2010 Lexus LS 460 Expert Review:Autoblog
With Lexus having carefully cultivated a reputation for isolating drivers from all of the undignified sensations normally associated with driving, it might seem surprising to find a Sport model in the LS lineup. Sure, Lexus offers the M3-chasing IS F, as well as the outrageous LFA supercar, but an LS460 Sport? Come on... even sport-synonymous BMW doesn't offer an M version of its full-size 7 Series luxobarge.
BMW does offer, however, an Alpina B7, as well as a BMW M5. There's also the Cadillac CTS-V, Audi S6 and S8, and a whole undercard of Mercedes-Benz AMG cars out there that prove there is a market for sports-tuned large sedans like this 2010 Lexus LS460 Sport. You certainly can't begrudge Lexus for trying to steal a slice of that more stiffly-sprung, high-test pie – but is it just promoters' hype or can this LS Sport really float like a butterfly and sting like a bee?
We had a brief encounter with the 2010 Lexus LS460 Sport a couple of months ago down in San Diego and came away impressed. While we didn't immediately drop the Germans or lone American from our top contenders list, we were at least willing to add the LS to our "worth-watching" column. And so we decided to take a closer look. Could Lexus successfully move its F-Sport tuning up a weight class, and would the LS460 Sport actually contend with other heavyweights in the segment? We gave it seven days to prove its mettle.
Photos by Frank Filipponio / Copyright ©2009 Weblogs, Inc.
Whereas the hard-edged CTS-V makes the plain-jane CTS look like a rental fleet darling, the LS460 Sport doesn't look a whole lot different from the regular LS460. There are some cool 19-inch split ten-spoke wheels, little aero bits all around and a blacked out panel between the exhaust tips. There's also a carbon fiber-esque field behind that big "L" on the black mesh grille. Other than that, you'd have to look inside to see any changes.
Open the door, though, and you're treated to a view like no other in the Lexus lineup, or anywhere else for that matter. Lexus has chosen a black and saddle color scheme with unpolished wood accents as the sole interior "choice" for the Sport. It is exceedingly handsome in a cigar lounge kind of way (you can practically smell the Cohibas). It's not just a pretty face, either. The interior layout is flat-out well-designed and flawlessly executed, and we'd be hard pressed to think of a luxury sedan with better materials or workmanship costing less than six figures.
Aside from having GQ-worthy looks, the interior offers one big clue to this model's sporting nature: those metallic paddle shifters flanking the steering column, a first in the LS. The transmission behind them is the same one found in the IS F, an eight-speed automatic that provides quick, seamless cog swaps and even blips the throttle on downshifts, just like a real sports sedan. The paddles are a pleasure to work with and add a sporty feel to the driving experience – even if most buyers will never find a need to use them. And honestly, the eight-speed automatic never disappoints.
That gearbox manages power from the same 4.6-liter V8 found in the rest of the LS460 lineup. It's no slouch with 380 horsepower – but would a token bump in power be too much to ask? Competitors usually add at least a little extra punch in their sport models. We had the LS460 Sport during a week of uncharacteristically torrential rains, but still managed to find enough gaps in the downpours to play a few rounds of dodge-the-mudslide. There's more than enough power to make any passing maneuver or stop light getaway smooth and swift, even if the tarmac is a bit slick. We don't think the weather affected it much, but mileage was decent with an overall average of 17.8 miles per gallon and a highway stretch that returned 26.2 mpg at a steady 65 miles per hour.
We had driven the Sport back-to-back with the standard LS on our first drive down in San Diego and could readily feel the steering and suspension tweaks. Here in the real world without another LS at the ready, the differences were less noticeable. The bigger wheels and lower profile tires harsh the ride's mellow a bit, but it's barely worth mentioning. The retuning of the steering, however, is definitely worth talking about.
While Lexus isn't generally known for its precise or natural steering feel, the LS460 Sport adds some heft to steering motions that makes the car feel more connected to the road, a very welcome change. That, coupled with the suspension revisions and swank interior, make this the LS we'd most like to own.
