The LS 500 gets battery power for improved fuel economy

The Lexus LS became an instant halo car when it was released in 1990 and was the very basis of which the Lexus brand was able to grow. Fast forward to today and the LS entered its fifth generation for the 2018 model year with an all-new platform, new twin-turbo V-6 drivetrain, 10-speed automatic transmission, and a sweet but sexy look with the newest iteration of Lexus’ spindle grille. But, with the introduction of a new LS Sedan, comes the introduction of a hybrid version that’s called that LS 500h – a car that sheds a bit of its V-8 high-performance hybrid roots in the name of economy. Yeah, that’s right, no V-8 hybrid system here, but we’ll talk more about that later on.

As before, the hybrid LS is very similar to the gasoline model we saw make its debut in early 2017. Actually, it only has a few blue badges on the outside and added hybrid-related features on the inside. Of course, all these are small addition to the new hybrid drivetrain under the skin. The combo pairs together a 3.5-liter V-6 engine, a couple of electric motors, and a new CVT gearbox. Output is below the regular gasoline model, but this is far from surprising. What’s important here is that the LS 500h gives you access to a gorgeous, luxurious limousine that gulps less fuel and emits less carbon-dioxide. Let’s see what it has to offer.

Continue reading to learn more about the Lexus LS 500h.

Exterior

2018 Lexus LS 500h Exterior High Resolution
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2018 Lexus LS 500 Exterior High Resolution
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Lexus LS 500h Lexus LS 500
Not surprisingly, the LS 500h is identical to the gasoline-powered LS 500, with only a few badges setting it apart.

Not surprisingly, the LS 500h is identical to the gasoline-powered LS 500, with only a few badges setting it apart. I’m talking about the main Lexus logos front and rear that have blue backgrounds, and the "LS 500h" lettering on the trunk lid. But this isn’t bad news. The new LS is a gorgeous sedan that sports features that remind me of Lexus concept cars from the past, a more dynamic and wide stance, and I’d dare say more excitement than the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and BMW 7 Series. Heck, the old Audi A8 is quite boring compared to the LS, while the redesigned A8 is barely interesting to look at.

2018 Lexus LS 500h Exterior High Resolution
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2018 Lexus LS 500
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Lexus LS 500h Lexus LS 500

So yeah, it’s all there. All the gorgeous lines of the new LS paired with a hybrid drivetrain that helps you spend less at the pump and sends less exhaust gases into the ozone.

Interior

2018 Lexus LS 500h High Resolution Interior
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As you might have already guesses, the interior is also identical to the standard model.

As you might have already guesses, the interior is also identical to the standard model. That means that you’ll see plenty of Japanese-inspired design and plenty of real wood trim. Ambient lighting will keep the mood regardless of the situation, and the long, strategic lines of the interior will further emphasize a sense of space and comfort. The front seats can be had with 28-way power adjustments and can be equipped with heating, cooling, and even Shiatsu massage – something that will clearly make you want to take the long way home from work. The 500h should also offer the wider rear seat package will include the same functions save for the power adjustment, but with a raised ottoman for really kicking back.

On the technology front, the hybrid gets the same goodies, which include a 12.3-inch navigation display, and a semi-digital instrument cluster with a digital tach in the middle and analog gauges on the side. A pad on the center console offers up handwriting recognition and support while selecting the right option box will get you a 24-inch – yes you read that right – heads-up display which is the biggest available in any production car as of the time of this writing. As far as all of this technology is concerned, it will likely mirror that of the standard 500, but the software will be updated to include information about range, battery life, charging, etc. – all necessary things for a car that lugs around a battery pack and electric motor.

2018 Lexus LS 500h High Resolution Interior
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2018 Lexus LS 500h High Resolution Interior
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Of course, having a hybrid drivetrain means that both the infotainment screen and the instrument cluster display come with extra features.

The standard audio system that will be available is pretty good, but the big ticket item is the Mark Levinson 3D stereo package that’s up for the taking and includes ceiling speakers in addition to the usual door and deck speakers. With the upgraded audio package you also get upgraded graphics on the infotainment system, so that’s an added bonus. Active noise cancellation will keep the cabin quiet while the air suspension system makes entry and exit a little easier from a car that sits so low to the ground.

Of course, having a hybrid drivetrain means that both the infotainment screen and the instrument cluster display come with extra features and apps, including information about battery life and recharging status, all-electric and combined mileage, and data about the energy regenerating system.

Drivetrain

2018 Lexus LS 500h High Resolution Drivetrain
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Motivation comes from Lexus' recently introduced Multi Stage Hybrid System.

