By on May 2, 2018

2018 Lexus LS 500 F SPORT Front 3/4, Image: Lexus

Every large, traditional Toyota and Lexus sedan seems to have hit that point in its lifespan where drastic surgery is needed to keep up with the younger crowd. Were these staid sedans people, they’d be milling about in the seating area of a local plastic surgeon’s office.

The first model to bend to Toyota’s desire for large cars that ooze dignified luxury but are also kind of green (and maybe kind of sporty?) was the 2018 Lexus LS flagship, appearing last year with a new platform and racy sheetmetal. The Avalon and ES will soon follow suit.

By revamping its LS, Lexus hoped to jam the brakes on a sales plunge that began after the recession and only got worse from there. Still, the automaker knew it couldn’t turn back the clock completely. There was a very specific sales goal mentioned during the launch, and it looks like the new LS delivered. Almost perfectly, in fact.

As we told you last year, Lexus expected to sell 1,000 LS 500 and LS 500h sedans each month in the United States. Modest figures, for sure, especially for a model that moved 35,226 examples in 2007, but realistic. The brains at Lexus weren’t thinking about 2007 or 2006 or any year before that. They were thinking of the past few years.

In 2017, Lexus sold 4,094 LS cars in the U.S. The tally proved far worse north of the border, where just 40 units drove off Lexus lots. Desperate times, as the saying goes, calls for a top-down redesign.

2018 Lexus LS 500h

With a slinky body now in place, motivated by a twin-turbo 3.5-liter V6 making 416 horses (and mated to a 10-speed automatic), the LS now has a persona far removed from its conservative predecessor, which often seemed far more popular on the used market. 2018 models began trickling into dealer lots in February.

So, what did the new sedan do for Lexus’ sales goals? In March, Lexus sold 1,008 LS sedans in the United States. In April? 999. It would appear the brand hit the bullseye.

To put it another way, volume over the first two full months of sales were triple the monthly sales tally from a year before. You’d have to go back to December 2014 to find a month where the LS sold better. In Canada, where the LS had all but disappeared, the model sold 93 copies in the past three months. That’s more than double last year’s tally and just 2 units shy of 2016’s full-year sales.

Is this a temporary bump or the beginning of a sustained reappraisal of the large luxury sedan? Lexus hopes it’s the latter.

[Images: Lexus]

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48 Comments on “Lexus Got What It Hoped for With the New LS – At Least for Now...”


  • avatar
    VW4motion

    This is actually a beautiful and unique sedan. Not just a rebadged Toyota.

    • 0 avatar
      The Ghost of Buckshot Jones

      There’s only one “rebadged toyota” in the Lexus Lineup, and it’s barely that, the ES, built on the Avalon platform. Outside of that, everything in the lexus lineup is a bespoke chassis, with the exception of the LC200 based LX570.

      • 0 avatar
        Nick_515

        they may not be “rebadged Toyotas,” but they sure as hell looked like they were. in that sense, i agree with vwmotion.

        it’s left behind its traditional looks, edging towards the germans/tesla. this makes me happy, as in the end it’s a big loss for the kind of boredom on wheels they used to be. i’ll likely never own what i consider old men cars, but combining germanish looks with lexus reliability could certainly be the dawn of a new era for lexus. limited expectations and all.

        • 0 avatar
          30-mile fetch

          Nick, what do you think of the IS? Seems like it has been a similar departure from the staid Lexus of yore in both styling and driving. As a German sport sedan owner, any temptation there?

          • 0 avatar
            Nick_515

            30-mile, I like and have always liked the IS, actually. The current one is the one that appeals to me the most – in the right colors, the exterior looks really sharp to me. The problem is the interior. That language does not really speak to me, I can’t connect to it. But overall, I could be driving that Lexus one day.

            So, wife and I are preparing to live apart for a while (no children [yet] we both love our jobs which are far) and she’s keeping the BMW, but also gave me a max $10k limit for a car, while she really hopes I spend $3k for a beater. I’ll be scrambling to find wheels come summer. I might need the B&B’s help.

          • 0 avatar
            30-mile fetch

            The interior is indeed a bit haphazard, but I love the seats.

