2023 Lexus LM 350h review, first drive - still want a luxury SUV?
Now being the captain of industry or the high-profile leader that you are, you know the value of time well enough. Your luxury sedan or SUV makes the correct statements, but it may not be the best at maximizing the time you spend commuting. You can unwind or get work done with much more ease in an MPV with its greater practicality. And if you thought there wasn't one around that projected just the right image, or was special enough, the Lexus LM may be the answer.
This is the second generation of the Lexus LM. Originally intended for the Chinese market for its first iteration, Lexus now wants a wider audience for its MPV. This also goes well with Toyota's dominance of the MPV market here and completes a full range of MPV offerings from the Rumion onwards.
2023 Lexus LM 350h styling, dimensions
If you were apprehensive that an MPV wouldn't set you apart enough the Lexus LM has you more than covered. Love it or hate it, the LM's audacious front will have people talking. The massive spindle grille is the centre of attention, but its more open look with the segmenting does soften its presence a touch. The rest of it seems to be there to be a foil to this, like the sharp accents around the bonnet and bumpers. The sharp-edged lighting is in keeping with this more outward look, with some prominent LED highlighting and intricate details.
The decidedly cab-forward construction leaves a short bonnet but Lexus has tried to bring some character to what is essentially a box on wheels. This is also when you realize that the LM is enormous, longer(5,125mm) than even the full-size LX SUV and only slightly shorter(1,940mm) and narrower(1,890mm).
Tempering this is the large glasshouse with its stepped design from after the B-pillar and the floating roof effect that ties in with the heavy rake to the windscreen. The bodywork complements this. It's got that chiselled look that you see in new Lexuses but done discreetly to cover the sheer mass. The 19-inch wheels are reasonably flashy with the intricate details but are somewhat dwarfed in this context.
The rear is probably the simplest angle. It's a flat boot lid, again to maximise space, but the wrapped effect to the full-width lighting stops this from being too visually jarring. Like the front, the bumpers meld in seamlessly with the bodywork which adds a sophisticated touch.
2023 Lexus LM 350h LM interiors, practicality, features
The Lexus LM, when launched in India, will come in two seating options. A four-seater and a seven-seater. A button on the handles opens the powered sliding doors and it's a step up to the cabin, even with the cut-outs in the floor. The India-spec LM will get retractable footboards (not seen here) which should make it easier and you have large grips that offer support. With the high roof, it's quite easy to slip into the seats.
This all-black cabin option makes for a cosy sense, but you can also choose a brighter beige option as tricky as it might be to keep clean. You have large windows, especially the rear quarter glass so a sense of the immense space, with its 3,000mm wheelbase, inside is always present. But common for both versions is a unique roof arrangement. A panel, finished in 3D-printed textured wood covers the length of the rear cabin, splitting a glass roof. The arrangement differs in both versions but this houses AC vents and controls as well as controls for the sunshades(which works on all the windows) and doors.
It's exceptionally well done in that tough Toyota-Lexus way. There's a cold metallic sense to the toggles and a solid tactile action to the plastic one buttons. This sense runs through the entire cabin, these numerous materials and finishes all feel cohesive and exceptionally comforting. You find this with the soft suede roof lining and the aniline that covers nearly every surface otherwise.
But, and this is probably a greater luxury than the ambience, is the ease with which you can operate the unending functions in the LM. There are numerous redundancies so you never find yourself hobbling around to find the right buttons. The doors for example can be operated by the driver, the roof-buttons as well as the buttons on the door itself. The removable, phone-like tabs play a bit part in this. You have most controls here and can operate the shades, climate, seat heating, cooling and massaging functions among other things. It's all quite intuitive and you take to it within minutes.
You are already feeling quite special at this point, and the climate functions take this up a notch. The LM has a more advanced take on the climate concierge functions. As a first it works on the rear seats, heating or cooling the seatbacks but going further to also warm the armrests and ottomans. It goes further still by directing air to four different zones in each passenger's body. All of this works in conjunction with various cabin modes that can calm or energize you as you want it to, playing with the ambient lighting. We tried it briefly and the mild toasty sensation truly does make for about the most calming experience you can find in anything mobile, first-class air travel included.
2023 Lexus LM 350h 7-seater vs 4-seater
All of this is before we get to the seats. In the seven-seater, you have luscious cushions that you sink into. They seem to have been quite thoughtfully designed, every section of your body seems supported and the softness of the cushions seems to cocoon you into a comforting mood quickly enough. That said, those with a wider frame may find it to be a tight fit, and the seat controls a touch difficult to reach.
So why do you choose the 4-seater? Surprisingly, its small differences in comfort that you notice first between the two. Without a third row, the seats in the 4-seater can recline completely flat. It's pretty much a bed at this point and still as comfortable. The seats themselves are a touch more supportive and maybe a bit wider. You also have wider armrests. The fold-out table is also bigger here and both passengers get a wireless charger as well as more charging ports. This version will also give you a sizeable fridge and more storage drawers. It's also done up a bit better with more contrasting materials in the doors and a heavier use of metallic accents.
But of course, the piece-de-resistance is the enormous 48-inch screen in front of you. Its UHD display can split to show different content for both passengers and cover the entire screen, accepting most forms of input while pairing with a more extensive 24-speaker Mark Levinson audio system with a separate rear audio mode. The LM goes further still with this version, with the fixed switchable glass partition offering complete isolation.
The seven-seater may be the more practical choice. You only really feel shortchanged by the small single 14-inch screen perched on the roof. But the middle-row seats are separately slideable and easily so. The recline function is powered and still quite generous. You get quite a wide range to slide the seats along. This is manually done but isn't cumbersome.
