The fourth-generation Lexus LS is bigger and better than ever before. For 2006 Lexus added a Long Wheelbase version, and a hybrid version has also been around since last summer. First introduced in 1990, Lexus targeted traditional marques such as BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Jaguar in the ultimate luxury vehicle category by offering the same or better quality at a much lower price-point. Not only did they beat the traditional luxury brands, they became synonymous with luxurious, quiet cars that don’t break down or require constant trips to the local dealership. Until Lexus arrived on the scene reliability was never a strong point in any of the expensive luxury or exotic brands – Lexus raised the bar.
The Lexus LS series differs from the competition in that, in addition to the lower price for entry, you also get superior fuel economy. This trademark has been continued in the newest generation and also the long-wheelbase version. Who would have thought that a very large luxurious car with a V-8 engine could sip fuel at 22 mpg [10.8 L/100 kms] in combined driving? Other standout features are: the world’s first 8-speed automatic transmission, the world’s first ottoman seat cushion airbag, a Mark Levinson 19-speaker audio system with storage for up to 4,000 songs and on and on…..
When I first saw the LS 460L, I thought it was charcoal-grey. It turns out Lexus like to call it – brown. It’s the nicest shade of brown I’ve ever seen. Jumping in, I look around expecting to see something truly outstanding – after-all this is a $105,000 car! Nope – it’s just another car. As long as I don’t think about the price I should be OK driving it amongst Toronto’s crazy drivers.
The seat is nicely contoured and very comfortable. After a week, I’d have to say it’s one of the most comfortable seats I’ve ever experienced in a vehicle. As expected the LS has buttons everywhere. What’s this one on the door? It’s the electric seatbelt adjuster. I move the seat around to get into a good driving position. The buttons down by the bottom of the seat are easy to use and very intuitive – except for one. I hear the sound of an electric motor but nothing is happening to my seat. I should be going up but… you’ve got to be kidding me! Electric headrests?! Yup, the height of the headrests are controlled by an electric motor. The 16-way driver’s seat is surprisingly easy to use. There’s even a 4-way lumbar adjustment (in, out and up and down) ensuring complete comfort for the guy making the monthly payments. The front passenger has to make do with only a 12-way power seat, but they still get the same lumbar adjustments. The seats are heated and cooled (as are the rear seats) and controlled by little dials so you can choose just how hot or cold you want your tushy to be…..oh, and the steering wheel is heated too!
Once I’d achieved the perfect seating position it was time to adjust the steering wheel. As is the custom, it’s electrically adjustable tilt and telescopic. Once you’ve set the seats, steering, mirrors and seatbelt height (and audio preferences), you can program one of three memory buttons to remember your settings and once you’ve started the car it all adjusts to your preferences. After turning the car off, the steering wheel retracts to allow more space on ingress/egress for those large of belly.
Starting the engine is simply a matter of stepping on the brake and pushing the big button that says start/stop. The Lexus system for keyless entry/start is the best in the biz. You can leave the key fob in your pocket/purse and just pull the door handle to open the car. Locking it is just as simple – push any of the little black rubberized buttons on any door handle. Your fob never has to leave your pocket.
Jumping onto the freeway, we’re flying along well above the speed limit in complete silence. The steering wheel feels a little on the large side, but the steering feel is spot on – perfectly weighted for the situation at hand. My wife comments for the first time – and by no means the last time – that this is an old man’s car. I gasp! An old man’s car? But it’s big. It’s luxurious. It’s…oh…. Hmm. She’s right – it kinda is an old man’s car – but a nice one. I don’t care – I like it and I’m over 40 – so that makes me an old man… oh dear – at least I don’t own a white belt or white shoes!
The Lexus LS 460 has a 4.6 litre V-8 that pumps out 380 horsepower – 102 more than the previous version. While it certainly is no sport car, it is brisk and the needle swings into triple-digits without any fuss. The instrument panel is electroluminescent – there are no dials, just electronic gauges in a black screen. There’s nothing to look at unless the engine is actually on. Inside the binnacle is a very comprehensive series of information such as tire pressure (including the spare), mpg, miles till empty etc.
For such a large and heavy vehicle, the LS 460L feels considerably lighter than expected, and the engine and transmission work in perfect harmony to provide the power that you require just when you want it. Climbing the hills in our area was effortless and using the sequential shifter in the sport mode was really not required, in fact it was detrimental.
