By on September 4, 2020

2020 Lexus LS 500h AWD

2020 Lexus LS 500h Fast Facts

3.5-liter V6 with hybrid battery pack and electric motors (295 hp @ 5,700 rpm, 354 hp total system, torque n/a as of press time)

Four-speed hybrid automatic combined with power-split device and planetary gearset that can replicate 10-speed feel, all-wheel drive

23 city / 31 highway / 26 combined (EPA Estimated Rating, MPG)

10.3 city, 7.7 highway, 9.1 combined (NRCan Rating, L/100km)

Base Price: $83,180 (U.S) / $134,200 (Canada)

As Tested: $107,605 (U.S.) / $134,200 (Canada)

Prices include $1,025 destination charge in the United States and $2,195 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can’t be directly compared.

Hey there, Mr. or Mrs. CEO who just got charged with making your company more “green”. Lexus has a car for you.

It carries a hybrid powertrain and boasts features meant to coddle.

You just have to get past the styling. This LS is curvy and bears a large “spindle” grille that has become a hallmark of Lexus of late — and that grille is quite polarizing.

Ostensibly meant to save fuel, the LS 500h still retains some of the sport characteristics of the “regular” LS, though it’s no F Sport. Yet luxury isn’t sacrificed at the altar of fuel economy.

Nor is acceleration. This is a heavy car – over 5,000 pounds with all-wheel drive – but there’s enough torque (Lexus’ press materials don’t list an exact figure, and I didn’t get a response by press time when I queried the brand) on tap to get you going with urgency. As for horsepower, the 3.5-liter V6 makes 295 horsepower on its own, and the hybrid system makes 354 total. One electric motor serves as a generator and engine starter and controls engine speed, the other drives the rear wheels. The battery pack is lithium-ion.

As for the tranny, it’s a weird one: It’s a four-speed automatic, but can drive like a 10-speed, thanks to the magic of tech. Lexus materials also say it is coupled to a CVT, but the four gears are at the output stage. (Ed. Note: A couple commenters pointed out that I got the facts about the transmission and electric motors incorrect. And I did! There is only one electric motor driving the rear wheels, I simply misread the spec sheet. As for the transmission, well, it’s not really a CVT, no matter how Lexus phrases it. It’s a power-split device using a planetary gearset. I regret the errors, and have updated our fast facts accordingly.)

[Get Lexus LS pricing here!]

As might be expected, highway miles disappear with ease. Smooth and quiet are applicable keywords here.

2020 Lexus LS 500h AWD

Lexus steering is often light and artificial, with the ability to tighten up in certain drive modes, and that’s the case here. You can wring a bit of driving fun out of this thing in the sporty modes, but only a bit – it’s a 5,000-pound luxury hybrid. Keep expectations low. Use the sporty modes for passing/merging and be happy.

Inside, there’s a lot going on, and not all is good. I like the integration of the infotainment screen and the curves on the top and bottom of the dash look nice. The minimalist HVAC controls don’t sacrifice function for form.

2020 Lexus LS 500h AWD

But like with other Lexus models, there are control stalks sprouting off the side of the gauge cluster, and that look has never really worked. The oddly-shaped shifter looks low-rent for a six-figure ride, and the reviled touchpad control for the infotainment system is present. It does work a bit better than you’d expect, but it still overcomplicates controls that should be simple. It can also distract from the task at hand.

You know, driving.

If you can excuse some of the more questionable design elements, the rest of the cabin is typical for Lexus – quiet, comfortable, and mostly well-appointed. Any material that’s downmarket is relatively hidden from judging eyes. If it’s cheap(ish), it’s not applied to a common touchpoint.

Like most Toyota/Lexus hybrids, transitions from one mode to another tend to be seamless.

2020 Lexus LS 500h AWD

Six figures buys you a lot of car, and in this case, one option package alone is worth five figures itself. This really is a car for the CEO.

Just getting in the door requires you to drop 83 large. That gets you going with Apple CarPlay, navigation, the hybrid powertrain, 19-inch wheels, Lexus Safety System + 2.0 (pre-collision system w/pedestrian detection, lane-tracing assist, lane-departure alert with steering assist, road sign assist, all-speed dynamic radar cruise control, and intelligent high beams), blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, parking assist with automatic braking, auto start/stop, keyless entry and starting, rearview camera, LED lighting, heated and cooled front seats, heated steering wheel, moonroof, power rear sunshade, hands-free power open/close trunk, rain-sensing wipers, dual-zone climate control, windshield de-icer, headlamp washers, 12.3-inch infotainment screen, voice command, Lexus Enform communications suite, Wi-Fi, premium audio, smartwatch/Alexa integration, premium audio, and satellite radio.

