Big Lexus offers luxurious lockdown respite
GROWING UP I gained an early exposure to how people treat their cars. The good, the bad and the ugly. Up until recently, my father was in the smash repair business, and in my younger years I’d often walk there after school to wait around for a few hours before going home. Occasionally I’d help out, but I was always better at pulling things apart rather than putting them back together. So instead, I turned my hand to detailing.
What I always found interesting is that the cleanliness of a car’s interior didn’t always correlate to its list price. Being in a rural area, it wasn’t uncommon to see an expensive fourwheel drive with hay in the boot, mud stains engrained into carpets and myriad food scraps and stains. I’m assuming that, partly because of this, our family EF Falcon was largely a no-food zone.
It’s something that as an adult I’ve tried, and often failed, to adhere to. However, given I currently have a $195K Lexus limo in my possession, I’ve taken to reinstating the rule. But Covid lockdowns have made it hard given that the LS500’s palatial cabin renders it the perfect alternate takeaway dinner setting when my own four walls become too familiar. For those gasping, napkins, towels and air fresheners abound – I even tour with the windows open to alleviate lingering smells.
Thing is, with shagpile-style carpets, soft leather and top-quality sound deadening (with Active Noise Control), the LS is far more luxurious than my actual living room. Granted, a couch from the Salvos is a low benchmark, however, everything has a solid, over-engineered feel to it.
This is typified by the volume control knob. It’s so overtly tactile you can’t help but want to fondle it. This particular detail, like the rest of the interior, is just exquisite and it’s utterly pleasing to use. When we’ve been allowed passengers, I can’t help but ask them what they think of it. Most aren’t as beguiled by it as I am, and some appear downright puzzled, but the occasional oohs and aahs prove I’m not the only weird soul finding fascination with a volume control...
As a piece of design that doesn’t lose out on function, it’s a winner. The sound system its controlling is also one of very high quality. The 23-speaker Mark Levinson package packs a punch with bass where you want it and clarity everywhere else. It’s also interesting that the LS still offers a provision for CDs when smartphones and services like Spotify are the new norm. Maybe it’s a sign of the clientele who are in
the market for a premium Lexus that it is still there; especially given the SC430 was one of the last cars to be sold with an old-school tape deck.
While Lexus is at pains to quash any Toyota links, there are some controls within the cabin that you’ll find in its parent company’s products. Once you see them, you can’t un-see them. The lock/unlock buttons on the door cards and the trip-computer controls are straight from the big T’s part bin. It even says “Toyota Motor Corporation” on the build plate as you open the door. At least there isn’t an infamous Toyota digital clock, instead it’s a beautiful analogue timepiece.
However, I don’t see that connection as being a gripe. What does let the LS down is its age and lack of modern tech like wireless smartphone mirroring (although there is wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto) or wireless phone charging. It’s also frustrating that carrying out simple tasks, like turning off/on the seat/steering-wheel heating, requires multiple button presses or screen swipes.
At least the maligned trackpad can now be averted given that the gargantuan 12.3-inch screen has become touch-enabled. It makes a big difference to how you use the infotainment and HVAC. I’m keeping count and so far I’ve only had to use the trackpad twice. The 8.0-inch digital instrument clusters also uses an LFA-style moving central tacho – which is cool.
Yes, it might be missing some of the up-to-date gizmos, but it has soothing comfort and endearing charm in reserve. Everything is either felt or leather-clad (even the door bins) and the ‘Takumi craftmanship’ shines through - it’s a visual feast with a full-flavoured design.
However, opting for the $200K Sports Luxury does afford more show-stopping kit like massaging front seats and reclining rear pews. And given that being soothed rather than excited is the LS’s modus operandi, I can’t help but think it might just be the better choice.
Still, spending so much time within the cow-hide clad innards of the LS500 F Sport hasn’t made it any less special on each occasion. – TG
IT MIGHT BE MISSING SOME UP-TO-DATE GIZMOS, BUT IT HAS SOOTHING COMFORT AND ENDEARING CHARM IN RESERVE