Motivation comes from Lexus’ recently introduced Multi Stage Hybrid System. Already available on the LC coupe, it combines the familiar 3.5-liter V-6 gasoline engine with a couple of electric motors. Total output is rated at 354 horsepower and pushes the LS 500h from 0 to 60 mph in 5.4 seconds. Granted, it’s not as fast as the gas-only model, but it’s sporty enough for a vehicle this size.

Routing all that power to the wheels is a continuously variable transmission which Lexus claims it delivers the "feel of driving with a 10-speed gearbox." It’s also supposed to feel smooth at lower engine revs and deliver the most fuel-efficient performance in a Lexus yet. The new transmission also comes with a "manual" mode that allows the driver to select and hold gear manually using the paddle shifts mounted behind the steering wheel. A first for a Lexus hybrid, the gear shift will start instantaneously with the computer receiving the signal from the paddle shift.

2018 Lexus LS 500h High Resolution Drivetrain
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The LS 500h is fitted with a compact, lightweight, lithium-ion hybrid battery.

The LS 500h is fitted with a compact, lightweight, lithium-ion hybrid battery that’s 20-percent smaller than the nickel-metal hydride unit featured in the outgoing Lexus LS 600h. But despite being smaller, it has a higher power density. It also has a satellite construction design, in which the cell voltage monitoring function has been separated from the battery ECU. This allows for efficient use of space inside the battery pack and helps with the more compact design.

Pricing

2018 Lexus LS 500h High Resolution Exterior
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Pricing for the LS 500h starts from $79,510, which is a $4,510 increase compared to the non-hybrid LS. This sticker is for the rear-wheel-drive version, while the AWD variant starts from $82,730.

Three additional packages are available for the LS 500h, starting with the Interior Upgrade Package, which adds quilted-stitch, perforated semi-aniline leather-trimmed interior, 28-way power driver’s seat with multifunction massage, power front seatbelt buckles, heated rear seats and more. This bundle retails from $3,730.

Next up is the Luxury Package. Priced at $12,270 with RWD and $12,250 with AWD, it adds 28-way power passenger seat with multifunction massage, passenger-seat power cushion extender, 18-way heated and ventilated power-reclining rear seats with memory, remote adjustment for passenger seat, and four-zone climate concierge.

Finally, there’s the Executive Package with Kiriko Glass. The most expensive upgrade at $23,080 for RWD cars and $23,060 for AWD vehicles, it adds Kiriko glass interior door trim, hand-pleated interior door trim, 22-way power rear seats with butterfly headrests, memory and multifunction massage with heat.

Competition

BMW 740e xDrive iPerformance

2017 BMW 740e iPerformance High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
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2017 BMW 740e iPerformance High Resolution Exterior
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BMW’s resident, large hybrid sedan comes in the form of the 7 Series, or more specifically the 740e xDrive iPerformance. It takes on traditional 7 series styling with the only exterior changes coming in the form of different headlight units, new badges to show off its electric nature, and the addition of a charging port between the driver’s door and front wheel. Inside, it’s all Bimmer 7 Series, with the exception of new digital displays that include a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster with software that displays battery information in addition to the usual data. Under the hood, the iPeformance gets a 2.0-liter four-banger that’s paired with an eDrive electric motor. The 2.0-liter pumps out 255 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque while the electric motor is capable of a decent 111 horsepower and 184 pound-feet. Combined output is advertised at 322 horsepower, and 369 pound-feet and a 9.2 kWh battery gives the motor juice. Total range is 340 miles with an MPGe rating of 64. Charing time to 100 percent is said to take 2.7 hours. Pricing starts out at $89,100 before options, taxes, and destination.

Read our full review on the BMW 740e xDrive iPerformance.

Mercedes-Benz S550 Plug-in hybrid

2015 Mercedes-Benz S550 Plug-in Hybrid Exterior AutoShow
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2015 Mercedes-Benz S550 Plug-in Hybrid Exterior AutoShow
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Of course, it wouldn’t be a true battle royal of massive luxury cars if we didn’t include the Mercedes S-Class, right? Well, there’s a hybrid version of that too, and it combines the classic S-Class styling and luxury with a powerful V-6 and an electric motor to bring a combined total output of 426 horsepower and 479 pound-feet of torque to the table. It’s enough to get the massive S-class up to 60 mph in 5.2 seconds or a top speed of 130 mph. An 8.7 kWh battery provides the electric juice and is enough to bring a usable electric range of 20 miles and an all-electric range of 87 mph. Pricing starts out at $96,600, so it’s a little more expensive than where the LS 500h will sit, but come on – this is a Mercedes, after all.

Find out more about the Mercedes-Benz S550 Plug-in hybrid.

