Full disclosure: our test route was scarcely 15 miles of town and motorway driving, limited to about 40mph, with barely a significant turn to negotiate. What's more, when confronted with some of the shortcomings outlined below, Lexus conceded that the cars were well-used engineering models, laid on more to demonstrate some of the safety technology than be fully evaluated. For these reasons, you won't see a star rating here.
With those caveats in place, it's positive to report that there are areas where the LS clearly makes a case for itself. The cabin is smart, if something of a mishmash of styles, and some of the materials and finishes are up with the very best. It is also spacious in the front and rear, as you might expect for thsi kind of car.
However, the cabin is not always well isolated from engine or road noise. For a car in this class, that is a potentially significant flaw, although possibly one amplified by both the aforementioned age of the car and the fact that the model we were in was in F Sport trim, meaning it rode on 20in wheels and lower profile tyres than standard.
The Lexus is packed with driver and safety aids, many of which we couldn't test. Officials specifically focused our runs on trialling the car’s new systems to keep you a set distance from other cars on the motorway and steer the car automatically so that it stays in lane. These are not unique to Lexus, but they did work well.
However, the party piece of being able to automatically perform lane changes was a hassle to get working and prone to interruption. Once you've failed to get it working once, trust is hard to rebuild.
The powertrain is a mixed bag. In town, running in electric mode or at low revs, it delivers power smoothly and near silently. The gearchanges are almost imperceptible. At such times, it offers the perfect luxury experience. Furthermore, if you demand more power while cruising along – while joining a motorway or overtaking another car, for instance – it surges forward with quite some purpose. In Sport mode, the V6 makes a quite attractive noise. But in between those points, when you are looking to accelerate swiftly but not urgently, the CVT and hybrid system serve to deliver a lot of noise but not a lot of action.
Generally, the ride is fine, but over breaks in the road surface it is noticeably unsettled, even in Comfort mode. The vertical movement after a large road imperfection was striking in comparison to pretty much every other car in the class. Whether there is a trade-off for enhanced handling was nigh-on impossible to tell but, even if there is, it is hard to imagine sizzling steering verve outweighing the downside of being bumped along. Again, though, this could be a result of the car's hard life and low-profile tyres.