Class: Premium Large Car
Dates tested: 9/09/2015 – 9/24/2015
Miles Driven: 475
Fuel Used: 29.6 gallons
Real-world fuel economy: 16.0 mpg
Driving mix: 60% city, 40% highway
EPA-estimated fuel economy: 16/23/18 (city, highway, combined)
Base price: $75,465 (not including $925 destination charge)
|CG Report Card|
|Report-card grades are derived from a consensus of test-driver evaluations. All grades are versus other vehicles in the same class. Value grade is for specific trim level evaluated, and may not reflect Consumer Guide's impressions of the entire model lineup.|
|Room and Comfort||A|
|Power and Performance||B|
|Fit and Finish||A|
Options on test car: Blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert ($500), Comfort Package ($2090), 19-inch wheels ($990), upgraded leather package ($550), heated steering wheel ($110)
Price as tested: $80,630
The great: Impressive quietness and ride comfort
The Good: Plenty of power, roomy cabin
The not so good: Mediocre fuel economy
The concept of “bargain” as a noun carries with it some comparative judgement. A thing’s being inexpensive isn’t by itself enough to make it a bargain; being cheap while still being as useful or desirable as another costlier thing creates a bargain.
Bearing that in mind, it’s with a slight catch in his voice that this writer calls the 2015 Lexus LS 460 that Consumer Guide® tested a bargain. After all, it punched in at $80,630 with options and delivery. For very many car buyers, that will seem like a lot of money for 4 doors, 4 seats, and 8 cylinders. Here’s the predictable “but”: But that’s still $10,045 cheaper than the 2014 LS 460 that CG drove, and if not for sticker creep that raised the 2015 vehicle starting price (to $75,465) and delivery fee (to $925), the dollar gap between the two cars would have been even greater.
Both cars came with full-time all-wheel drive (rear-drive-only LS 460s are available), and the changes from one year to the next—dynamic gridlines added to the rearview camera display; upgrades to the multimedia/smartphone app system—hardly excite the needle on the differometer. Naturally, the secret to this relative bargain comes down to options. The 2014 test car had them in spades. The ’15 model had 5 extra-cost items added to it but together they cost $2600 less than just the single priciest option package found on the prior LS.
Otherwise, the 2015 LS 460 that CG sampled displayed the same smooth powertrain performance, comfortable ride, and sumptuous interior environment as its predecessor. The 10-grand price break might make it a little easier to swallow middle-of-the-road handling characteristics, fussing with the Remote Touch control interface, and mid-teens fuel mileage.
The 4.6-liter dohc V8 in AWD models is rated at 360 horsepower, and is paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission. The performance of this quiet and smooth powerteam can be modified a bit by fiddling with adjustable driving modes activated by a console dial. “Normal,” “Eco,” and “Sport” settings tweak engine performance, fuel efficiency, and the degree of road feel. To this driver, the engine and suspension changes between Normal and Sport were slight at best. A test stint of 176.2 miles, with 63 percent in city-driving conditions, averaged just 15.91 mpg—actually a minuscule improvement over this driver’s 2014 LS experience, but not even up to the EPA’s 16-mpg city rating for the car.
Other standard equipment includes items like a limited-slip center differential, adaptive front lighting, park-assist, Lexus Enform app suite, Bluetooth connectivity, navigation, a 10-speaker audio system, wood-and-leather-trimmed steering wheel with multifunction thumb controls, wood and aluminum interior trim, memory seats for driver and front passenger, and a one-touch power moonroof. A huge 12.3-inch screen displays readouts from the audio, climate, and navigation systems, but working through them requires dealing with the finicky Remote Touch “mouse.”
The LS 460 is awash in power conveniences, either standard or optional, and you find buttons all over the interior for one thing or another. On each front-door panel is a button with an icon of a seated passenger with up-down arrows. This automatically adjusts the height of the shoulder belt. The inboard portion of the passenger seat includes buttons for fore-and-aft travel and seat-back angle, which would allow a person in the driver’s seat to easily adjust the right-side seat for an incoming passenger. The lid on the console box fully opens or closes by itself after just a slight push.
Soft-touch surfaces are abundant in the richly appointed and whisper-quiet cabin. Passenger room in both rows is ample, but the tall driveline hump will likely compromise a middle-rear passenger’s comfort. Storage includes a large glove box; large console cubby with a built-in phone tray and auxiliary/USB ports; 2 covered cup holders in the console; hard-sided pull-out pockets in each door and on the backs of the front seats; and a rear pull-down arm rest with a covered bin, seat-heater controls, and 2 pop-out cup holders. Rear passengers can avail themselves of their own lighted vanity mirrors built into the headliner.
The trunk is wide at its opening, but wheel houses intrude considerably, so overall luggage capacity is acceptable but not exceptional. Rear seats do not fold, but a pass-through is provided for long items.
There is an absolutism to the way Lexus approaches luxury, at least in regards to a few of its vehicles. While German premium automakers strive to endow their cars and trucks with as much road feel and control as possible without compromising comfort, Lexus aims for complete road isolation. In the case of the LS 460, that approach can be startling.
The LS 460, for example, stands out among large luxury sedans for its sublime character–even in short-wheelbase, low-equipment guise. The LS is not the biggest, fastest, best handling, or best finished car in the class, but it is the most polished. The silky V8 operates in near silence, reluctantly whirring only when full-throttle requests are made of it, while the transmission clicks off nearly imperceptible shifts.
Ride quality is superb, with nothing but the most egregious road imperfections registering with vehicle occupants.
The cabin is warm and friendly, but not overtly so—it’s not as Avant-garde as an Audi, as rich as a Mercedes, or as business-like as a BMW. Instead, the LS interior seems meant to coddle without becoming a distraction of any sort.
The result is a car of regal solitude instead of focused athleticism. Think of the LS as the anti-Euro big luxury sedan and you’ll be pretty close. And compared to those German rides, the LS comes off as a screaming bargain. If you’re not looking for a 5000-pound 4-door sports car, the Lexus LS deserves a test drive.