2015 Lexus LS 460 First Test
The Luxury of Trust: We Test the LS 460 and LS 460 F Sport
If you figured the 2015 Lexus LS 460 rolls on four wheels and tires, you'd be wrong -- the flagship luxury sedan rides on a reputation built on solid build quality and comfort. Not the type of thing that lands a car on the cover of a Motor Trend print magazine, but still prized characteristics for some large luxury sedan buyers. The Lexus LS has carved out a niche specializing in a comfortable driving experience, and about 25 years after the first model shook up the U.S. luxury market, we got our hands on two new LS 460 sedans to determine how well the cars compete today.
We tested two cars, a 2015 Lexus LS 460 F Sport beautifully finished in Matador Red Mica and a fade-into-the-background 2014 Lexus LS 460 in silver -- from 2014 to 2015, no significant updates were made to the 386-hp, 4.6-liter V-8 engine and eight-speed automatic transmission. The F Sport beefs up the LS' curb appeal and changes the driving experience. Updates include 19-inch forged wheels unique to the F Sport, an air suspension, five driving modes, Brembo six-piston caliper front brakes, a Torsen limited-slip rear differential on rear-drive models, and a few interior upgrades. So what effect does the $8,350 F Sport package have on the LS at the track?
Matched against the comfort-focused LS, the LS 460 F Sport's upgraded brakes cut only 4 feet from the 60-0 mph stopping distance, but from behind the wheel you'll immediately notice a more sensitive brake feel. Around our figure-eight course, the LS 460 F Sport finished in 26.1 seconds at 0.87 g (average), a noticeable improvement from the non-F Sport's 27.2 seconds at 0.82 g (average). On the road, the LS 460 F Sport model's steering is quicker and more responsive, but the regular LS 460's steering -- and overall isolated feel -- should please luxury-sedan buyers. Neither car will tire driver or passenger on a long road trip, but the non-sporty LS we drove lacked an air suspension and rolled on 18-inch wheels that provided a more luxurious ride. Having said that, Lexus tells us that almost 80 percent of non-F Sport LS buyers in 2014 upgraded to 19-inch wheels and 11 percent of all LS buyers in the same year went F Sport.
No matter what LS 460 you drive, the V-8's engine will quietly purr its way to 60 mph and beyond. If you're concerned with out-accelerating the Joneses' luxury sedans, perhaps another car would be more suitable. The silver LS 460 we tested sprinted to 60 mph in 5.6 seconds, the LS 460 F Sport getting there 0.1 second later. (Our more expensive F Sport tester weighed in at 4,569 pounds versus the other car's 4,466 pounds.) Almost no one test-driving an LS 460 is going to stab the throttle and say, "This car needs 70 hp more," but reasons for buying a full-size luxury sedan aren't always rational, are they? For comparison, we've track-tested a 2015 Kia K900 V-8 at 5.5-5.6 seconds, a turbo six-powered 2011 BMW 740i at 5.5 seconds (the 2015 model has an eight-speed auto instead of that car's six-speed unit), and a supercharged six-cylinder 2013 Audi A8 L at 5.3 seconds.
As an added bonus, the six-cylinder BMW and Audi are both more efficient than the eight-cylinder Lexus, which allows them to travel farther on each tank of fuel. In Real MPG testing, our Lexus LS 460 F Sport tester performed well, at 15.4/24.8 mpg city/highway, straddling the EPA estimates of 16/24 mpg. The silver LS 460 riding on 18-inch wheels did even better in Real MPG tests, getting 16.9/27.1 mpg.
Move up to first-tier eight-cylinder competition, and the Lexus is at least 0.9 second slower to 60 mph than the equivalent BMW 7 Series, Audi A8, and Jaguar XJ, which is just fine considering the vast price difference. The eight-cylinder BMW, Audi, and Jaguar all start at nearly or just over $90,000, which makes the $73,445-to-start Lexus LS a value option, even though the Hyundai Equus and Kia K900 are even cheaper. And no, we haven't forgotten about the class-dominating Mercedes-Benz S-Class, a long-wheelbase-only sedan that starts in the mid-$90,000 range.
So the Lexus isn't as quick or as efficient as most competitors (we'd like to see improvements on both on a next-gen car), but power is delivered smoothly, and the LS has one strength nothing else can match: a higher expectation of reliability. Although plenty of fancy electronic equipment could go wrong on any flagship luxury sedan, the Lexus LS has shown a consistent ability to ace evaluations by J.D. Power and Associates and Consumer Reports. Though some may question the methodology of those organizations, it's difficult for some consumers to ignore years of positive recognition.
Inside both Lexus LS test cars, it's impossible not to be drawn in by the 12.3-inch infotainment screen. Like the two-screen solutions from Acura and the Infiniti Q50 or the 12.3-inch unit in the pricey S-Class, Lexus' singular gigantic screen allows the driver to simultaneously display a decently sized map as well as a second piece of info (song/musician details, HVAC controls, or mileage graphs over the past five minutes). The mouselike control worked for us during the two cars' stay but isn't for everyone. Less polarizing is the leather padding on the sides of the center console -- it's a great feature, as are the soft-close doors and heated/cooled seat controls that have an auto-heating setting. Instrument cluster gauges are bright and easy to read, though we wish the info screen could display redundant navigation controls because no head-up display is offered on the LS to fulfill the same purpose. Another feature we'd like improved is the electronic parking brake's auto-hold feature -- the system could release the brakes a tad smoother once you touch the accelerator pedal.
We appreciated the blue and red lights in both LS sedans glowing in the instrument cluster, depending on whether you're in Eco, Normal, or Sport mode. Take a non-F Sport LS on winding roads, and, predictably, the Lexus' conservative stability control light will flicker at you and cut a little power. The LS 460 F Sport is more fun, but in our brief time in the 2015-model-year tester, we wouldn't mind even more aggressive transmission response in the F Sport-specific Sport + mode.
On a future LS, we'd like to see an available panoramic sunroof, more advanced active safety tech, and a head-up display, and on the F Sport model, a fancy instrument cluster like the ones in the IS 350 F Sport and GS F. Buyers seeking a full-size luxury sedan today would be well-served by the 2015 LS, as long as they prioritize comfort over class-leading acceleration or fuel economy. Although the Lexus LS is no longer the game changer it was 25 years ago, the luxury sedan has evolved into a competent player. Until the name-brand competition can consistently outperform the LS in dependability surveys, though, there will probably always remain a place for the slightly lower-priced Lexus.
|2015 Lexus LS 460 F Sport||2014 Lexus LS 460|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$86,975||$75,550|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, RWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan||Front-engine, RWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan|
|ENGINE||4.6L/386-hp/367-lb-ft DOHC 32-valve V-8||4.6L/386-hp/367-lb-ft DOHC 32-valve V-8|
|TRANSMISSION||8-speed automatic||8-speed automatic|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||4,569 lb (52/48%)||4,466 lb (52/48%)|
|WHEELBASE||116.9 in||116.9 in|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||200.0 x 73.8 x 57.3 in||200.0 x 73.8 x 58.1 in|
|0-60 MPH||5.7 sec||5.6 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||14.2 sec @ 100.2 mph||14.1 sec @ 101.5 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||115 ft||119 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.87 g (avg)||0.82 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||26.1 sec @ 0.79 g (avg)||27.2 sec @ 0.68 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||16/24/19 mpg||16/24/19 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY||211/140 kW-hrs/100 miles||211/140 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||1.03 lb/mile||1.03 lb/mile|