Shopping for a new Lexus LS 460?
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PERFORMANCE | 7 out of 10
acceleration is rather astonishing
the base suspension permits marked body lean
not as fuel-efficient as you'd expect a hybrid to be
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.
Let's talk about the gas-only models first. 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. Automobile cites the "smooth, even, and seemingly inexhaustible power," a sentiment echoed by Cars.com, which notes "acceleration is rather astonishing." Overall, Edmunds feels that acceleration performance is "on par with its peers," and the 2010 Lexus LS 460 can "hit 60 mph in a swift 5.8 seconds." The gearbox has to make lots of choices and gear changes, so it can seem indecisive-but with the paddle controls fitted to Sport models, it's an obedient piece. Cars.com says "gear changes are barely perceptible under most driving conditions," while Motor Trend says the eight-speed transmission offers "near CVT-like performance and fuel economy." 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.
With the hybrid, it's a far more complex story. 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 hits 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. Motor Trend says that the 2010 Lexus LS 600h L "offers an electric-vehicle drive mode for when discreet, engine-free moments arise." Lexus claims a 0-60 mph run of 5.5 seconds. Surprisingly, the LS 600h L is said to deliver better fuel economy than many V-8s, at 20/22 mpg; still, Edmunds warns the hybrid is "not as fuel-efficient as you'd expect a hybrid to be...Fuel economy is 20 mpg city and 22 mpg highway, which is 4 mpg better in the city than the regular LS but 2 mpg worse on the highway." Edmunds also reports, "Lexus claims the 600h L can do zero to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds, but in our performance testing we recorded a time of 6.0 seconds, a tenth of a second slower than the last LS 460 L we tested." The problem? "Together, the heavy batteries and all-wheel-drive system burden the hybrid with more than 700 additional pounds, for a total of 5,049," the New York Times points out. The hybrid powertrain "makes acceleration a wash."
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. "A standard full-time AWD system routes the power to all four wheels," says Autoblog. This is through what Edmunds remarks is "a continuously variable transmission (CVT)" that "has automanual shift control and three modes designed for different driving conditions - normal, power and snow." For more control during sporty driving, the CVT can simulate eight manually shifted gears.
Between Sport editions and Hybrid models, there's some variation in the 2010 Lexus LS' handling and performance. ConsumerGuide contends "the base suspension permits marked body lean, as does the air suspension's Comfort setting." Motor Trend agrees, claiming the new Lexus 2010 "heels over more in the corners than the German sedans do," although they approve of the "natural level of effort" in the steering. 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. In terms of braking, Car and Driver "measured a pitiful 209 feet" of stopping distance from 70 mph, "30 feet longer than an LS430." While Edmunds doesn't mention stopping distances, they find that the brakes "can seem grabby in stop-and-go traffic."
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.
ConsumerGuide says the "air suspension's Sport setting induces some body jiggle." While this source describes steering as "light though direct" and a "turning circle [that] is impressively tight," Edmunds reports "the electric power steering is accurate enough, but it's numb and doesn't offer much feedback." The Los Angeles Times is singularly unimpressed, complaining that "steering has zero feel," and "the brake pedal-even with its electronic stroke compensation la-di-da-has no touch worth mentioning." Kelley Blue Book nonetheless attests that the "air suspension helps the [Lexus 2010] LS 600h L deliver an ultra-smooth ride that should satisfy all but the most critical occupants," though the Los Angeles Times quips that the Lexus 2010 hybrid "goes like crazy, but it drives like the world's most exotic electric shaver."
The 2010 Lexus LS lineup scores points for powertrain smoothness and fuel economy, but handling takes a dive for creamy ride.