What is it like on the inside?
Wow. How did this get signed off by the top brass? The LS500h’s cabin is daring, distinctly Japanese and garnished with multiple high-end technologies. Well done indeed, Lexus.
Take the ambient lighting. It’s inspired by traditional Japanese Andon lanterns. The top-spec Premier version can be optioned with origami-inspired pleated fabric inlays. Want more authentic on-board Japanese culture? Kiriko glasswork set into the doors will dazzle your friends, but the price is an eye-watering £7,600. It’s a stunning detail though – no rival, no car this side of a Rolls-Royce Phantom, in fact – places such attention to detail on purely artistic installations. It’s a wonder the heater vent vanes aren’t Hattori Hanzo swords. The ambience is stunning. And, so long as you’re at town speeds, it’s so quiet – it’s serenity with door mirrors.
Once you’ve digested the intricate details, the new LS’s fundamentals are better than before too. The steering wheel is smaller, and its profile varies around the rim, so it’s a supremely comfortable object to hold. The luxuriantly padded seats themselves adjust 28 ways, and you’ll struggle to find a positon in which they’re not cradling and comfortable. Like the Mercedes S-Class, zoned hot areas in the seat add a new element to massages (yes, there’s a Shiatsu function), and the climate control can be zoned into 16 sections. Which seems like overkill, when the car can only seat a maximum of five people…
We appreciate some of the more traditional switchgear in the LS. Slender rotary heating dials and a beautiful power on/off and volume knob confirm that some things are simply better analogue, not touchscreen. Take note, Audi – the A8 feels far more austere and office-like.
Where the Japanese car loses out is in the complexity of its screens. Both the sliding instrument face and the main 12.3 inch infotainment centre are simply too complex for their own good. You jostle the instrument displays with the steering wheel buttons, which is mercifully easier than the keyhole surgery needed to operate the mousepad-based main system.
Lexus has been persevering with this for years now, and it’s still not a patch on BMW’s accurate iDrive, even with familiarity, and the patience of a sainted surgeon. Still, if you do manage to cue up our favourite album, the 23-speaker Mark Levinson hi-fi is quite extraordinary in the power, quality and detail of its sound output. Good thing too – it’ll drown out that coarse, mooing V6.