Cars

2021 Lexus LS 500: Better Than Last Year?

DETROIT — Lexus asked us to compare the 2021 LS 500 against the 2020 LS 500. The short story is the former is better and that is difficult to say since the full-size luxury sedan is so capable.

The level of quietness has been increased. One morning we were headed to the gym and the most pronounced sound we heard was the tread of the tires rolling against the pavement. We had to check to make sure that our test vehicle was not sheathed with snow treads.

Lexus’ flagship sedan was powered by a 3.5-liter dual turbocharged six-cylinder that made 416 horsepower and 442 pound-feet of torque at 1,600 rpm. What that means is that even though the car weighed three tons, it moved like a midsize sedan.

That is one of the traits that has always impressed us about the LS 500, its smoothness and maneuverability. And now they’ve made it more responsive and nimbler. Even the 2020 model we had was light on its treads, and it was all-wheel drive. Our 2021 model was rear-wheel drive.

Both had 10-speed automatic transmissions and since we had the F Sport trim packages, they both had paddle shifters.

Our test car could get to 60 mpg from a standstill in 4.6 seconds. That is quick for a vehicle that weighed almost three tons. That power and feel could be changed by using the econ, comfort, normal, sport s or sport s+ drive modes.

One of the subtle but significant changes between the 2020 and 2021 LS 500s is the infotainment screen. In last year’s model, it was not a touch screen; in fact, it sits behind clear Plexiglas. In effect, it cannot be touched.

On our 2021 LS 500. The infotainment screen was floating, standing straight up from the middle of the dash. Of course, the controls can be activated with the touch of a finger.

But something even more subtle to us is the sitting position changes. The hip point seemed higher. In other words, it is unwise to have drivers reaching for the screen. And that 12.3-inch screen is now standard across the Lexus LS product line.

They fine-tuned the suspension and chassis. The LS was smoother, quieter. The ride was almost as though there was no road, like we were skimming along on a cushion of air.

We powered our way through some exits and entrances to expressways here to test the damping system. There was no body roll in the turns because the diameters of the front and rear anti-roll bars had been enlarged. They also used larger front and rear liquid-filled bushings for what they say is a plusher ride. That might be a bit much, but it was smoother and there was less friction, even with the air suspension.

Lexus said, “for added suppleness and enhanced handling stability, the Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) employs revised linear solenoids and control valves designed to provide low damping force via their enlarged internal flow path. In addition, the operation of the LS’s available ride-height-adjustable air suspension function that helps facilitate ingress and egress has been enhanced.” We can’t argue.

Our F SPORT version featured the garnish of the sub-radiator grilles wrapping around to enhance the 500’s wide stance. There was a blackish color for the spindle grille and 20-inch alloy wheels with 245/45RF20 front and 275/40RF20 rear tires.

There were larger front and rear brakes; six-piston aluminum monoblock calipers with ventilated 15.7-inch rotors in front and four-piston calipers with 14.1-inch rotors in back.

This F SPORT 500 had 28-way electric/pneumatic front seats. There were cushion extenders as well. There was an Ultrasuede headliner and heated steering wheel. Of course, the front seats were heated and cooled.

Connectivity included Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and satellite radio. Voice controls, the Lexus suite of apps, Smart Watch with Alexa integration and its own Wi-Fi hotspot were part of the package.

We had a panoramic roof, both cars had one. And there was a 24-inch-wide head-up display and a 2,400 watt, 23-speaker audio system. Lexus has managed to make the world-class LS 500 better for 2021. But a car of this quality should have rear seat warmers; you shouldn’t have to get the executive package to get heated rear seats. We’re just saying. Still, prices start at $80,625.

Frank S. Washington is editor of AboutThatCar.com.

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