By on August 7, 2009

Your Shitty Economy (YSE) Car of the Week: the 2005 Lexus LS430. The LS has to be one of the most boring cars in the biz. To paraphrase Jonny Lieberman, grab the wheel and you’re driving Muzak. Handling, sportiness and excitement are as far from the LS430’s vocabulary as Hungarian is from Creole. But even enthusiasts can respect the LS’s superb NVH engineering, which make it one of the best interstate cruising cars on the market, period. The LS’s exterior styling apes the 1990s Mercedes S-class—in the sense that a used bar of soap apes an identical new one. With Toyota parts bin pieces littering the interior, everything fits and we’re finished. Small prices to pay for understated elegance and supreme reliability in the best Cadillac Cadillac never built. Go ahead, ditch the new Camry and treat yourself to this certified LS for only $24,995. Note: narcoleptics need not apply.

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57 Comments on “YSE Car of the Week: 2005 Lexus LS430...”


  • avatar

    I realize it’s fashionable to dish the LS, and certainly the styling until the current generation could not have been more boring. I frankly find the new LS460 to be not quite A8 stylish, but well ahead of both the current S-class and 7-series.

    With a BMW 3-series and a Honda S2000 in my garage, the LS is not my cup of tea, but I’m grateful to Toyota that they’ve forever changed the expectations of how well, and how long the gadgets in a car should last. Both BMW and Mercedes are far better cars today than they ever were, and we can thank the competition from Toyota for that.

    And if I were looking for a cross-country ride, or had a long and boring commute, one of these would fit the bill quite handily. For $24,995, you don’t have to look at the outside and could likely enjoy it for years with minimal maintenance, something which cannot be said about either the S-class or the 7-series.

  • avatar
    Richard Chen

    I drove one (dad’s leased LS430) a few years back. It’s automotive Propofol as it’s fast, quiet, and relaxing. Whether or not you multiple hits a day is a whole ‘nother issue.

  • avatar

    OK, for everyone who claims the LS is more stylish than an S550…I’m guessing, unlike me, YOU DON’T ACTUALLY OWN ONE.

    I tested an LS460, a BMW 7 and the A8L before settling down and buying an S550.

    the LS430 (which my cousin still has) looks like a pale, cheap version of the old S500 (which I wasn’t very attracted to). And now, it looks ripe for a junk heap.

    the new LS460 is more attractive, but I didn’t like it because of the lack of driver leg space (I’m 6’7) and because it wasn’t that exciting to drive.

    I perferred the BMW 7 because the 750li had the best driving experience of all these cars when I took it around corners at 25 mph, it felt like I was doing 5 mph in a car half the size. I didn’t buy the 750 because leg space was worse than the LS460.

    I bought the S550 cause it had the best interior space, the best interior design and the best materials of all of these.

    The LS is a car you buy if you can’t afford the extra $40,000 for the S class just like a Genesis is what you buy when you can’t afford the extra $20,000 for an LS.

    And I know people are gonna hate that I said this, but, tell ya what… GO TEST DRIVE ALL OF THESE LUXO BARGES and THEN BUY ONE before you reply and you’ll see I’m right.

  • avatar
    NulloModo

    The thing that would attract me to a used LS vs an A8 S class or 7 series would be repair costs. I know the german cars can have scheduled maintenance bills over $1000 as well as high costs for replacement parts. How does the Lexus compare in that regard.

  • avatar
    Axel

    My opinion is, if I’m going to buy a luxury car, used or no, make it something I’d actually enjoy driving.

    I could get a 2005 Camry XLE, same miles, leather, loaded to the gills, for under $14k, according to KBB. I mean, if I’m going to drive dull, I’d rather drive dull with eleven large in my pocket, all things considered.

  • avatar
    jmo

    Nullo,

    I’d be willing to treat a car like a boat or a house or a plane – the maintenance bills should be X% of the cost. If a 10k miles services in my GTI is 220 then the 10k mile service in a S550 should be $1000ish.

  • avatar
    highrpm

    These are beautifully made cars. I do agree with Flashpoint that the A8/S-Class/7-series tend to be on another level in terms of that quality feel and expensive look though.