2020 Lexus LS 500h AWD

We’re just getting warmed up.

Options included Lexus Safety System + A (pre-collision with active braking, active steering assist, pedestrian alert, front cross-traffic alert, lane-change assist, $3,000), adaptive air suspension ($1,500), 20-inch chrome wheels to replace the 19s ($1,200), head-up display ($1,200), adaptive LED headlights ($300), Luxury Package (aniline leather seats, 28-way driver and passenger seat with massage function, ultrasuede headliner, power front seat buckles, heated rear seats, power outboard rear seats with recline, four-zone climate control, power side-window sunshades, and touchscreen controller, $12,250), Mark Levinson audio ($1,940), panoramic view monitor ($800), premium wood trim ($800), and heated wood and leather steering wheel ($410).

The total package offers up the luxury that’s expected, and the 31 mpg highway isn’t something to sneeze at, especially given this car’s weight. This version of the LS does exactly what it’s supposed to do – be a comfortable cruiser that eats miles without a huge penalty at the pump, while offering some passing punch and being just competent enough when it comes to handling to avoid being a complete snooze.

If you’re the boss, and you want to be pampered while being green, this is for you.

[Images © 2020 Tim Healey/TTAC]


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26 Comments on “2020 Lexus LS 500h AWD Review – Quietly Being Green...”

  • avatar
    Michael S6

    Why would anybody pick this over a 7 series, A8, or S class or even a G90 is beyond me.

    • 0 avatar

      Maybe it is because they want a car they can drive off the lot and only go back once a year for an oil change and tire rotation.

      • 0 avatar

        “Maybe it is because they want a car they can drive off the lot and only go back once a year for an oil change rotation.”

        Not such a meaningful argument anymore. More drivers of luxury vehicles lease than buy these days. German cars have lax maintenance schedules. When I leased a 328i I think I went for an oil change every 10,000 miles. For reasons I do not fully understand, Japanese cars seem to require every 5,000 or sooner. Maybe to nickel and dime the customer. I never went back to the dealer any other time except once when I punctured the run-flats, which I must say was annoying.

    • 0 avatar

      Especially since it gets last in segment with a 52 out of 100 by Consumer Reports.

    • 0 avatar

      Maybe they want it to run for over 200K miles without problems, and many Lexus owners do keep their cars for the long run. I have 160K on my 2014 GS350 with no problems, even the interior looks new. I can only imagine the repair bills on a 5 series or an A6 at this point.

  • avatar
    Rick T.

    “…and I didn’t get a response by press time…”

    Which is strange because this – and a number of your other reviews – look like they were all written in about March in Chicago and it’s probably about six months later. What is the deal?

  • avatar

    I don’t hate the current LS, but it does get spendy. Almost every option is tied to an expensive mandatory package so unless you want ace of base, you’ll quickly be clanging into $90K+

    If you’re in the minority that plans to keep your fancy luxury sedan for 20 years and 200K miles this is theoretically the best option, but I think it is really only going to hook the brand loyalists.

    Honestly, one of the biggest issues for me is that in the real world the LC is nearly the same money. The coupe gives you a V8, exotic car looks, and likely the same reliability. I’d have to really need to carry passengers to go for the sedan.

    • 0 avatar

      Chevrolet dealerships are offering 20/200K warranties on the new cars they sell. You act like these numbers are some golden egg.

    • 0 avatar

      Lexus has been offering some pretty hefty incentives tied to those packages.

      The previous LS hybrid didn’t sell and considering where LS 500 sales volume are these days, doubt much has changed for the current hybrid.

  • avatar

    Someone needs to come up with a styling kit that replaces from the doors forward. I’m not a fan of the dash, those strakes through the vents remind me of a dash out of the 60’s and overclad Pontiacs.

    Oh and a much better job of explaining how the hybrid system works than in previous articles.

  • avatar

    I can’t begin to imagine how that transmission is supposed to work, but I’ll take your word for it that it works well.

    What is that button-lever thingy by the driver’s right leg.

    Also, A CD PLAYER! I’d like one back.

  • avatar

    Ugly outside, ugly inside.

    Lexus needs to reboot their design language.

    • 0 avatar

      Agreed. Lexus once had best in class interiors, unsurpassed quality and reliability. The original LS set a ‘benchmark’ in all categories with Consumer Reports.

