- Exquisite, virtually silent cabin
- Concert-hall-quality sound
- Useful technology-self-parking!
- Exceptional ride quality
- Luxury-liner backseat (L edition)
- Lively hybrid powertrain
- Unpretentious, unremarkable styling
- Shifty eight-speed automatic transmission
- Wide console restricts front-seat space
- Sport edition tuned to rivals' base settings
The 2010 Lexus LS range spans Sport and Hybrid models, but consistently delivers stellar ride and assembly quality-with driving pleasure placed on hold.
The 2010 Lexus LS range bristles with gas or hybrid powertrain technology, exudes world-class fit and finish, and keeps driving dynamics well-muted as it hits mid-life. New in 2007, the current LS is among the quietest sedans you can experience, and in either V-8 or V-8 hybrid form, it's at least as swift as the competition's standard-issue four-doors. And while it lacks the opulent touches of a Jaguar or an Audi, the long-wheelbase LS' backseat takes a backseat to none. Prices start at $65,000 and soar to $109,000 for the hybrid model. The competition: stalwarts like the BMW 7-Series, Mercedes-Benz S-Class, Audi A8, and Jaguar XJ.
The 2010 Lexus LS lineup is quite conservatively styled inside and out, and that's a mixed bag depending on what buyers expect. However, on a positive note, the simple, organic, and elegant L-finesse design language in the LS will likely age well, as it's not at all gimmicky. In front, the LS 460 short- and long-wheelbase models get a revised grille, bumper, and headlamps; in back, there are revised taillamps and new exhaust diffusers. A new LS 460 Sport wears an aero body kit that's available without the Sport's suspension and handling upgrades. As for the LS 600h L, it's distinguished from the nonhybrid cars by a different grille and blue-tinted taillights-there's little, really, to set it apart from less-expensive versions, especially from a distance. The Lexus LS interior is styled with less reverence to tradition than any BMW or Mercedes (and formerly, any Jaguar), but the cabin is opulent in its own way, with wood and leather mated perfectly to tightly grained, well-matched plastics. An LCD screen dominates the center console, while the driver faces especially clearly designed gauges. The LS 460 Sport Package adds to this a distinctive black and saddle leather interior, with sport seats and steering wheel, as well as a pair of shift paddles fitted behind the steering-wheel rim.
In either body style, Lexus LS drivers get a choice of a mighty V-8 engine or a more powerful, more fuel-efficient V-8 hybrid drivetrain. The 4.6-liter V-8 produces 380 horsepower and 367 pound-feet of peak torque in rear-drive cars, and 357 hp and 344 lb-ft of torque in all-wheel-drive models. Lexus claims a 0-60 mph time of 5.4 seconds for the rear-drive edition (it's 5.9 seconds for AWD), and it's almost impossible to believe-because the LS leaps to its feet without the usual snarl and rush that comes from underhood. It's a silent wave of torque that crests in a bit of muted growl, each peak sheared off as the LS swaps into the next higher gear in its eight-speed transmission. The gearbox has to make lots of choices and lots of gear changes, so it can seem indecisive-but with the paddle controls fitted to Sport models, it's an obedient piece. Fuel economy is rated at 16/24 mpg (16/23 mpg, AWD). A limited-slip differential in AWD models has a torque bias of 40:60 and can vary from 30:70 to 50:50 depending on road conditions-which means power is constantly shifting to wheels with more traction.
The 2010 Lexus LS 600h L teams a 5.0-liter V-8 engine and a hybrid drive system for V-12-like power. The gasoline V-8 makes 389 horsepower on its own, but altogether the system achieves 438 horsepower. Altogether, the LS 600h L moves quickly, with an almost eerie quiet; the only time you hear the gasoline engine is when accelerating hard. Lexus claims a 0-60 mph run of 5.5 seconds. Surprisingly, the LS 600h delivers better fuel economy than many V-8s, at 20/22 mpg. The hybrid system dispatches its power through a full-time all-wheel-drive system and a "shiftless" continuously variable transmission (CVT). For more control during sporty driving, the CVT can simulate eight manually shifted gears. The full-hybrid system can operate for short distances, almost silently, on electric power alone. There's even an EV button-a feature never before used on a Toyota hybrid in the U.S. market-that forces the system to use only electric power for several minutes. It recharges its nickel-metal-hydride battery packs either via the engine or through a regenerative braking system.
Between Sport editions and Hybrid models, there's some variation in the 2010 Lexus LS' handling and performance. TheCarConnection.com's editors have driven the new Sport edition, and though it's shod with big low-profile tires and a firmer adjustable suspension, it's still tuned for plushness-yet less crisp and responsive than a stock Mercedes-Benz S-Class. The ride does become tauter but doesn't significantly degrade, and steering remains a light-touch affair. Long-wheelbase cars have exceptionally controlled, smooth rides even in the air suspension's stiffest mode. The handling of the 2010 Lexus LS 600h L doesn't feel sporty but remains buttoned-down, smooth, and sedate. However, it steers well and corners surprisingly flat, thanks to the three modes-Comfort, Power, and Sport-that afford different ranges of response for the throttle, steering, and suspension.
In all versions, the 2010 Lexus LS has amply large, comfortable front seats, supple and roomy backseats, and a large trunk. The front seats are not as supportive as they could be (Sport versions have somewhat more bolstering), but a very wide center console makes the area feel unexpectedly narrow. In back, there's adequate room even for tall and lanky adults in short-wheelbase cars; the L editions afford limousine-like space in the backseat area, thanks to five inches of added length versus the standard LS 460. If seating space doesn't impress, consider the ottoman-style seating option with built-in massage features. Trunk space and interior storage are fairly large, and hybrids have 2 cubic feet more space thanks to a recent repackaging of their batteries. As for quality, few vehicles at any price point are assembled with the Lexus LS' tight panel gaps, though other luxury four-doors offer far richer-looking materials. Some of the LS switchgear mimics that used in much cheaper Lexus models, but the same can be true of vehicles from Mercedes, BMW, Jaguar, and Audi, too.
The LS 600h L has not yet been crash-tested, but the insurance industry rated the LS 460 "good" for frontal impact though only "marginal" in the seat-based rear-impact test. Standard features include front side airbags, dual front knee bags, full-length side-curtain bags, and active headrests. Rear-seat side airbags are available. Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM), an advanced version of electronic stability control, is standard, and it's integrated with traction control and anti-lock brakes. A Pre-Collision System (PCS) comes with the available laser cruise control and prepares vehicle safety systems if it anticipates a collision. The 2010 Lexus LS features a self-parking system that steers the vehicle into a parallel or row parking spot as the driver backs up; some will find it helpful, but to others it's a gimmick. Lexus now offers an Enform and Safety Connect system on a subscription basis; the telematic systems notify Lexus if the vehicle is involved in an accident and summon emergency personnel automatically.
An amazing list of standard features fills the window sticker of every 2010 Lexus LS. There's leather upholstery and wood trim; Bluetooth and iPod connectivity; an AM/FM/XM/six-CD audio system; steering-wheel audio controls; and automatic climate control. Long-wheelbase cars add rear climate control. The LS 600h L hybrid edition appends virtually everything that can be ordered optionally on the LS 460, including a navigation system with real-time traffic and dynamic rerouting; heated rear seats; a backup camera; ventilated seats; a DVD entertainment system; and the hybrid-only ottoman-style backseat, fold-down wooden trays, and rear cooler box. The standout feature available on the LS 460 and standard on the LS 600h L is a Mark Levinson audio system with 19 speakers, 19 audio channels, 450 watts of power, and 8GB of hard-drive space for music.