2018 Lexus LS 500 First Drive

Published on September 29, 2017

When we got behind the wheel and threw the LS into a bunch of corners, the biggest standout among all the electronics was the electric roll bar. Or at least it felt that way. There were other systems at play.

I was not one of the lucky ones chosen by Lexus for a sneak peak into the all-new 2018 Lexus LS500 so, for now, we’ll have to rely on the guys at autoweek to bring us all the juicy details.  You can bet that yours truly will have a full write up and super-detailed video as soon as I can get my hands on one!

The 2018 Lexus LS 500 goes on sale in February. It’s one thing to design and engineer a luxury car . It’s another to make it go around a corner without making the outside front tire squeal like a 15-year-old in the front row at a Hanson concert (in 1999)

2018 Lexus LS 500 first (somewhat brief) drive: Testing all the acronyms

“I … wanted the experience of driving the new LS to be amazing,” said chief engineer Toshio Asahi.2018 Lexus LS 500 first (somewhat brief) drive: Testing all the acronyms

The 2018 Lexus LS rides on an almost-all-new platform, the Global Architecture-Luxury or GA-L platform. This was first used in the sporty LC 500 coupe, which we have driven and mostly liked. The LS 500 is a stretched version of the LC 500’s GA-L chassis, with a 123-inch wheelbase. Because they spent so much time developing the LC 500, engineers say they were able to make the new LS that much better by applying everything they’d learned on LC to LS.

2018 Lexus LS 500 first (somewhat brief) drive: Testing all the acronyms

We told you about the basics of the LS last week. But here’s a brief recap: It comes with only a V6 — no V8, but the V6 is better than the V8 by almost every metric. The 3.5-liter longitudinally mounted twin-turbo DOHC V6 makes more power and torque across a wider band than the previous V8, all while spewing fewer emissions. The gasoline, non-hybrid V6 makes 416 hp and 442-lb-ft of torque, while the hybrid cranks out 354 combined hp. The biggest difference with the non-hybrid vs. the old V8 is the torque from 1,800 to 4,000 rpm, which is prodigious. Zero to 60 comes up in 4.6 seconds in the RWD LS 500 and 5.1 seconds in the hybrid.

The transmission is a 10-speed automatic in the non-hybrid V6 and a hybrid transmission in the hybrid, the latter featuring four regular automatic gears and six “synthetic” gears helped along by electric motors to create the sensation of a 10-speed. Life is weird sometimes.

Lexus controls all that mass and all that torque using a tried-and-true method: acronyms. The acronyms all delineate various electronic systems. The main means of harnessing 5,000 pounds of kinetic Lexus when it’s time to go somewhere other than a straight line is VDIM, vehicle dynamics integrated management. This takes over everything it can get its electronic hands on: ABS, TRAC/TRC (traction control), VSC (vehicle stability control), EPS (electric power steering), VGRS (variable gear ratio steering) and DRS (dynamic rear steering). If you get the airbag suspension instead of coil springs, it also controls a new, more advanced adaptive variable suspension or AVS. (There are a few hundred thousand more acronyms covering safety systems, but we only have so much space here.)2018 Lexus LS 500 first (somewhat brief) drive: Testing all the acronyms

When we got behind the wheel and threw the LS into a bunch of corners, the biggest standout among all the electronics was the electric roll bar. Or at least it felt that way. There were other systems at play.

“The new VDIM system implements cooperative control of all vehicle subsytems — braking, steering, powertrain and suspension — to control basic longitudinal, lateral and vertical motions as well as yaw, roll and pitch,” Lexus explained.2018 Lexus LS 500 first (somewhat brief) drive: Testing all the acronyms

The idea is to offer ride, handling and tonnage control in the same car. How does it feel from behind the wheel?

If you’re going in a straight line, the new LS is everything you want in a giant Lexus: It is quiet, commodious and comfortable. You can get seat massagers to knead your aching back, for instance. You can even order a special suite of rear seat comforts for the *cough* Chinese market *cough* where they like to ride in the back. In a straight line, you will be perfectly happy in any model of the new LS.

Our first drive was in an LS 500h, the hybrid. This combines a 295-hp 3.5-liter gasoline V6 with two electric motors for a total system power rating of 354 hp. Lexus promises 25 mpg city, 33 mpg highway and 28 combined for the RWD 500h, slightly less with AWD. But on the highway, driving it like a Lexus LS driver would, it felt perfectly luxurious: quiet, comfy and climate-controlled. We might have expected better mileage but then who are we kidding, it weighs two and a half tons!

Next we got into the surprise Easter egg of LS 500 launches, the F Sport model. Yes, it will have an F Sport available at launch. This is a bold move for a vehicle that, as we seem to keep saying, weighs two and a half tons. The output of the twin-turbo V6 in the F Sport is the same as the non-F Sport LS 500, at 416 hp and 442 lb ft of torque. In a straight line, that’s enough to launch from 0-60 in 4.6 seconds.

But what about cornering? Does it feel at all sporty? Well, crank the steering wheel and be amazed, as every acronym in the substantial Lexus alphabet goes to work trying desperately to make your Lexus corner flat, despite its overwhelming desire to heave and flop over onto its Takumi-sculpted sides. Through the miracle of modern electronics, it does corner surprisingly flat, so much so that you may have to try a few corners at less than your usual 10/10ths to get the feel of it. But the feeling is a little forced, like someone giving the best man’s speech who has over-rehearsed everything and isn’t letting it all flow organically. Some big, heavy AMGs are like that. You’d have to go up a class or two to something like a Bentley to find a large sedan like this that corners with what feels like a more natural, less-forced roll control. The Lexus LS 500 F Sport feels a little robotic. But it does get you through the twisties with what might be, in a new interpretation of the word, fun. In fact, if we had to buy a Lexus LS 500 sedan, we would definitely get the F Sport.

Specific prices aren’t out yet, but Lexus says to expect a range of from $75,000 to $100,000 when the car hits showrooms in February. If your spouse insists on a Lexus LS but you kind of enjoy driving, get the F Sport. If both of you like luxury and don’t care about corners, take your pick of the rest of the LS line. Maybe skip that hybrid model, since it only gets 5 mpg better combined. Get the F Sport and maybe drop it into eco once in a while.

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2018 Lexus LS 500 first (somewhat brief) drive: Testing all the acronyms
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