The 2021 Lexus LS 500 stamps its own authority on the large luxury sedan world. Yet it does so subtly and in a particularly Japanese fashion. It exercises a quiet power. Not just engine power, provided by a refined twin-turbo V6 or a hybrid drivetrain. Nor just because it’s spacious and hushed.
It’s the accumulation of all the hundreds of details that form a stunning whole, assembled and adorned by artisans fluent in Japan’s craft traditions. It’s the way the leather upholstery is stitched, the availability of fine glass and hand-pleated cloth in the door panels, and how Lexus technicians listen to the engines with stethoscopes. Then the car is infused with up-to-the-minute technology.
Out of the general population, only a select few can afford the $77,000 or so it takes to own a new LS. But in the context of large luxury cars, that’s eminently affordable.
What’s New for 2021?
A mid-generation revamp brings, among other things, a new infotainment interface, a 12.3-inch touchscreen. It’s more user-friendly than the awkward touchpad that has always been a source of gripes.
Lexus has also tweaked the styling of the 2021 LS, giving the grille a dark metallic look, revising the headlights and front air intakes, and changing the taillights’ accents from chrome to piano black.
The suspension received attention to improve comfort and composure. The optional air suspension now has a rapid height adjustment, for easier entries and exits.
The seats have new springs below thicker cushioning. Extra padding also goes into the armrests and elbow touchpoints. Changes to the Active Noise Canceling system make the cabin even quieter.
The engine has a new piston design to improve fuel efficiency on cold starts. The already superb 10-speed automatic transmission has had its responses sharpened. The optional digital rearview mirror is now larger, displaying a wide and clear view behind. Palomino Leather is a new interior choice and a fresh exterior paint color joins the palette: Iridium (a metallic mid-grey). See the 2021 Lexus LS models for sale near you
What We Like
- Well designed and impeccably crafted cabin
- Efficient powertrains
- F Sport adds some spice to the driving experience
- More powerful and less expensive than most competitors
What We Don’t
- No V8-powered variant
$76,000 – estimated $102,000
The 2021 LS 500 has a twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 engine producing 416 horsepower and 442 lb-ft of torque, which is linked to a 10-speed automatic transmission. Rear-wheel drive (RWD) is standard, all-wheel drive (AWD) is optional.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rates the 2021 Lexus LS at 18 miles per gallon in the city, 29 mpg on the highway and 22 mpg in combined driving (RWD) or 17 mpg city/27 mpg hwy/21 mpg combined (AWD). These figures are impressive for a large luxury sedan.
The LS 500h has a hybrid powertrain consisting of a 3.5-liter V6 engine, two electric motors running off a lithium-ion battery pack and a special automatic transmission that combines a 4-speed planetary gear set with an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission (CVT). Total system output is 354 hp.
The EPA puts fuel economy of the LS 500h at 25 mpg city/33 mpg hwy/28 mpg combined or 23 mpg city/31 mpg hwy/26 mpg combined with AWD. These are last year’s figures, but we expect no changes for 2021.
Standard Features and Options
The 2021 Lexus LS large luxury sedan comes as the conventional LS 500 or the hybrid LS 500h. Both are available with all-wheel drive, which costs $3,250. The LS 500 is also eligible for the F Sport performance package.
Vehicle prices include a $1,025 destination charge, but at the time of compiling this review, official pricing for the 2021 LS 500h had yet to be announced, so we’ve included an estimate.
The LS 500 ($77,025) has 19-in alloy wheels, adaptive suspension, automatic on/off adaptive LED headlights with automatic high beams, rain-sensing wipers, automatic door closing, hands-free trunk lid operation, self-dimming mirrors, front/rear parking sensors, forward collision warning with pedestrian/bicycle detection and automatic emergency braking, automatic reverse braking, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, lane-keeping assistance, adaptive cruise control, keyless entry/ignition, selectable driving modes, powered sunroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated/ventilated/16-way power-adjustable front seats, driver’s-side memory settings, leather upholstery, heated steering wheel, paddle shifters, powered rear window shade, Wi-Fi, navigation, USB ports, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration, Amazon Alexa compatibility, Bluetooth, HD/satellite radio, CD player, 12.3-inch infotainment touchscreen, and a 12-speaker sound system.
The LS 500 F Sport ($80,625) brings special suspension tuning, styling, 20-in alloy wheels, stronger brakes, 28-way power-adjustable sport seats, interior trim elements and sport gauges. A Dynamic Handling package adds variable-ratio steering, active rear steering and active anti-roll bars.
