Lexus did something very daring when it redesigned the LS, its top-of-the-line (and full-size) luxury sedan.
It gave it an engine the same size as a Camry's, Toyota's midsize family sedan. And it no longer offers the LS with anything bigger than the Camry's V-6.
But sometimes, size doesn't matter. Horsepower (and torque) does. And other things, too!
What It Is
The LS 500 is Lexus' largest, most opulent and powerful sedan.
Its standard 3.5-liter V-6 is almost as strong as the optional 4-liter V-8 in the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, one of its primary rivals.
And it is much stronger than the six-cylinder engines that come standard in its two other rivals, the Audi A8 and BMW 7 Series.
The LS is also a deal. Lexus asks $75,300 to start for the LS 500 with rear-wheel drive and $78,520 with the optional all-wheel-drive system.
It costs $84,520 for a top-of-the-line F-Sport with AWD, which also gets an upgraded brake/wheel/tire package, 28-way power seats with pneumatic side bolsters that brace you during cornering and Naguri brushed aluminum trim upgrades.
The S-Class Benz starts at $91,250 — without AWD (or a V-8).
The Audi A8 comes standard with AWD but doesn't offer more than 369 horsepower (vs. 416 for the Lexus), and its prices begin at $83,800.
You can get a 523-horsepower V-8 and AWD in the BMW 7 Series ... for $102,560.
Lexus has value in its favor as well as power.
It also offers unique tech, such as the available 24-inch heads up display (HUD) - and amenities, such as the Executive Package Kiriko glass trim, which emulates a type of traditional hand-cut Japanese glassware.
Amazon Alexa is now available as a factory option; it's integrated with the LS 500's Enform concierge system. You can use it to send commands to your Alexa at home — such as turn off the lights, adjust the thermostat and so on. The in-car Alexa can also sync with the GPS system and provide on-the-go recommendations about such things as nearby attractions and restaurants.
V-8 power from standard twin-turbo V-6.
It's opulent without being overwhelming.
It's a better deal upfront and down the road. It holds value exceptionally well.
What's Not So Good
Apple CarPlay is standard, but there's no Android Auto.
Under the Hood
Lexus takes the position that a top-of-the-line luxury sedan shouldn't come with less than a top-of-the-line engine. Accordingly, all LS 500s come standard with a twin-turbo 3.5-liter V-6 that has more horsepower (416) than all three of its major rivals' standard engines.
It also has an astounding 442 foot-pounds of torque at just 1,600 rpm, which is more than most V-8s deliver — and explains the near miracle of the nearly 5,000-pound LS 500's 4.6-second zero-to-60 mph capability.
A ten-speed automatic transmission is standard.
On the Road
It's hard to say whether it is more enjoyable to drive the LS 500 or be taken for a ride in one. The back seat, which can be ordered with a recliner and an ottoman for your feet, as well as massagers for your back, is just as much a treat as the driver's seat.
There is sport here, too — not just ultra luxury.
Lexus has lowered the LS' ride height by almost an inch from the previous generation. And if you order the F-Sport, you'll get very aggressive staggered-size "summer" tires on 20-inch wheels, which help this full-size luxury liner carve corners almost as athletically as sports cars half its size and half its weight.
At the Curb
The new LS is also longer than the old LS, and roomier.
Rear-seat legroom has been increased to 38.9 inches, and the trunk — which is small in most late-model sedans — is huge now: 17 cubic feet.
But practicality isn't everything in a top-of-the-line luxury car. Luxury is. And the Lexus has almost every conceivable amenity, including ambient interior lighting inspired by Japanese Andon lanterns and floating armrests with their own touch screens for individualized climate controls.
F-Sport models can be ordered with rear-wheel steering, a feature not offered in the other kahunas in this class.
Another unusual LS feature is the massive (24-inch) heads-up display; instead of a tiny box projected in the driver's line of sight, there's a display larger than some iPads holographically projected ahead of you as you drive. It lets you keep track of important info without taking your eyes off the road. Or having to squint to read it.
The Bottom Line
The original Lexus LS gave the German luxury car brands shivers when it came out way back in '89, because it was almost irresistibly priced while being everything the German-brand cars were and then some.
The new LS continues in that fine tradition — including the irresistible price!
Eric's new book, "Don't Get Taken for a Ride!" is available now. To find out more about Eric and read his past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.