If smooth jazz were an automobile, it would be the Lexus LS500.
The big luxury sedan is the epitome of cool elegance. It can stand toe-to-toe against such top-shelf luxury sedans as the BMW 7-series in the Mercedes-Benz S-class.
In fact, if I were going to drop close to 100-grand on a passenger car — which I emphatically am not — this would be the model I'd pick.
Well, it's the little things that turn out to be big things. Let's start with the doors. Not only do they shut with bank-vault authority, but the interior door panels would look at home at a museum of modern art. The blend of colors — red, black and beige — and the sculpted armrests that float in space contribute to an interior that is almost too beautiful for words. The back seat, with its extended leg room and big padded center armrest, makes you feel like you are a movie-star riding in a limo.
› Model: 2019 Lexus LS500 Sedan
› Exterior color: Atomic Silver
› Interior color: red and black
› Engine: 3.5-liter twin turbo, V-6
› Horsepower: 416
› Transmission: 10-speed automatic
› Fuel economy: 30 mpg highway, 19 mpg city
› Local dealer: Lexus of Chattanooga
› Price (as tested): $101,905
If you are going to spend nearly six-figures on a car, this is why you do it: To drive a work of art. Neighbors were literally drawn to my driveway to check out the racy red interior in the LS500 tester, provided for a one-week test drive by the manufacturer. Heck, my bug man even asked if he could drop by early to check it out.
I grieve that many former drivers of brilliant luxury sedans such as the LS have migrated to luxury SUVs, which possess little of the design magic and sublime driving dynamics of the best sedans. Pity.
LS500s are available locally at Lexus of Chattanooga on Lee Highway. Late last week the dealership had eight of the flagship sedans in digital inventory, ranging in advertised price from about $74,000 to about $90,000.
WHAT IS IT?
The 2019 Lexus LS500 is a five-passenger luxury sedan powered by a 3.5-liter, twin-turbocharged engine mated to a 10-speed transmission. (Remember when "a 10-speed" meant a bicycle.) The V-6 turbo is the only engine option as the previous V-8 was dropped when the new, 5th-generation LS was introduced for the 2018 model year.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?
Our tester pushes past the six-figure mark at $101,905, largely due to the F Sport package ($9,700) which adds such pricey, but nonessential, features as mesh grille inserts, perforated leather interior, power front seats with embossed headrests and an Ultrasuede headliner.
WHAT WE LIKED?
Not just liked, we LOVED, the red, black and beige doors. We also were smitten by the limo-like back seats, the theatrically designed dash and the quiet confidence (and 416 horsepower kick) of the power-train.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT
We fear the piano black center stack will invite scratches, also two driving mode dials protrude from the dash like goat horns. The track-pad that controls most of the telematics functions was difficult for us to master. The low roof-line may present problems for very tall drivers, who may covet more headroom.
That a person driving a Tesla Model S felt the need to burn some electrons and swerve past us on Taft Highway proves that the LS500's presence and performance is palpable. It remains a fine example of the sedan-builder's art.
Like fine wine, the Lexus LS has aged well through 30 years and five generations.
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