A Commanding Presence

Reviewing the Lexus LS 500

Like naval fleets, automobile manufacturers have flagships. Commanding officers, weaponry or distinguished flags aren’t involved. Still, car- makers’ highest-profile vehicles are their proudest presentations.

Luxury brands thrive on their top-line offerings, which for the upscale division of Toyota is the Lexus LS 500.

Redesigned inside and outside last year, the 2019 LS 500 retains the full-size luxury sedan’s finer attributes. Its uber-quiet ride is complemented by its interior designer’s best traditional touches. Technology is top-shelf.

Well-heeled German brands Audi, BMW Mercedes-Benz and Swedish rival Volvo all attract high praise for their handsome, forward-thinking exterior designs. But with the South Korean-made Genesis, Lexus has infiltrated the former monopoly of European manufacturers’ often-exalted luxury sedan loftiness.

The powerful sedan has angular, sleek lines and is near stealth. Occupants have much else to praise, but the LS 500’s commanding presence quickly attracts attention.

The five-passenger cruiser is available in one trim level. It’s equipped with a 3.5-liter, twin-turbocharged V6 with 416 horsepower a 10-speed automatic transmission. Five drive modes are offered. Rear-wheel drive is standard; all-wheel drive is optional. A hybrid version is also available.

Manufacturers can’t slack when determining the equipment lists of their luxury vehicles. The LS 500 fares well.

The standard features list is comprehensive: 19-inch wheels, an adaptive suspension, LED headlights, a sunroof, a hands-free trunk and power- closing doors.

Leather upholstery, power-adjustable heated and ventilated front seats, a heated leather-wrapped steering wheel, 16-way power-adjustable heated and ventilated front seats, and a power rear sunshade are also included.

With its vast 2018 redo, only a handful of changes differentiate this year’s offering. Apple

CarPlay and Amazon Alexa join the technology features stable. A 24-inch head-up display and an upscale wheel design are new as stand-alone options.

Power front seat belts and reclining and heated rear seats? Perfect. Power side-window sunshades? It’s a luxury car, right?

But while revered as hand-cut Japanese glassware, the Kiriko door trim, which debuted in 2018 models, looks like afterthought chunks of costume jewelry. The hand-pleated interior door panels resemble corrugated cardboard.

A few other options, a Mark Levinson audio system with 23 speakers ($1,940), a panoramic glass roof ($1,000), panoramic view monitor ($800) and 20-inch forged alloy wheels ($2,450) are justifiable extravagances.

The 2019 Lexus LS 500 no doubt defines flagship. It’s beautiful and proud and provides driving therapy during long freeway hauls. It’s a modernized version of the traditional big sedans of yesteryear.

But it’s most worthy with a few well-chosen options. It’s doesn’t need overt embellishment to rule an automotive fleet.

James Raia, a syndicated automotive columnist in Sacremento, publishes the website theweeklydriver.com and its corresponding podcast. Contact him at james@jamesraia.com.