Conclusion

2018 Lexus LS 500h High Resolution Exterior
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The new LS 500h is far from surprising as far as design goes. It’s everything I expected it to be: a standard LS sedan with blue badges, new display setting, a couple of electric motors and a CVT gearbox. But, that’s okay because the LS 500h is on point in the looks and luxury department and, while it might not be the fastest car out there, it should get the job done nicely.

  • Leave it
    • * Will likely be expensive
    • * Stiff competition

Press Release

The 2018 Lexus LS 500h, the full hybrid version of Lexus’ new flagship sedan, was unveiled today in Geneva.

The model, which follows the world premiere of the twin-turbo gas V6-powered LS 500 at the 2017 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit, is a further manifestation of how Lexus has reimagined the luxury sedan, presenting bold design, enhanced performance and a sophisticated appeal to capture the imagination of forward-thinking customers.

2018 Lexus LS 500h High Resolution Exterior
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The car’s design successfully brings together the virtues of a long-wheelbase four-door sedan with a low, coupe-like profile, positioning the LS perfectly across the growing sedan and coupe segments.

The cabin has benefited from an equally new approach, focusing on “progressive comfort,” interpreting Japanese aesthetics and craftsmanship traditions in the context of an advanced, luxurious and innovative vehicle interior such as the unique door trim ornamentation. Notably, the LS 500 was honored at the NAIAS with the EyesOn Design Award for Design Excellence – Interior Design.

2018 Lexus LS 500h High Resolution Exterior
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Conceived as the new global pinnacle of the Lexus brand, the LS goes beyond what the world expects from a luxury car. Chief Engineer Toshio Asahi explained: “Developing such a flagship model required a massive paradigm shift. Rather than being bound by the conventions that had defined luxury cars in the past, we aimed to create a car with innovative, emotional and sensual appeal that would draw customers’ eyes away from other luxury cars and provide entirely new values.”

The LS 500h is equipped with the new Lexus Multi Stage Hybrid System, which provides enhanced responsiveness and linear acceleration, particularly when accelerating from a full stop. The powertrain features a 3.5-liter V6 Dual VVT-i V6 gasoline engine and two electric motors, together delivering maximum system power of 354 hp.

2018 Lexus LS 500h High Resolution Exterior
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The LS 500h is built on the new Lexus Global Architecture – Luxury (GA-L) platform, which is shared with the all-new LC. This platform ensures a low center of gravity and optimum weight distribution, contributing to the car’s essential stability and handling agility, which in turn deliver increased driver rewards. The fundamental high rigidity of the chassis allows the new multi-link suspension to be tuned to achieve enhanced handling performance and the supreme comfort for which the LS is renowned. The car’s dynamic performance also benefits from the coordination of braking, steering and stability systems through Lexus Dynamic Handling.

Advanced technologies are further used to deliver impressive safety performance. The LS 500h’s available Advanced Safety Package features the world’s first Intuitive Pedestrian Detection system with Active Steering within the lane.

2018 Lexus LS 500h High Resolution Exterior
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Omotenashi, expressing the unique sense of Japanese hospitality, defines the LS 500h’s whisper-quiet and luxurious interior. Supreme comfort is provided by front and rear seats with multiple power adjustment, heating, cooling, and massage functions. There is also an optional rear seat arrangement that includes an extending leg ottoman and the most generous leg room of any LS generation. At 123 inches, the wheelbase of the new LS is in fact 1.3-inches longer than on the current long wheelbase LS 600h L.

Lexus Takumi craftsmanship also contributes to the special quality of the LS 500h’s cabin, in luxurious new trims, materials and detailing, including a new pleating treatment and Kiriko glasswork on the inner door panels.

2018 Lexus LS 500h High Resolution Drivetrain
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IMAGINATIVE TECHNOLOGY

Full hybrid powertrain with 3.5-liter V6 Dual VVT-i gas engine
The LS 500h’s Lexus Multi Stage Hybrid System combines a 3.5-liter V6 Dual VVT-i gas engine with two electric motors, together delivering a total output of 354hp. The engine makes optimal use of Dual VVT-i (intelligent variable valve-timing), with timing precisely gauged in line with driving conditions, helping to secure high torque at all engine speeds. Measures to reduce friction losses and thus improve engine efficiency include the adoption of narrow, lightweight roller rocker arms and low-friction timing chains, while D-4S direct fuel injection helps create optimum combustion conditions, contributing to enhanced fuel economy.

Lexus Multi Stage Hybrid System
The new LS 500h is equipped with Lexus’ Multi Stage Hybrid System, a breakthrough technology that enriches the hybrid powertrain performance experience and is also seen on the all-new LC. The system adds a four-stage shifting device to the Lexus Hybrid Drive combination of a 3.5-liter V6 gas engine and two electric motors. The result is more direct response to driver inputs while maintaining the characteristic smoothness and efficiency for which Lexus hybrids are renowned.