Nevertheless, we can't decide if we really liked the Sport package itself or simply using the sport mode on the suspension selector that you'll find on all LS models. The car is oddly detached until you fiddle with that three-position switch on the center console. Clicking the rocker over from normal to comfort makes the ride a bit cushier and slightly springy, although not sloppy. This is the perfect choice for broken local roads during regular commuter duty. Switching it over to Sport...wel,l that was what made this LS bob and weave like a champ in the making.
While San Diego's ripple-free highways didn't upset the ride during our first drive, this go-round the ride was considerably rougher in Sport. It was almost too harsh on the same pothole-strewn commute, but on twisty backroads or through the canyons, the Sport setting kept this big boulevardier flat and stable. Even bumps through high-speed sweepers didn't faze it with those meaty 245/45R19 Dunlops keeping the LS planted. In those situations, the LS Sport actually feels like a genuine sports sedan – not an AMG E63 or M5, but certainly closer to the BMW 750i or Audi A8. It even stops like a sports sedan thanks to upgraded Brembo brakes that scrub off speed without drama – no dive and no fade.
The mechanical changes in this Sport package include the brakes, flappy paddle transmission, 19-inch wheels, re-tuned suspension, thicker stabilizer bars and upgraded shocks. With the $6,185 Lexus is charging for the Sport package, the MSRP climbs to around $72,000. Our Obsidian black tester also had the Luxury Value Edition (Mark Levinson stereo and navigation) for $2,080 and another two grand tacked on for the Comfort Package with Sport, which seems a bargain for climate-controlled front seats, power rear sunshade, rear heated seats, headlamp washers, intuitive parking assist, power door closers and a one-touch power trunklid. Our total tab was $76,014.
Some of the features on this Lexus can be alarming if you're stepping out of a run-of-the-mill family sedan, but most are the norm in this class. Take the navigation, for instance. As we mentioned earlier, we had this loaner during some historic rainfall. During a particularly stormy freeway drive, the navi actually began warning us of inclement weather ahead, going so far as to suggest alternate routes. It did that with heavy traffic as well, a feature that seems so natural after a short while that you can't imagine how anybody survives without it. The system takes and gives audio commands, handles phone calls, even keeps an eye on your stock portfolio thanks to the 90-day XM satellite radio trial subscription you get as part of the deal.
The trunk opens and closes with a touch of a button, the rear sunshade is power operated, the sideview mirrors fold in automatically when you park, the seats are air-conditioned, cameras aid your parking – the car talks to you and you to it – it's amazing how cars have changed in just a few short decades. At the end of the day, though, all of these features emphasize the fact that the Lexus LS460 is a luxury car first and foremost. The Sport package helps this light heavyweight spar with the big boys – and it can even land a few good shots – but it's not going to steal the championship belt anytime soon.
So... who will buy this package for their new Lexus? The company thinks most of the sales will come from existing Lexus customers, maybe the guys (and gals?) who want the sportiest driving experience in their LS. Disgruntled Audi, BMW and Mercedes owners might push sales a bit higher too, but the Lexus doesn't have the same street rep as the Germans and the Sport badge doesn't do a lot to impress the average Joe.
The 2010 Lexus LS460 Sport does handle well, especially in Sport mode, but the issue we take is that we believe these should be the basic suspension and steering settings on all LS models. The Sport package merely brings the handling and driving experience up to the level of base model luxury sedans from Cadillac and the German Big Three. The Sport should be taking things even further, not just playing catch-up. We'd have no reservations in recommending the LS Sport, but for someone expecting a true heavyweight contender, we'd suggest keeping it to a three-round sparring exhibition.
Photos by Frank Filipponio / Copyright ©2009 Weblogs, Inc.
When Lexus introduced the IS F, enthusiasts were suitably skeptical about the automaker's attempt to go head-to-head with the Germans. After all, Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz have specialized in creating autobahn-burning, Nordschleife-honed handlers for decades.
And then we drove it.
To everyone's surprise, Lexus pulled it off, but we figured it might be a one-time deal. We assumed the IS F was an outlier – just a distraction from the brand's cadre of well-built, less-than-sporty luxo-barges. We were wrong.