            Hmm…a $3K to <$10K enthusiast car. That could go a bunch of different directions and I'll be curious to see what you decide on.

            Panther love, for sure :/

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            You can get a Mustang 3.7L with a little under 100k miles for around $9k.

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            If you’re in a rust free area, my (selfish) recommendation for a fairly bulletproof but still fun and roomy commuter car on the low end of the price range is a stick shift 4th gen-5.5 gen Maxima. 6-6-6 Accord Sedan or Coupe, stick shift 3.2L TL? If less power is okay, stick shift 1g TSX (just make sure trans shifts well, that applies to the other stick Hondas as well). That’s my Japanese (read: fairly trouble free) list of older used fun-ish commuter car recommendations.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            Second the recommendation for stick shift TL (2004-08 gen) or TSX (also 2004-08). Both are quite reliable and comfortable. The TL has more power and that lovely J-series sound, while the TSX has more finesse and is IMO the better driver.

        • 0 avatar
          TwoBelugas

          I guess Lexus’ job is done here, people who would never consider their cars are happy to see the new designs.

          :D

          • 0 avatar
            Nick_515

            30-mile, take that back!

            ajla, I could consider a Mustang.

            gtem, I live in the Finger Lakes… which is one of the many reasons I have tended to gravitate towards Germans (rust resistance). rust is terrible here. i love your stick shift recommendations (maybe not Nissan but certainly Acura Honda). Find one for me! I know you travel to the region because of your parents :)

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            Hey Nick, living in the Finger Lakes is a blessing and a curse for car/motorcycle guys. beautiful roads and scenery that I miss all the time out here in pancake flat Central Indiana. But good God the cars get eaten up with salt. While we certainly get plenty of salt and rusty cars here, it’s noticeably less bad. I was trying to help my folks find an older 4wd compact pickup for their hobby farm, was having much better luck here than in their home state.

            I totally get sticking with Germans in that locale, specifically for the superior corrosion resistance. And I say that as a dyed in the wool J-car fan whose brother makes his bread on Christmas-tree-dash Euros lol. He’s gone part time with the diagnostics stuff now (picked up and engineering day job), but just this month I think he’s cleared a cool $1k just doing some weekend wrenching on a pair of Bimmers (325ci vert and 1st gen X3, an alternator job and some oil leaks on both). My favorite customer car of his was a beat to death ’96 A4, old school 2.8L 12V V6, quattro, stick. Not a spot of rust on that horribly neglected and abused beast (had spent some time on its roof). A really mechanically satisfying beast, the engine was the proverbial brick sh*thouse with 190k on it.

            By your photo looks like you know your way around an Audi already, my own take on it is sticking with the older stuff, with a stick shift and natural aspiration is a fairly safe bet. It’s when they got into those newer B5+ when they started to get into the fiascos with 2.0Ts with cam follower and oil burning issues, 3.2L V6s with timing chain stretch, etc. But that is all old stuff that inherently will require wrenching on. If you’re willing to put fun a bit on the back seat, perhaps a 2.5L VW Jetta/Golf would be an option. Or stretch the budget a bit and pick up a heavily depreciated base Jetta 1.4TSI with a stick.

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            Nick take a look at this sweetheart:

            indianapolis.craigslist.org/cto/d/12-volvo-c30-stick-shift/6575967795.html

            I frankly don’t know too much about how these hold up with miles, I know generally the 2.5T Volvo motors are well regarded and make it to high miles without excessive troubles.

      • 0 avatar
        IBx1

        @Buckshot Jones

        Toyota Harrier, LC Prado, etc

      • 0 avatar
        HuskyHawk

        The GX460 is a rebadged Toyota, just not a Toyota that you can buy in the USA.

        Agree on the LS though. They did a nice job with it. It’s more appealing to me than its German competition (not that I’m likely to buy any of them).

      • 0 avatar
        bd2

        Uhm, no.

        In addition to the ES, the NX, RX and the upcoming UX all share platforms with FWD Toyotas (as well as the departed CT).

        Same goes for the BoF LX and GX (Land Cruiser and Prado).

