The car that started it all for Lexus – the LS flagship sedan – receives a considerable list of upgrades for 2021: some notable, and many subtle.
The 2021 Lexus LS 500 and LS 500h hybrid range has been updated for 2021 with a range of design, mechanical and technology changes that widen the capabilities of this large sedan.
Positioned at the very top of the Lexus range, the fifth-generation LS carries on a tradition that commenced with the first LS in 1989, when this Mercedes-Benz S-Class rival launched Lexus as a brand to the world.
The LS of 2021 is a considerably more advanced vehicle, though the core mission remains the same: this is a long, elegant saloon that prioritises comfort above all else – though as we determined when testing the LS 500, there’s more than a modicum of dynamic flair to the latest car.
Prices for the 2021 Lexus LS now start at $195,953 before on-road costs, with the tariffs across the four-strong range increased by less than one percent on last year’s figures.
As it did last year, the purchase of an LS includes a subscription to Lexus Encore Platinum, a club that offers key Lexus customers the ability to swap into other models like the new two-door LC convertible or three-row RX SUV, among other privileges.
Scott Thompson, chief executive of Lexus Australia, said that “Lexus experts have pored over every detail of the new LS,” resulting in a vehicle that Mr Thompson says delivers an “immaculate choice for the most demanding Lexus customers.”
Changes to the LS for 2021 are led by a refreshed exterior design that sports a new grille, new front bumper, and new taillight accents, along with upgraded LED headlights that incorporate more precise Blade Scan adaptive high beam technology.
A new ‘Lustre Shadow’ silver paint colour ideally highlights the changes; the finish incorporates aluminium flakes to recreate what Lexus calls a “smooth, mirror-like” effect. There is also a new wheel design for the high-grade Sports Luxury that reduces tyre noise and lowers unsprung mass.
Weight is also saved mechanically throughout the LS 500’s 3.5-litre twin-turbo petrol V6 engine that continues to produce 310kW of power and 600Nm of torque, driven through the rear wheels via a ten-speed torque converter automatic gearbox.
A new hydraulic control on the inlet side for the dual variable valve timing reduces weight, as does the LS 500’s new one-piece intake manifold that sees construction switch from cast iron to aluminium. Additionally, a new lip design on the piston upper surface reduces engine noise when cold for a more hushed effect on ignition.
Meanwhile, the 264kW 3.5-litre naturally-aspirated V6 hybrid, badged LS 500h, now produces more electric torque by way of additional assistance from the lithium-ion battery. In theory, the LS hybrid should use its electric motor more, thereby making driving – especially in the city – a quieter affair.
Inside, Lexus have concentrated on increasing both the comfort and plushness of their flagship. A new multilayered seat cushioning design adds a memory foam-esque layer that attunes to your body shape, while especially opulent cabin trim combinations have been added to the options list.
Of particular note is the availability of a special blend of platinum foil and Nishijin-ori – heritage Japanese woven textile – which can be applied to a number of surfaces inside the LS. Other trim combinations, including a mix of hand-pleated upholstery and Kiriko cut glass, remain available.
Beneath the LS, other changes also target comfort. The standard adaptive variable suspension picks up a revised linear solenoid and enlarged flow path inside the control valve, meaning the force required to dampen bumps is lessened and ride comfort is greater. A new run-flat tyre design reduces the vertical spring rate to further insulate against bumps in the road.
Technology changes of note take in a switch to a 12.3-inch screen in the cabin that incorporates touch capacity, the addition of a Lexus-first digital rear view mirror providing a live feed from the rear camera, and the inclusion of Lexus Connected Services – an integrated connection to the Lexus Emergency Call Centre that relays your location and provides a connection to an agent in the event of an emergency or collision.
Junction AEB has been added to the slate of safety technologies for the LS, while the most affordable F Sport grade joins the Sports Luxury in offering front cross traffic alert, diagonal front collision radar, active steering assist, and a curve speed reduction function for the lane trace system.
Standard equipment on both grades – the F Sport and Sports Luxury – continues to take in heated and cooled front seats, a heated steering wheel and heated outboard rear seats, along with 28-way power front seats with memory, a 23-speaker Mark Levinson stereo, satellite navigation, wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, four USB ports, and DAB+ digital radio.
All cars feature a sunroof, four-door keyless smart entry, soft-close doors, a power boot lid, an infrared body temperature sensor-driven climate control system, a colour head-up display, and an electric rear window sun blind.
Standard safety technologies include frontal AEB with pedestrian and daytime cyclist detection, lane keeping assistance with lane tracing, all-speed adaptive cruise control, partial speed sign recognition, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert with AEB, front cross traffic alert, and a 360-degree camera.
The LS F Sport features dark metallic colouring for the 20-inch alloy wheels, badging and grille. This more athletic specification also fits high performance brakes, variable steering with rear wheel steer, dual-zone climate control, and active front and rear stabilisers exclusively for the LS 500 F Sport petrol grade.
Spend $5,125 more on the high-spec Sports Luxury and you pick up a range of lush features with a focus on rear occupant comfort. These include powered, massaging, heated and cooled rear outboard seats with memory: the passenger-side rear outboard seat goes further with a full recline and ottoman function.
The Sports Luxury has dual rear-side sun blinds, plus dual rear 11.6-inch high-definition screens with HDMI input. Softer semi-aniline leather upholstery is standard, as is quad-zone climate control, a rear touchscreen with climate, audio and massage controls, rear seat cushion airbags, and for the LS 500 petrol, a rear cool box.
All prices listed are before on-road costs.
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