For many affluent people, the LS460 from Lexus is their aspirational car — perhaps as much as a BMW was when they were in their thirties.
For few who buy the Lexus LS460 are buying their first luxury vehicle. In other words, they know what they want in a luxury car, they don't have to guess. For these people the Lexus LS460 represents a port in the storm of life around them. It gives them the luxury of shutting out, or at least diminishing, the intensity of others.
They feel have earned the right to the comforts they can find in life. To own and drive one of these cars – which are certainly at the upper end of the luxury market — requires affluence, but not wealth. Owning a house with a comparable level of luxury does require wealth, because it would cost millions.
So I guess you would have to call this Lexus a "cheap" luxury.
To put the word "cheap" in context, the LS 460 rear wheel drive model has an MSRP of $72,520. Or you can add ten grand for the F-Sport aversion. The long-body starts at $78,820 with all-wheel drive adding around three grand. The top trim LS 600h L, which is a hybrid, starts at $120,440.
The first thing that strikes you is how little the exterior strikes you.
This is nothing new for Lexus. If you want to make a splash, there are several other brands that would better suit you. This isn't a car where folks put 22-in. chrome wheels with spinners go cruisin'. Granted it does have the Lexus-signature spindle grille and family "face." From there it is a very smooth and flowing design, and it's not just for looks. In fact, the air flows around the car smoothly enough to give it a quite low 0.26 coefficient of drag.
With a long hood, and an elegant c-pillar flowing proportionally down to the flow of the side of the rear fender and back along a sizable trunk, this car has quiet grace. It seems to want to be painted black or silver, maybe white in the sunshine states. It wishes to move through traffic without attracting attention to the comfortably confident people inside who have either avoided conspicuous consumption or have passed through that phase.
It's not that you don't get plenty with this top-of-the-line sedan, it simply keeps it quiet. If you can't be comfortable in the cabin of this car, you simply can't be pleased. The interior design is much like good servants — only noticeable when something isn't correct.
The LS460 is a large car and while it doesn't necessarily have an emphasis on the back seat, those who ride there will be at least as pampered and comfortable as the folks in front.
But then again, there is an optional "Ottoman Seating Package" that seats rear-seat riders on super-supple and adjustable leather seats. They can then put their feet up and even enjoy Shiatsu massage and their own rear seat entertainment system. This will allow them Blu-ray, DVD, or SD card-based entertainment playing on a retractable, ceiling mounted, nine-inch color display. This isn't a grandkids space on any levels, although they can sit there (if they behave themselves and never spill anything).
The dashboard is divided horizontally with the upper part dominated by a large, 12.3-inch, LCD multi-display screen, while the lower area seems dedicated to things you touch to control. The instrument panel uses computer-driven screens which let you choose some of the information you see. However, one must maintain standards, so the clock is both analog, and aluminum.
My only complaint was that I had trouble moving the front vents to get them to not blow directly on the driver. I was also surprised that adaptive cruise control was an option and not standard. But the bottom line for this interior is simple: it is truly quiet, even when most vehicles are quiet. Interestingly, 25 years ago when the LS first appeared that was the most commented upon aspect of the car.
I really liked the semi-gloss wood interior surfaces on the car I tested. It was sophisticated, but in a classic sort of way that said — you can't hide anything under this finish, it has to be good. While you are quietly cossetted in the luxury of this interior, there's still plenty to do.
First you have to keep up with the car's needs. A new service, Lexus Enform Service Connect tells you what the car needs, and when it will need it. This information can even be communicated to the MyLexusandBeyond mobile app on your iPhone or LexusDrivers.com so you can make appointments for necessary service.
The enhanced Navigation system uses predictive traffic information, including detour preview, ETA calculation and low-fuel coordination with available fuel stations to more effective get you to your destination. I particularly like the bird's eye view of the map. Siri Eyes Free Mode is compatible with the iPhone for safer use of smartphones in the car.
The Lexus LS multimedia system includes HD Radio, Bluetooth audio, automatic phone book transfer, a vehicle information display and complimentary traffic and weather data provided via HD Radio. It will even save up to 15 minutes of music for later.
Whatever you choose for your source of music, it will sound good coming out of the car's 10-speaker Premium Sound System with its digital sound processor, automatic sound leveling and an in-dash, single-feed DVD/CD player.
The optional Mark Levinson Reference Surround is a killer 19-speaker system. The 450-watt, 15-channel ML3-16 Processor Power Amplifier covers the 20Hz-20kHz frequency range with less than 0.1% Total Harmonic Distortion (THD) — a stunning achievement in mobile audio.
Put on your favorite play list and it will raise the hair on the back of your neck.
Even the mechanicals of the car seem to take the view that their responsibility is to be un-noticed until necessary. The suspension is good, and if you want there is a sophisticated air-suspension on some models.
The car actually handles quite well for a car of this size, riding comfortably and when cornering seems to stay reasonably flat to the road. The 4.6-liter V8 engine provides 386-hp. running through an eight-speed automatic transmission to the rear wheels, or if you like, all-wheel drive available.
Everything about his car is designed to be unobtrusive and inordinately comforting. One could say it could be the centerpiece of a well-tempered life — at least in traffic.
If you have any questions, comments or ideas, please send them to comment@AutoWritersInk.com.