Lexus LS460 - Precison, comfort and mini-bling

Written By nyit on Friday, April 8, 2011 | 6:35 AM

Admit it – there are lots of you out in cyberland who would love to own one of those lovely British cars with the winged maiden on the bonnet, full of grace and pace with precision wood, leather and alloy.

But the idea of springing a six-figure check for a roller is a bit much.
I’m not claiming this iteration of the fourth-generation Lexus LS460 flagship is one of those. But for the 70 large it costs for this model and its content, it’s a quiet, precision-made luxury sedan that will coddle four in style and comfort with decent power and handling.
In fact, as one friend quipped, it’s Japan’s Buick.

*Lexus livery – The first Lexus LS came out in 1989, targeted at the Mercedes-Benz S-Class as a quality driving piece with technology and precision, for a bit less yen than the German sedan. This fourth-generation model, introduced in late 2006 for 2007, is the result of Lexus’ current L-finesse styling philosophy, based on simplicity, contrast and a dynamic new look according to company officials during a launch event. So there’s tightly designed shape that begins with a simple 5-bar grill whose outer edges form the hood’s framing line and meld into the A-pillars, while sweeping headlights flow into the rounded fender flares. Twin lower air intakes host the fog lights, with a subtle design line on the rounded bumper over the large central intake. Our test sedan wore 10-spoke alloy wheels with P235/50R18-inch Michelin rubber. There’s delicate chrome trim around the side windows and a touch of chrome above the lower door sill. There’s a bit of BMW 7-Series aft of the sweeping D-pillar, with wrap-around taillights and a slight trunk lip spoiler, and I still like the twin alloy exhaust tips faired into the lower fascia. Panel fit and finish outside were superb, as was the Truffle Mica paint, a bit bland in color for my taste. And yes, this is a big (16.5 feet long) sedan, much of it the long wheelbase (an extended version that’s almost 5 inches longer is available). That said, no one noticed this very subtle sedan, its shape a familiar one for the past four years.
*Lexus living room – Like most modern luxury sedans, the big keyless key fob alerts the LS to your arrival and awakens small lights under the sideview mirrors to let you see what’s there in the dark. Keyless entry parks you in the driver seat, which moves back like the steering wheel to allow easier exit – I’m not that old yet, thanks anyway. A smooth, nicely padded tan leather seat faces buff wood, soft cream leather and padded brown over tan soft-grain vinyl. The "Start" button fires it all up, the classic Lexus white-on-black 8,000-rpm tachometer and 160-mph speedometer flanked by gas and temperature gauges. A color LCD screen top center offers trip computer and outside temperature, while a backlit LCD display bottom center offers odometer and trip meter. The door handles get a gentle backlighting at night.

The driver gets 16-way (including seat bottom power slide and shoulder belt adjust), the front passenger 14-way power adjustments, three memory presets each, and separate heating and cooling. I’d like a bit more support in turns. The power tilt/telescope wheel gets the requisite stereo and Bluetooth buttons, with voice command as well for the car’s audio, navigation and telephone systems. Dash center, a big touch screen that also handles the navigation, climate control and 7.1 Channel surround-sound 19-speaker Mark Levinson AM-FM-six-disc CD-XM Satellite Radio system that plays iPods through a console-mounted USB port, or stores up to 2,000 songs in its hard drive (15 minutes to download a 14-track CD). It sounded very good and easy to control. The dual-zone climate control was pretty quiet and efficient on 90-degree-plus days. Every knob and button had a smooth or precise manner of operation, and the buff wood finish was perfect for sunny days, warm to look at, with a silky feel. Just aft of the twin cup holders under a damped door are switches for the rear seat heaters and rear power sunshade, while the deep center storage space under the center armrest has a second storage cubby that smoothly pivots up and back over the USB port and 12-volt outlet. Even the glove box is big. In back, the long wheelbase means great leg room on top of good headroom, twin illuminated vanity mirrors in back so you can get that Justin Bieber hairstyle just right. Rear air vents, plus switches for the rear sunshade and seat heaters hide under the center armrest’s cover, with two slide-out cub holders. The right rear passenger can power slide and tilt the front passenger seat for even more room, via seat back-side switches. There’s only a ski pass-through to the big trunk, with a power open/close lid.
You want more? The Advanced Parking Guidance System does work, to wit - put the gear shift in reverse, and the navigation screen displays a rear-view camera. Use the arrows to confirm where you want to park, ride the brake pedal, and the car steers itself there. Cool as it is, I can do it myself, especially with the rear-view video camera and sonar sensors. I did like the headlights that angle into turns, and XM Traffic and Weather were handy for traffic jam and thunderstorm notifications respectively, while we could also check up on stocks and baseball scores with that feature.
*Lexus logistical support - The 4.6-liter V-8 on our 6,000-mile-old test car is the same one that launched with this generation four years ago. At 380 hp, with an 8-speed automatic with “Sport” mode and a “Sport” or “Snow” throttle switch, we leaped off the line to 60-mph in 5.6 seconds with a subtle exhaust snarl, precise shifts and total confidence. Downshifts were precise and smooth, always in the right gear. For a big sedan, we also scratched an average 20 mpg.

