The LS series has been the flagship sedan in Lexus' lineup since the brand's launch in 1989. The entry point of the range, the LS 460, is a comfortable cruiser that delivers a smooth ride, ample interior space and all the luxury trimmings that one could desire. The range-topping LS 600h L is an all-wheel drive hybrid that places as much of an emphasis on performance as it does on fuel economy.
The LS carries on unchanged for the latest model year. A brand new model will arrive in time for the 2018 model year.
While previous models have been characterized by conservative and inconspicuous styling, the latest LS stands out thanks to an oversized version of Lexus' "spindle" corporate grille that flows back into deep creases in the hood. Lexus also reworked the rear end as part of the recent update, adding a strip of chrome runs over the license-plate area and connects the revised taillights. The sides of the car carry over unchanged, emphasizing that the new fifth-generation car is more of an update of the fourth-gen model than an all-new vehicle.
Barely anything was left untouched inside, where a completely new dashboard integrates an enormous 12.3-inch navigation/multi-information LCD screen. Infotainment functions are controlled through the latest version of Lexus' Remote Touch system. It allows users to adjust the temperature of the cabin, the steering wheel and the seats, to change the radio station or to connect their phone to the car by simply using a controller that is mounted on the center console.
Passenger room is plentiful, especially for the rear occupants, and ultra-high-quality leather and wood is employed throughout the cabin. An example of the craftsmanship incorporated into the interior is the available Shimamoku striped wood, which is created through the painstaking layering of angle-cut dark and light shaded wood veneers in a unique process which involves 67 manufacturing steps over the course of 38 days.
For those seeking an even roomier cabin, a long-wheel-base LS 460 L model adds 4.8 inches to the wheelbase and overall length, resulting in significantly increased rear passenger space.
The LS offers a choice of two suspension systems: a standard coil-spring setup in addition to an available air suspension. Both deliver the supremely comfortable ride that has been an LS hallmark since the model's introduction. A new feature for the latest model year is a Drive Mode Select system that allows the driver to tailor the suspension settings, steering effort and throttle response by choosing from several pre-set modes: coil-spring models feature eco, normal, and sport modes, while air-suspension models add sport-plus and comfort modes.
Under the Hood
The LS 460 is powered by a smooth 4.6-liter V8 mated to the world's first eight-speed automatic. The engine produces 386 horsepower at 6,400 rpm and 367 lb-ft of torque at 4,100 rpm in rear-wheel-drive form, although opting for the all-wheel drive variant drops those figures to 360 horsepower and 344 lb-ft of torque.
Fuel economy is rated at 16 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway for the RWD model, while the AWD variant returns 16/23 mpg.
Available only in long-wheelbase form, the more expensive LS 600h L uniquely combines a 5.0-liter V8 gasoline engine with two powerful electric motors and a large-capacity battery pack in the trunk. Peak combined output is a decidedly un-hybrid-like 438 horsepower, enough to propel the big sedan from zero-to-60 mph in just 5.5 seconds.
Despite its performance credentials, the LS 600h L is capable of returning 20 mpg in the city and 23 mpg on the highway. It also meets the Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicle II (SULEV II) certification, emitting nearly 70-percent fewer smog-forming emissions than the average new car.
Standard and Optional Features
The LS 460 comes generously equipped with leather upholstery, genuine wood trim, a navigation system, a 10-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo with HD radio and USB/AUX input jacks, Bluetooth connectivity, power door closers, dual-zone automatic climate control and 18-inch wheels.
Notably, the nav system incorporates Lexus' Enform infotainment system, which provides access to Bing search, iHeartRadio, MovieTickets.com, OpenTable, Pandora, Yelp and Facebook Places through compatible smart phones.
Highlights from the 460's list of stand-alone options include a heated steering wheel, adaptive cruise control, 19-inch wheels and a 19-speaker, 450-watt Mark Levinson sound system.
The range-topping LS 600h packs heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel, a 19-speaker, 450-watt Mark Levinson sound system with six-disc CD changer and an advanced Parking Guidance System that will parallel park or back the car into a spot.
Buyers can order Apple's Siri Eyes Free system, which uses the LS' steering wheel-mounted controls to access the Siri function of any iPhone equipped with iOS 6. Once linked, drivers can use voice commands to perform actions like make phone calls, play songs from iTunes, listen to and compose text messages and add appointments to their calendars.
Executive-Class Seating Package
The special order only Executive-Class Seating Package is designed to absolutely coddle the rear seat passengers. The setup replaces the middle rear seat with a fixed console and adds a throne of a right seat that reclines, features a multi-function massager, is heated and ventilated and also offers a leg rest. Also included is a DVD rear seat entertainment system with dual nine-inch screens, four-zone automatic climate control, a rear-seat wood-trimmed table and a rear-seat cool box for storing beverages (preferably champagne).
F Sport Package
Those looking to add a bit more edginess to the LS 460 can opt for the F-Sport Package, which brings a number of aesthetic and performance upgrades. Exterior changes include a mesh-like grille, an aggressive front bumper and 19-inch alloy wheels. Inside, the F Sport benefits from unique sport seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and real aluminum trim. The transmission is controlled by shift paddles mounted behind the steering wheel.
Helping make the handling a bit more dynamic is a sport-tuned air suspension that has been lowered by about 0.4 inches compared to regular LS models. Rear-wheel drive versions of the LS 460 F-Sport come with a limited slip differential, a setup that is not available on the all-wheel drive model. All versions of the F-Sport come with six-piston brake calipers made by Brembo.
Both versions of the LS come standard with dual front, side, knee and side curtain airbags in addition to traction and stability control systems, electronic brake force distribution and brake assist. Rear side airbags are available as an option.
Also optional is a Pre-Collision Safety system with Collision Avoidance Assist, which is designed to assist the driver in avoiding or mitigating collisions with vehicles and pedestrians under a wide range of city and highway speeds. At speeds lower than 24 mph, this technology can help the LS to avoid accidents by automatically bringing the LS to a full stop.
Other available safety items include Lane-Keep Assist and Blind Spot Monitoring systems.
Though the LS 460 is aimed at more expensive full-size luxury sedans like the BMW 7 Series, Mercedes-Benz S-Class and Jaguar XJ, it also faces competition at the lower end of the price spectrum from the Hyundai Equus.