Lexus has created the sedan we’d all like at some point in our lives, the time of life I’ve always referred to as the Buick stage of life.
No offense to Buick, as it and Cadillac and many others have delightful sedans with comfortable rides and interiors. But alas, they are not a Lexus LS460. The LS has been the Lexus flagship of luxury and understated comfort for years and the latest iteration is as, well, cozy and sublime as any car you’ll drive.
Its dimensions and leather-laden interior are such that they coddle you, wrap you in a cocoon of comfort.
The basics here, and really there is nothing basic here, are this. The LS is long and solid, riding on a 116.9-inch wheelbase and the tested AWD model weighing 4,651 lbs. That along with major sound-deadening material under the dash, hood and doors ensures, along with a well-tuned suspension, that your ride is smooth and well insulated. Bumps? Forget about it!
Lexus uses its hush quiet 4.6-liter V8 with dual fuel injection, 32 valves and electronically controlled intake valve timing to propel this massive, yet comforting vehicle. Power is good, as you’d expect, with 360 horsepower that climbs to 385 in the rear-drive model. But this is not a super thruster that rockets you to 60 mph. It’s a strong unit that gently guides you to highway speeds via a silky 8-speed automatic.
Drive Select Mode is standard, as it should be at the $75,465 starting price for this AWD model. That allows you to dial back the car’s steering, suspension and engine performance to Eco mode if you’re on a relaxed trip where all that engine power isn’t required. Normal mode is perfectly fine for most occasions and a driver gets that by pressing the DSM knob down on the console. A Sport mode firms things just a tad and gives the car a bit more juice by holding the lower gears longer. I used it in town a few times when a quick lane change was in order. Even in Sport, the car doesn’t feel aggressive.
Steering is light for a 4,600-lb. sedan and easy to control. Minor steering inputs are needed to keep the LS safely in its lane and on a trip to Madison the car proved a magnificent highway cruiser. Are there expansion joints in all that cement roadway? You’ll not feel them here as the suspension and wheelbase absorb them all with ease.
In our climate the AWD feature is a bonus and well worth the couple grand extra you’ll pay. I had this during our latest blizzard and it never put a wheel wrong, nor spun a tire. Rear-drive, while manageable, would not be as much fun to deal with here in winter. Still, a rear drive LS starts at $73,445, including delivery, so you have choices.
Likewise for folks who prefer a limo feel vs. a large luxury sedan, there is the LS460 L, which features a 4.6-liter V8 that creates 386 horsepower, and is about 5 inches longer than the standard LS, riding on a 121.7-inch wheelbase. A hybrid model, the 600h L also rides on the longer wheelbase and combines an electric hybrid system with the bigger 5.0-liter V8 to create a combined 438 horsepower and gains 3 mpg in the city, so 19 mpg compared with 16 in the standard LS.
I managed 17.6 mpg in about 60% highway driving, including that roundtrip to Madison. Be warned that the LS prefers premium gas too and is rated just 16 mpg city and 23 highway by the EPA, or about the same as most mid-size SUVs.
Inside? We’d all like to feel this comfortable in our living rooms.
Soft black leather seats are well formed to give the front seat passenger and driver excellent comfort and support. The driver’s seat is a 16-way power adjusted model with three memory settings on the door so it can be tailored to several drivers in the family. A button on the door also powers the shoulder belt up and down for comfort.
Speaking of which, this model added a comfort package that includes multi-adjustable heated and cooled front seats. Punch a console button and it’ll pop up and allow for an almost infinite amount of settings, not just two or three levels as most luxury cars offer. Rear seats also are heated and there’s a giant fold down armrest with an assortment of controls. The $2,090 package also includes a power rear sunshade and power trunk lid.
As mentioned earlier, the interior is whisper quiet, which allows easy conversations in the leather laden interior. Seats are leather, as is door trim and an Alcantara headliner overhead is soft and sound absorbing too. A nice feature on the passenger’s seat are buttons the driver can reach to move the seat up or back to provide more legroom in back, or to position it so the headrest isn’t blocking side views.
Lexus creates an attractive dash with all gauges easy to see and understand and most controls logically placed. A power tilt/telescope steering wheel is standard and the test car added a heated wheel for just $110. Note though that much of the wheel is wood, which remains cool, but the leather area at 3 and 9 on the wheel gets plenty warm.
Most noticeable is a giant 12.3-inch high-res navigation and radio screen. This wide screen makes viewing the navigation system a breeze and also splits to allow radio info to fill the far right portion. It’s a perfect sized screen for the over-50 driver and it makes views via the rearview camera large enough to prevent backups over grandkids’ toys.
However, Lexus continues to offer its awkward mouse system for adjusting the screen, whether radio or navigation settings. The cursor sticks, or locks, on various locations on the screen as you try to move it and can be very frustrating and distracting to use while driving. This is slightly better than the touch-pad system in the Lexus NX I just drove, but needs a major re-think. Technology for its own sake, not as an aid to the driver is not helpful.
Other additions to the test car included a $500 blind-spot monitor with rear cross traffic alert and a $990 upgrade to 19-inch tires and wheels. The semi-aniline leather and Alcantara headliner also added $550 to the cost, which left the test car at $80,630.
There are a variety of standard features to mention too, including a sunroof, adaptive front lighting, smart-stop technology to help avoid rear-end collisions, an SOS emergency alert system overhead, the Enform remote system that allows you to start the car with a smart phone and that delivers current, or predicted traffic congestion on the car’s big screen. Naturally there is Bluetooth technology to link up your phone.
Cargo room also is generous, with 18 cubic feet of trunk space. That translates into several golf club bags and pull carts, or a load of luggage for a cross-country trip.
This is a premium luxury sedan, one that we all wish we could afford, if even for a week or two of travel. Its prime competitors are the Mercedes-Benz S Series, Audi A8 and BMW 7 Series. Some of the others may be sportier handling, but the LS’s comfort level is hard to beat at this price. Yes, some of those others cost even more!
FAST Stats: 2015 Lexus LS460 AWD
Hits: Awesome quiet interior, silky smooth ride and power, plus all-wheel-drive. Extremely well shaped heated/cooled front seats, heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, big trunk, blind-spot warning, rearview camera, nice dash with super-wide nav/radio screen.
Misses: Poor gas mileage and awkward mouse to adjust radio/nav etc. on large screen.
Made in: Japan
Engine: 4.6-liter V8, 360 hp
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Weight: 4,651 lbs.
Wheelbase: 116.9 in.
Length: 200.0 in.
Cargo: 18.0 cu.ft.
MPG: 17.6 (tested)
Base Price: $75,465
Dealer’s Price: $70,354 (includes delivery)
Blind-spot monitor w/rear cross traffic alert, $500
Comfort package (climate-comfort front seats, power rear sunshade, one-touch power trunk), $2,090
19-inch 15-spoke alloy wheels w/all-season tires, $990
Semi-Aniline leather trim interior w/Alcantara headliner, $550
Heated wood steering wheel w/leather center pad), $110
Test vehicle: $80,630
Sources: Lexus, www.kbb.com