Theoretically speaking, the Lexus LS should be the most competent car in its class because it practically has all the necessary ingredients to please buyers needing a highly comfortable car. Virtues of comfort, refinement and driving ease have been in all generations of the LS ever since it was launched in 1989.
Probably the only thing it crucially lacked, especially over the Mercedes-Benz S-class, was image. However, this aspect is highly abstract, so we'll refrain from making any assessment of how good the LS will be to your ego.
The latest generation LS continues to underscore its position in the luxury car market with those aforementioned attributes, and what needs adding is that Lexus has further refined them to ensure that its loyal customers remain happy as ever.
While the exterior design is a careful evolution of the third-gen model, the new Lexus looks better now with the spindle-like grille and L-shaped signatures splashed around the car.
While this is certainly going to depend on tastes, the accentuated chrome on the front, rear and side should appeal to Asian customers. In fact, it helps spruce up the LS's appeal on the skin. The interior fascia has also been redesigned and comes closer in appearance to that of the smaller GS, launched in all-new form last year.
In the LS, everything is generally easy to use and more straight-forward than in rival models. However, it's not ergonomically sound because some switches aren't in their ideal locations or are obscured by the steering wheel.
Speaking of the steering, those remote switches to operate various functions seem to suit Toyotas better. And because they're in front of you the whole time (if you're driving, of course), you don't really feel impressed by quality associated with a 10 million baht car in spite of good materials used in other parts of the cabin.
Redesigned fascia looks like the GS’s; steering-mounted switches feel too down-market.
But the best thing in the LS _ and over its competition, as well _ are the rear quarters. The adjustable seats _ in long wheelbase form as tested here _ are highly comfortable.
There're a myriad of functions for chauffeur-driven owners to play with. But there's clearly only one boss in the LS: the right rear seat has no adjustable leg support and the sophisticated massage function of the left seat.
That's probably why Lexus fitted only one DVD screen in the rear, unlike the two separate displays mounted behind the front seats that can be found in the S-class and BMW 7-series.
But it must be noted that the position of the single display (between the front seats) in the LS provides for a more natural viewing position and helps make the overall ambience more relaxing.
That said, the LS arguably has the best living room for owners needing to only be driven. It's the highlight of the car and probably indicates the LS is the least fun car to drive in its class, which it is.
At least the LS has improved driving manners. While the chassis (and wheelbase length) is the same as before, Lexus has made the LS slightly sharper to drive. The suspension doesn't feel excessively soft as before and the steering now has sharper turn-in. You can make the chassis beefier at high speeds by engaging the driving mode into sport-plus.
But whichever of the four modes you choose to engage the car in, the driving experience still remains comfort-orientated _ which isn't wrong because it's a luxury flagship we're talking about here. If you happen to be one of those owners who occasionally likes to take the wheel and wants some driving appeal, then the LS won't suffice because the steering still feels too artificial and detached from the road. Here comes the downside of the LS.
True, the carried-over 380hp V8 engine and eight-speed automatic transmission for the LS460 still provide ample performance and refinement.
This is where owners will feel most delighted.
But anybody who has already experienced the S500 with its new bi-turbo motor will find the LS460 lagging behind not only in performance but economy terms. The Merc feels a lot quicker in a straight line and is capable of a double-digit fuel consumption figure.
As well, the decision by Lexus to offer the LS with the same engine range as before _ that is, nothing smaller than this V8 _ means that it can't convert to its side owners of the 7 million baht S300L and 730iL.
Don't' even mention the brilliant diesel versions of the S350 CDI and 730d which are also some 4 million baht cheaper than the LS460 and the obvious choices for buyers needing to put in some logic into their purchasing decisions.
What the LS460 must be content in doing is attracting the same loyal customers it has always been doing. It's no game-changer at all. If you are willing to part with 11-12 million for the LS460L, fork out another 2 million and go for the hybrid-powered LS600hL which is truly a more deserving flagship Lexus.
The LS600h tech-feast also won't turn the tables when it comes to the luxury car game, but its unrivalled position should make you "feel better" than in the LS460L.
AT A GLANCE
Styling .................................. 7/10
Despite its evolutionary appearance, the LS still looks distinctive against its competitors and has chrome accents to appeal to Asian customers.
Performance and economy ...... 7/10
The V8 and eight-speed auto has been carried over unchanged, meaning ample performance and economy, but it is not outstanding.
Handling and ride ................... 8/10
While the overall focus remains rightly on comfort, the LS now has a sharper steering and chassis. Even so, it isn't a class act.
Practicality ........................... 8/10
It can take five people in all, but the true concept of the LS is just the driver and owner. In this respect, the LS has it all.
Safety kit ............................... 9/10
The amount of passive safety features is unrivalled in-class, while those relating to active safety are nearly as commendable.
VERDICT ............................... 7/10
With no engines smaller and prices lesser than the V8, the LS460 remains the choice for loyal customers needing an utterly comfortable limo. But if you need to spend as much as 11 million baht, then you might as well just go for the hybrid-powered LS600h.
A myriad of functions are available for owners to fiddle with. The suspension doesn’t feel excessively soft as before and the steering now has sharper turn-in. OR TRY THESE
A myriad of functions are available for owners to fiddle with.
The suspension doesn’t feel excessively soft as before and the steering now has sharper turn-in.
OR TRY THESE
About the author
- Writer: Richard Leu
Position: Motoring news Editor