    You can buy an 05 German uber sedan around here for $25k also. They look more expensive. If I were to keep a car like this for ten years, though, my choice would be the Lex mainly because of durability and lower operating costs.

  • avatar
    romanjetfighter

    I seriously prefer the interior materials in the LS430, like the upgraded leather/nice wood vs. the S500 of that same era. It drives alot better and more solid than the current Camry. I haven’t tested any S-class yet, but for 50k new and 25k used, it’s a stellar deal.

    And flashpoint, please… people who pay 60k for a Lexus vs. 90k for a Merc are often people who simply don’t WANT to pay that much for a car. They aren’t willing to pay that much, not that they can’t. I’m glad you like your S-class, but don’t be so snobby and make blanket statements against Lexus drivers.

    Some people have more important priorities, like trying to save up for medical school without having to borrow money. >:O

  • avatar
    Deepsouth

    Everything the Hyundai Genesis aspires to be in life.

  • avatar
    jmo

    Axel,

    What do you drive now?

    This leads me to my next big question. Do most of the people on TTAC commute to jobs via a series of treacherously winding mountain roads?

    If you’re spending 2 hours a day on Georgia 400, the 101 or the 405 and never getting above 30mph on your slog to the office – when you ever get to take advantage of your “exciting” car?

  • avatar
    jmo

    romanjetfighter,

    That being said an S550 is a more founder, entrepreneur, C-level, surgeon type car. A LS is more a manager, director, pediatrician type car.

    The S550/7/A8 is more alpha male the LS is more beta male.

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    flashpoint: “…(I’m 6′7)…”

    Are you sure you aren’t really Rick Waggoner?

  • avatar

    Well that little news blog busted the laughmeter for me. thanks! And yet, while I haven’t driven the car, it sounded totally fair. Well done.

  • avatar

    Somehow reminds me of a Nissan ad I saw on the japanese engrish website. The blurb ends with “take a grip of steering. Nissan”

  • avatar
    wsn

    Flashpoint :
    August 7th, 2009 at 12:04 pm

    The LS is a car you buy if you can’t afford the extra $40,000 for the S class just like a Genesis is what you buy when you can’t afford the extra $20,000 for an LS.

    ——————————————

    On the contrary, the median income of LS buyers are higher than S-class buyers.

    They choose the LS because their time is more valuable (and thus don’t want to be stranded on the curb side). Bill Gates used to drive an LS to work (not sure now). If his car breaking down and thus late for a business meeting can negatively impact MSFT stock by 0.0001% (one in a million), the total loss would be over $200,000.

  • avatar
    jmo

    the median income of LS buyers are higher than S-class buyers.

    link/evidence please

  • avatar
    wsn

    # jmo :
    August 7th, 2009 at 12:19 pm

    I’d be willing to treat a car like a boat or a house or a plane – the maintenance bills should be X% of the cost. If a 10k miles services in my GTI is 220 then the 10k mile service in a S550 should be $1000ish.

    ————————————–

    I think the problem is with home construction instead. That’s a highly regional protected business and not enough competition. It’s more like when GM dominated the auto landscape.

    If we have the equivalent of Toyota/Honda in the home construction industry, we would not have to spend so much on repair and maintenance.

  • avatar
    Axel

    @jmo:

    Axel,

    What do you drive now?

    We have a current-gen Honda Civic and a Malibu Maxx. The Civic is both fun and frugal. The Maxx is highly utilitarian and cheap (though we’ll see how cheap is is to keep on the road between year 8 and year 12). Both serve their mission very well.

    I can see the appeal of used luxury. If I lived somewhere without snow and ice, I’d be very tempted into a $20k 3-series, because such cars are a joy to drive. To me the mission of a luxury car, new or used, is to be refined, comfortable, powerful, and fun. Not to have a “low cost of ownership.” It’s frivolous, and that’s ok. But what’s the point of frivolity if it’s not going to be fun? To show up the neighbors? To own a “status symbol?” That’s not how I roll.

