Lexus LS 500h interior & comfort

The Lexus LS 500h is unashamedly opulent and eye-catching inside, but rather fussily designed

Trundling along on smooth city streets on electric power alone, the Lexus LS 500h is in its element. When the road surface is uneven, its 20-inch wheels begin to pass shocks through the car's structure, but overall quietness is impressive unless full power is called upon, thanks to an engine that's muted unless pushed hard, as well as clever active-noise cancelling technology that drowns out mechanical noise.

The huge seats are extremely comfortable, too, and most of the time passengers will remain undisturbed to enjoy what is arguably the Lexus' strongest attribute – its beautifully built and uniquely designed interior. It's not such a treat for drivers as it is for guests, though, and some may find its styling rather fussy and contrived.

Lexus LS 500h dashboard

The LS 500 has a dashboard quite unlike that of any other luxury car – even the technologically advanced Audi A8 seems more conventional at first glance. It stretches across the car like an aircraft wing, abruptly ending where it meets the door panel on either side, yet surprisingly little of it is devoted to displays and controls – many features are operated via the infotainment system.

The instrument panel itself comprises an eight-inch colour LCD panel that's flanked by mirrored analogue dials for engine temperature and fuel level. There's a lot of information packed into the centre screen, which can be configured to omit a rev counter and give the speedometer pride of place, or to show a rev counter with a digital speed display within it, as well as navigation arrows from the sat nav.

F-Sport models go even further, with a moving bezel like that of the Lexus LC 500h coupe that allows the dials to change in shape to show additional information. Both types are rather less adaptable than Audi's Virtual Cockpit system, though: there's no full-colour mapping available directly in your line of sight, for example.

The head-up display is comprehensive, though, projecting driving information onto the windscreen straight ahead, as well as audio settings and safety features.

Meanwhile, the driving mode selector and other adjustments are possible via rotary switches that sprout from either side of the instrument cluster. This puts them within a hand span of the steering wheel, but doesn't make them intuitive to operate.  

Equipment, options and accessories

Every LS 500h is very well-appointed indeed. Outside, 20-inch alloy wheels are a given across the range, as is full LED exterior lighting. You'll find 20-way power-adjustable, heated, ventilated front seats, leather upholstery, dual-zone climate control and a 12-speaker stereo on every model in the range. There are three 12V sockets on board, too; two in the front and one for rear-seat occupants.

The LS 500h Luxury is even more opulent, adding smoother air suspension, extra adjustment for the front seats, 18-way adjustable heated, ventilated rear seats, fine semi-aniline leather upholstery and an upgraded four-zone climate control system, as well as a 23-speaker stereo from hi-fi specialist Mark Levinson.  

If you prefer a sporty look, the F-Sport has a special design of 20-inch alloy wheel, a unique style of front grille mesh and a dark 'F-Sport' themed interior with machined aluminium pedals. There's also an F Sport gear knob and steering wheel, the latter of which is heated, and moving-bezel instrument cluster that recalls the LC500h sports coupe.

Most luxurious of all is the LS 500h Premier, which rear seat passengers will particularly enjoy. It adds a powered rear sunshade, 11.6-inch entertainment screen and Blu-ray DVD player, HDMI and SD card input. There's also a massage function for both rear seats, the left of which has extra adjustment and 'ottoman' function that provides an electric footrest after electrically sliding the front seat out of the way. These features are all controlled via a centrally-mounted colour touchscreen.

If you want to give your LS 500h a really unique interior look, the £7,600 'Kiriko & pleat' package introduces hand-pleated fabric to the door trims, replacing the standard wood trim with a textured cut glass finish. It's only available on the Premier and, while it's certainly eye-catching, it's far from a must-have option.

It's also worth noting that entry-level and F Sport models are rear-wheel-drive only. If you want the added security of four-wheel-drive, you need to choose Luxury or Premier.

Infotainment, apps & sat nav

The LS 500h uses a 12.3-inch colour screen for infotainment duties, with Bluetooth, DAB radio, sat nav with full European mapping, two USB ports and an aux socket for music connection, and steering wheel mounted control for audio, display and placing phone calls. There's a 'panoramic view monitor' for an all-round view when parking, too, but no sign of Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, though, either as standard or optionally.

Some will find the system awkward to use, too. It's controlled by a centrally mounted touch-pad which responds in a similar way to that of a laptop computer. Lexus claims that it offers "the intuitive feel of a smartphone", and they do recognise gestures such as swipes and double taps, but we find it tricky to navigate without diverting attention from the road, and would prefer a touchscreen or rotary controller.