        Even the GS long shared its platform with the Toyota Crown (even now, the GS is on the new N platform whereas the Crown is on the old N – which will change with the new Crown).

        • 0 avatar
          Featherston

          The term VW4motion used, though, was “rebadged.” Rebadging and platform sharing are not one and the same. The NX, e.g., is a platform-mate of the XA40 RAV4, but it’s not a rebadge. It has unique sheetmetal, a unique engine (for the non-hybrids), and an upgraded structure. (It weighs about 400 lbs more than the RAV4.)

          I haven’t sampled every generation of ES against the corresponding Avalon or V6 Camry (depending on generation). It may be fair to call some of those rebadges.

  • avatar
    cartunez

    Not impressed with the new LS at all. The twin turbo is fail for me but the LC500 will definitely be my next car.

  • avatar
    Goatshadow

    Absolutely hideous and not “stately” at all.

    • 0 avatar
      aquaticko

      Don’t know if you’ve seen one in the flesh, but they have genuine presence. That giant grille seems disproportionate in photos, but it blends very well with the rest of the car. I saw one at the local Whole Foods (shocker), and it’s a hard car to miss, and very sleek in person.

      Toss the exterior styling in with an interior with genuinely unique materials–the parquet wood trims or even better, the stunning glass and pleated silk inteior–and it’s currently my choice in the full-size luxury class. Not that that matters too much, as the car starts at a price which is approximately 3x my annual income.

      • 0 avatar
        Featherston

        I’m not a fan of 2010s styling in general, but we do seem to be in an era where many models look better in person than in photos. For example, I think the Buick Cascada looks *awful* in photos but actually looks kind of nice in person. I haven’t seen the new LS yet, but I can understand how your point may well be true. The C7 Corvette is another car that looks better in the flesh than in photos.

  • avatar
    01 Deville

    Mercedes did it with W220 S-Class successfully, Lexus not so much with current generation.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    I don’t anticipate ever shopping in this price range, but this car is striking and noticeable on the road in a way it never was before. The only one I’ve seen out and about was invisible anonymous grey, and it still stood out. Order it in a real color like their red or metallic brown and you’re going to be a unique presence on the road one way or the other.

  • avatar
    robc123

    Got a peek recently at the car show- wow! is it ever nice, the brown metallic paint is insane. The interior is just incredible.

    Funny thing is, when I was in the dealership a few weeks prior to the show looking at the LC 500, I thought it was nice but soft (vs Lotus Evora 400) and wasn’t as exciting at the LS.

  • avatar
    tonycd

    It may not seem like a big deal in an era when nearly every Accord, Civic and Ford have a turbo, but you can bet Toyota had to swallow hard before deciding to equip the new LS with twin turbos instead of their venerable naturally aspirated V8.

    The V8 is a great engine. It’s also a talisman of one of Toyota’s greatest moments, having been developed as the bespoke powerplant for the courageous and wildly successful launch of the original Lexus division and its LS flagship. At tradition-steeped Toyota, walking away from it couldn’t have been easy.

    Beyond that, Toyota’s intensely conservative corporate culture dictates (or at least used to dictate) that every vehicle it makes must be designed for a service life of 250,000 miles. Turbos are a leap into the unknown for that goal, insofar as they require owners to make a commitment to more frequent changes with better oil because of the turbo bearings’ high speed and high heat. You’ll notice, in stark contrast to Civic, Accord, Fiesta, Fusion, etc, the all-new Camry just hit the street with natural aspiration only. Give Toyota credit for adapting here.

  • avatar
    RSF

    If I’m choosing between an LS, 7 Series, or S-Class I’m going with the Lexus. Ever own a BMW or Mercedes out of warranty? The LS has always been built to last.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      This is the biggest departure to date for the LS, but something tells me they didn’t just throw caution to the wind, so I’m sure it’s quite a bit more focused on longevity than its German competitors.

      I like German cars, too, but there’s no denying that a Lexus is generally a safer long-time bet. Of course, there’s also the question of whether or not reliability is profitable. By all measures, Audis, BMWs, and Mercedes-Benz are maintenance nightmares out of warranty, but they have no shortage of buyers willing to lease them new, and they make money hand over first.