The all-new 4.6 litre engine and the 8-speed automatic were designed specifically for the LS460. Lexus developed special processes to squeeze the greatest possible performance out of the engine – case in point – in addition to certain areas of the crankshaft being polished to a mirror finish to minimize friction; a master technician performs the final check using a stethoscope to listen for minute yet abnormal noises to ensure the engine is properly balanced! Adding to that is the world’s first electric motor-driven Variable Valve Timing-intelligent and an electronically controlled intake cam (VVT-iE) that achieves superior engine start-up and high output performance. All of this translates into a 0-60 mph time of 5.4 seconds!
The multi-link suspension on the LS is the first to be used on the front and rear on a Lexus. Again, it’s something that’s been designed specifically for the LS 460 and the goal was to design a system that would absorb road imperfections and shocks while providing comfort without roll sensation or vibration. They also developed a new air suspension to minimize pitching and rolling. I had to keep reminding myself that it’s a luxo-boat and not a sports sedan, but it did handle tight twisty back roads with aplomb, never giving me the feeling that I could lose control. I was constantly surprised that such a large car didn’t feel large when driving it – it felt like a Camry. Through the bendy bits it is much tighter than expected, but still not sports-car enthusiastic. If there’s one thing that would make this the ultimate car, it would be the option of a stiffer suspension in combination to the “Sport” transmission.
The climate control is user-friendly – something that can’t be said very often when dealing with automatic controls. Each passenger has control complete control of their own environment – even those fortunate enough to be relegated to the back – Lexus calls it Zone independent. Three infrared sensors in the headliner measure lap, upper body and seat temperatures for each rear passenger to maintain the perfect temperature for them. In addition to heating and air conditioning, they also control the seat temperature, their headrest position, the sunshades and the recline of their seats – all electrically of course. The longer wheelbase means that there’s more room for rear passengers – just under 5 inches more legroom than the regular wheelbase. Additionally, the seats recline 28- 38 degrees (28- 45 if you go with the rear ottoman option).
The climate, audio controls and SatNav are all incorporated within the touch-screen – as is the rear camera when reversing. The screen and buttons to operate the Navigation and audio system take up about ½ of the upper part of the centre console area. Below that are the climate controls and further down are more audio controls. At first glance it looks mismatched, but it’s logically laid out because the lower buttons for the audio system are also on the touch screen. Because the screen is so large, the icons and lettering are quite large and easy to see while driving. You rarely, if ever, use the lower range of buttons associated with the audio system.
The audio system in the LS 460L is truly outstanding. With a 6-disc in-dash CD/DVD/DVD Audio/MP3/WMA Mark Levinson Reference Surround Sound system featuring 19 speakers and 450-watts – this system is comparable to a home theatre system. Rear seat occupants also get (optional) cordless headphones with their own volume controls. The sound is crystal-clear right up to the maximum level. The deck can play movie DVD’s as well as video CD’s, but the vehicle must be stationary. There is an optional rear DVD screen that can be operated while the vehicle is in motion – at this price I think it should come standard. You can load up to 4,000 songs (MP3’s at 128 bit) onto the internal hard drive. You can’t however, load MP3 songs, only the originals from a CD and the system rips the songs onto the hard drive. They can’t be removed once ripped – only deleted.
Rear seat accommodation is generous in the extreme. With a large hump in the floor there’s a reasonable amount of room for three pairs of feet if the centre person doesn’t mind straddling it. If there are just two back there the outboard passengers have an abundance of foot space regardless of how far back the front seats are positioned. In the case of my short legs – they couldn’t touch the back of my seat. It goes without saying that knee, hip, head and elbow room are equally generous. The rear seat back doesn’t fold, but there is an optional little cooler for rear occupants that sits between them. In the case of the test vehicle, it used the space for storing the cordless headphones instead of the cooler – huh? I think the cooler would have been a much better deal. The two rear seat passengers also have the ability to save their seat settings in a memory button.