The LS 500h (est. $84,000) is equipped like the LS 500, except that it has the hybrid powertrain.
An Interior Upgrade package adds quilted semi-aniline leather upholstery and interior trim, massaging/28-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, powered front seatbelt buckles, heated rear seats, and a simulated suede headliner.
The Luxury package upgrades the Interior Upgrade with a matching 28-way power-adjustable front passenger seat, reclining/18-way power-adjustable rear seats with memory functions and knee airbags, quad-zone automatic climate control, powered rear side window shades, and 20-inch alloy wheels.
The Executive package adds all of the above, as well as airplane-style “butterfly” headrests, heated/massaging back seats, a power-retractable ottoman on the right rear side, and a 23-speaker/2,400-watt Mark Levinson surround-sound system. Special Kiriko glass trim can also be added to the Executive package.
Other options include a panoramic sunroof, adaptive air suspension, 360-degree camera system, digital rearview mirror, and a new 24-inch head-up display.
Every 2021 LS has front-side and rear-side airbags, full-length side-curtain airbags, and front knee airbags. Rear-seat knee airbags are part of the optional Luxury package.
Standard driver aids include forward collision warning with pedestrian/cyclist detection and automatic emergency braking, automatic reverse braking, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert system, and lane-keeping assistance. Lexus Enform Safety Connect is also included, which brings automatic crash notification, an emergency response button and stolen vehicle location.
The optional Lexus Safety System+ A adds enhanced adaptive cruise control with additional steering assistance, enhanced forward collision prevention, front cross-traffic alert with pedestrian warning, and an automated lane-changing function.
The LS has not been crash-tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
Behind the Wheel
The LS 500 is a smooth, composed, and comfortable luxury sedan. Its turbocharged V6 is powerful and, with its exhaust tuning in Sport or Sport+ driving modes, even sounds good. Assuming it’s audible after the active noise-canceling and well-insulated cabin have performed their silent magic.
The steering is not the object of numbness that some might assume from such a sumptuous scenario. There’s actually some feedback and the F Sport’s more performance-oriented suspension increases the feel.
With the exception of the 420-hp Genesis G90, most rivals start out with lower power outputs than the LS. This may be inappropriate behavior for a luxury car, but the LS 500 can sprint from standstill to 60 mph in just 4.6 seconds. Making use of torque electric motors (but with extra weight), the LS 500h makes the dash in a still-respectable 5.1 seconds.
As in other Lexus/Toyota hybrids, accelerating in the LS 500h features a brief burst of electric-only propulsion joined by the engine. However, it’s all pretty seamless and the advanced transmission eliminates the typical drone associated with hybrids.
When the LS is driven with a bit of aggression, this transmission also helps the 500h’s powertrain behave more like a traditional, non-hybrid engine, which is definitely good for increasing involvement.
Naturally, a flagship sedan like the LS should also excel at pampering, which this Lexus definitely does. The cabin is beautifully crafted and designed, with special touches everywhere. It’s also jam-packed with features, and the front and rear seats can adjust in a multitude of ways.
Trunk space in the LS 500 is almost 17 cubic feet. That’s big enough for plenty of luggage, but about average for the class. The LS 500h can still manage 15.2 cubic feet.
Other Cars to Consider
2021 Mercedes-Benz S-Class — More expensive than the LS, but most rivals are. Traditionally the segment’s benchmark and best-seller, the S-Class is all-new for 2021. It should be a masterpiece of technology and engineering.
2021 BMW 7 Series — The 7 Series can be a well-equipped, tech-rich, comfortable and spacious luxury conveyance. But push it even a little and a more driver-oriented character becomes apparent. This range of superb machines includes a couple of high-performance models.
2021 Genesis G90 — Revised last year, the G90 is still trying to make its mark in this rarefied quadrant of the automotive galaxy, but it provides a lot of standard equipment for a relatively reasonable price.
Used Mercedes-Benz S-Class — The initial depreciation hit on a Mercedes S-Class is considerable, so it could be a smart call to investigate a used or certified pre-owned (CPO) version.
As much as lowering emissions is a laudable pursuit, the LS 500h is heavier and substantially more expensive. For those willing to make that trade-off, fine. Most buyers, though, should be perfectly happy with the regular LS 500, then add options to taste. Another strong argument for the LS against the competition is that it does a better job of retaining its value. Find a 2021 Lexus LS for sale