In the footsteps of the IS F was the introduction of the F-Sport accessories line, followed by rumors of a GS F and finally the LFA supercar. Lexus was becoming increasingly serious about making a mark in the luxury performance space, but on its own terms and at its own calculated pace.
Flash forward to October when a press release arrived touting a new Sport Package for the upcoming 2010 LS460. To be honest, our first thought was Lexus was overreaching. The LS is a fine sedan, with plenty of power and a reasonably good balance of ride and handling. But a sports sedan it's not. No matter. If Lexus was threatening to "F" up its LS with a "Sport" package, we needed to put it to the test. And we did just that.
Photos by Frank Filipponio / Copyright ©2009 Weblogs, Inc.
From the outside, there are a few details that set the Sport Package apart from a run-of-the-mill LS460. The most striking addition: those sporty, split ten-spoke, 19-inch wheels. They look oddly aggressive tucked into the LS' wheel arches and ape BMW's traditional cross-spokes. Each is wrapped in Dunlop summer tires measuring 245/45 R19, and on the road they do little to affect the smooth ride you expect from a Lexus. However, when pushed they dig in, providing a surprising amount of grip and no audible complaints until the limits of adhesion are tested.
The other big difference is the aero kit, which will be offered separately in the new Appearance Package. The kit includes tacked on front chin extenders at each corner, more vertical side skirts and a lower rear valance with a blacked-out section between the standard exhaust tips. The darkened plastic gives the illusion of a diffuser, lightens the overall look of the rear and provides Sport-spotters another cue that this particular LS460 stands apart.
The front grille is also unique to the Sport Package sedan, with black mesh and a unique "L" badge featuring a carbon fiber-like background. Standard models get a glossy, black-filled field behind the "L", while hybrids get the blue surround. Quite honestly, the aero kit differs very little from the shape of the standard bodywork, particularly at the front, and comes off as a bit contrived with its bolt-on application.
The interior receives a few tweaks as well, with a stylish black and saddle scheme that compliments the acres of dark wood lining the dash, doors and console. The sport seats are swathed in super-soft perforated leather and infinitely adjustable, supportive and comfortable. The biggest difference inside, however, is the pair of metallic paddles mounted behind the steering wheel. Coupled with the eight-speed automatic, they produce sharp shifts quickly and quietly, with a satisfying throttle blip on downshifts. But with eight ratios to choose from, leaving it in auto mode and letting the car swap cogs on its own is probably just as wise, if not more so.
On the road the 380-horsepower, 4.6-liter V8 is willing and able, but won't provide much aural satisfaction in the cabin until you bury the throttle. With a sub-six-second 0-60 sprint, the car is fast enough for most needs, but to justify the $6,000 projected bump in price, a bit more grunt would have been a nice inclusion. Still, we had no complaints driving it along the freeways or around the twisty B-roads of San Diego county. And that last part was where the extra bucks shown through.
Approaching the first tight turn along this curvy hillside ribbon of asphalt, we instinctively wanted to tap into the upgraded Brembos to scrub off some momentum. Expecting a fair amount of body roll, we planned our line accordingly, but amazingly, the LS – with its re-calibrated suspension, beefier stabilizer bars and uprated shocks – was well planted and barely bobbed to either side. We pushed a little harder into the next bend and the stately sedan just hunkered down and carved a perfect arc. This can't be right. Is it possible that this two-plus-ton Lexus is actually begging for more?
We continued to prod it, trying to provoke some kind of reaction, but only found ourselves bounding along in a middle-aged dog with a puppy's pep, eagerly wagging its tail, playfully taunting us to throw the Frisbee a little further each time. He assures us he'll catch it and bring it back before our arm drops back to our side. And before we know it, we're tearing along at an alarming rate, quickly gathering up the Cadillac ahead of us and forcing us to back off.
As the road straightened out we were scratching our head trying to figure out what just happened. Is this Lexus actually fun to drive? Did these seemingly minor suspension changes really transform the LS from a perfectly wonderful boulevard cruiser to a genuine back road bomber? Well, there is one more piece to this puzzle that explains the LS' newfound agility. The driver-selectable air suspension was set to "Sport."
