The Lexus LS Isn’t as Exciting as It Used to Be and That’s Alright
When the Lexus LS debuted in 1989, it dropped a bomb on the luxury car market. Suddenly there was a car that did everything as well or better than the established brands like BMW, Cadillac, Lincoln, and Mercedes-Benz for less money. It offered top-shelf luxury and good performance. Thanks to Toyota levels of reliability, it’s consistently ranked high on Consumer Reports and J.D. Power’s quality rankings.
As a performance car, the Lexus LS has never been mistaken for something like a Porsche Panamera or Mercedes AMG S63. It’s always put up respectable numbers but tends to stay on the luxury side of the luxury-performance scale. Lately, it’s slid even further toward the luxury end of the equation, exchanging excitement for comfort and isolation. To use a sports analogy, if the Mercedes AMG and Porsche are Crossfit and mixed martial arts, the Lexus is all yoga.
But that’s alright, as I’ll explain while we say namaste to the Lexus LS.
The 2023 Lexus LS is long on luxury and value
For 2023 the Lexus LS offers a choice of a twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V6, putting out 416 hp, or a different variant of the 3.5-liter V6 combined with a hybrid powertrain that makes 354 hp.
Inside the big change is a new infotainment interface that ditches the clunky touchpad control for a larger 12.3-inch touchscreen. The voice command system has also been updated and can respond to natural speech to adjust the stereo, navigation, climate controls, and other functions.
The Lexus shines in its serene, quiet ride and high-end materials. The interior is a luxurious isolation chamber, a way to shut out the outside world, leaving you alone with your thoughts. And for that, it’s a bargain. The starting price is $78,035, which undercuts just about everything else in its class by $10,000, including the formidable Genesis G90.
The Lexus LS is less of a driver’s car
Let it be known that the Lexus LS offers respectable performance with a 5.4-second 0-to-60 mph time. The hybrid is a few ticks slower but boasts best-in-class fuel economy with an estimated 33 mp city and 25 mpg highway, compared to the 19/30 mpg numbers of the standard LS. Edmunds‘ review of the vehicle drives home the fact that the numbers aren’t what’s important.
Where many luxury cars today are all about hustle, the Lexus LS is about zen-like tranquility. In that respect, the LS is like the luxury land yachts of old. You don’t care about 0 to 60 mph times or top speed or lapping the Nurburgring. It’s about relaxation and decompression from a long day at the office.
Rather than think of performance, think of the Lexus LS in terms of competence. It’s like your go-to person or the most capable tool in your toolbox. Need to pick up inlaws with two weeks’ worth of luggage from the airport? No problem. Drive eight hours on the Interstate highway that’s pockmarked with filled potholes and plagued with construction zones? Turn up the Mark Levinson stereo, switch on the massaging seats, and set the cruise control.
The Lexus LS stacks up well with the competition
Compared to the BMW 7 Series or Mercedes-Benz S-Class, the 2023 Lexus LS is seemingly outgunned in performance and driving dynamics. However, start checking the option boxes on either of the German cars, and the price tag rapidly climbs into the six figures. On price alone, the LS wins. But it also competes on luxury and comfort, and that, combined with the low base price, makes a compelling case.
Then there’s a question of styling. Both the S-Class and LS have a presence and make a statement without shouting. The 7 Series looks like it is shouting with its basking shark maw.
Perhaps the closest competitor for the LS may be the Genesis G90. Genesis borrowed the Lexus playbook, offering luxury and refinement for a discount brand price. Yet there is nothing about the Genesis G90 that’s cut rate. Both cars match up equally well in performance, size, and features on paper. Both prioritize luxury and comfort and are loaded with features. On price alone, the Lexus has the advantage. But independent of price, it’s a split decision with no clear winner.