In a conventional full hybrid vehicle, engine output is boosted by the electric motor via a reduction gear, but with the new Multi Stage Hybrid System the power from the V6 engine and the hybrid battery can be amplified by the four-stage shifting device, allowing much greater drive power to be generated when accelerating from stationary and achieving a 0-60 time of 5.4 seconds.

The design of the system places the multi-stage shift unit immediately behind the power split device, on an axis aligned with the engine crankshaft. Although the unit has four speeds, the D range has a simulated shift control pattern that delivers the feel of driving with a 10-speed gearbox. As vehicle speed rises, engine speed increases with a linear, direct and continuous acceleration feel, free from the “rubber band” effect witnessed in some continuously variable transmissions. In the 10th gear range, the CVT control allows for high-speed cruising at lower engine revs for quiet, smooth and fuel-efficient performance.

2018 Lexus LS 500h High Resolution Drivetrain
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The transmission further benefits from an improved version of the artificial intelligence shift control found in conventional automatics. This enables intelligent, optimum gear selection to be made in line with driving conditions and driver inputs, for example when going up or downhill. By reading the vehicle’s acceleration, deceleration and lateral G trajectories, the system can adjust gear shifts to suit the driver’s style and behavior, without the driver having to select a different drive mode to get the kind of performance they want from the transmission.

Thanks to the Multi Stage Hybrid System’s design, the driver is able to take advantage of an M mode to select and hold gears manually, using paddle shifts mounted behind the steering wheel – a function not previously available on a Lexus hybrid. Thanks to the coordinated control of the Power Split Device and the gear shifting mechanism, the gear shift will start instantaneously with the computer receiving the signal from the paddle shift, giving an exceptionally quick response.

Lithium-ion hybrid battery
The LS 500h is fitted with a compact, lightweight, lithium-ion hybrid battery. It is 20 percent smaller than the nickel-metal hydride unit featured in the current Lexus LS 600h, yet has a higher power density. Using lithium-ion technology has also reduced the component’s weight, helping reduce the car’s overall mass, thus supporting overall fuel economy, emissions performance and handling balance.

It is the first Lexus hybrid battery to feature a satellite construction design, in which the cell voltage monitoring function has been made separate from the battery ECU. This allows for efficient use of what would otherwise be empty space inside the battery pack to house the wiring harness and battery cooling blower, thus reducing the unit’s overall dimensions. The cooling blower itself has been made more powerful and thinner in size.

2018 Lexus LS 500h High Resolution Interior
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LUXURY INTERIOR INSPIRED BY OMOTENASHI
Omotenashi, the Japanese concept of hospitality, is a common thread that has run through all LS models. In the context of a luxury automobile, it means taking care of the driver and passengers, anticipating their needs, attending to their comfort and protecting them from hazards.

Takumi Craftsmanship
The quality, precision and pride in perfection that define Lexus’ Takumi craftsmanship are richly evident in the luxury detailing in the new LS, as befits a flagship sedan. Lexus has produced a unique aesthetic for the new LS which can be witnessed in elements such as the interior lighting and an exceptional attention to detail in the finish and appearance of everything you see and feel.

Inspired by Japanese culture and traditions
Natural woodwork and the application of sophisticated sliced wood and laser cutting technologies have been used to produce new interior finish options, including Art Wood/Organic, Art Wood/Herringbone and Laser Cut Special. The grain pattern of Art Wood is achieved by combining different color woods and is an original Lexus design, created using Takumi craftsmanship skills. The LS’ new cross grain finish is larger with sharper contrasts between light and dark, creating a more vibrant effect. The new Laser Cut Special trim emphasizes the contrast between precise metal lines and natural wood.

2018 Lexus LS 500h High Resolution Interior
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Hand-pleated door trims were inspired by origami, the Japanese art of creating three-dimensional forms from a single piece of paper. The door panels were originally rendered in paper by a skilled fabric artisan. The finished three-dimensional pattern captures the Lexus “L” motif in its intricate and precise folds, conveying a different effect when seen in daylight or the cabin’s night-time illumination.

For the ornamentation panel, the aim was to express Lexus’ Time in Design philosophy. To achieve this, the team called on the skills of Kiriko artisan glassworkers who produced hand-carved designs that capture the contrast created by light and shadow. Through painstaking trial and error, a design was chosen that looks beautiful and sensual from any angle. Although fragile in appearance, the glass has been treated using reinforcement technology to ensure it is robust for use in a vehicle interior. The hand-carved design was reproduced using advanced glass production technology, which precisely scans and digitizes tens of thousands of facets. In the next step the glass ornamentation undergoes a series of treatments such as polishing and strengthening conducted by specialized Japanese Takumi craftsmen.

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