When selected, the steering firms up and gives the sedan a more sporting demeanor. True, this same feature comes on lesser LS460s, but combined with the Sport Package it makes the LS move like a BMW. Maybe not an M, but certainly a 750i at the very least.
Although for some, the idea of cross-shopping a 7 Series and a Lexus would be too much to stomach. For those looking for a luxury vehicle of this size, the Sport Package LS460 is worth a look. For its part, Lexus sees most of the sales coming from people already in the Lexus fold. It will certainly appeal to those who are moving up from an IS F, or those who want the sportiest driving experience in their next LS.
There's also the possibility that Lexus could grab a few sales from Audi, BMW and Mercedes owners who are looking for something different, along with every gadget under the sun, a killer Mark Levinson sound system and a sat nav that doesn't require a PhD to operate. They might be surprised to find – as we were – that European road manners aren't exclusive to the Bavarians. But as we've learned before, underestimate Lexus at your own peril.
Photos by Frank Filipponio / Copyright ©2009 Weblogs, Inc.
New Car Test Drive
The ultimate smooth, quiet luxury sedan.
The Lexus LS is extremely quiet and extraordinarily smooth. The LS 460 is easy to drive and operate and is less fussy than the German luxury cars. It delivers excellent performance but tilts more to the luxury side of the equation than the sporty side.
The Lexus LS is packed with luxury and bristles with technology. The LS 460 was the first car in the world with a computer-controlled eight-speed automatic transmission. The LS 460 L is a long-wheelbase version that offers reclining heated bucket seats, a cool box, dual-zone rear HVAC controls, a folding table, an ottoman, a shiatsu massager and, of course, DVD with wireless headphones. The list goes on.
The 4.6-liter V8 can propel the LS 460 from 0-60 mph in a mere 5.4 seconds, according to Lexus, yet it gets an EPA-rated 24 mpg Highway. The eight-speed automatic is super smooth and plays a big role in the fuel-economy story. The electrically powered steering system adjusts according to speed. The ride quality is exemplary, and handling is perfectly capable. It doesn't get any smoother than the Lexus LS and it meets every expectation for refinement and luxury.
The Lexus LS 600h L employs a hybrid powertrain using a 5.0-liter V8 and electric motors rated at 438 total system horsepower. The LS 600h L delivers EPA fuel economy ratings of 20/22 mpg City/Highway. The LS 600h L is certified as a Super Ultra-Low Emission Vehicle (SULEV). The LS 600h L comes with all-wheel drive and rides on the long wheelbase.
All-wheel drive is available and it features a Torsen limited-slip center differential to distribute torque between the front and rear tires. Normally, the front-to-rear torque split is set at 40:60 but it can vary between 30:70 and 50:50 depending on driving conditions. The bottom line is stable traction in any conditions.
The LS 460 was launched for the 2007 model year and the LS 600h joined the line for 2008. For 2010, the LS gets a mid-cycle update with slightly revised styling, new features, and a handling-oriented Sport Package. The new styling includes revisions to the front bumper grille, headlights, taillights, exhaust diffusers, and license plate surround, as well as new wheel designs and new side mirrors with integrated turn signals.
The 2010 Lexus LS 460 Sport Package adds firmer air suspension tuning, firmer stabilizer bars and shocks, Brembo brakes, a body aero kit, perforated Black/Saddle leather upholstery with sport front seats, a unique leather-trimmed steering wheel and paddle shifters. A new Appearance Package includes the Sport Package's aero kit and grille.
The 2010 Lexus LS gets several new safety and connectivity features. Safety Connect and Lexus Enform are new telematics systems with complimentary one-year subscriptions. Safety Connect is standard and Lexus Enform is available with a navigation system. A new Advanced Pre-Collision system uses two cameras up front, as well as radar, to detect pedestrians in the car's path. It also employs a camera that monitors the driver. If the system detects that the car could hit the pedestrians and the driver is looking away, it will alert the driver with a warning chime and a flashing light and eventually apply the brakes. It will also make the steering ratio quicker, making it easier for drivers to react.
