Thumbs Up: German car luxury, Japanese car price
Thumbs Down: Option packages quickly add up
Buy This Car If: You want luxury and reliability at a reasonable price point
There are things in life that require a bit of experience, or maturity, to appreciate. Caviar is a good example, as is a fine single malt scotch. It isn’t that you can’t develop a liking for either at a younger age, it’s just that you don’t necessarily appreciate them as much as someone who’s been around the block a time or two.
Such is the case with the Lexus LS4360, too. It’s as comfortable and as well-equipped as any luxury car I’ve ever driven, and thanks to the Sport package on my Lexus-provided press fleet car, it handled better than you’d expect it to. Even the car’s styling drew comments from friends and neighbors, many of whom had no idea the car in my driveway was from Lexus.
The Lexus LS460, it seems, is very much the automotive equivalent of caviar. It’s a premium quality product that takes a certain amount of maturity to fully appreciate, perhaps because it isn’t as flashy as a Jaguar XJ or an Audi A8. Like caviar (and unlike the Jag or A8), the Lexus’ starting price makes it an attainable reward to a large number of buyers, so long as they’re willing to make a sacrifice or two to afford the Lexus’ monthly payment.
I’ll admit to having the preconceived notion that the LS460 is the ideal car for Florida retirees. Indeed, that’s the primary demographic you see driving LS460s (at least down here), but that circles back to the whole with-age-comes-wisdom thing: they know that the LS460 gives solid value for the money, and will likely run well into the hundreds of thousands of miles on the odometer. In other words, they’re on to something here.
From the outside, the LS460 is a fairly anonymous luxury sedan, and from a distance, the only thing most casual observers can tell is that it’s not built by the Germans or the British. Add the Sport package, and you’ll get a redesigned front and rear fascia that does indeed make the LS460 seem more aggressive. You’ll also get 19-inch forged alloy wheels, which help with both handling and with the car’s overall look. With the Sport package, the LS460 has a presence that it simply doesn’t command in base trim.
Open the driver’s side door (which, incidentally, moves with the precision of a bank-vault door), and you’ll immediately realize that the LS460 isn’t your ordinary luxury sedan. The leather is exquisite, and on car’s equipped with the Sport package it’s a subtle blend of black and saddle brown, with brown stitching. The front sport seats (also part of the Sport package) don’t give you the lateral support found in German rivals, but let’s be honest here: very few driver’s will ever push the LS460 hard enough to require front seats with additional bolstering.
Rear seat passengers won’t complain about accommodations, either, no matter how long the trip is. There is a phenomenal amount of leg room for rear seat passengers, even on standard wheelbase model LS460s, which makes me wonder why anyone other than an executive car service would order a long wheelbase LS460 L model. As you’d expect from a car in this category, rear seat passengers also benefit from heated seats and a rear sunshade.
While I’m generally not a fan of wood trim in cars, the wood used in the Lexus LS460 is an exception. Sport package cars get matte dark brown ash wood trim and brown leather highlights, and the result is a visual and tactile sensory treat. I’d go so far as to say that only the Jaguar XJ’s interior is as nice, and that car stickers for quite a bit more than the Lexus.
One area where the Lexus beats the Jag, hands down, is its instrumentation. Unlike the Jag’s tech-for-tech’s sake LCD panel, the LS460 uses tried and true analog instrumentation. You get a temp gauge, a tachometer, a finely-detailed LCD information display, a speedometer and fuel gauge; in other words, everything you need, visible in all lighting conditions.
Under the hood of the LS460 lies a 4.6-liter V-8, good for 380 horsepower and 367 lb.-ft. of torque and mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Sport package models get Lexus’ Sport Direct Shift transmission, which was developed for the company’s IS-F sport sedan. This transmission automatically matches revs on the downshift, and executes gear changes with a surprising quickness. The overall engine and transmission package is good enough to get the LS 460 from 0 to 60 in under six seconds, which is surprisingly quick for a car of the LS’ size. While my press-fleet tester was rear-wheel-drive, Lexus also offers the LS460 in an all-wheel-drive variant for those wanting optimum winter grip. In terms of fuel economy, the car’s V-8 is on the thirsty side, returning an EPA estimated 16 mpg city and 24 mpg on the highway.
The big Lexus is surprisingly enjoyable to drive, whether you’re crossing tow of crossing the continent. Drivers can opt for throttle response settings including “snow,” “normal,” and “power,” and the air suspension (again, on Sport package equipped cars) can be set to comfort or sport modes. Even in full-sport settings, the LS460’s ride is a bit on the soft side to call it a sport sedan, so it’s best to think of the car as a luxury sedan with better than average entertainment value in corners.
That’s not to say it isn’t capable of running at high speed, or of cornering with enthusiasm. As long as you’re not trying to keep up with a true sport sedan on a winding mountain road, the LS460 won’t disappoint. It’s ideal for running cross-country at whatever velocity you bank account allows, but it will still manage to keep a smile on you face when driven hard on your favorite winding ribbon of asphalt. The fact that it will do so for thousands (and in some cases, tens of thousands) less than the competition only makes the Lexus LS460 that much more impressive.
Is there a down side to the car? The only one I could find is the price of option packages, which can quickly raise the $65,380 base price (excluding destination charge) of the LS460 to alarming levels. If you want the sport seats, or the Brembo brakes, they come only in the Sport package, which tacks $6,185 on to the car’s price. Want the top-of-the-line Mark Levinson audio system? then you’ll need to spring for the navigation system too, at a package price of $3,045. Still, when you equip German or British rivals comparably, the sticker price adds up to quite a bit more. As long as you don’t over-analyze the price of the Lexus’ option packages, it represents one of the better values in a luxury sedan.
My 2011 Lexus LS460 had a base price of $66,255, including a delivery charge of $875. Options on my press fleet tester included the $2,035 Comfort Package (heated and cooled front seats, power rear sunshade, heated rear seats, headlamp washers, intuitive park assist, power door closers, power trunk), the $3,045 Luxury Value Edition Package (Mark Levinson audio system, voice activated navigation system, Lexus Enform telematics system), the $6,185 Sport Package (Brembo brakes, 19-inch forged alloy wheels, sport-tuned air suspension, sport front seats, paddle shifters, black with saddle leather seating, matte ash burl wood trim), a $64 cargo mat and a $95 trunk mat, for a total sticker price of $77,679.
For comparison, a similarly equipped Jaguar XJ would sticker for $81,400, a comparable Audi A8 (which does include quattro AWD) would list for $96,925 and a similar Mercedes-Benz CLS500 would sticker for $79,940.