Twenty-one years ago, when Toyota dropped the first Prius hybrid on an unsuspecting America, few could have forseen that someday, the electric motor/gasoline engine formula would one day rest under the hood of its Lexus flagship---the LS sedan.
Remarkably, there's been a hybrid version of the big Lexus since 2007. How much longer there will be is the question.
In those 14 years that Lexus has been selling the hybrid LS (and other hybrid models in its lineup), Tesla has invaded the luxury market with all-electric vehicles. Jaguar, Audi, Porsche and Volvo have responded by introducing EVs. Mercedes, Cadillac and others have declared that they will transition to all-electric brands sooner rather than later (California has set a goal of ending sales of internal combustion engine-powered new vehicles in 2035).
The 2021 Lexus LS 500h pairs a 3.5-liter gasoline-powered V6 with two electric motors. Combined output is 354 horsepower. Not that stoplight racing is something Lexus LS drivers are prone to, but 60 miles an hour from a standing start happens in 5.2 seconds, which is not too shabby for a 5,100 pound vehicle. The hybrid improves on the gasoline-powered LS 500's EPA fuel economy estimates. 19 city/30 highway with dead dinosaurs becomes 25/33.
A huge trunk, limo-like legroom for rear seat passengers and every creature comfort imaginable all add up to making the LS a great road car. The base price of the 2021 Lexus LS 500h is $90,500. The window sticker is at the end of this review so you can see for yourself, but among the standard equipment highlights at that price are 20-inch alloy wheels, Lexus' Safety System 2.0+ active safety suite, quilted-stitch perforated semi-aniline leather trim, heated front and rear seats, a heated steering wheel, a power moonroof, navigation with a 12.3-inch touchscreen and a 23-speaker, 2,400-watt Mark Levinson Quantum Light Immersion Reference Sound System.
As comprehensive as the standard equipment is, our test car did have some extra-cost options, including an upgrade to Lexus Safety System + ($3,000), a digital rear-view mirror ($200), an upgrade to a different style of 20-inch alloy wheels ($40), a 24-inch head-up display ($1,200) and the Luxury Package, with 28-way power driver and front passenger seats with multifunction massage, 18-way reclining outboard rear seats with memory and a seven-inch touchscreen controller, four-zone climate control and a power rear sunshade ($9,000).
With $1,025 delivery, processing and handling fee, the as-tested price of the 2021 Lexus LS 500h is $104,965.
Cheap? No. In the ballpark for full-size luxury sedans these days? Absolutely. The starting price of a Mercedes-Benz S Class is almost five grand higher at $109,800.
As it has for 14 years, the hybrid version of the Lexus LS sedan delivers luxury, a heightened level of fuel economy and value.