Other changes for 2010 include a driver's seat with a slide-away feature to make ingress/egress easier, a new multi-information display with a center console LCD screen, Bluetooth audio streaming and phonebook download capability, and iPod connectivity. The 2010 LS 600h L gets new battery packaging that opens up two cubic feet of trunk space, and more standard equipment, including Intelligent High Beams, the Advanced Parking Guidance System, an LCD instrument cluster, and a standard Cold Weather Package with a windshield de-icer, heavy-duty battery, and a more efficient heater.
The flagship sedan that started out as the LS 400 and then grew up as the LS 430 is now the Lexus LS 460. The Lexus LS challenges all comers as the best luxury sedan in the world. It competes with the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and S-Class, BMW 5 Series and 7 Series, Audi A8 and Jaguar XJ, among others. Compared to those cars, it is more affordably priced while also offering top levels of quality, dependability and reliability. If you desire a smooth and comfortable large luxury sedan, the Lexus LS is hard to beat.
The 2010 Lexus LS lineup includes the LS 460 and long wheelbase LS 460 L, and the LS 600h L hybrid, a long-wheelbase model with all-wheel drive and a gas-electric powertrain. The LS 460 models are powered by a 4.6-liter V8 that makes 380 horsepower with rear-wheel drive and 357 horses with optional all-wheel drive. The LS 600h L uses a 5.0-liter V8 mated to a pair of electric motors. Total output is 438 horsepower. LS 460s have an eight-speed automatic transmission with manual shift capability, while the LS 600h L uses a continuously variable automatic transmission.
Lexus LS 460 ($65,380) and LS 460 AWD ($68,905) come with leather upholstery; dual-zone automatic climate control; interior air filter; power tilt/telescoping wood and leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls; cruise control; 16-way power adjustable driver's seat; 12-way power front passenger seat; heated front seats; memory for the driver's seat, steering wheel and mirrors, power windows, locks, and heated mirrors; keyless access and starting; sunroof, AM/FM stereo with six-disc CD changer, XM satellite radio, auxiliary input jack, iPod adaptor, Bluetooth wireless cell phone link, rearview camera, trip computer, auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass, outside temperature indicator, universal garage door opener, rain-sensing wipers, automatic headlights, fog lights, adaptive xenon headlights, and P235/50R18 tires on alloy wheels. AWD models also get a heated steering wheel and an adjustable Adaptive Variable Suspension that constantly adjusts damping rates based on the road surface.
The LS 460 Sport Package ($6,185) upgrades to black and saddle tan perforated leather upholstery, heated steering wheel with shift paddles, matt dark brown ash burl interior trim, sport front bucket seats, unique front spoiler and grille, rocker panel extensions, a sport version of the air suspension, Brembo brakes, 10-spoke forged aluminum wheels, and P245/45R19 tires.
Options for LS 460 include the Comfort Package ($2,185) with front and rear park assist heated steering wheel, heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats, power door and trunk closers, power rear sunshade and headlight washers; the Comfort Plus Package ($5,125) with the Comfort equipment plus rear side airbags, and heated and cooled power rear seats with massage and memory features. The Cold Weather Package ($100) includes a heavy-duty heater, a wiper deicer, and a heavy-duty battery. Other options consist of the Mark Levinson sound system ($2,080), Adaptive Variable Air Suspension with variable-ratio power steering, Active Power Stabilizer Suspension for the 600h L with uprated brakes, active suspension and P245/45R19 summer tires, and hands-free self-parking ($700).
The LS 460 L ($70,925) and LS 460 L AWD ($74,450) feature heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats, heated steering wheel, front and rear park assist, power door and trunk closers, power rear sunshade, self-dimming headlights, laminated side glass, and headlight washers. A Luxury Package for the 460 L ($980) upgrades to semi-aniline leather upholstery, power side sunshades, and an alcantara headliner. The Rear Seat Upgrade Package ($4,865) includes rear side airbags, rear dual-zone automatic climate control, upgraded leather upholstery, power heated and cooled rear seat with memory and massage, power headrests, rear seat cool box, rear radio controls, power side sunshades, and an alcantara headliner.