Getting to the third row in this version of the LM is also straightforward. There's quite a bit of space to step in with the second row out of the way, the high roof and sliding doors also help. Once inside you realize that the third row is one of the few of its kind that doesn't leave you compromised. There's about as much space here as a small SUV. The seat base is placed quite high so thigh support is only marginally compromised. The large quarter glass and dedicated AC vents also make it quite a bright space. The seatback is again well contoured and has cushioning that isn't as soft as the middle row but still perfectly in line with what the LM otherwise offers. They also happen to recline to a generous angle. That said, three abreast here will be tight despite Lexus' claims.
Another advantage of this three-row LM is the more generous boot space. You get 110l with all rows up, increasing to 1,191l against the 4-seater's 752l. The last row of seats folds down and flips up, much like they would in an Innova Crysta. It's a touch cumbersome, and something like the mechanism in a Kia Carnival would have been more welcome. But either way, there is a vast amount of space even if you can't stack items right up to the edges because of the seats.
2023 Lexus LM 350h front cabin
It may be all about the passengers with the Lexus LM, but those in the first row won't have much reason to feel shortchanged. The cabin is done up to the same high standard here too. The look itself is pleasing with the yacht-like design enveloping you and merging seamlessly into the doors. It's again richly detailed, the dash seemingly perched on a wood plinth. The same textured wood, leather and suede are used here, with the addition of open-pore walnut wood on the steering wheel.
The front seats too have been thoughtfully designed to be more supportive while driving, says Lexus. We found them to be quite comfortable and with a good deal of adjustment, include a powered function for the steering wheel. They have heating and cooling functions too.
The interfaces are shared with other Lexus models. So you have a 14-inch central touchscreen that'll control most of the functions including the climate control and drive modes. This isn't the easiest to use, but the large fixed icons and drop-down menus make it simpler. The India-spec car will also get a HUD as well as a 12.3-inch instrument cluster. This loses the concentric look for a simple but legible set of digital dials and easy access to a host of information.
The chauffeur can also control quite a few of the rear cabin's functions like the doors, shades, seat controls and even climate functions. In keeping with the theme of the cabin, most storage spaces are hidden away, including the wireless charging and deep central bins.
Also making life easier from behind the wheel is a full set of ADAS functions including a safe exit system as well as 360-degree cameras.
Lexus LM 350h driving impressions, hybrid system
With the Lexus LM, the focus on comfort runs quite a bit deeper. The MPV is based on the monocoque TNGA-K architecture which it shares with the Vellfire and other Lexus-Toyota SUVs but numerous changes have been made specific to this model. The front suspension uses materials and tech to lower unsprung mass and improve ride comfort while the stability control functions also use the brakes to reduce roll and pitch. Expectedly, there's acoustic glass and masses of sound-deadening material.
The India-spec LM will come in its LM 350h guise. This is a familiar powertrain but has again been tuned specifically for this application to be less noisy and smoother in its power delivery. It's an AWD setup powered by an engine and two e-motors for a combined 250PS. The engine makes 193PS and 242 Nm. The larger front e-motor puts out 182PS and 270 Nm while the smaller one on the rear axle makes 54PS and 121 Nm, all put together via an e-CVT.
But the first thing you notice when you start driving the LM is the view out from behind the wheel. You sit quite high up, similar to an SUV and the expansive glass area makes placing this large vehicle on the road quite simple. A big help here are the large quarter glasses which reduce blind spots significantly, complemented by the large mirrors and low sills. A rear-view camera also lets you see past the rear cabin.
In the limited time we spent behind the wheel, the Lexus LM seemed to drive the way it was meant to. As per usual, the Lexus starts out in EV mode but when the petrol motor does kick in it is not as harsh as it can be in some other Toyota-Lexus hybrid setups. A distant drone is all you hear. Performance seems adequate at best, the low-end electric torque helping this heavy MPV get off the line confidently. The rear motor also helps in these situations. Once up to speed, the CVT's delayed effect is well contained too when you drive the LM calmly. The sportier modes improve this a touch, putting the engine in the forefront but seem largely unnecessary in this context. In a more practical sense, the LM seems to have enough to keep up with traffic in most situations.
On the flat, nearly perfect road surfaces we drove the LM on, the ride via the adaptive dampers seems plush enough to go with the cabin's comfort. There's that solid, damped feeling to all of the car's movements that's reassuring. The body seems to stay level more often than not although some abrupt speed breakers can filter into the cabin. A neat addition is that of the rear seat drive mode, it seems to slacken off the rear dampers for a more comforting ride for the rear passengers, although this can be a touch unnatural at first for the driver.
Keep speeds in check, and the LM also takes corners without too much lean in any of the modes, although going slightly faster than ideal will have it start to run wide. The brakes too seem to be adept, without too much of the slack from the regen function. Similarly, the steering is well-judged to match this calm demeanour, it's light and fluid but not as direct as say an SUV maybe to allow for smoother movements.
2023 Lexus LM 350h expected price, verdict
Expect the Lexus LM to be priced upwards of Rs 2 crore when it launches in India later this year. This puts it above other MPVs and right in the ballpark of top-tier luxury SUVs. In that sense, the Lexus LM offers a very different proposition. It may not have the tough image but there is gravity with its imposing face and size. But if your primary need for your car is for it to be a space that cocoons you and comforts you in between your tight schedule, there are few cars that'll match the LM.
Images by Anis Shaikh
Watch the 2023 Lexus LM 350h video review below
Starts Rs 24.95 Lakhs