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Review: 2015 Lexus LS 460 AWD

by Paul Strauss
Review: 2015 Lexus LS 460 AWDzoom in

The Lexus LS series has been around for a number of years, but this is the first time I’ve been able to drive one for an extended period of time. The LS 460 is a true executive sedan, meaning that it’s a car you’re as likely to be driven in as to be the driver yourself. It’s not as expensive as say a Mercedes S-Class or a BMW 7-Series, so it’s not quite as schmancy, but it’s still a very luxurious and comfortable ride – for the right buyer.

My first reaction to the 200 inch-long black sedan when it was dropped off at my house was that it looked like a limousine. In fact, I felt the immediate need to don a chauffeur’s cap and go pick up some people at the airport. Go figure that I had some guests coming into town for the week, so I did just that – minus the hat.

The looks of the LS 460 are quite conservative – nothing like the dramatic angles of Lexus more recent and sporty endeavors like the RC F and NX200t. This car is rooted firmly in Lexus’ heritage, a brand that was previously all about quiet and smooth luxury.

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Driving the LS 460, it was immediately apparent that the ride style for this car would be one of comfort and softness despite having a 4.8-liter, 386 hp V8 beneath the hood. Acceleration is excellent – with its big, naturally-aspirated engine pushing this big boy from 0-to-60 in just over 5 seconds. Not bad for a car that weighs over 4,600 pounds. Funny thing is that Lexus wants to downplay the big engine aspect of the LS 460, going so far as to hide everything in the engine compartment under a series of covers that almost seem to be there to deny its muscular underpinnings. I say, if you’ve got nearly 400 horses, flaunt it.

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Overall, I found the ride to be a bit too soft for my personal preferences, erring on the side of mushy versus cushioned. Then again, my review car didn’t include Lexus’ optional air suspension, which would likely improve that. The electronic power steering is nothing to write home about, but then again, I don’t expect to be taking this car around a race track at top speed. The AWD system worked well to keep the big car composed in turns and rain, and is surely a necessity in places where snow and ice are common occurrences. Sadly, the brakes on my review car were out of sorts, with a lot of fade at the start and then a sort of jarring stop that kicked in with the pedal about a third of the way down. I’m doubting the car left the factory that way –  media folks have a tendency to do things to cars that regular humans don’t.

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Ride dynamics aside, the interior of the LS is quite pleasant, and well isolated from road noise and vibrations. There are premium finishes all over, including heated and ventilated leather seats up front, soft touch surfaces everywhere, metal and hardwood trim, an alcantara headliner, and a sophisticated dashboard design. There are a few available wood trims, but the multi-layered Shimamoku espresso colored wood is quite striking. I especially love the look of the wood and leather trimmed steering wheel, though the wood means no heated steering wheel for those cold Chicago winters.

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Rear seat passengers get heated seats, an electric rear window sunshade, lit vanity mirrors, and a large and cushy armrest to go from a 3-seat to a 2-seat configuration. Leg room is plentiful no matter where you choose to sit, and there’s even a switch on the side of the front passenger seat that allows the right rear seat passenger to give themselves more legroom if needed. There’s also an electric sunroof over the front seat – though I’d love to see a larger panoramic one for a car that’s so focused on its rear seat passengers.

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The LS 460 packs plenty of goodies for tech junkies, including a large 12.3″ high-resolution display for the infotainment system, which uses Lexus’ Enform system. This includes navigation, traffic, weather, stocks, sports, fuel prices, mobile apps, and more. It’s also compatible with Lexus Enform Remote, which allows you to remotely start the engine, lock and unlock doors and check fuel levels from your smartphone. As has been my experience with other vehicles from the Toyota family, the factory audio system is top-notch, and there’s little reason to spend the extra money to upgrade to the pricier Mark Levinson system. Safety tech includes adaptive front lighting, a backup camera, and optional blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert.

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Trunk space is plentiful at 18 cubic feet, offering enough room to carry several suitcases or a couple of sets of golf clubs, and there’s a full-size spare stored underneath – a rarity in most of today’s vehicles.

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In the end, the Lexus LS 460 is a very elegant vehicle, though a bit too conservative and soft-handling for my taste. That’s not to say there isn’t a market for it – especially being priced less than its other full-size luxury competitors. The interior is luxurious, comfortable and sophisticated, it’s got a ton of power and is fast for its size. For those looking for a more sporty alternative, Lexus also offers the LS 460 in an F-Sport model, which sports RWD, a limited-slip differential, sports wheels, bolstered seats and more aggressive styling.

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