The LS 600h L ($108,800) comes with the navigation system with voice recognition and real-time traffic information; Lexus Enform assistance, the self-parking feature, a 19-speaker, 450-watt Mark Levinson audio system, power side sunshades, alcantara headliner, LED headlights, adjustable Adaptive Variable Suspension, limited-slip rear differential, and P245/45R19 tires. The Executive Class Seating Package ($10,835) adds rear side airbags, rear dual-zone automatic climate control with body-temperature sensors, interior air filers, two-place heated and cooled rear seats with memory and massage, power rear headrests, fixed rear center console, right rear power reclining seat with legrest and massage, right rear seat fold-down tray, rear DVD entertainment system, rear radio controls, and P235/50VR18 tires.
Safety equipment includes dual front airbags, front side airbags, curtain side airbags, front knee airbags, anti-lock brakes with electronic brake assist, traction control, electronic stability control, active front head restraints, tire-pressure monitor, rearview camera, and adaptive headlights that point into turns. An optional Pre-Collision System ($1,500) comes with adaptive cruise control. It retracts the seatbelts, sounds a warning for the driver, closes the windows and sunroof, firms up the suspension, adjusts the steering ratio and readies brake assist when the computers detect an impending collision. An Advanced Pre-Collision System ($5,860) also adds Lane Keep Assist, a driver attention monitor, and object recognition cameras. All-wheel drive improves safety in slippery conditions.
Lexus designers have given a lot of attention to aerodynamic considerations that ultimately lead to improved high-speed stability, quieter operation, and better highway fuel mileage. Yet, this has been done without making the LS look like some super-streamlined jellybean. The detailing is impeccable, the fit and finish is precise, and the entire look is one of refined, contemporary elegance.
As the flagship, the Lexus LS gets the most finesse of any of the Lexus L-finesse designs thus far. Its lines flow smoothly from its amazingly complex, crystal-like headlamp units, under the car, up over the roof and around the mirrors, with a short trip over the short rear deck to the integrated rear spoiler. After all that detail work on the exterior, they gave the car a drag coefficient of 0.26, tied with the best in the industry for a four-door sedan. Reducing aerodynamic drag not only helps fuel economy, it also contributes to reduced interior noise levels.
The headlights are automatic-leveling and also aim themselves to the left or right to better illuminate around corners, and the taillamps are LED units which deliver enhanced visibility to other drivers.
For 2010, the LS gets new grilles, a new front bumper with different air intakes, slightly revised headlights and taillights, changes to the exhaust diffusers, a revised rear license plate surround, reshaped mirrors with integrated turn signals, and new wheel designs. Models equipped with the Sport Package have a black grille, while standard LS 460s have a chrome grille with five bars and the LS 600h L has a four-bar chrome grille. The Sport Package also adds an aero body kit with a front lower spoiler, side rocker panels, and a rear lower spoiler. The Appearance Package includes the aero kit and the Sport Package's 19-inch wheels.
To climb into the left front seat of the Lexus LS is to climb into the near-ultimate of luxury cars. The seats are gloriously comfortable, and they are 16-way adjustable for travel and rake and tilt (12-way on the passenger side), with a three-way memory system for each front seat. All models come with perforated leather seats, with the option of semi-aniline leather. The seat bolsters are just wide enough to retain your torso without feeling too tight or intruding on comfort. The seats that come with the Sport Package feature more pronounced bolstering, but they don't pinch wide backsides. The front seats are heated on the standard car, with heated and cooled front and heated rear seats added to the L version.
Optitron is the name used by Lexus to describe its electroluminescent gauges and displays, and they are lit by bright white LEDs for excellent readability, day or night. Almost all of the needles illuminate, dominated by the large tachometer and speedometer needles. Every single switch on the car is lighted for ultimate convenience. A thin-film-transistor (TFT) multi-information color display delivers as many as 13 information and setting displays during driving.
For 2010, the LS 600h L gets a new LCD instrument cluster with a large central speedometer flanked by oil temperature and tachometer graphs on one side and fuel gauge and power meter graphs on the right. The information is easy to see, but not particularly interesting in appearance.
