The 2018 Lexus LS500h Sports Luxury is the epitome of luxury from the Japanese marque.
The 2018 Lexus LS500h Sports Luxury is the epitome of luxury from the Japanese marque.

ROAD TEST: Lexus LS is the epitome of luxury

BATTLES over front seat honours ended. The pre-teen pair were besotted by the latest Lexus luxuries.

First it was the colour screens embedded in the back of the front seats. Then it was the electric controls of the separate rear seats that can be reclined with their own ottoman extension.

Fuelling the opulent fire was the Shiatsu massage function while "spot” heaters warmed separate parts of the body.

Welcome to the world of first-class travel courtesy of the Lexus LS500h.

With prices starting from $195,500 before on-roads, it's exclusive territory indeed.

Rightly so - this is the kind of car you buy when you've made it big. It's not bought by drivers, more so those who want to be driven.

The 2018 Lexus LS500h Sports Luxury is the epitome of luxury from the Japanese marque.
The 2018 Lexus LS500h Sports Luxury is the epitome of luxury from the Japanese marque.

VALUE

Air suspension lifts the car for ease of entry, the seat drops back, the steering wheel recesses, downward lighting behind panels mimics the glow of Japanese lanterns and belt buckles rise to offer access opulence. The same sequence occurs for exit.

Once planted in the soft leather seats, it's spectacular from all angles. Attention to detail is the mantra and first introductions are intoxicating as you drink in the "floating” styling of the door arm rests and the minimalist modern styling across the dash.

Key controls are made via the mouse-style control pad, which can be fiddly and time-consuming to navigate while on the move. Without smartphone mirroring apps like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, it misses more seamless functionality.

This Sports Luxury model has three pre-set positions for the rear seats, with "business” sitting upright, "entertain” provides a slight recline for watching the 11.6-inch LCD screens, while "relax” extends the leg ottoman and pushes the front passenger seat to its furthest forward position.

Being the range-topper, it goes without little and the standard gear includes a stellar 23-speaker 3D Mark Levinson surround sound audio system, power boot lid that can be opened by using a kick-sensor beneath the rear bumper (if your key is within range), four-zone climate-control aircon, 12.3-inch main colour screen, 600mm head-up display for the driver and a rear DVD player.

Strangely, in a world where everything is at your fingertips via various buttons, from the control of sunshades (rear and side), rear seat recline and climate control, the sunroof shade requires manual labour. Yes, it requires pulling the shade back using one's arm. Exhausting.

While there's no capped-price servicing plan, Lexus is generally far less expensive to maintain than German rivals. It also comes with a 10-year roadside assistance program and when you do have to get it serviced there is a free loan car or Lexus will pick up it up and drop it back once complete.

The 2018 Lexus LS500h Sports Luxury is the epitome of luxury from the Japanese marque.
The 2018 Lexus LS500h Sports Luxury is the epitome of luxury from the Japanese marque.

ON THE ROAD

Remarkably quiet and plush, all the traditional Lexus hallmarks are there ... except when you jump on the accelerator.

It's like heading from business into cattle class whenever there is a vigorous extension of the right ankle.

Lexus does hybrid well, one of the best in fact, and in this case its a 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine supplemented by batteries that motivate two electric motors and help push the rear wheels.

All that sounds good - and it is - but a chink in the armour is the continuously variable transmission (the twin-turbo V6 in the other LS models uses a traditional 10-speed automatic shifter). Explore the rev range and it's more theatre than reality.

There's ample noise but little action - even if you select "Sport” or "Sport+” from the drive mode options available via a chunky dial on the binnacle.

With an ability to sprint from standstill to 100km/h in less than six seconds, it's no slouch when things get moving, which is impressive given the kerb weight of about 2.3 tonnes.

Not that this car will be driven in such a manner too often. This is for cruising quietly around suburbia and on highways, where the LS500h offers a pillow-like ride with minimal road noise intrusion.

Sling the LS into a bend and it does surprisingly well, aided by active stabiliser controls that reduce body roll, along with light steering helping the big sedan feel more agile than its massive 5.2m-long frame. It has an ability to shrink around the driver and feels more like a mid-sizer than a burly long-wheelbase limousine.

From the outside it looks every bit an expensive piece of kit. There are 5000 surfaces on the trademark spindle grille and mirror-like finish on the 20-inch alloy wheels to add some serious bling to a style sure to turn heads.

The 2018 Lexus LS500h Sports Luxury is the epitome of luxury from the Japanese marque.
The 2018 Lexus LS500h Sports Luxury is the epitome of luxury from the Japanese marque.

HEAD SAYS

Going Japanese means I can save some coin and buy some ugly Louis Vuitton luggage.

HEART SAYS

Really I don't want to drive, take me to the country club, driver.

SAFETY

Outstanding technology comes standard, including autonomous emergency braking that can intervene and drop speed by 40km/h or can swerve to avoid pedestrians, adaptive cruise control to maintain a safe distance from vehicles in front, lane-keeping assist that stops the vehicle wandering from its lane, rear cross-traffic alert, automatic high beam and adaptive headlamps that illuminate corners when the steering wheel is turned.

The 2018 Lexus LS500h Sports Luxury is the epitome of luxury from the Japanese marque.
The 2018 Lexus LS500h Sports Luxury is the epitome of luxury from the Japanese marque.

ALTERNATIVES

BMW 7 SERIES HYBRID 740E $229,900

Impeccable build quality is a given at this price and the 740e borrows from the (BMW owned) Rolls-Royce play book, with lashings of leather on every conceivable surface. Supremely quiet, with impressive technology.

MERCEDES-BENZ S450L $227,500

Not a hybrid and the majority of S-Class sales are in diesel but this petrol derivative retains the hallmarks of what we expect from the Benz flagship. Magnificent detail, outstanding driveability and looks that ooze extravagance.

THE VERDICT

Luxury and sumptuous quality personified, it's everything you'd expect of a premium limousine. The LS500h offers cosseting air suspension, which irons out nearly every road imperfection. Light and precise steering combine with impressive straight-line speed, albeit with some drone from the CVT if you get too excited. Best to just sit back and relax. Oh, and get the driver to manhandle the sunroof shade.

The 2018 Lexus LS500h Sports Luxury is the epitome of luxury from the Japanese marque.
The 2018 Lexus LS500h Sports Luxury is the epitome of luxury from the Japanese marque.

AT A GLANCE

Lexus LS500h Sports Luxury

PRICE $195,500 (cheaper than rivals)

WARRANTY AND SERVICING 4 years/ 100,000km, servicing annual or 15,000km, 3 services are $2262 (good)

ENGINE 3.5-litre V6 two electric motors 264kW/ 350Nm (adequate)

SAFETY Not rated, 12 airbags, auto emergency braking, adaptive cruise, lane keep assist (comprehensive)

CONSUMPTION 6.6L/100km, 8.2L on test (reasonable)

SPARE None (not ideal)

BOOT 480L (average)