      • 0 avatar
        W210Driver

        Every car has the potential to become a maintenance nightmare out of warranty if you get a bad one. The trick to avoiding this is to look for a good example that has been reasonably well-maintained and is in reasonably great shape.

        Too many people want to own a BMW or Benz, so they dump money on whatever used and cheap model they can find thinking they’re getting a good deal. In reality, the car they bought has been neglected, abused and poorly maintained which is why it was cheap in the first place. They can be repaired and made new, but it will cost them, and they are most likely not prepared to pay those initial repair costs. Instead the cars are halfheartedly “fixed” by clueless/cheap mechanics who make a bad situation worse. This is why these cars get a bad rep.

        In reality, owning an our of warranty Benz isn’t the nightmare people make it out to be. Both of my W210s have been out of warranty for ages, yet are still going strong with basic maintenance and minimal repairs. I before I bought my E300D Turbodiesel I had a Lexus ES250, my partner at the time had a Toyota Celica. People don’t believe me when I tell them that the spare parts for a Toyota/Lexus/Mercedes literally cost the same – but it’s the Mercedes stealerships and their pricing policy which create the impression that the spare parts for these cars are expensive.

        And today, for every car out there there will be a dedicated community on the internet that will share information, technical and maintenance tips and where to obtain cheap but genuine parts and how to install them. That’s what I do and I save a ton of money while having fun working on my cars. It’s not like these cars are super unreliable in the first place. I’ve gone 200,000+ miles with my E300D Turbodiesel and none of the major components have failed or caused trouble. These cars are complex, but when you know what you’re doing (thank you, Kent Bergsma of Mercedessource.com) it’s really not that hard – or expensive – to maintain them and keep them running.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I do like the new LS. I’d buy it.

    And that’s just it, too. I think that by giving the car sleeker psuedo-Panamera metal and sort of bypassing the traditional shapes of the 7 Series/A8/S-Class/G90, Lexus has stumbled upon a niche for itself. The old one didn’t exactly stand out, and now there’s the subdued G90 to assume the stealth-wealth position.

  • avatar
    volvo

    At this price point I don’t want my car to look like one for a middle aged boy racer so my choice would be an Audi. It has less gaping maw, fewer creases and overall IMO a more elegant design than comparable BMW, Lexus, MBZ.

    My second choice would be the G80.

    Still reliability is an issue so BMW/Audi/MBZ are probably out of consideration.

    For reliability and toned down look with all current Asian and European offerings I probably would go with a fully optioned Mazda 6 even though it is not at the same price point and wouldn’t be compared to the LS/7/S.

    • 0 avatar
      TwoBelugas

      if you are in the position to actually shopping the LS, you are at the very least in the club of very upper end of middle class, and you are likely to change cars once every few years when your peers also do. Yes, there are always “Weird Wilhelm” who drive his 1980s W123 or something to the lunch at the club, but the “normal” ones at that income level are not going to be caught dead in a 6 year old LS.

      BMW and MB are pretty good when new so I don’t see why they would be out of consideration.

      • 0 avatar
        Bazza

        “BMW and MB are pretty good when new…”

        Not so much good as warranty-protected. It’s all a matter of road time/shop time ratio. Some don’t care that much (I got a great loaner!), but I prefer driving the car I bought instead of a proxy.

      • 0 avatar
        volvo

        for TwoBelugas

        I hear what you are saying and guess I am one of those “Weird Wilhelm”s. No offense taken.

        I drove my 1972 W108 SEL pretty much daily until 2007 when I sold it (370K miles with no major repairs) to a collector (who now uses it as his daily driver). I thought it was a timeless beauty of design but now looking back it had an quite the “gaping maw” that I don’t care for on newer cars.
        The W108 somehow pulled it off. I got nothing but compliments over the time of my ownership. Later compliments in the 2000s were along the lines of “nice ride”.

        Since I buy not lease cars and expect to live with them for at least 12 years or longer I am not in the manufacturers ideal demographic.

        I likes the style of 1990s MBZ, BMW and Lexus but newer ones not so much.

      • 0 avatar
        dantes_inferno

        >but the “normal” ones at that income level are not going to be caught dead in a 6 year old LS.

