Luxury sedan buyers who look only at German or American luxury models shouldn’t overlook the 2014 Lexus LS 460.
The posh sedan makes long-distance highway cruising feel as if you’re in a private jet. It’s plenty fast and luxurious as it swallows open roads, especially with its available air suspension.
The Lexus LS 460 turned the luxury car scene in America upside down when introduced in 1989. Few felt that a Japanese car producer could build such a thing.
Many considered you somewhat of a chump if you bought a Mercedes-Benz—then the most prestigious mass-produced luxury car—because the Lexus LS was priced lower and was far more comfortable for traditional luxury car buyers than a Mercedes. Even Cadillac owners opted for the LS.
The imposing looking LS has kept up with the times. For instance, it was the first car to parallel park itself. It remains one of the world’s top, advanced luxury sedans, despite far more competition than it initially had.
I found while testing the 2014 Lexus LS 460 that it has remained fast and luxurious, with modifications that have made it sportier and more fun to drive. Steering is nicely weighted and handling is sharper. For instance, standard frequency dependent shock absorbers help deliver flatter, road-hugging handling, while also smoothing out rough surfaces.
Other changes for 2014 include a revised automatic headlight on/off system, interior color and trim revisions and the ability to open a trunk lid without the key fob being in range when the vehicle is unlocked.
Safety features include air bags galore, and there’s an array of stability items that help provide driver security. They include “Dynamics Integrated Management,” traction control and anti-lock braking with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist.
Optional is a pre-collision safety system with collision avoidance assist. At lower than 24 miles per hour, this technology can help a driver avoid accidents by automatically causing the LS to fully stop. There’s also an optional blind-spot monitor and a lane-keep assist system.
The ride, even without the optional air suspension, is excellent, and braking is strong, with a linear-action pedal for consistently smooth stops.
Get the air suspension and a driver can work a five-mode console control that allows adjustment to Eco, Comfort, Normal, Sport S and Sport S+. The Normal mode is fine for most driving. (The regular suspension lets a driver tailor the car’s performance by selecting three settings: Normal, Eco or Sport S.) The air suspension has a central, permanently engaged Torsen Limited Slip Center Differential to enhance grip, traction and cornering stability.
Providing the most driving fun, at least for car buffs, is an F Sport model with a unique front fascia, lowered body, special interior with sport seats, paddle shifters, 19-inch forged wheels, sport-tuned air suspension and high-performance Brembo brakes.
While nimble, the LS 460 is too heavy to be a sports sedan, which it isn’t supposed to be, anyway. It weighs from 4,233 pounds to 4,717 pounds. Its standard wheelbase is 116.9-inches, but there’s also a 121.7-inch long wheelbase “L” version with limo-style rear-seat room. The L is 205 inches long, against 200 inches for the standard-length LS.
The LS has standard rear-wheel-drive, but I tested the $75,085 AWD version, which came to $89,765 when loaded with options. It had a silky smooth 360-horsepower V-8, while the standard rear-drive LS has a 386-horsepower V-8. Never mind the missing horses of the AWD version because my test car’s acceleration was strong off the line, and 65-75 passing maneuvers were a breeze. It was still strongly accelerating at 80 mph.
The 0-60 mph. time with the higher-horsepower V-8 is 5.4 seconds, while it’s 5.9 seconds with AWD—impressive for a big, equipment-loaded luxury sedan.
Lexus emphasizes the LS has a standard 4.6-liter V-8 when “several competitors have reverted to standard six-cylinder engines in their flagship sedans.” The hybrid LS gas/electric 438-horsepower LS 600h L has a 5-liter V-8 and also is quite fast and smooth.
The rub here is that the 4.6-liter V-8 calls for premium fuel and has mediocre city fuel economy. The rear-drive LS460 delivers 16 miles per gallon in the city and 24 on highways, while the AWD model I drove provides 16 and 23. The hybrid does considerably better, delivering 19 city and 25 highway, but is breathtakingly expensive, at more than $100,000.
The LS 460 has a responsive, smooth eight-speed automatic transmission with an easily used manual-shift feature, while the hybrid has a smooth CVT automatic.
All doors open wide to reveal an uptown, hush-quiet interior, partly because Lexus uses new body construction techniques to minimize noise and lots of sound-deadening material (even under the hood). Wind noise is held to virtually nothing at high speeds, partly because of a remarkably low 0.26 drag coefficient.
Backlit gauges can be easily read in bright sunlight, and front seats provide fine lateral support. Although I didn’t fool with it much, I had no trouble with the 12.3-inch split-screen high-resolution multi-media display that’s large enough to show a map display on one side and selectable vehicle functions on the other.
The LS 460 has larger heating and cooling areas and quicker heating and cooling times.
The standard Lexus Premium Audio System has, among other things, 10 speakers. If that’s not enough for you, get the optional Mark Levinson 19-speaker system—although it will set you back $1,580.
The front console contains a deep storage bin, but takes up lots of room. Still, there’s plenty of room up front and rear-seat room is impressive, except for a hard center area in my test car. My test car’s backseat armrest was filled with climate control and audio controls, further enhancing car’s “private jet” feel.
Power rear seats with climate control and lumber massage and a butterfly headrest are in the optional Ultra Luxury Package. The available Executive-Class Seating Package contains four-zone climate control, rear air conditioning and a rear seat DVD entertainment system with Blu-ray player.
My test LS had both front and outboard rear seats with an optional “climate comfort” feature. I especially appreciated the optional heated wood-and-leather steering wheel and heated seats during zero-degree Chicago winter days.
The optional power open/close trunk lid is handy if you’ve got your arm’s full of groceries, and the large trunk has a low, wide opening. It opens via hooded hinges, while the hood opens via twin hydraulic struts.
The Lexus LS 460 is respectfully recognized, even when parked near a private jet.
Pros: Posh. Roomy. Fast. Sportier handling. Available all-wheel drive. Hybrid model offered.
Cons: Mediocre fuel economy. Premium fuel required. Space-eating front console.
Bottom Line: Remains one of the world’s most luxurious. sophisticated sedans.
Dan Jedlicka has been an automotive journalist for more than 40 years. To read more of his new and vintage car reviews, visit: www.danjedlicka.com.