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Lexus LS 2021: new tech, subtle design changes for flagship sedan


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.

Lexus LS 2021 silver front end
The LS sedan is the flagship of the Lexus range. Pictured: the LS 500h Sports Luxury.

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.

Lexus LS 2021 platinum foil trim
A number of opulent interior trim combinations are available to LS buyers.

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.

Lexus LS 2021 silver rear end
The twin-turbo LS 500 and the LS 500h hybrid powertrains have both received mechanical updates.

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.

Lexus LS 2021 V6 tan interior
Rich colours and trims are available inside the LS, including this ochre tan hide.

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.

Lexus LS 2021 V6 headlight design
At the front, restyled headlights integrate Blade Scan adaptive high-beam tech.

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.

Lexus LS 2021 grey front end
The LS hybrid offers a more fuel-efficient large sedan alternative.

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.

Lexus LS 2021 platinum foil trim
The Sports Luxury grade offers the highest level of opulence in an LS.+

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.

Lexus LS 2021: prices in Australia

All prices listed are before on-road costs.

  • LS 500 F Sport: $195,953
  • LS 500h Hybrid F Sport: $195,953
  • LS 500 Sports Luxury: $201,078
  • LS 500h Hybrid Sports Luxury: $201,078