Lexus introduced an updated version of the LS, its flagship sedan, earlier in 2020, but it left out details about the American-spec model. As expected, it announced our version of the car will get several improvements for 2021.
Now in its fifth generation, the LS receives an array of small but significant changes that come together to make the ride quieter and more comfortable. Engineers explained they revised the spring and damper rates, increased the diameter of the anti-roll bars, and added larger liquid-filled front and rear bushings for an even cushier rider.
Visual modifications are subtle, which is to say the LS remains not-so-subtle. Stylists tweaked the front bumper, made the spindle grille a little bit darker, and redesigned the headlights by getting rid of the Z-shaped look. Black trim replaces the chrome in the rear lights, and the color palette grows with a new shade called Iridium.
Back for 2021, the F Sport package adds a sportier-looking front end with a specific grille, a body kit, and 20-inch alloy wheels. It also brings bigger brakes, and buyers can pay extra for a Dynamic Handling Package which bundles Variable Gear Ratio Steering, Active Rear Steering, and an Active Stabilizer Suspension. Inside, sedans equipped with the F Sport package get front seats that adjust pneumatically and electrically in 28 ways.
Speaking of the interior, Lexus also added extra padding on the armrests, the seat cushions, and other touch points, plus revised springs and thicker cushioning for the front seats. Buyers who prefer being driven can order heated and massaging rear seats, plus a passenger-side seat that reclines at up to 48 degrees.
Lexus made no major mechanical modifications to the LS 500, meaning power comes from a twin-turbocharged, 3.5-liter V6 which produces 416 horsepower and 442 pound-feet of torque. It spins the rear wheels via a 10-speed automatic transmission, and all-wheel drive is offered at an extra cost. Reaching 60 mph from a stop takes 4.6 seconds, which is impressive for a big, heavy sedan developed with a major focus on comfort.
Motorists who want to keep their fuel budget in check can select the LS 500h, which offers a 354-horsepower hybrid powertrain that teams a naturally-aspirated 3.5-liter V6 set up to run on the Atkinson cycle with two electric motors connected to a lithium-ion battery. Lexus explained it programmed the system to deliver more electricity to the motors when the LS is accelerating, and it updated the shift software to take advantage of the electric power.
As of writing, the rumors claiming Lexus would expand the LS range with a V8-electric hybrid model haven't materialized. Parent company Toyota is moving away from eight-cylinders, even the mighty Land Cruiser will reportedly downsize in the near future, so the reports of a range-topping 600h might never come true.
Technology is increasingly becoming the new yardstick in the luxury segment, and the LS has plenty of it. Every model regardless of powertrain comes standard with a suite of driving aids called Lexus Safety System+ 2.0. It includes a Pre-Collision System, a lane departure warning system, lane-keeping assist, and active steering assist, among other functions, and it gains Lane Change Assist for 2021. It's a system that allows the LS to change lanes on its own when the right conditions are met if the driver requests it by activating the turn signal. It relies on some of the aforementioned driving aids to tell if the coast is clear.
The dashboard features a 12.3-inch touchscreen compatible with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, two features Lexus spent years resisting. Amazon Alexa compatibility is available, too, so users can chat with their internet-connected home devices (including their lights, their air conditioning system, and their stove) on-the-go.
Lexus stores across the United States will begin receiving the 2021 LS 500 in November 2020, and they'll get the 2021 LS 500h in early 2021. Pricing for the 500 ranges from $76,000 for a rear-wheel drive base model to $82,850 for an all-wheel drive variant with the F Sport package. Hybrid pricing will be released at a later date.