The current platform’s front and rear multi-link suspension system gave it a very smooth and controlled ride with no mush and no fuss, handling bumps with no shudder transmitted to the folks inside. Sure-footed on the highway and exit ramps as well, our rear-wheel-drive LS460 will lean and understeer if you try to get sporty – a 7-Series or S-Class wears its length and weight much better. This is more a touring sedan than a sporty one. Lexus offers a sport option with 19-inch rubber, Brembo brakes, sport-tuned air suspension, an aero body kit, paddle shifters and more, which apparently crisps up the big sedan nicely. The electric power steering was precise, the four-wheel disc brakes stopping the car well with some nose dive but no fade and a nice pedal feel. For safety, eight standard airbags, while the VDIM system integrates the Electronically Controlled Brake system, Electronic Power Steering, stability control, ABS and electronic brake-force distribution to anticipate a skid while cornering, and help with braking, throttle, and steering.

*Lexus loot – Our LS460’s base price was $64,680 with all listed above except – a $2,185
Comfort Package with power trunk, Park Assist, heated rear seats, heated and cooled front seats and heated steering wheel. The Luxury Package, with 450-watt Mark Levinson Surround Sound audio system, six-disc CD, DVD audio/video, all XM features, voice command and hard disc navigation, added $2,780. Add trunk and carpet mats and the final was $70,679.

Competition in this rarified area includes the Jaguar XJ, Mercedes S-Class, BMW 740i and Audi A8. All of these are $4,000 to $60,000 more; all offer more precise handling (all-wheel-drive in the Audi), and some (XJ) more style. A slightly smaller flagship is the 420-hp, $65,000 Infiniti M56, a real canyon carver for four.
*Bottom line – The Lexus LS460 is a supremely conservative cocoon of quiet on the road, with subtle beauty and comfortable confidence in its ride. It is not a sports sedan, but more a precision piece to be lived with and enjoyed with a gentle engine growl and some fan noise. Pay a bit more, and more sport can be had in German as well as a certain Infiniti. But if precision comfort and no bling are your thing, the LS has it.
2010 Lexus LS 460

Vehicle type -- full-size 4-door luxury sedan
Base price -- $64,680 (as tested - $70,679)
Engine type -- aluminum block 32-valve VVT-iE DOHC V-8
Displacement -- 4.6-liter
Horsepower (net) -- 380 @ 6,400 rpm
Torque (lb-ft) -- 367 @ 4,100 rpm
Transmission -- 8-speed automatic
Wheelbase -- 116.9 inches
Overall length – 199.2 inches
Overall width -- 73.8 inches
Height -- 58.1 inches
Front headroom -- 38 inches
Front legroom – 43.7 inches
Rear headroom -- 38 inches
Rear legroom – 35.8 inches
Cargo capacity -- 18 cubic feet
Curb weight – 4,350 pounds
Fuel capacity -- 22.2 gallons
Mileage rating -- 16 mpg city/24 mpg highway

By Dan Scanlan - MyCarData

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