In-depth reviews

Lexus LS 500h engines, drive & performance

The Lexus LS 500h is fast on paper, but it can't match its (mainly German) luxury-saloon rivals for smoothness or comfort

Lexus LS 500h
Overall rating

2.5 out of 5

Engines, drive & performance rating

3.0 out of 5

Price
£77,259 - £110,889
Fuel Type:
Hybrid Petrol
0-62mphTop speedDriven wheelsPower
5.4-5.5s155mphRear or four354bhp

Lexus also sells a luxurious two-door hybrid coupe called the LC 500h, which has come in for plenty of compliments for the way it responds on a twisty road. Sadly, if you're hoping for similar driving entertainment from the LS 500h saloon, you're likely to be disappointed.

While the LS 500h isn't found wanting for acceleration and is particularly in its element on the motorway, its handling isn't as neat and tidy as that of the Mercedes S-Class, BMW 7 Series or Audi A8 plug-in hybrids. It's a shame, too, that it doesn't make up for this shortfall by offering an especially smooth ride.

Lexus LS 500h hybrid engine, 0-62mph and acceleration

The Lexus LS 500h is powered by a 295bhp 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine that works in conjunction with a 177bhp electric motor. Depending on how you drive, the car's hybrid system will decide whether to use petrol, electricity or a combination of both power sources.

As well as allowing short distances to be driven on electric power alone, the motor can also be used to boost acceleration. Acceleration from 0-62mph is possible in 5.4 seconds in rear-wheel-drive cars, or 5.5 seconds with four-wheel drive. Exploiting this punchy performance will reduce the distance you can cover in pure electric model, though.

In early 2021, Lexus introduced updates to the LS that included increasing the contribution made by the battery. The company states that "acceleration is smoother and more linear and less effort is needed to move faster. That makes for more comfortable driving around town, on winding roads and uphill gradients," although we'll have to wait until we've driven the updated car in order to verify these claims.

It's a shame that summoning full power is rather noisier than you might expect it to be in such a luxurious car. With an automatic gearbox that's not unlike that fitted to the far less expensive Toyota Prius, acceleration can cause the engine to drone somewhat, holding engine revs high for quite a long time.

It pays, then, to build up speed more gradually, and once motorway speed is attained, the LS 500h is a quiet car indeed. If you accelerate gently enough, or lock the car into 'EV Mode', the motor can take you to 87mph on its own (80mph in the four-wheel-drive version). The petrol engine takes over above that speed, but the motor remains on standby to boost acceleration when demanded – as long as there's charge in the battery.

However, despite the electric motor and petrol engine producing a combined 354bhp, diesel-engined rivals offer greater – and quieter – overtaking urge than the Lexus.

Handling

The entry-level LS 500h can be rear or four-wheel-drive, but the raciest model in the range, the F Sport, is rear-drive only. You can choose the top-spec Takumi with either rear or four-wheel-drive, too. However, while it's possible to drive either version of the LS 500h very quickly through a series of corners, that has more to do with the grip from its huge tyres than any particular handling prowess.

Like its Audi A8 rival, the Lexus feels rather remote and disconnected through the steering wheel, but goes on to lean rather more pronouncedly in corners than the German car. It certainly can't match the taut, controlled feel of a BMW 7 Series, and the lurching Lexus can make life quite uncomfortable for rear-seat passengers if you get too carried away through the corners.

The 'drive mode' selector offers Sport S and Sport S+ settings. While these make the steering more direct and increase the stiffness of the suspension, they don't provide any more feel and ultimately don't make the Lexus much more exciting to drive quickly. That's even true of the F Sport, which introduces active rear-wheel steering that provides a more eager response when you turn into a corner, but the effect feels a little unnatural.

Despite the best efforts of its adaptive variable suspension system, the Lexus isn't as smooth over bumps as the Mercedes S-Class. You can add air suspension, but while this improves overall smoothness, it still can't prevent shocks passing through the car when the huge 20-inch alloy wheels pass over urban potholes or motorway imperfections.

On the plus side, a suite of advanced technology that includes adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assistance does make it easier for you to relax behind the wheel on a long motorway journey. Lexus also claims to have improved the LS' ride quality as part of the 2021 model-year updates to the car; there are changes to to the adaptive suspension on the entry-level LS version, as well as more rigid anti-roll bars and a reduction in vertical stiffness of the run-flat tyre.

