles and automatically shifting the headlights back to normal mode, then putting the high beams back on once the car passed. All I had to do was steer. 

Earlier, on the divided highway and also on the well-marked back roads, the lane keep assist working in tandem with adaptive cruise control enabled hands-free driving for 20 seconds at a time. It was a nice break, and even though on curves the system hugged the outside part of the lane, it worked as intended and made road tripping a whole lot easier.

With such effective advanced driver assistance systems, it’s baffling that the interior technology is still so second rate. While improved, the Lexus infotainment system is as much a nuisance as it is a convenience. The track pad that controls the cursor on the wide 12.3-inch display screen is harder for the passenger to use than the driver. I know this sounds odd, but I was in both seats, and was far more frustrated getting the cursor to line up with the intended function than I was while driving. And, note to Toyota/Lexus, sometimes passengers need to take over deeper dive info systems; no need to lock those functions to spare the driver the temptation while the vehicle is in motion. If we can spend nearly $90,000 on a vehicle, we can decide what is unsafe.  

Apple CarPlay is standard on 2019 models, and even though the native voice commands are above average, there is more trust with Siri. We switched off phone controls and had some initial connectivity issues but were able to get it going after some finagling. 

There came a time, after the storms passed and the roads dried, and the deer and the armadillos bedded down in the surrounding forest, where those roads opened up. The 416-horsepower twin-turbo V-6 engine with 10-speed automatic transmission provided all the power we needed. Turbo lag is significant from a stop, but at speed knocking the paddle shifters down a gear or three solves the problem. The tester had the F Sport package, which is like BMW’s M package instead of an actual M performance model. It comes with the same potent V-6 offered in every other LS model, but what would happen if it got the V-8 in the LC grand tourer it shares a platform with? It probably wouldn’t be as smooth or quiet, sure, and we certainly wouldn’t have averaged 22.8 mpg.  

Putting it into sport mode turns the instrument cluster red and quickens throttle response and delays shift points for a more spirited ride. More impressive was the handling and steering feel. Large sedans are known for their boat-like qualities, but the handling on the LS 500 was excellent with an adaptive variable suspension standard on the F Sport that soaks up all those twisty curves. 

The F Sport trim can’t compete with the more expensive, German performance sedans, and the Genesis G90 might be a better overall value, but it gives Lexus buyers a performance-oriented option that can still swaddle you in the comfort and quiet you come to expect from Lexus.  

2019 Lexus LS500 quick take

Base price: $84,420

As tested: $88,605 (including $1,025 destination)

Powertrain: 416-hp 3.5-L twin turbo V-6 with 10-speed automatic transmission in AWD

MPG: 18 city, 27 highway, 21 combined

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2src19 Lexus LS5srcsrc F Sport

2019 Lexus LS500 F Sport on a hill in Northbrook, IL, on August 28, 2019.

Robert Duffer

The tail of the storm fringed the undivided highway. Lightning zippered the sky and the rolling dells of the Missouri Ozarks with bursts so explosive and mesmerizing they left tracers in our vision. On the other side of the road was the last glimpse of dusk. Between it was the 2019 Lexus LS500 in F Sport trim. 

Normally the last leg of this pilgrimage is highlighted by leaving the highway and exercising the vehicle on undulating, twisty roads that have more deer crossings than oncoming traffic. In the light of day, the well-paved asphalt is a driver’s dream. This time, skirting an electrical storm with intermittent black-out rain that would rage throughout the night, I was relieved to be in the LS 500 full-size sedan.

As intended, the flagship sedan represents everything good about Lexus: the cabin was sanctuary from the storm, and from road and vehicle noise; it was smooth and composed and spacious and comfy, even after seven hours of driving. It provided not only comfort but confidence that if the storm double backed and gave us the worst of it, the LS 500 would prevail on the other side. 

2src19 Lexus LS5srcsrc F Sport

2019 Lexus LS500 F Sport on a hill in Northbrook, IL, on August 28, 2019.

Robert Duffer

New for 2019 after the fifth-generation model was redesigned for model year 2018 is the addition of new standard safety features in Lexus Safety System + 2.0. The plus adds bicyclist detection during the day, as well as road sign assist, which posts speed limits and curves and other road signs in the instrument cluster and head up display. 

This was helpful as the darkest night settled in. As much as I liked the wide, crystal clear head-up display projected out beyond the hood, I had to turn it off to better see the road over each hill. The intelligent high beams were super helpful in detecting the one or two oncoming vehicles and automatically shifting the headlights back to normal mode, then putting the high beams back on once the car passed. All I had to do was steer. 

Earlier, on the divided highway and also on the well-marked back roads, the lane keep assist working in tandem with adaptive cruise control enabled hands-free driving for 20 seconds at a time. It was a nice break, and even though on curves the system hugged the outside part of the lane, it worked as intended and made road tripping a whole lot easier.

2src19 Lexus LS5srcsrc F Sport

2019 Lexus LS500 F Sport interior.

Robert Duffer

With such effective advanced driver assistance systems, it’s baffling that the interior technology is still so second rate. While improved, the Lexus infotainment system is as much a nuisance as it is a convenience. The track pad that controls the cursor on the wide 12.3-inch display screen is harder for the passenger to use than the driver. I know this sounds odd, but I was in both seats, and was far more frustrated getting the cursor to line up with the intended function than I was while driving. And, note to Toyota/Lexus, sometimes passengers need to take over deeper dive info systems; no need to lock those functions to spare the driver the temptation while the vehicle is in motion. If we can spend nearly $90,000 on a vehicle, we can decide what is unsafe.  

Apple CarPlay is standard on 2019 models, and even though the native voice commands are above average, there is more trust with Siri. We switched off phone controls and had some initial connectivity issues but were able to get it going after some finagling. 

2src19 Lexus LS5srcsrc F Sport

2019 Lexus LS500 F Sport rear seat has plenty of leg room.

Robert Duffer

There came a time, after the storms passed and the roads dried, and the deer and the armadillos bedded down in the surrounding forest, where those roads opened up. The 416-horsepower twin-turbo V-6 engine with 10-speed automatic transmission provided all the power we needed. Turbo lag is significant from a stop, but at speed knocking the paddle shifters down a gear or three solves the problem. The tester had the F Sport package, which is like BMW’s M package instead of an actual M performance model. It comes with the same potent V-6 offered in every other LS model, but what would happen if it got the V-8 in the LC grand tourer it shares a platform with? It probably wouldn’t be as smooth or quiet, sure, and we certainly wouldn’t have averaged 22.8 mpg.  

Putting it into sport mode turns the instrument cluster red and quickens throttle response and delays shift points for a more spirited ride. More impressive was the handling and steering feel. Large sedans are known for their boat-like qualities, but the handling on the LS 500 was excellent with an adaptive variable suspension standard on the F Sport that soaks up all those twisty curves. 

The F Sport trim can’t compete with the more expensive, German performance sedans, and the Genesis G90 might be a better overall value, but it gives Lexus buyers a performance-oriented option that can still swaddle you in the comfort and quiet you come to expect from Lexus.  

2019 Lexus LS500 quick take

Base price: $84,420

As tested: $88,605 (including $1,025 destination)

Powertrain: 416-hp 3.5-L twin turbo V-6 with 10-speed automatic transmission in AWD

MPG: 18 city, 27 highway, 21 combined

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