Lexus LS500h review, test drive

In the land of the rising sun, being at the top is a little different. And the LS500h is a prime example of that Japanese excellence.

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Lexus LS500h Exterior - Topgear Magazine India
Lexus LS500h (Image: BBC TopGear India)

There are certain cars or motorcycles that keep you awake before you have a chance to test them. Not because they are ultra fast or look bonkers, but because it’ll be an experience that will be hard to forget anytime soon. That’s exactly what the LS500h was for me. Right from when I picked it up, I knew this is going to be an enjoyable drive. And I must say, I wasn’t disappointed at all. Even the showroom, which is located in Janpath, had a distinctive clutter-free yet majestic feel to it, much like the LS500h.

Lexus LS500h Review - Topgear Magazine
(Image: BBC TopGear India)

From the moment you climb into the driver’s seat, there’s an immediate sense of occasion with the LS500h. Right from that deep-maroon draped interiors, the quality of materials used and the attention to detail is immaculate. And when you press that blue ‘Power’ button and the steering wheel and seat adjust into place, you know that it’s going to be a luxury-filled experience. The Takumi masters have done a hell of a job with the handcrafted leather and kiriko glass in the doors. Everything you can touch and feel has a feel of rarity about it. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak.

Lexus LS500h Review - Topgear Magazine India
(Image: BBC TopGear India)

Once you’re set in place ready to go, you’ll notice that the LS500h is extremely quiet, I wondered if it’s even on at first. But that’s because it comes with an ‘EV mode’ which engages at lower speeds (under 50kmph) to keep emissions and fuel efficiency in check. It almost feels like one is floating. But, push down on the accelerator pedal you’ll feel the 3.5-litre, V6 motor comes to life. Prior to that, the electric motor provides most of the low-end torque. Given that it’s a naturally aspirated engine, the performance is as smooth as smooth can be. There’s a velvet touch across the rev range which feels just right when you’re in the mood for cruising. But, if you decide to put your foot down, don’t forget to lower the air suspension and put the LS500h in Sports + to get the most out of that engine.

Lexus LS500h Sit sofa- Topgear Magazine India
(Image: BBC TopGear India)

Once you do that, you’ll feel the 10-speed automatic gearbox sharpen up, along with the steering wheel tightening up for greater feel. Also, that gearbox is a CVT transmission crossed with a four-speed automatic, resulting in almost seamless gear changes at any given point. And if you’re wondering, this is one quick car. Don’t be fooled by the dimensions or the beauty, the LS500h is deceptively fast. It can almost attack corners at times and that feels almost uncharacteristic of a car this big. Not that I’m complaining, it’s most excellent! Especially when you factor in the 28-way adjustable power seats at front and 22-way adjustable power seats at the back. There are Ottoman massagers and seat heaters and warmers; the front steering wheel can be adjusted for temperature too! The level of equipment in this car is mind-boggling.

Lexus LS500h  Engine -  Topgear Magazine India
(Image: BBC TopGear India)

It has to be said, that front-engine, rear-wheel-drive system, those sofa-like rear seats, all come together in harmony to create a truly special experience. I found myself wanting to drive the LS500h from the time I got up to when I was planning to go back to bed. It felt like any time spent away from it, was time wasted in some regard. Nevertheless, things aren’t completely perfect. For one, the LS500h costs a whole lot more than its rivals and the boot space isn’t that great. Also, there isn’t a touchscreen at the front, although the screen and the touchpad are large and easy to use.

Lexus LS500h  Car-  Topgear Magazine India
(Image: BBC TopGear India)

But apart from those few things, Lexus has achieved what its Japanese engineers had set out to do with the first LS400. To create a vehicle capable of taking on other luxury brands, with a set of unique defining features, that make it quintessentially Japanese at its heart. In short, it looks special, drives supremely well and everything will work 20 years from now too!

Lexus LS500h  Exterior -  Topgear Magazine India
(Image: BBC TopGear India)

Specifications:

Engine – 3456cc, V6 with Lexus Hybrid Drive
Power – 350bhp
Transmission – 10-speed automatic
Boot space – 430 litres

Price: 1.77 crore (ex-showroom) onwards

For – Supreme ride comfort, hybrid powertrain, uniqueness, sofa-like seats
Against – Price, boot space

Photography – Jassi Singh