2016 Lexus LS 460 Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
June 28, 2016

The 2016 Lexus LS sedans are the flagships of the Lexus lineup, and they're at their best as comfortable, quiet luxury cruisers.

The Lexus LS family has one of the best reputations among luxury cars; it's hard to name a single area in which these big, spacious sedans don't delight those who want top-tier comfort and technology. And for that matter, they have a hard-earned reputation for stellar reliability and longevity, and are the fiscally smart picks over their often more rapidly depreciating German competitors.

Smooth ride quality and a serene, limo-like ultra-luxury interior remain the priorities for the Lexus LS, with driving dynamics more muted than in most other large luxury sedans, even with the addition of the F Sport, the model in the lineup that claims a somewhat sharper driving experience and a sportier look.

The "pièce de résistance" is the LS 600h L, as it eschews the V-12 or twin-turbo V-8s of other luxury sedans in favor of a gas and electric pair that delivers a net of 438 horsepower and 20 mpg combined. Were it more composed and less jittery in ride, and more direct in its steering, it'd be worth considering despite its huge price tag of more than $100,000.

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The LS 460, the extended-wheelbase LS 460 L, and their respective all-wheel-drive counterparts are all the best picks of the lineup. There you get brisk acceleration from the 386-hp V-8, plus an 8-speed automatic transmission that has almost imperceptible shifts. Zero to 60 mph runs take as few as 5.4 seconds. Steering and handling are no strength; a real hustle through a canyon road will take longer and be less enjoyable than in nearly any of its rivals, as its plush ride and bounding motions don't show any zeal for the corners.

The LS 460 F Sport is the sporty model of the lineup, offering a sport-tuned air suspension, variable-ratio steering, Brembo brakes, and special 19-inch forged wheels with summer tires. Altogether it changes the feel of the car, but not so much as to make the Lexus LS a pick over models like the Infiniti Q70 or Jaguar XJ. All LS sedans offer some measure of driver-adjustable attitude; the base car's Eco, Normal, and Sport modes are augmented on air-suspension cars with a Sport+ and Comfort modes that subdivide its personality into more discrete, still obviously comfort-oriented tuning.

Comfort really is the headlining act for the LS sedans. Ride quality is phenomenally good from a comfort perspective, and seats are great—with the front seats (revamped over those offered a few years back) now offering great support and a wide range of adjustment. F Sport models offer more bolstering, which can make them a better pick for the longest road trips. The extended-wheelbase LS 460 L and LS 600h are about 5 inches longer than the standard-length LS 460, and most of that stretch goes to rear leg room. But even short-wheelbase models come with enough space for taller, lankier passengers, though, and well contoured backseats. Finally, you get a large trunk that can fit multiple large suitcases or golf bags.

Long-wheelbase versions feature a standout ottoman-style seating option with built-in massage for both backseat positions, and in top-of-the-line models you get power adjustability. There's also an Executive Class Seating Package to bring it up to a higher standard. Trims are a bit conservative next to those in the latest S-Class and 7-Series, but they remain impressive. The top-notch aniline leather is supple and delicate compared to what you get in other Lexus models.

The 2016 Lexus LS 460 and LS 600h L hybrid offer the very best of parent company Toyota's fits and finishes. Major options also include climate-controlled, massaging rear seats; a Blu-ray entertainment system; and the ottoman-style backseat, fold-down wooden trays, and rear cooler box.

A navigation system is now standard in the LS 460, as are heated and cooled front seats. Lexus' Remote Touch, a mouse-style controller that we're still not crazy about—although Lexus has now added "Enter" and "Back" buttons—drives the infotainment functions, while Entune links the audio system to your smartphone for mobile-app usage, including audio streaming and Facebook updating. 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.

For 2016, the navigation system can go full-screen, and multimedia capabilities have been expanded. Also, LS 460 models can be equipped with run-flat summer tires. And new Lexus Enform Service Connect can help you be more in touch with vehicle maintenance and service needs specific to your car, through an iOS app and dedicated website.

In base form, the Lexus LS 460 with rear-wheel drive is rated by the EPA at 16 mpg city, 24 highway, 19 combined. For standard- or long-wheelbase editions it's the same. The long-wheelbase, hybrid version is rated at 19/23/20 mpg.

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2016 Lexus LS 460

Styling

Styling for the 2016 Lexus LX is conservative yet harmonious.

The Lexus LS lineup is starting to show its age this year, as a new Mercedes-Benz S-Class lineup has been on sale for a couple of years, a sharpened, all-new BMW 7-Series arrives this year, and a finessed Jaguar XJ goes on the market. Be glad Lexus has kept the LS design rather simple and conservative, because that means it ages gracefully.