    If all I want is a super-reliable, comfortable, sedate, plushy ride with all the amenities, there’s an alternative to this Lexus LS for $11k less. What does that extra $11k get me? More size, gas consumption, engine power I’ll hardly ever tap, and RWD?

    This leads me to my next big question. Do most of the people on TTAC commute to jobs via a series of treacherously winding mountain roads?

    A car with punch, precise handling, and excellent road manners is fun to drive even on city streets. I get a kick out driving the Civic even on short grocery runs, compared to the Maxx, which might have appreciable grunt, but handles like a boat.

  • avatar
    doctorv8

    On the subject of cheap comfy cruisers….

    $24,995 for a four year old luxo boat? You can save yourself $10k more and waft just as easily in a Lincoln Town Car…and likely spend FAR less on repairs as well. Find one with Navigation/THX sound package, and uplevel Designer leather trim, and it’s a mile eater of the highest order. Spring and shock upgrades quell the inherent floatiness, and its trunk will swallow more than the Lexus could dream of. Inherent durability comes at no extra charge.

    And no one will mistake it for a Camry, or a fake W220 S-Class.

  • avatar
    jmo

    A car with punch, precise handling, and excellent road manners is fun to drive even on city streets.

    I’ll give you the city streets – but not in the bumper to bumper traffic most of the TTAC readers are dealing with for 90+% of their driving.

  • avatar
    wsn

    jmo :
    August 7th, 2009 at 12:47 pm

    link/evidence please

    ————————————–

    I read it somewhere. Will dig it up for you, when I am off work.

  • avatar
    jmo

    Doc,

    With 238 bhp and a 4-speed auto a Towncar goes 0-60 in 9.5 seconds only slight faster than a Prius.

  • avatar
    Axel

    the median income of LS buyers are higher than S-class buyers.

    link/evidence please

    Don’t know where to find evidence, but I get the impression the S-Class (and E-, and C-) attract aspirational buyers who want to show their status and therefore reach for them without considering total costs. I see a lot of Benzes tooling around our very blue-collar neighborhood.

    Lexus caters to the established wealthy who might not want to be seen in a Toyota, but nonetheless understand the value of reliability and the true cost of ownership. Also, for whom an extra $20k or $30k is no biggie. They’re the folks who used to buy Buicks.

    Benz drivers are stretching it. Lexus drivers are slumming it. :)

  • avatar
    doctorv8

    jmo,

    Anyone who gives a damn about 0-60 times shouldn’t be looking an either of these cars.

    But a blower on a TC is a cheap and way cool proposition…..jmo. ;-)

  • avatar
    wsn

    jmo :
    August 7th, 2009 at 12:30 pm

    The S550/7/A8 is more alpha male the LS is more beta male.
    ————————————

    I thought the A8 is more gamma …

  • avatar
    wsn

    # jmo :
    August 7th, 2009 at 1:05 pm

    Doc,

    With 238 bhp and a 4-speed auto a Towncar goes 0-60 in 9.5 seconds only slight faster than a Prius.

    ———————————————-

    A Prius could actually be a better cruiser than all of these. Quiet, comfortable and more reliable than all of these.

  • avatar
    jmo

    Axel,

    Or the S550 is for people who make a lot of money the LS is for people who have a lot of money. A 44yo Law Firm partner might buy the S550 while his 72 yo dad may get the LS. Perhapse because it’s much harder to spend accumulated savings than it is to spend out of current cash flow. Or, even more likely, the S550 is leased by the firm to save on taxes. Not something you can do when you’re retired.

  • avatar
    jmo

    Quiet, comfortable and more reliable than all of these.

    In comparison to an LS/S550 or even a Towncar the Prius is loud and the ride quality is poor.

  • avatar
    pentek

    I have the same story heard elsewhere. Had a couple of Mercedes. Maintenance wasn’t too bad but repairs drove me crazy. Dumped both and got a LS430.
    The Mercs were nice looking and drove nice but in 85,000 Lexus miles I have never called a tow service and I do not know the first name of the Lexus service writer.

    I still flip off the local M car dealer dealer when I drive by.

