- Exquisite, hushed cabin
- Strong acceleration
- Exceptional ride quality
- Ultra-luxury backseat (L models)
- Concert-hall-quality sound
- Dull, almost anonymous exterior
- Indecisive transmission
- Front seats could use more support
- Sport edition tuned to rivals' base settings
The 2011 Lexus LS sedans deliver a luxury-liner ride and hushed interior, with some options that are unmatched by all but ultra-luxury brands, but they sorely lack driving involvement.
The 2011 Lexus LS sedans are packed with world-class luxury and technology features, but they keep driving dynamics well-muted. Unlike some super-sedan stalwarts from Germany, the top model of the LS, the LS 600h L, offers the combination of a V-8 and hybrid technology—rather than a V-12—to provide top-tier powertrain performance and a limo-like ultra-luxury interior with fuel economy numbers in the 20s.
Whether you get the standard-length LS 460, the extended-wheelbase LS 460 L, or the hybrid LS 600h L flagship, you'll find that the LS accelerates briskly but in an almost uncanny silence. The Lexus LS 460 lineup includes a 380-horsepower, 4.6-liter V-8 and eight-speed automatic transmission, with either rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive (where the engine makes 357 hp and less torque). The powertrain is certainly responsive, but there's also a creamy isolation to the entire experience—with only the slightest muted growl at the crest of each gear. Lexus claims a 0-60 mph time of 5.4 seconds for the rear-drive edition (it's 5.9 seconds for AWD).
In the LS 600h L, Lexus 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. 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 LS 600h L also moves very quickly, and with the same almost-uncanny quiet; the only time you hear the gasoline engine is when accelerating hard. Acceleration is just as quick—Lexus claims a 0-60 mph run of 5.5 seconds—but the LS 600h L delivers an EPA-rated 20 mpg city, 22 highway.
Cars with the base suspension ride well but are a bit too soft for crisp handling response, and numb, light steering don't encourage enthusiasm. The 2011 Lexus LS 600h L doesn't feel sporty either, but with its adaptive suspension 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.
Across the line, large, comfortable front seats, supple and roomy backseats, and a large trunk make the 2011 Lexus LS a very compelling package for those who want to carry around important adults in the backseat—or those who want long-haul comfort for more than just kids back there. While the front seats are not as supportive as they could be in the corners (Sport versions have somewhat more bolstering), they're soft and good for highway cruising. 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. And with one of several rear seating options, at least one of the backseat positions is power-adjustable and has massage functions. On top of it all, trims remain impressive even when matched up with those in top Mercedes and BMW flagships, and the top-notch aniline leather is supple and delicate compared to what you get in other Lexus models.
Options include a navigation system with real-time traffic and dynamic rerouting; heated and cooled 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. If you're more often chauffeured, add the Executive Class Seating Package, and you'll practically have a Rolls-Royce-caliber space back there.
ipod and Bluetooth connectivity are standard on all LS models, along with Bluetooth audio streaming. The standout entertainment 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.