Storage space in a large vehicle would be considered mandatory, but that isn’t the case in the LS 460L. The glove box is a reasonable size if you weren’t lumbered with the owner’s manual that is not only thick, but heavy – weighing in at just over 4 pounds! It takes up its own shelf inside the glove box, but there isn’t a lot of room left over. The door pockets are a good size and the centre console/armrest is good too. But the biggest disappointment was in the trunk – it’s tiny compared to the rest of the car! Looking at the LS 460L from the side you’d assume it has a very big trunk, but alas you’d be very much mistaken. I’d hazard a guess that a Corolla would have twice as much space – certainly the Camry hybrid has a much larger trunk. As a bonus, in the long-wheelbase model the trunk is power operated – as in – don’t try lifting or closing it yourself, use the button.
The LS 460L has a number of different options and packages, so I would advise you to go to the respective websites for complete details. Intuitive Parking Assist (the car parks itself) is standard in the U.S., optional in Canada.
For more details and options go to: www.Lexus.com or www.Lexus.ca
If you want to drive around without drawing attention to yourself – look no further. The LS 460L is the ultimate in luxury and anonymity. President Bush should dispense with his over-the-top look-at-me parade of vehicles when traveling and buy and LS460L … no one even gives you a glance while driving around in this car – that’s how well this vehicle blends in with the landscape. For Rappers and other Superstars that crave the limelight – look elsewhere – Cadillac’s are tacky enough. On the other hand, for a few of my friends, the drooling was incessant. They knew what type of car it was, but from 99% of the population, I’d say it’s invisible. For those gentlemen out there who are looking for some way to justify the price of this car to their significant other – here it is… the car is so good on gas it will pay for itself in…. oh… ten years – tops. The fuel economy was a total shock, I’ve driven “economy” cars that used more gas than this land-yacht.
Bumper to bumper 4-year/50,000-miles [80,000 kms] warranty and a 6-year/70,000 mile [110,000 kms] powertrain warranty. You also get roadside assistance for 4 years/ unlimited miles.
Pricing for the 2008 Lexus LS
As tested: $78,410 [$104,600 Cdn]
Base price for the LS regular wheelbase starts at: $61,000 [$86,400 Cdn] and climbs from there. The Long wheelbase starts at $71,000 [$98,700 Cdn]
Destination & Delivery: $715 U.S. / $1,775 Canada
Fuel Consumption: [Fuel: Premium – 91 Octane] (Certified ULEV II – Ultra-Low Emission Vehicle)
The 4.6 Litre V-8 is rated at 19 mpg City [11.8 L/100 kms], 27 mpg Highway [8.7 L/100 kms] and 21.8 mpg [10.8 L/100 kms] Combined.
I averaged 19.6 mpg [12 L/100km] in combined driving and 25 mpg [9.5 L/100km] in 100% freeway driving at 85+ mph….
Unbelievably quiet at all speeds
Extremely comfortable seats
The ultimate in luxury and toys
A sound system right out of a home-theatre
Superb gas mileage
An equivalent Mercedes-Benz S-Class would cost almost double what this costs!
Diabolically small trunk
Would I Spend My Money On It?
Yes, I think I could actually justify a six-figure car as a good deal!
Back Seat Driver Test: 12 out of 10
“Wow! It’s huge back here!” “Look at the legroom – I can’t touch the front seat!” “I feel like I’m in a Limo!.” “Ooh, heated and reclining seats!” “Cool – My very own make-up mirror – and it lights up too” “I could spend days back here playing with all these buttons!” “The seats are heated and can cool too?!” “This is amazing!”
Audi A8 L, BMW 760Li, Jaguar XJ Long Wheelbase, Mercedes-Benz S-Class & CLS-Class
By The Numbers…
Powertrain: 4.6-Litre 32-valve V-8 engine with Dual Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (VVT-iE), 8-speed sequential-shift automatic transmission with intelligence (ECT-i); RWD
Horsepower: 380 @ 6,400 rpm
Torque: 367 @ 4,100 rpm
0-60 mph: 5.4 seconds.
10 – Quality
10 – Noise, Vibration & Harshness (NVH)
7 – Cargo Area/Trunk Space
10 – Special Features (SatNav/Heated Seats/ Sunroof, etc)
10 – Ease of Entry/Exit
10 – Front Roominess
10 – Rear Roominess
10 – Driving Position/Controls
10 – Drool Factor
10 – Fit & Finish
10 – Engine
10 – Transmission
10 – Ride & Handling
10 – Bang for the $$
10 – Fuel Economy
147 Total / 150
Copyright © 2008 by Iain Shankland. All rights reserved.
Text / Images: Iain Shankland
Also Published on PaddockTalk.com