- Exquisite, hushed cabin
- Strong (and near-silent) acceleration
- Exceptional ride quality
- Ultra-luxury backseat (L models)
- Top-notch sound system (Mark Levinson)
- Conservative, almost dull styling
- Front seats could use more support
- Indecisive transmission (LS 460)
The 2012 Lexus LS sedans combine executive-class interior appointments and long-haul comfort with noteworthy tech features; but driving enjoyment is missing.
The Lexus LS 460 and its hybrid version, the LS 600h L, are the flagship models of the Lexus lineup, offering some of the most advanced technology features in any vehicle, along with lavish cabin appointments. Smooth ride quality and a serene, limo-like ultra-luxury interior is the priority, with driving dynamics more muted than those of some other large luxury sedans. The pièce de résistance, the LS 600h L, avoids the big V-12 engines of other top-of-the-line luxury flagships, instead offers the combination of a V-8 and hybrid technology, to bring gas mileage numbers well into the 20s, along with stronger performance.
The standard-length LS 460, the extended-wheelbase LS 460 L, and the hybrid LS 600h L flagship all have a rather comparable driving experience. Brisk acceleration, with a seamless wave of torque, and barely a hint of engine noise make passing and cruising rather effortless, but handling is no forte. 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), and can get to 60 mph in just 5.4 seconds.
In the LS 600h L, Lexus teams a 5.0-liter V-8 engine and a hybrid drive system for V-12-like power, with the combination achieving 438 horsepower. The hybrid system dispatches its power through a full-time all-wheel-drive system and a "shiftless" continuously variable transmission (CVT), which can simulate eight manually shifted gears when needed. From inside, the LS 600h L is also quiet, and just as quick, with its 20 mpg city, 22 highway EPA ratings considerably better.
Most of the LS models feels oriented more toward the toward driving experience than the riding experience. The only exception are cars equipped with a special Sport Package, including a sport-tuned air suspension, Brembo brakes, and special 19-inch forged wheels. As such, the LS 460 models get some added body control and somewhat crisper response; but even then, the numb, light steering throughout the lineup puts the damper on any enthusiasm. The Sport Package setup and the standard setup in the LS 600h include Comfort, Power, and Sport modes that give the throttle, steering, and suspension a different calibration.
The extended-wheelbase LS 460 L and LS 600h are about five inches longer than the standard-length LS 460, and most of that stretch goes to rear legroom. Even short-wheelbase models come with enough space for taller, lankier passengers, though, and across the line, large, comfortable front seats, well contoured backseats, and a large trunk make these sedans great choices for those with important guests to transport—or just impressive long-haul comfort. The front seats aren't quite as supportive as they could be in the corners (Sport versions have somewhat more bolstering), but they're great for long trips.
In extended versions, there's a standout ottoman-style seating option with built-in massage features, both of the backseat positions, in top-of-the-line models, get power adjustability. 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. If you're more often chauffeured, add the Executive Class Seating Package, and you'll practically have a Rolls-Royce-caliber space back there.
Bluetooth and iPod connectivity are standard on all LS models, along with Bluetooth audio streaming. A Mark Levinson entertainment system is available on the LS 460 and standard on the LS 600h L, offering 19 speakers, 19 audio channels, 450 watts of power, and 8GB of hard-drive space for music. Other 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 ottoman-style backseat, fold-down wooden trays, and rear cooler box.