Lexus LS 460

By Jonathan Spira on 1 August 2008
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Three brands lead in executive class luxury: BMW, with the 7er Series, Lexus, with the LS sedan, and Mercedes, with the S-Class.  BMW is introducing a new 7er Series later this year so we’ll focus our attention on Lexus (here) and Mercedes.

Lexus, Toyota’s luxury division, debuted in 1989 with the first-generation LS sedan.  Since then, subsequent generations of the LS have been recognized for their reliability and luxurious appointments.  The 2008 Lexus LS 460 is one of the quietest cars I’ve ever been in and it’s comfortable and elegant to boot.2008 Lexus LS 460

The LS 460 does everything well: it offers a comfortable ride, decent handling, and surprisingly good fuel economy for a car this size.  New in 2007, the LS got a bigger motor, more gears, more gigabytes, and a healthy dose of technology in the cabin.  It’s the first car in North America to get Toyota’s self-parking technology (our test car didn’t have this option unfortunately) and the eight-speed automatic transmission has more gears than any car I know of in production.  And it has more speakers than most cars,. 19 to be exact.  The sound of the Mark Levinson Reference Surround Sound Audio System is clear with excellent separation and it uses 8 Gbytes of the car’s hard drive  to store up to 2000 tracks in MP3 or WMA format (you can also plug in an MP3 player but you can’t control it through the car’s systems). The system can rip CDs at either 128 Kbps or 256 Kbps.  It’s not an iPod-like interface (unfortunately, Lexus doesn’t offer iPod connectivity) but it’s pretty good on its own.

Satellite navigation, which includes real-time traffic information, features a high-resolution display and also uses the hard drive to store map data,..  Lexus uses a touchscreen display that, for safety reasons, is not accessible when the car is in motion (even if the passenger wants to input information).  Having sat through the Web tutorial, I can appreciate what the system is trying to do but, given its complexity and the fact that the driver has to divert his attention from the road to press the touchscreen, it’s probably a good idea that the system is locked out.

The satnav system offers three possible routes to the driver and the system will even preview the routes, giving the driver a better idea of where he is going and what the choices are in getting there.

The traffic information system gets its data through XM radio.  In daily driving, the system warned of traffic ahead and provided me with sufficient time to change routes.  It can be set to automatically route around traffic although, in areas with regular traffic, this can actually lead to delays.

Pairing my mobile phone with the car’s Bluetooth system was easy and call quality was excellent.  The system should be able to transfer phonebook information but this never seemed to work for me.

The LS 460 L offers an “Executive-Class Seating Package” with a power-adjustable right-rear seat, with heating and massage and a leg rest and tray table that wouldn’t be out of place in your favorite airline’s business class section.

Powered by a 4.6-liter V-8 with 380 horsepower, the LS attains 60 mph in only 5.4 seconds.  The suspension forgives even fairly major potholes and bumps, cushioning passengers from jolts.   VDIM, or vehicle dynamics integrated management, Lexus’ version of stability control, helps the car stay firmly planted on the road.

While its $67,000+ price tag isn’t cheap, it’s substantially less than its chief competition, the Mercedes-Benz S550.

–Jonathan B. Spira is the Editor of Executive Road Warrior and Chief Analyst at Basex, a knowledge economy research firm.

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