      Now the dash and door panels looked liked they were designed by two separate amateur design studios, no one seems to like the huge plastic spindle mouthpiece, and quality has become an issue.

      A reboot is long overdue.

  • avatar

    The G 90 has eaten the LS 500’s lunch. All the reliability and none of the weird styling. Also all those fancy safety devices are part of the base car, so you don’t have to double check to see that your proposed buy has them. In this price range I wouldn’t buy anything that didn’t have ALL the latest safety gadgets.
    I wonder about all these vehicles in this class, A8, 7 series: who buys a used one and for how much??? When these cars have a problem 5 years down the road, who fixes them, other than the dealer for a king’s ransom? The repairability of big Mercedes used to keep their resale value up. I had a 1988 560SEC, bought in 1991, that I drove until 2005. It could be fixed at any number of local repair shops, and while not cheap, I didn’t have to sell a kidney to pay for repairs. Today with proprietary complex parts, these flagship models will bankrupt the 3rd owner. No one buys this car new, thinking he’ll drive it for 200,000 miles. They depreciate like a stone, and that raises the lease cost. The sign over the used car lot should be “a third of the cost and ten times the headaches”.

    • 0 avatar

      Wouldn’t exactly say that yet, but the FL G90 has stolen a portion of the LS 500’s lunch.

      The real test will be the next gen G90 (already spied testing) which looks to have better sheet-metal (at least from the side/greenhouse) and will be filled with tech (including L3).

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Since it was introduced in 1989 Consumers Reports consistently gave the Lexus LS its highest rating. It a recent issue they’re ok with it but recommend buying a Chrysler 300 for half the price.

    • 0 avatar

      The current LS is last in segment with a 52 out of 100 today.

      • 0 avatar
        MRF 95 T-Bird

        I’ve been a Consumer Reports reader since I was a youth since my folks subscribed to it. The auto reviews always piqued my interest. To this day I still have a subscription.

    • 0 avatar

      The original LS was a watershed. As was its contemporaries the Legend, the NSX, the e36, the 993, the LC80, the MX-5 NA and other cars from back when the car was finally perfected. (The W126 arguably beat the rest to perfection by a decade, but was a bit beyond most’s means.)

      In the decade or so following, perfection became rather standard for all mainstream cars, across the board. Leaving the only way open for these “flagships” to differentiate themselves, to become increasingly less perfect wih every new iteration. By way of ever more gratuitous over complication. The first Banglified 745 was the opening salvo, in what has since become an unstoppable trend towards ever more pointless and gratuitous waste across the “premium” segment.

  • avatar

    Some corrections for the article. The car has no “CVT”. It has a power split device consisting of a planetary gearset. Toyota calls it “e-CVT”, but it has very little to do with a CVT.

    The car has 2 electric motors alright, but one is not dedicated to driving the rear wheels. Did the writeup get mixed up with one for the UX AWD?

    In any case. The two motors are connected to two of the outputs of the aforementioned planetary gearset (where the ICE is connected to the third output). A Torsen LSD helps distribute power to all four wheels.

    • 0 avatar
      Tim Healey

      It was unclear based on Toyota’s press materials. As for the electric motors, the materials said “motors” plural. I may have misread it. If so, I will fix. Thanks!

      • 0 avatar

        Yes one of the motors is connected to the wheels to drive the rear and front wheels. In the case of the FWD Toyota Hybrids that have gone AWD there is a 3rd motor who’s sole job is powering the rear wheels.

  • avatar

    I don’t hate the styling, except that horrible grill. I sue don’t love the styling either, but it’s tolerable. At the price they want for it, I would have to be in love with it, so I’m out. If anyone at Lexus is reading this, ENOUGH WITH THE SPINDLE GRILL! It was a bad choice back whatever year it came out, and hasn’t aged well at all. Split it in half and make the “electric shaver” look go away and it would help sales for sure.

  • avatar

    Yes X 10 on the Chrysler 300 !

    Dollar for dollar – a great car.

  • avatar

    It looks like they have duplicated here, one of the main bitches I have about my 2020 RAV4. The console is so wide, there is no room to lean my right knee out when on long cruise control drives. As best as I can tell looking at the interior picture here, the accelerator pedal hinges on the floor like me RAV does, which further limits foot placement options. In my past vehicles, with shoes off, I could sneak my foot under accelerator pedal. A carved out leg space in the center console with a dead pedal to the right of the accelerator would a serious comfort enhancement on long drives. Come one car makers, where is a driver supposed to rest their right foot when running on cruise control?

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