        There are two types in this world – those who are and those who are wannabes.

        Those who are (especially the old money types) drive around in beaters instead of rapidly-depreciating assets such as high-end luxury automobiles – which is a contributing factor to acquiring and maintaining their wealth.

        Those who are wannabes are the ones who are not going to be caught dead in a 6-year-old LS. Those are the ones who buy/lease their way into the rapidly-depreciating automotive assets just for the sake of “keeping up appearances”.

        • 0 avatar
          Featherston

          Yes and no, dantes_inferno. I live near a building with a large percentage of “those who ares.” (I know of one, specifically, who has a 10-figure net worth.) There are no beaters in the garage; there are, however, multiple ’89-’06 LS’s still in the hands of their first owners. These people clearly like a nice car, but they’re also not concerned about impressing anyone with a brand-new nice car. They also don’t want to waste money on depreciation.

          An interesting, recently departed car from the collective fleet: a first-gen Seville. The owners either died or went into sheltered care. They would have bought it new in the ’70s, when they were in their 50s.

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    I won’t be surprised if it takes a couple more years before I see one of these where I live. I am, in fact, looking to replace my GS400 with an LS. I am not sure whether to get a 3rd or 4th generation car. The 3rd is cheaper and simpler, the 4th better looking and has more power. The 4th also has more gadgets, which I don’t need. I know the Benz/BMW crowd have a pathological hate for Lexus, reason enough for me to drive one: the rock-solid reliability and durability of the LS doesn’t hurt either.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Two totally different subjective experiences, and you should really drive one of each. I found the third gen way too stodgy, but that was just my personal taste.

      If you choose the fourth gen, make sure to either

      1) get a 2011+ model
      2) for 2007-2010 models, make sure that either the front control arms have all been replaced or, for a 2010 model, that it’s after the VIN cutoff for the new control arms
      3) for 2007-2010 models with original control arms, get a discount of a few grand to pay for the inevitable replacement

      It’s the one weak spot on an otherwise exceedingly solid car, but it’s a major one. New parts don’t have the issue, so you only have to fix it once.

  • avatar
    W210Driver

    Along with the LS430, this has got to be one of the ugliest Lexus flagships ever made. I see nothing redeeming, exciting or beautiful about the design. In fact I feel it is trying to hard to stand out; and it fails. Hard. It’s too radical, and as a result it’s an eyesore to me. Just my two cents.

    The designs which age the best are simple and conservative. This is why I can still look at an ‘89 LS400 and think to myself, “Gee, that car looks great!” It really does. It and the original ES250 (which I owned) still look good today. The successive ES and LS models? Not so much. Again, just my two cents.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    I like the styling. It’s very Japanese, and very different from Ze Very Zelf-Important und Serious Germans. Outside is good, inside is excellent. Lexus is on a tear with interiors lately.

    I’m curious to drive one to see how refined the turbo six is. The previous V8 was a bit peaky for a luxury car and I have no doubt the turbo six has a more appropriate torque curve, but IS IT QUIET?! The LS is all about quiet and smooth.

  • avatar
    bd2

    Stated that the LS 500 would sell around the 1k/month mark for a no. of months, but once the early buyers have gotten the new LS, then sales would settle in at around the 700-800 mark.

    The LS 500 has turned off a no. of traditional LS buyers due to its sloping roofline which makes for less rear passenger room (in fact, the new ES will have more rear passenger space than the LS 500).

  • avatar
    Pete Zaitcev

    I cannot stand the infotainment in the current Lexus. It was much better, even class-leading 10 years ago, when I bought mine. Admittedly, I’m basing my impressions on 2018 NX. Alex Dykes reviewed a new “Entune 3.0”, which shows promise, but apparently it’s only for mass-market Toyotas.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    I was viewing one of Alex Dykes reviews and it got interrupted by a commercial for this bastardization of the LS. The commercial largely revolved around the “TWIN-TURBOS”.

    (Face Palm) This is an LS gentlemen, not a GS/F-sport. Raving about twin turbos to an LS customer is like shooting a commercial for the LaCrosse and going on and on about the fact that there’s an available “SPORT MODE”.


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