Two years ago, the LS received its most dramatic recast this generation, with the introduction of the familial spindle-grille design in front. It works as well here as it does in the RX crossover and the RC touring coupe. The hourglass-grille design helps the LS look a bit less anonymous than it had in previous model years. Otherwise, the LS follows Lexus' older "L-finesse" design language, which feels formal by today's standards even if it was a bit more daring and sleek when originally introduced.

Inside, the LS dash, instruments, and trims feel more distinctive and visually appealing than those used in the past in the LS. Dramatic is a good word for the reinvented cockpit; it's essentially a version of the more horizontally oriented dash and cabin that works so well in the GS, yet trimmed to a higher grade, with wood and metallic finishes surrounded by leather. The large, 12.3-inch LCD screen dominates the center of the dash, and with vividly bright gauges featuring their own information display on an almost 6.0-inch screen, it's not at all lacking for visual appeal.

Trims are what nudges this interior above stodgy luxury domain. Aluminum is used for some of the controls, and on the F Sport, it makes up the pedals and other trim. Standard versions wear walnut, maple, or a "shimamoku" processed wood stained dark gray. Hybrids have attractive bamboo trim we'd really like to see everywhere in the lineup, and all versions have handsome leather trim and a new saddle color. F Sport models stand out inside with their black Alcantara headliner and unique leather upholstery.


 

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2016 Lexus LS 460

Performance

The Lexus LS can wear the F Sport badge, but even there it still prioritizes smoothness and quietness.

The 2016 Lexus LS 460 is first and foremost a big, comfortable luxury sedan; take these models even for a short drive, and it's obvious that plushness, quietness, and a generally awe-inspiring level of refinement are the dynamic fundamentals of these sedans.

Yet with this generation of the LS, the addition of an F-Sport trim has allowed Lexus to dial up the suspension to better compete with big German luxury sedans—while at the same time mostly keeping the comfort of the LS.

Fundamentally, there are two available versions of the LS—the LS 460, and the flagship LS 600h L hybrid. The LS 460 comes in either rear- or all-wheel drive and either short- or long-wheelbase guise, but the hybrid is offered exclusively in all-wheel-drive, long-wheelbase form.

From a powertrain standpoint, the LS 600h L delivers, with a 5.0-liter V-8 and hybrid drive system combining to provide V-12-like power. The gasoline V-8 makes 389 horsepower, and the system altogether develops 438 hp. Power is sent to an all-wheel drive system via a "shiftless" variable power-split transmission—which, in this case, can simulate (albeit weakly) eight manually shifted gears. This full-hybrid system can operate for short distances, almost silently, on electric power alone, and there's even an EV button—a feature now more common but when the current LS was introduced never before used on a Toyota hybrid in the U.S. market. That forces the system to go EV-only at low speeds for a short distance. And the hybrid system recharges its nickel-metal-hydride battery packs either via the engine or through regenerative braking.

The LS 600h L moves very quickly, and with almost uncanny quietness. The only time you hear the gasoline engine is when accelerating hard. Acceleration is quick; Lexus claims a 0-60 mph run of 5.5 seconds.

Yet the LS 600h L does have some drawbacks compared to V-12 German flagships. It doesn't feel very sporty at all. Its variable-ratio steering responds mostly with lightness and distance, and although it corners nice and flat, thanks to an adaptive air suspension that affords different settings for those driving systems, the hybrid also rides a little stiffly in most modes, a consequence of its heavier curb weight.

LS 460 models don't offer breakthroughs, but the 4.6-liter V-8 doles out an effortlessly smooth, usually silent 386 hp and 367 lb-ft of torque. And with a curb weight of between 4,200 and 4,900 pounds, the 0-60 mph times are estimated at between 5.4 seconds to 5.9 seconds. It's coupled to an 8-speed automatic transmission with shifts almost undetectable from the cabin, while all-wheel drive is optional (with torque limited to a bit less). That system gets a limited-slip differential with a torque bias of 40/60 that can vary from 30/70 to 50/50 depending on road conditions.

Even in all-wheel drive models, the same effortlessness pervades the LS driving experience. There's a plushness that plays through the steering, which remains a light-touch affair even when Sport mode is engaged. The ride is exceptionally controlled and smooth, even in the air suspension's stiffest mode—probably because the air suspension now shares information between wheels to control ride motions as a whole, not as individual wheels.

The base versions without air suspension offer electronic control of transmission, revised electric power steering, and throttle in Eco, Normal, and Sport modes. Eco slows out the throttle for better mileage, while Sport speeds it up along with steering response for a nonlinear boost across the board. We think cars with the base suspension ride well, but they're a bit too soft for crisp handling response, and tend to have numb, light steering that doesn't encourage much enthusiasm. We've also found the transmission can seem indecisive at times, since it has so many gears from which to choose, but it doesn't demand anything from the driver.

