In 1989 the world was introduced to the Lexus name with the introduction of the LS. Out of nowhere, little Japanese upstart, Toyota, decided it wanted to take on the Germans in the luxury market. Now 26 years later I hold the keys to the latest and greatest Lexus flagship, the 2015 Lexus LS 460L. This latest LS is the most aggressively styled, largest and most luxurious model yet. With chrome everywhere, giant alloys and a 4.6-liter V8 making 385 horsepower, I was curious to see if this new sedan could live up to its decades old reputation.
The Lexus LS 460L is an intimidating machine from the exterior. The new spindle nose looks great when it’s draped across a shape this large. It arcs in a graceful way that blends every one of the sharp angles up front into smooth lines through the rest of the body. The extra wheelbase and length of the L model makes the car look a little lower and meaner, and it does much to enhance the proportions of the car. It appears as though instead of stretching the base LS, Lexus designed the L model first, then shrunk it slightly to create the base car.
While the sound small, the 18-inch alloys fit perfectly with the rest of the car, and their Liquid Graphite finish nicely compliments the silver paint on our tester.
But the inside is where the LS really impresses. From the moment you open the door, you are well aware of just how much more expensive and exclusive this car is compared to the rest of the Lexus lineup. The leather, interior trim and stitching just look nicer than other Lexus products. The bucket seats are covered in soft, perforated hide, the steering wheel is a collection of leather, metal and wood, and basically every surface in the car is soft to the touch.
Thanks to the optional Executive-Class seating package, the rear seats were basically the first-class thrones from an airliner. The rear passenger seat is the best seat in the car with its built in recliner with ottoman and massage functions. The rear seat also came with a drop down LCD screen, a Blu-Ray player, HDMI input, and dedicated headphones jacks and volume ports for each rear seat. All four seats in the LS 460L are also heated, cooled and have their own climate control zone. If the sun or paparazzi get to be too bothersome, all of the back windows even have their own power sunshade.
The Lexus LS 460L may be more than 17-feet long, but from the driver’s seat this machine does what it can to feel small and nimble. The optional adaptive variable air suspension stiffens up when you put the car in the Sport S+ mode, and that dramatically cuts body roll in the corners. That Sport S+ mode also tightens the steering wheel up, and adjusts throttle mapping and shift points making the whole car feel more alive. It doesn’t have quite the same agility or feel of urgency as something like the Porsche Panamera, but it is actually a good thing to drive.
That 385 horsepower V8 under the nose does its best to hustle the big sedan down the road, and from a dead stop you will beat more than a few lower level sports cars to the next set of lights. Fuel economy leaves a lot to be desired though. The EPA rates the car at 16 city, 24 highway and 19 combined, but I ended up with an average closer to the city side of things. To be fair, when I was being really gentle and trying to see just how high I could push this beast I did see numbers in the mid 30s, but in normal driving that number fell quickly.
If you settle down on the highway and let the Lexus do most of the work it is one of the quietest and most comfortable cars I have had the pleasure of being in. It’s actually so quiet, that you think it’s loud. I was driving and I commented to myself about how there seemed to be an inordinate amount of tire noise in the cabin. I basically whispered this to myself under my breath, but my wife who was sitting in the back heard me. That cabin is just so serene that the slightest noise seems to be deafening in a way.
If there is a downside to the LS 460L, it comes with the price tag. While the base car is only $78,820, after all my optional extras like the fancy rear seats and adjustable suspension, coupled with the upgraded stereo, extra safety systems and all-weather package, my final sticker total was $100,805. That is cheaper than rivals like the Mercedes S-Class and Porsche Panamera, but both of those cars offer sportier handling and more horsepower.
My taste in Lexus cars has been very hit or miss. While I love the GS 450h and GX 460, I felt the CT 200h, ES 350h and the RX 350h were all half-hearted and felt too much like nice Toyotas. The LS though, this car redefines my experience with Lexus and paints the entire company in a softer, more welcoming light. It is powerful when it needs to be, soothing when it needs to be, and it wraps up all that luxury in a taut package with great looks and a price that undercuts many of its competitors. Lexus may build some boring cars, but this is certainly not one of them.
The Lexus LS redefined the luxury market all those years ago, and still today, this Lexus LS redefined what the brand represents for me.