2011 Lexus LS 460 Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
February 18, 2011

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.

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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.

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2011 Lexus LS 460

Styling

Short-wheelbase versions of the Lexus LS 460 are surprisingly anonymous; long-wheelbase LS 460 L and LS 600h L models command the presence they deserve, but they're still bland.

The 2011 Lexus LS lineup has rather conservative styling that won't look dated as soon as some rival luxury flagships, but it doesn't have their curb appeal either. On the positive side, the simple, organic, and elegant L-finesse design language in the LS fits in as well at the country club as it does curbside at a premiere or party, while it's not at all gimmicky. Long-wheelbase versions look the part of a flagship sedan much more than the short-wheelbase LS, which from a distance (from the outside only, of course) could be mistaken for an ES 350.

The LS received a slight touch-up a couple of years ago, and the model that wore the best of the new look is the LS 460 Sport, featuring a subtle body kit that went along with suspension and handling upgrades, and distinctive forged alloy wheels. As for the LS 600h L, it's distinguished from the nonhybrid cars by a different grille and blue-tinted taillights-there's little, really, to set it apart from less-expensive versions, especially from a distance.

The Lexus LS interior is styled with less reverence to tradition than any BMW or Mercedes (and formerly, any Jaguar); it's smooth and opulent in its own way, with wood and leather mated perfectly to tightly grained, well-matched plastics. An LCD screen dominates the center console, while the driver faces especially clearly designed gauges. Inside, the LS 460 Sport Package adds a distinctive black and saddle leather interior, with sport seats and steering wheel, as well as a pair of shift paddles fitted behind the steering-wheel rim.

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8

2011 Lexus LS 460

Performance

All the 2011 Lexus LS models offer strong acceleration and decent overall performance, albeit with a very detached driving experience.

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).

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.

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9

2011 Lexus LS 460

Comfort & Quality

Those seeking the ultimate in quietness, comfort, and build quality would do well to check out the Lexus LS.

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.

Trunk space and interior storage are fairly large, and hybrids have 2 cubic feet more space thanks to a recent repackaging of their batteries. As for quality, 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 cabin of the LS models, no matter which one you get, is tight and hushed from wind and road noise more than nearly any other model. You only slightly hear the engine when accelerating.

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9

2011 Lexus LS 460

Safety

The 2011 Lexus LS sedans offer a lot of safety features and promise top-notch protection.

The 2011 Lexus LS 460 and LS 600h models are large, stoutly built luxury cars, with relatively low centers of mass (lower chance of rollover) and lots of safety equipment. Ask most safety experts and that's pretty much the formula for better survival odds in a bad crash; but there aren't a lot of crash-test results out there to verify it.

NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), the agency of the federal government that rates vehicles for safety, hasn't at all crash-tested the Lexus LS—and it probably won't, as the LS is a relatively low-volume vehicle—but the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) has awarded the LS sedans a "good" rating for their front-impact protection systems.

Lexus outfits its top-end luxury sedan with a wealth of standard and optional safety features. On all LS sedans, standard features include front side airbags, dual front knee bags, full-length side-curtain bags, and active headrests. Rear-seat side airbags are available. Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM), an advanced version of electronic stability control, is standard, and it's integrated with traction control and anti-lock brakes.

Lexus now 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.

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10

2011 Lexus LS 460

Features

Limousine-class seating and interior options, along top-tech features that rival the best from Germany make the 2011 Lexus LS lineup a flagship to be proud of.

The 2011 Lexus LS 460, LS 460 L, and LS 600h L all come equipped as flagship luxury vehicles should: very well equipped, and stocked with just about every common luxury-car feature. And with all the lavish options, you might want to sit in the backseat while someone else does the driving.

LS 460 L models, in addition to getting more backseat space and legroom, also get standard xenon HID headlamps, headlamp washers, full climate-controlled front seats, heated rear seats with adjustable headrests, and power trunk and door closers, plus intuitive park assist, a system helps guide you into a parking space, almost on its own.

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.

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5

2011 Lexus LS 460

Fuel Economy

The 2011 Lexus LS 600h is one of the most fuel-efficient luxury cars, but it's not quite the greenest.

For such a large, roomy, powerful, technology-laden luxury car, the fuel economy figures achieved by the 2011 Lexus LS 600h L—of 19 mpg city, 23 highway—are superb.

And purely from a green perspective, the standard LS 460 is a better pick for carrying five adults in comfort than most full-size sport-utility vehicles. That said, if you can forgo a little interior space, the Mercedes-Benz E350 Bluetec has a clean-diesel engine and enables an even better 33 mpg on the highway.

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Performance 8
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