  • avatar
    Accords

    AXEL:

    Although I am nothing like most of the posters in here. I dont have nearly the money that most do.

    Dont have the ability to have 2 cars of my own to throw around.

    Instead I have a 140mi r/t commute in a 00 Accord with 197k (30k+ a yr) up and down I-95.. that giant mess of a pothole that makes my driving miserable.. albiet fun. My 00 Accord is a step up from a 92 with 230k. This Accord will be a step up into a ’10 Mazda 3 hatch.

    If I was ever in the mood or had the money for one of these..

    Scratch that..
    I cant even respect either of the vehicles in the class.. for the concept of.. DRIVING.

    People who drive these things.. really have no mission to get anywhere quickly, or actually drive the damn car.

    A8, 740s, S Classes, Q7s, Cayennes.. all vehicles stuck in the center lane, with the driver dozing as Im slipping through at about 85 in slow-for-no-reason traffic..

    Only to find one of these things at the front taking a wide turn at 10mph with 2 miles of traffic sitting behind them.

    I however, can appreciate the benefit of a vehicle that competes with the germans and yet doesnt have such a MISERABLE drop off in value after 2 yrs.

    Even though its horrible to look at, and Id probably be asleep in the thing instead of actually participating in the rigors of driving to work.

  • avatar
    kowsnofskia

    To me, there is one major reason why a Lexus LS would be preferable to its German competitors: reliability.

    One of the attributes people usually associate with expensive “luxury” cars is stone-cold reliability. If I’m going to drop $60k+ on a new vehicle, I shouldn’t ever have to wonder if that vehicle is going to start in the morning or break down on me somewhere. (At least not until the car is old or has 100k on it or whatever.) Like it or not, the Germans have royally dropped the ball in this department. The stalwart, diehard, brick-shithouse durability and reliability of MBs is a thing of the past. Lexus has assumed that throne. Get over it.

    Plus, how much “driving pleasure” can you really get out of a car that won’t leave your driveway under its own power? If an S-class or 7-series won’t start, then it’s not much more than a $60k+ driveway decoration, right?

  • avatar
    twotone

    “But even enthusiasts can respect the LS’s superb NVH engineering, which make it one of the best interstate cruising cars on the market, period.”

    If I need to do the only thing this car is good at, I’ll spend my money on airfare.

    Twotone

  • avatar
    Lokkii

    Here is some luxury car demographic info from Forbes Magazine Nov 2007

    Forbes did a whole comparison filled with demographic information of luxury car buyers.

    The three brands with the highest House Hold Income were:

    Porsche: $187,705
    Mercedes-Benz: $162,824
    Audi: $153,746

    Jaguar: $150,587
    BMW: $148,992
    Lexus: $141,355

    http://www.autospies.com/news/Forbes-does-a-comparison-of-luxury-brand-demographics-22691/

  • avatar
    Axel

    @jmo :
    A 44yo Law Firm partner might buy the S550 while his 72 yo dad may get the LS.

    If I were 72, I’d keep a $2,000 clunker for getting around town, and rent something extravagant whenever it was time to visit the grandkids or if I felt like joyriding through the twisties. To hell with cost of ownership; let the rental place deal with that. :)

    I’m assuming when I’m 72 I’ll only be driving 20 mi/week apart from road trips.

  • avatar
    cRacK hEaD aLLeY

    I talked to a young couple with a baby on the ferry ride from Victoria to Vancouver last year. They were driving a CPO LS430 bought in Seattle with extended warranty for exactly the same price they would have paid for a new RAV4 V6 in Canada (their other choice).

    I thought they had one of their grandfather’s car initially. The guy was a professional adventurer type (heli-skier instructor/mountain climber). The LAST type of personality I could imagine behind the wheel of an LS.

    One hell of a deal and a smart couple if you ask me:

    *Huge trunk
    *Not a cop magnet
    *Reliable as it can be
    *Safe as it gets
    *Not targeted for theft in BC
    *Full warranty in Canada
    *Baby girl sleeps in the back seat the moment the doors are closed
    *Great stereo from factory

  • avatar
    jmo

    If I were 72, I’d keep a $2,000 clunker for getting around town,

    Are you planning on taking your money with you?