The redesigned suspension, steering, and braking systems in the LS get tauter for more road feel and tighter control in the F Sport. Its air suspension comes with additional Comfort and Sport+ modes, the latter of which tightens the air shocks to something we'd still call only mildly firm, despite the F Sport's 19-inch tires (summer or all-weather). The F Sport gets variable-ratio steering, but no rear-steer setup like the smaller GS, because of its place at the top of the Lexus the lineup. It's just a bit more assertive, with light feel and just a suggestion of feedback. It's just not as composed as it could be.

The F Sport model doesn't manage to be quite as assertive as so many of its European alternatives either—it's softer-sprung than those—but it's more composed than it ever has been before. Expectations are higher for the F Sport, since Lexus has done a good job revamping its GS sport sedan under the same initials. The F Sport teases with a faint hint of the visceral snap that dominates the Jaguar XJ, BMW 7, or the Benz S-Class. The driving experience is no longer exactly effortless, now that the electronics of the air suspension, transmission, steering, and throttle allow some custom tailoring.

There's yet more to set the F Sport apart on paper, less to draw direct comparisons with the German benchmarks. It rides 0.4 inches lower, has Brembo six-piston caliper brakes, and a suspension brace for better rigidity. On rear-drive models, there's even torque vectoring—a Torsen differential between the rear wheels, one that distributes torque to the outside wheel to boost cornering. It's still just mildly more assertive than the base LS, and still less responsive and less crisp than an S-Class or an Audi A8.

The real heresy comes with a sound generator that amplifies some intake noises to enrich the driving experience. Lexus? Adding noise into the equation? From a brand that's championed an effortless driving experience, it's an ironic twist. For all of the past 22 years, Lexus has been about removing those disturbances.

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2016 Lexus LS 460

Comfort & Quality

Long-wheelbase Lexus LS sedans offer limousine-like comfort; keep in mind, though, that 600h hybrids have less trunk space.

You won't find some of the more exotic woods or leathers in the 2016 Lexus LS that you might find in some of its competition from Germany and England. Yet the LS is a traditional kind of sedan, with exceptional fit and finish, plus plenty of comfort and space for passengers throughout.

With a 116.9-inch wheelbase on standard versions, seating room is in ample supply in the Lexus LS, and downright regal in the long-wheelbase versions, which ride on 121.7 inches of wheelbase. It's somewhat narrower inside the LS than in those premium German luxury sedans, and the center console's fairly wide, which gives an impression of less elbow room. Nonetheless, knee and head room in front are impressive.

As a whole, the cabin isn't trimmed with over-the-top materials, but it's dazzling in its obvious attention to finish and fit and detail. 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. We're not in love with Lexus' printed aluminum F Sport trim, though, and we'd love to see the Hybrid's bamboo trim offered on the non-hybrid sedan.

No matter which LS you get, these sedans are tight and hushed from wind and road noise more than nearly any other model on the market. You only slightly hear the engine when accelerating. Lexus has gone to extra lengths this year to mute the cabin even more than in the past—and then added some ambient exhaust noise back into the cabin on F Sport models.

In front, the LS received redesigned seats a couple of years ago, and they're great, with lots of bolstering where needed, and heating and ventilation standard. Multi-adjustable 16 ways for the driver and 12 ways for the passenger, the seats have lumbar support and three-position memory and a firmer feel that's still more plush than the stiffer cushions of a big BMW or Mercedes-Benz. They also have the longest bottom cushions in recent memory, extendable with power assistance. Even the seatbelts have power height adjusters.

In back, the big Lexus does its best impression of the top-drawer German megabuck four-doors, especially in the L long-wheelbase models. Both body styles give tall passengers plenty of head room, and the more tidy proportions of the standard car don't cramp the style. Passengers won't have any issues with space or comfort. That said, the long-wheelbase cars truly are impressive: their 5 extra inches of wheelbase give them limousine-like leg room, and available seating options that omit the middle seat and include massaging functions and ottoman-style footrests, as well as power adjustment for the backrest, up the decadence a few notches. The back seats can be heated and cooled, and fitted with lumbar adjustment; the rear glass can be covered with sunshades.

Trunk space is good at 18 cubic feet, and hybrids now have 10.1 cubic feet of trunk space thanks to a recent repackaging of their batteries. Interior storage is also dandy: the glove box is pretty slim, but the center console is deep and has an elegantly damped lid that slides and pivots backward. The cool box offered on four-seat models is deep enough for most beverages.

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 glove box lid that used to be damped with effortless feel now feels light and insubstantial.

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2016 Lexus LS 460

Safety

You won't find much crash-test information here, but the LS is an active-safety flagship.

