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).
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, and downshifts for foot-to-the-floor passes come quick. 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.
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 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.
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. Editors have also driven the 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.