Four-spoke tilt-and-telescope leather-and-wood steering wheels (heated on the uplevel versions) feature redundant controls for audio, information, cruise control, radar cruise control option, telephone, and a brake-hold feature. To use the brake-hold feature, just come to a stop, push down the brake pedal, touch the button on the steering wheel, and the brakes stay on regardless of vehicle attitude until you touch the gas pedal.
The center stack of controls is beautifully integrated, as is every single piece of interior trim, and though there are lots of buttons, they are clearly marked in large type and lighted, so there will be little confusion after a couple of drives. The navigation display is large and bright, and the graphics are crisp and sharp. An auxiliary input is provided for MP3 players, and a USB port is added this year for iPod connectivity. Your iPod can be controlled through the steering wheel audio controls or the radio. The standard ten-speaker audio system sounds wonderful until you try the optional Mark Levinson Reference Surround Sound system, with 19 speakers and 450 watts, which we think might just be the single best automotive sound system on the market.
The LS is a big, roomy and comfortable luxury sedan, with generous interior dimensions and 18 cubic feet of trunk space, enough for four sets of golf clubs.
The long-wheelbase L versions offer more almost five inches more legroom, by virtue of their greater length, and the option of a luxurious rear-seat setup with two reclining heated bucket seats, a cool box, sunshades, additional climate ducting, and dual-zone rear HVAC control. Yet another configuration, the Executive-Class Seating Package, adds a folding table and a right rear seat with a built-in ottoman section, shiatsu massager, an extra air bag, and a rear roof-mounted 9-inch DVD screen and two sets of wireless headphones. No car manufacturer this side of a $350,000 Maybach offers this kind of rear-seat setup.
New for 2010 are the Safety Connect and Lexus Enform telematics systems with complimentary one-year subscriptions. Safety Connect operates like GM's OnStar system, offering a measure of security with Automatic Collision Notification, Stolen Vehicle Location, Emergency Assistance Button, and Enhanced Roadside Assistance. Lexus Enform offers two unique ways to get directions to destinations. Destination Assist supplies directions with the help of a call center, and eDestination allows drivers to send destinations to their navigation systems from a website. Enform also comes with Lexus Insider, which is a way for the factory to communicate with owners via audio casts that provide tips, event information, and other information an owner might need.
In any version, the Lexus LS is fast, smooth, quiet and efficient. So much so, that there is a low sensation of speed. The car feels under-stressed at normal highway speeds, with a huge reserve of power for passing and highway driving. A BMW 7 Series sedan offers sharper handling, but its larger wheels and lower-profile tires let more road noise through to the cabin and more vibration to the wheel. The Lexus is smoother and quieter. Handling in base models is rather capable but dull, and the car isn't prone to highway float or excessive lean in turns.
While we wouldn't have called the LS fun to drive in the past, the new Sport Package makes it much easier and satisfying to drive the car into corners at high rates of speed. While the shocks and stabilizer bars are firmer than in the base model, it's the specially tuned air suspension that likely gives the Sport Package its impressive handling finesse. The Porsche Panamera uses a similar system and it is lauded as one of the best-handling big sedans on the market. In the LS with the Sport Package, we were able to charge into turns, brake, and kick the tail out with a stab of the throttle. You could probably do that in the base car, too, but you wouldn't want to. The Sport Package makes the LS far more fun to drive.
The LS 460 has a base curb weight of 4350 pounds, and its engine is smaller than those in some of the German competitors. Yet it can accelerate from 0-60 mph in a mere 5.4 seconds, and it's good for an EPA rating of 24 mpg Highway. But acceleration is only a tiny part of the story here, and the engine is only a part of that.
The LS 460 was the first car in the world to offer a computer-controlled eight-speed automatic transmission, a transmission that offers great acceleration with nearly imperceptible upshifts and downshifts, manual or automatic shift control, and improved highway mileage in eighth-gear overdrive.
Acceleration seems like child's play for the LS 460. The engine, transmission and driveline set the standard for quietness and smoothness. We found the LS 460 to be very quiet and nearly vibration-free. It seems much quieter than the competition, whether at 30 mph or 130 mph, its regulated top speed.