The 2016 Lexus LS has a wide range of passive and active safety features. That, combined with its excellent reputation for real-world safety should be assuring, even though there's a lack of crash-test results from either of the U.S. agencies.

Among the safety options are blind-spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alerts, a lane-keeping assist that nudges the car back into its lane when it senses a drift off course; and a new automatic emergency braking system with stereo cameras that can detect obstacles in the road ahead, with the assistance of infrared vision. With the optional system, the Lexus LS can bring itself to a complete stop if it detects trouble at speeds of up to 24 mph.

Adaptive cruise control and automatic high-beam headlamps are available once more. Lexus now also offers an Enform and Safety Connect system on subscription basis; the telematic systems notify Lexus if the vehicle is involved in an accident and summon emergency personnel automatically.

The Lexus LS also 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 and a safety aid, but to others it's a gimmick.

The feds haven't tested the LS for crash safety, likely due to the car's small volume. According to the IIHS, the LS manages "Good" rankings on moderate overlap front and head restraint tests.

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2016 Lexus LS 460

Features

Wide-screen back-seat entertainment, awesome sound systems, and even snack trays make this a car to equip as much for passengers as the driver.

Lexus aims high with the LS lineup, and packs it with some of the best comfort and plush luxury features, as well as excellent technology items and some bonus features that you might expect to see in vehicles that come with a chauffeur.

The Lexus LS is an easy car for a long-term commitment—filled with all of the new technologies in a big, comfortable, reliable sedan. There are four trims available on the LS–LS 460, LS 460L, LS 460 F Sport, and LS 600h L–with all-wheel drive optional on most models. Power mirrors, locks, windows and seats are standard across the board, as are keyless ignition, auto climate control, leather and sunroof.

You also get Bluetooth and USB connectivity, an AM/FM/CD/DVD player, satellite and HD radio, heated and ventilated front seats, navigation, and a 12.3-inch wide center-mounted display.

Also standard is Lexus' Remote Touch system, a new addition to the sedan. It uses a mouse-style controller to operate audio, climate, navigation, and phone functions, and to tie into the corporate infotainment system, Entune. The system links smartphones to the LS' infotainment system, so that drivers can operate its functions, including a handful of apps, via Remote Touch. Included there is streaming audio from Pandora; Yelp!; Facebook; MovieTickets.com; OpenTable; even Bing for local searches.

Last year the Lexus LS was upgraded with Siri Eyes Free mode, plus Slacker radio and a new version of iHeart Radio. For 2016, the navigation system can go full-screen, and multimedia capabilities have been expanded. Also, LS 460 models can be equipped with run-flat summer tires. A new telematics system can notify owners of upcoming service needs through an iOS app and dedicated website.

On the options list are features such as power rear seats with climate control; an ottoman for rear seats that includes massaging functions for the seats, a control panel for the seats and entertainment system, a retractable table, and a refrigerated cooler box; rear-seat entertainment with a Blu-ray DVD player, an SD card slot, and a 9.0-inch LCD screen; and a 19-speaker Mark Levinson sound system with 450 watts of power and an 8 GB hard drive for music storage. An Executive Class seating package on long-wheelbase cars turns the five-seat LS into a truly regal four-seater.

On all-wheel-drive models, Lexus adds a standard heated steering wheel and a heating system that warms the front passenger area more quickly; a windshield de-icer and headlight washers also are standard.

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2016 Lexus LS 460

Fuel Economy

The LS 600h L versions of this model line are a bit disappointing in real-world mileage figures.

Even in LS 600h L hybrid guise, the 2016 Lexus LS family can be a bit disappointing with respect to fuel economy.

The LS 600h L hybrid earns a rating of 19 mpg city, 23 highway, 20 combined. While those are solid ratings for this class, from our experience these are figures that are tough to replicate in real-world driving. You do get some help, with the gauge cluster showing hybrid-driving modes in the place of the tachometer—except when Sport mode is selected.

In base form, the Lexus LS 460 with rear-wheel drive is rated by the EPA at 16/24/19 mpg. For standard- or long-wheelbase editions it's the same. And here, in either case, the EPA figures are much closer to what we've seen in actual driving—though we should add that all-wheel drive drops the highway and combined ratings by 1 mpg.

It's clear that parent-company Toyota has its eyes set on alternative powertrain options, and it's likely that the next-generation LS receives some kind of treatment. Rumors suggest an all-electric, or hydrogen-powered version of the Lexus LS is coming, although the former is more likely due to infrastructure limitations on the latter.

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8.6
Overall
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Styling 7.0
Performance 8.0
Comfort & Quality 9.0
Safety 9.0
Features 10.0
Fuel Economy 6.0
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