  • avatar
    Axel

    @kowsnofskia :
    If I’m going to drop $60k+ on a new vehicle, I shouldn’t ever have to wonder if that vehicle is going to start in the morning or break down on me somewhere. (At least not until the car is old or has 100k on it or whatever.)

    Oh, dear.

    Ok, if I’m going to drop $18k on a new vehicle, it better not ever break down on me with five numbers on the odo. And the only reason it shouldn’t start during that time is bum battery. Any mainstream car, with proper care, and you shouldn’t have to worry about it failing on you in the first seven years, even out to 150k miles.

    For $60k, I expect to be able to get 200k-300k miles with little more than standard, owner’s manual maintenance, and the standard replacements (tires, plugs, belts, maybe shocks and struts, etc).

    But then, to me, luxury is about… luxury. It’s being frivolous. Still, a $60k car should be built dead solid, IMO.

  • avatar
    Axel

    @jmo :
    Are you planning on taking your money with you?

    No, but I might want to leave some behind. :)

    Pointless to own a great car when you hardly ever drive. Why not just rent something on those rare occasions when you do?

  • avatar
    jmo

    Ok, if I’m going to drop $18k on a new vehicle, it better not ever break down on me with five numbers on the odo.

    I for one would be willing to put up with an relitivley unreliable Alfa 156 V-6 vs. a Camry SE V-6. It all depends on what you get in return for dealing with a less than reliable vehicle.

  • avatar
    drifter

    @Flashpoint :
    Some people have to justify spending $30,000 for buying the same car their neighbhour bought.

  • avatar
    fincar1

    “If an S-class or 7-series won’t start, then it’s not much more than a $60k+ driveway decoration, right?”

    We were driving around fairly new neighborhoods in Henderson, Nevada, this spring, and actually saw a white Rolls-Royce sitting in a driveway, with the tires a little low and white stains running down from the bottoms of the whitewalls. Looked like it hadn’t moved in months.

    And as far as driving less when you get old, I’m damn near 70 and it’s true I don’t drive as much as I once did, but I’m not ready for the Buick sedan yet. Talk to me again in fifteen years….

  • avatar
    mpresley

    wsn : Bill Gates used to drive an LS to work (not sure now). If his car breaking down and thus late for a business meeting…

    Gates never impressed me as having any soul. Can anyone imagine taking the LS when you’ve got a Porsche 959 in your garage? And when you’re Gates, the meetings come to you.

  • avatar
    xyzzy

    As the driver of a 1998 LS400, which I know is not quite the same car but is in the same vein, I agree with this YSE assessment. I’ve had my car since I bought it in 2001 with 48K miles and I recently turned over 175K miles and the only thing that has ever gone wrong with it is one headlight switch ($200 including labor, those Toyota parts bin parts also mean low-cost repairs for a luxobarge) and it eats batteries, needing a new one about every other year.

    This car has so spoiled me that when I think about buying another used luxury car like a BMW, learning of any hints of any kind of possible unreliability completely turns me off. These Lexi are bulletproof. I’m approaching 180K miles which means decision time, do I spend the $1500 on scheduled timing chain/water pump replacement or replace the car. It’s too hard to give up a car that I know is so dead-nuts reliable and is also comfortable, fast, etc. I’m thinking I’ll drive this car until the wheels fall off.

    As for the driving experience, I have a 30 mile one way commute mostly on highways which is perfect for this Japanese Buick. I appreciate the effortless power and quiet ride as I drive the same 60+ miles every day. It’s an excellent performer in nearly every aspect, just don’t take corners too fast.

    One drawback: the trunk is way too small for a car of this size. My parent’s Accord has a trunk almost twice as large.

    My other car is a Miata, so when I need some driving involvement, I drive that one. Between the two it’s almost the perfect car situation. Too perfect, because I can never justify to myself buying a new car.

  • avatar
    jmo

    Can anyone imagine taking the LS when you’ve got a Porsche 959 in your garage?

    Are you really going to enjoy the bumper to bumper traffic on 90 heading to Redmond more in your 959 vs. your LS?