The electrically powered steering system is terrific. It doesn't feel any different than hydraulically powered steering, and it has progressive assist that decreases with speed. The steering, brakes and engine are linked together into electronic stability control, which Lexus calls Vehicle Dynamic Integrated Management (VDIM) and includes all the functions of anti-lock brakes, traction control and stability control to help keep the vehicle going where the driver intends and thus to reduce the chance of a spin on a slippery surface.
All-wheel drive is available on all models. The operation and driving feel of the Lexus all-wheel drive system is about as transparent as it can be. There is no sense that it is searching between the front and rear wheels, and it has none of the torque steer that accompanies just about all front-drive vehicles and many with all-wheel drive.
Parking and maneuvering are surprisingly easy given the size of the LS 460 L and LS 600h L. Thanks goes to a relatively short turning radius and electronic power steering. The Advanced Parking Guidance System can be used to allow the car to park itself. We tested the system, thinking anyone who knows how to parallel park will consider this an unnecessary, slightly insulting adornment. However, it really works. Actually, it works great. We found ourselves using it over and over. The trick is to scan in the exact size of the parking space, then keep a foot on the brake while the car automatically maneuvers itself into the spot. It takes about 10 seconds, which might be longer than just doing it yourself. Plus, it costs $700 for the car to perform tasks every driver should have the skill to do.
The LS 600h L, if anything, is even smoother. The hybrid system, in which the 5.0-liter V8 and the electric motor work together, can provide performance equivalent to other V10 or V12 powerplants, and smoothness to match. The 389 horsepower of the engine, matched with the enormous torque of the electric motor, means that this car that weighs 5360 pounds can, according to Lexus, accelerate from 0-60 mph in just 5.5 seconds, and it is rated at 20 mpg City, which is more than what you might expect from a midsize sedan with a V6. While hybrid powertrains deliver excellent fuel economy, their strongest forte lies in reduced emissions. According to Lexus engineers, the LS 600h L produces exhaust emissions nearly 70 percent cleaner than the cleanest competitors.
The hybrid drive system uses two powerful electric motors and a battery pack. The system is capable of driving the car on just the gas engine, in electric-only mode, or with a combination of gas engine and electric motor. The battery system consists of 288-volt DC Nickel Metal Hydride pack located behind the rear seat. In the trunk is a 12-volt auxiliary battery to power the audio system, navigation and lighting. The electric motors, denoted by Lexus as MG1 and MG2, perform specific functions. Each can operate as both a motor and generator. MG2 is the drive motor. MG1 is used as a starter motor and acts as an engine-driven generator to charge the battery pack or provide additional power to the drive motor, MG2, as needed.
The LS 600h can operate in EV Mode, in which the vehicle will stay in electric-only mode at speeds below 25 mph for about a half mile. This feature might be useful to glide into the garage silently if you get home late, or get to a gas station if you ran out of fuel or maybe for use in stop-and-go commuter traffic.
Even though the hybrid is equipped with regenerative brakes, which recharge the battery as the brakes are applied, brake feel is typical of a standard car equipped with strong disc brakes, an impressive engineering achievement.
Note, however, that the hybrid is priced far higher than the base model, making it more of a social and environmental statement than a value. It does include other standard equipment, including all-wheel drive, but the fuel savings will never make up for the extra cost. In all fairness, the base LS 460 is the wiser choice.
The Lexus LS line may be the quietest, most serene luxury car available. It offers an excellent combination of comfort, space, quietude, and features. It's also the most electronics-intensive luxury car we've ever experienced and, if it weren't a Lexus, that would give us pause. The LS 460 offers all anyone might want in a luxury car, and at a price that cannot be considered exorbitant. Long-wheelbase models boast big rear legroom, while the LS 600h L features a hybrid powerplant that offers improved fuel efficiency with comparable power and greatly reduced emissions.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Jim McCraw reported from Detroit, with John Stewart reporting from Southern California, and Kirk Bell contributing from Chicago.
Lexus LS 460 ($65,380); LS 460 AWD ($68,905); LS 460 L ($70,925); LS 460 L AWD ($74,450); LS 600h L ($108,800).
Options As Tested
Lexus LS 460 ($64,680).
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