Most Popular

Complete guide to the Ecotricity Electric Highway charging network
Ecotricity
Your questions answered

Complete guide to the Ecotricity Electric Highway charging network

Need to charge your electric vehicle on the Ecotricity Electric Highway network? Here’s how it works, how much it costs and how to pay
9 Jun 2021
Are electric bikes and scooters legal in the UK? The law explained
Smart eScooter and eBike
Your questions answered

Are electric bikes and scooters legal in the UK? The law explained

Confused about UK electric bike laws and regulations that extend to motorcycles, scooters and mopeds? We explain all here
2 Jun 2021
New hybrid VW Transporter van and VW Multivan minibus: pictures and specs
2021 Volkswagen Multivan
Volkswagen Transporter

New hybrid VW Transporter van and VW Multivan minibus: pictures and specs

The new Multivan minibus replaces the Caravelle in Volkswagen's UK line-up and will be available with the eHybrid plug-in powertrain
10 Jun 2021
New 2021 Kia EV6 electric SUV: details, pictures, price and on-sale date
Kia EV6 GT-Line - Exterior
Kia EV6

New 2021 Kia EV6 electric SUV: details, pictures, price and on-sale date

Kia's flagship electric car is capable of up to 316 miles on a single charge and recharging from 10-80% in just 18 minutes; available to order in the …
17 Jun 2021
Complete guide to the BP Pulse (formerly Polar Plus) charging network
BP Pulse
Your questions answered

Complete guide to the BP Pulse (formerly Polar Plus) charging network

This is how to charge your electric or plug-in hybrid car on the BP Pulse public charging network (formerly known as Polar Plus)
2 Jun 2021
Complete guide to BP Pulse (formerly Chargemaster) home chargers
BP Chargemaster wallbox
Your questions answered

Complete guide to BP Pulse (formerly Chargemaster) home chargers

Everything you need to know about BP Pulse (formerly known as BP Chargemaster) home wallbox chargers for electric and plug-in hybrid cars
3 Jun 2021
Volkswagen ID.4 GTX review
Volkswagen ID.4 GTX
Volkswagen ID.4

Volkswagen ID.4 GTX review

VW’s first attempt at a performance electric car handles well for a 2.2-tonne SUV and offers decent performance, but has the same infotainment issues …
20 Jun 2021
Rivian R1S seven-seat electric SUV spied testing
Rivian R1S spy shot
News

Rivian R1S seven-seat electric SUV spied testing

The new American electric-car brand's R1S SUV produces up to 750bhp; 400-mile range model expected in 2022
4 Jun 2021
Electric car loans and grants in Scotland: a complete guide
Vauxhall Corsa-e and Renault ZOE
Your questions answered

Electric car loans and grants in Scotland: a complete guide

If you live in Scotland and are looking to buy an electric car, there are a number of government schemes to help out
2 Jun 2021
Tesla Model 3 police car: emergency services to trial electric model
Tesla Model 3 police car
Tesla Model 3

Tesla Model 3 police car: emergency services to trial electric model

Tesla makes test car available to emergency services for trials as part of government's Road To Zero strategy
17 Jun 2021
BMW hydrogen fuel-cell SUV begins real-world testing
BMW i Hydrogen NEXT SUV prototype
BMW X5

BMW hydrogen fuel-cell SUV begins real-world testing

BMW's hydrogen fuel-cell prototype has begun testing on European roads; brand expects production version to go on sale in 2025
16 Jun 2021
2021 BMW 330e Touring: prices, pictures and specifications
BMW 330e Touring
BMW 3 Series Touring

2021 BMW 330e Touring: prices, pictures and specifications

The plug-in hybrid 330e version of the BMW 3 Series is available in Touring estate guise for greater practicality, with optional four-wheel drive
3 Jun 2021
New 2021 Peugeot e-Partner electric van: specs, details and on-sale date
Peugeot e-Partner
Peugeot Partner

New 2021 Peugeot e-Partner electric van: specs, details and on-sale date

The new Peugeot e-Partner electric van is a sister model to the Citroen e-Berlingo and Vauxhall Combo-e; it goes on sale in late 2021
3 Jun 2021
What is a self-charging hybrid?
Lexus hybrid system screen
Your questions answered

What is a self-charging hybrid?

The term 'self-charging hybrid' appears frequently in the advertising and marketing of certain models, but what exactly does it mean? Here, we outline…
2 Jun 2021