  • avatar
    Axel

    @mpresley :
    Gates never impressed me as having any soul. Can anyone imagine taking the LS when you’ve got a Porsche 959 in your garage?

    Is the 959 street legal?

    Anyway, when you get to that point, the car itself is an investment, not an expense. I don’t know what Gates paid for his 959, but it’s probably worth more today. And that’s before taking into account that it’s Bill Gates’ 959.

    The car will someday fetch a pretty penny in a charity auction, all proceeds going to the BAMGF, of course :).

  • avatar
    mpresley

    Axel : Is the 959 street legal?

    Is Bill Gates legal?

  • avatar
    mpresley

    jmo :Are you really going to enjoy the bumper to bumper traffic on 90 heading to Redmond more in your 959 vs. your LS?

    If it was me, I’d just tell Ballmer to handle it. Do the monkey dance, maybe throw a few chairs, chant “Developers…Developers…” and generally fake it. At the same time I’d be heading south, making my way toward the Nevada desert in the Porsche at top speed.

  • avatar
    Axel

    @mpresley :
    Axel : Is the 959 street legal?

    Is Bill Gates legal?

    http://regmedia.co.uk/2007/10/01/gates-mug-shot2.jpg

    Good point.

  • avatar
    golf4me

    Not a big fan of Lexus, but I always liked this model. It’s aged well, and I’ve seen a few with tastefully executed aftermarket wheels that really looked great, just enough to fill out the wheel wells which was this car’s only styling guffaw. I also like the present LS, but not any other model for some reason. When I get old, I think the current gen LS will be on my list…or maybe one of these.

  • avatar
    johnthacker

    but not in the bumper to bumper traffic most of the TTAC readers are dealing with for 90+% of their driving.

    Huh. Well, I feel sorry for all those people, as that certainly doesn’t describe my driving.

  • avatar
    SupaMan

    pentek :

    I still flip off the local M car dealer dealer when I drive by.

    LOL….good one.

    While I don’t own any of these cars, I do agree that Lexus buyers are the more affluent type or “already-made-it” buyers who don’t really care about status symbols like Mercedes or BMW (in al most the same way that buyers would gravitate to the Audi A8).

    I think the LS430 is a pretty nice looking vehicle if a bit “squarish” in that 90’s way. The new LS is stylish, I love the way it looks and it would be a great ride for my mother. I’d gravitate to BMW purely because I’d want PERFORMANCE…and maybe an Audi to not call attention to myself.

  • avatar
    wsn

    Lokkii :
    August 7th, 2009 at 1:26 pm

    Here is some luxury car demographic info from Forbes Magazine Nov 2007

    —————————————–

    No, it’s not a Forbes article. It’s an “autospies” forum post. A more credible link is appreciated.

  • avatar
    Richard Chen

    @Axel: yes, Gates and former MSFT founder Paul Allen were able to get their 959’s federalized a few years back.

    http://www.autoweek.com/article/20030915/FREE/309150701
    http://www.canepa.com/custom/959_story.html

  • avatar
    biturbomunkie

    interesting caption considering the fog light seems broken.

  • avatar
    Caraholica

    It might be a bit of a snooze, but it’s a really NICE snooze with better road manners than you would think.

    BTW, did I mention that you wont go broke owning one?

  • avatar

    I’ve owned my S550 for around 2 years and I have NEVER had a problem with it.

    I’m sick and tired of people claiming Benz’ reliability is bad. The old S500 was the worst Benz ever made…every company has a bad product.. but the S550 has none of those problems if you buy it brand new and it didn’t have any glitches off the floor.

  • avatar
    improvement_needed

    FlashPoint:
    “…but the S550 has none of those problems if you buy it brand new and it didn’t have any glitches off the floor.”

    That’s entirely the point.

    If it doesn’t have any glitches off the floor, it’s a great car…
    However, what percentage are like this? It’s not 100%, probably not even 75%…

    Also, your car is 24 months old and [most likely] still under warranty. What will your cost of ownership be like when your car is 7 years old with 150k miles on the clock?

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