2020 Lexus LS 500h AWD Review

Sometimes more is most definitely actually less


Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief



Positives: Handsome inside and out, spacious and luxurious for all occupants, excellent levels of safety tech, built rock solid.
Negatives: Disappointing powertrain, mediocre efficiency, frustrating infotainment experience, expensive.
Bottom Line: The LS 500h might be pricier than its gas counterpart, but it doesn't feel that way when you get behind the wheel. If you could ignore the driving experience and the lack of real hybrid gains, it would be a solid luxury sedan.
The Lexus LS 500h is a bit misleading. When other carmakers are using hybrid power to boost efficiency and power, it seems Lexus wants their flagship sedan to be a bit more, well... unique. Not only does it have only marginally better fuel economy than its gas-only counterpart, it actually has significantly less power. It also costs a few thousand more than the LS 500. But it does have looks, luxury, and comfort in spades. We drove the top trimmed sedan to see if hybridization changes the game at all. Read on for our full review.
 

Driving Experience

5.7

 

If all you do is drive in a straight line at 70 mph, the LS 500h is fantastic. Otherwise, the experience does not warrant the six-figure price tag. Spend a few thousand less for the gas-only LS 500, and you'll be much happier. There's no reason why this car shouldn't have the LS 500's turbo V6, which would drastically alter the experience. The CVT mated to the four-speed automatic also needs to go.

Ride Quality: The LS 500h has a plush ride that's limousine-like in its manners. Its suspension is set up for comfort, and that's obvious every time you take to the roads.

Acceleration: 0-60 comes in the mid-six second range, which is considerably slower than the LS 500. It, by no means, feels quick. The transmission and engines don't seem to work in concert, and even in EV mode AWD is engaged at all times. If you're looking for verve, look elsewhere.

Braking: We didn't enjoy the brakes for this heavy beast. They feel spongy and regenerative properties did not help matters.

Steering: The steering is definitely on the light side, but Sport+ mode helps provide a little more effort. There's almost no feedback an there's no increase in effort when turning. Response, however, is decent.

Handling: There's less body roll in the F Sport than the standard LS, but you can still feel it. The car weighs almost 5,000 pounds, so this is no surprise. The Germans are more agile.

Technology

7.9

 

We continue to lament Lexus's insistence on keeping its infotainment controls frustrating when its competitors do so much better. The touchpad is totally inconsistent with the way Enform looks. The rest of the in-car tech, however, is quite good.

Infotainment System: The Enform system is the best its ever looked on the enormous 12.3" screen. We also love the big color heads-up display that keeps all the relevant driving data front and center.

Controls: We still hate the awful touchpad that's about as easy to use as an '80s video game joystick when it comes to precision. At least the steering wheel controls, gearshift, and climate controls are just about perfect. The dual-function audio knob is also ingenious, placing tuning and volume in a single, easy-to-use location.

Styling

8.4

 

Despite its handsome looks, the LS 500h tends to be rather anonymous because it gets overshadowed by Mercedes, Audi, Maserati, and BMW. It's too bad since the LS has one of the best iterations of the spindle grille.

Front: The LS 500h has an attractive front fascia with a terrific execution of mesh in the big grille. Rather than overly busy like some Lexus models, the headlights, LED driving lights, and the vents all look great together.

Rear: The details in the taillights look great and draw your eye. We'd like to see a bit more daring style in the lower rear fascia/bumper that's rather vanilla compared to the rest of the car. The lack of visible exhaust ports also detracts from the back end.

Profile: The LS 500h is lean and muscular at the same time. It has creases and lines in all the right places. The contour of the front fender into the hood is very Maserati-like.

Cabin: Next to the gorgeous LC 500's cabin, the LS has the best execution of the brand's interiors. Materials are rich, and the lines on the dash, materials quality, and layout are just beautiful.

Comfort

9.4

 

Lexus does plush levels of comfort in front and back with top-notch space for all. Add the Luxury Package, and you might never want to leave the back seat. It's also whisper-quiet inside.

Front Seats: The front seats are soft, supportive, and great for long trips. We like the F Sport seats in the LS 500 better, but these are still damned good.

Rear Seats: The pricey Luxury Package might actually be worth it if you spend most of your time being chauffeured. It provides plush jet-executive comfort that can lead to tremendous levels of on-road productivity or just a long nap. The seats have excellent reclining capability, and the seats are deep and supportive.

NVH: The LS 500h is very quiet inside, even at 80 mph. Its slippery shape helps. The only annoying noise is the din of the hybrid system and the overly fussy transmission working in disharmony.

Safety

7.5

 

The LS has not been crash tested by either body, but it does have high levels of standard and optional safety equipment, which is the norm for flagship sedans. The standard Lexus Safety System+ 2.0 has been augmented to include Traffic Sign Recogntion.

IIHS Rating: Not tested.

NHTSA Rating: Not tested.

Standard Tech: The LS 500h comes with the Lexus Safety System+ 2.0 that includes a Pre-Collision System, an adaptive cruise control system that works at all speeds, and semi-autonomous Lane Tracing Assist.

Optional Tech: Our tester came with Lexus Safety System+ A that includes Pre-collision with Active Braking, Active Steering Assist, Pedestrian Alert, Front Cross-Traffic Alert, and Lane Change Assist.

Storage/Cargo

8.9

 

There are plenty of good space in the cabin for storage, which comes across as a bit of a surprise given its style-centric approach.

Storage Space: There really are no storage compartments in the center stack or in the front of the console, but there's a big armrest and a large cupholder compartment to keep small to medium items out of sight.

Cargo Room: The trunk is wide and deep with 16.95 cubic feet of cargo space. The load floor is nice and flat, too.

Fuel Economy

5.9

 

This might just be the biggest disappointment about the LS 500h. Sure, you get the hybrid moniker. But you pay a few thousand more to gain very little in the way of efficiency. Plus, you lose power and much in the way of the driving experience.

Observed: 20.3 mpg

Distance Driven: 109 miles.

Audio

9.6

 

The rich and booming 23-speaker Mark Levinson system is awesome, and we always enjoy cranking it up. Zero distortion, ample bass, superb clarity, and silky delivery amount to one of the best in the business for a little less than $2K. Totally worth it.



Final Thoughts

As much as we liked the LS 500 F Sport, the hybrid version of the LS is a disappointment. For this price, you don't get the power and smoothness you expect from the powertrain. What you experience is tantamount to having your senses offended by a car that should drive far better than it does, despite its level of comfort and its fetching looks. The fact that you have to pay more to get barely more efficiency and way less fun behind the wheel is just plain wrong. Those who want the hybrid moniker and don't plan on driving with any enthusiasm may find solace in its confines. Otherwise, look elsewhere.
Shopping for a new
Lexus LS 500h?

(844) 801-8526
Call our vehicle experts for
assistance with your research.