Geneva 2017: Lexus LS 500h Offers More Technology, Fewer Yawns

Matthew Guy
by Matthew Guy

Continuing on its relentless path of pitching boring design out the window, Lexus is storming ahead with its styling choices, applying them to its entire model range.

Today in Geneva, Lexus unveiled a hybrid version of its flagship sedan, the LS. The model follows the world premiere of the twin-turbocharged V6-powered LS 500 at this year’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

The LS 500h is equipped with the new Lexus Multi Stage Hybrid System, featuring a 3.5-liter V6 gasoline engine and two electric motors, together delivering maximum system power of 354 hp. A speedometer readout of 60 miles per hour is said to appear in a scant 5.4 seconds. This system is hooked to a trick new transmission, the explanation of which caused my mind to spin out of control, although I will attempt to describe it here.

Although the unit has four speeds, the “D” range has a simulated shift control pattern which delivers the feel of driving a 10-speed gearbox. As vehicle’s speed rises, engine speed should increase in a linear manner, free from the “rubber band” effect witnessed in some continuously variable transmissions. In the 10th gear range, the CVT control is said to allow for high-speed cruising at lower engine revs for quiet, smooth and fuel-efficient performance. It’s officially marketed as a “Multi Stage Hybrid Transmission” and it is sensible to advertise it as such (saying one’s uber-lux hybrid sedan has a four-speed automatic would be an extremely poor idea).

You’ll need spectacles to spot the hybrid’s styling changes: a handful of discreet badges and the typical blue halo around the Lexus badge are the only clues as to the hybrid mission of the LS 500h. The rest of its styling, including the controversial spindle grille, remain intact. The design is purported to marry the virtues of a long-wheelbase sedan with that of a coupe-like profile, though it simply ends up looking like a handsome boulevardier.

Inside, swank materials abound, including an ornamentation panel born of a design that was hewn and handcrafted by artisan craftworkers, because we all know adding the word “artisan” to any product automatically increases price and snob factor by a measure of five. There is an optional rear seat arrangement that includes a fancy leg ottoman and, reportedly, the most leg room of any LS generation. At 123 inches, the wheelbase of the new LS is 1.3-inches longer than the current long wheelbase LS 600h L, despite the new LS losing 100 digits from its trunklid badge.

Lexus launched its assault on the colonies way back in 1989 with the LS, utilizing nary a single existing Toyota part and going on to obliterate many of its competitors. With its reputation long since set as a luxury leader, there’s no reason to imagine Lexus won’t continue its success with this new iteration of the LS.

Available in either rear- or all-wheel drive, the 2018 Lexus LS 500h will undoubtedly be thriftier than its non-hybrid stablemate. Pricing is undisclosed, but this hybrid version should be on sale shortly after the standard LS arrives in Lexus showrooms this autumn.

[Images: Toyota Motor Corporation]

Matthew Guy
Matthew Guy

Matthew buys, sells, fixes, & races cars. As a human index of auto & auction knowledge, he is fond of making money and offering loud opinions.

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  • AdamVIP AdamVIP on Mar 08, 2017

    The interior might work without that door card texture but it looks pinched and I think i prefer the older squared off design. I'm not entirely displeased with the front. I've grown to sort of like the Lexus crazy fronts. As long as it doesn't have the triangles in the side grilles that seem to pop up in some of the new LS shots I think it looks fine.

  • Sckid213 Sckid213 on Mar 08, 2017

    Those door cards are ghastly!! They look like scales. It seems like Toyota / Lexus are on a quest to make their vehicles look like organic creatures rather than machines. They are really going over the top. The Prius Prime reminds me of the snails from the Disney Main Street Electrical Parade. This LS reminds me of the Mostro the whale from Pinocchio.

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