By Frank S. Washington, AboutThatCar.com
DETROIT – The first thing I noticed about the 2019 Lexus LS 500 when they dropped it off was that it seemed heavier than when I drove it in San Francisco during its launch.
The feeling of being heavier didn’t mean that the car was sluggish, bigger or slower for that matter. It was powered by a new 3.5-liter twin turbo V6 that made 416 horsepower and 442 pound-feet of torque. It was mated to a ten-speed automatic transmission.
Not that it matters with a car that retails for $103,635 but mileage was not bad for a full-size sedan with this kind of power. The LS 500 AWD was rated at 18 mpg in the city, 27 mpg on the highway and 21 mpg combined.
Lexus’s new flagship LS 500 had an all-new platform. That gave it a lower profile. It was longer, lower and sleeker with a longer wheel-base than the outgoing LS. The car had the brand’s signature spindle grille which looked even more prominent with the long hood and short trunk.
Cold weather tends to slow traffic down, even on dry pavement. I didn’t do any hard accelerating, sharp cornering or stressed related braking. And the full-size LS sedan had all the condiments that you’d expect in a full-size luxury car. I’ll get into some of that a little bit later.
After three or so days of driving around, I had forgotten about the feeling of extra weight, but I had figured out where it came from. This Lexus LS 500 had all-wheel drive and that added roughly 200 lbs. more to the rear-wheel drive model that I had tested in San Francisco. I could give somebody a big smooch because of it.
When I woke up on Saturday it was snowing. According to the weather folks it had been snowing since 2:30 a.m. and it continued to snow until 4 p.m. maybe longer. That made for slush and rut-filled streets initially.
Then it started getting colder; I’m talking single digits. When it does that after lots of snow, the frigid temperatures transform the stuff into something akin to sawdust. It’s soft, it looks fluffy and it is dry. No moisture but it is still easy to get stuck in the dry mush.
About that only thing that I was miffed about was that I couldn’t find out that much information about the Lexus 500’s all when drive system. It was a full-time all-wheel drive setup, but I could not find out how much torque went to the front wheels or whether it was scalable depending on slippage.
But I can tell you this: my LS 500 AWD was solid in the snow, slush and sawdust and I never changed the drive mode. There was very little slippage and when there was the car got back on track in a few seconds.
In these kinds of conditions, hard acceleration or hard braking would be lunacy. Lane departure warnings or gentle corrective steering was not happening because there were no lanes for the camera to identify me crossing over.
However, the blindside alert did work as did the front cross traffic alert which flashed yellow arrowheads across the bottom of the 24-inch heads up display when I had stopped at an intersection.
But all that was outside. Inside was a luxurious cabin that was loaded with creature comforts. In this weather the most important was heated seats, they were cooled but I didn’t care at this point. There was a matching heated steering wheel and the rear seats were heated as well.
One thing about cold weather, oft times driving in it is a solitary affair. That means I had no one in the back to check out the 18-way power seats. Nor could the power sun shade screens in the side windows be enjoyed. The power shade screen in the rear window meant the back cabin space could be privatized.
Climate controls for the rear cabin were back there as well and you could control the audio system, well, some of it from the rear. In other words, this LS 500 was set up to be chauffeur driven.
Up front was just as impressive. It was quiet, spacious and elegant. Wood inlay was abundant. Leather seating was comfortable; everything was power including the tilt and telescoping steering wheel and the headrests fore and aft.
The interior was chocolate and the exterior a deep blue that Lexus called Mica. The leather seats were quilted perforated and the wood was a light dark pattern put together with sliced wood veneer to form a herringbone pattern.
The headliner was ultra-suede and the side panels were ultra-suede as well. The control mouse was actual a contact pad that moved the pointer on the infotainment screen with rubs of my finger. I didn’t like it, but I grew accustomed to it with time.
The LS was loaded with equipment you’d expect in this price range. LED adaptive headlights, a premium audio system, 20-inch wheels, panoramic sunroof, an adaptive air suspension, the Lexus safety system which included pre-collision with active braking, active steering assist, pedestrian alert, road sign assist, front cross traffic alert and driver and front passenger massaging seats were among some of the creature comforts and safety equipment.
Of course, there was a navigation system, Bluetooth, voice controls, satellite radio and adaptive cruise control. But none of that mattered when it was 10 degrees with the promise of the same sort of temperature the next day.
This was real life and driving the 2019 Lexus LS 500 AWD made it bearable, even pleasant and not nerve wracking. It was a real luxury car for the real world.
Frank S. Washington is editor of AboutThatCar.com