By on October 22, 2013

This is the Lexus LS460, the luxury boomer that built the brand. It was the Lexus LS that launched the Automotive Battle of Hastings back in 1990, attacking the European establishment with devastating competence. The 2013 Lexus LS460 is still that great, and yes, the ride is still more Chris Craft than hardtail.

Lexus has seemed distracted. The HS250h and CT200 are not surprise success stories, but predictable failures. At leas the best-selling ES350s and RX crossovers aren’t tone-deaf attempts like the other two. You might even be worried about Lexus. The LS 460 will restore your faith that Lexus is not becoming Toyota’s Mercury.

Here’s the hard-boiled car review stuff on the LS460. The 386 hp V8 is 4.6 liters of unrealized potential. Wind it up and you get the power, plus an overly-muted V8 roar, but the rest of the car doesn’t want to play along. Even selecting SPORT mode with the Drive Mode Select knob doesn’t seem to do a whole lot, though Lexus says it “alters the powertrain for faster gear changes and more dynamic throttle mapping.” In this case, “alters” is more aptly defined as what happens to Fluffy the Domestic Short Hair during a visit to the vet.

Drive Mode Select also includes an ECO mode, which turns out to be handy in stop and go traffic thanks to its heavy filtering of driver inputs. Manually shifting the automatic is only somewhat encouraged by the manual gate. Let’s face it, an LS 460 bouncing off its rev limiter might seem untoward, so instead it upshifts for you. Why bother with the half-hearted measures?

For a car that’s credited with creating such a splash, the LS 460 certainly blends in. It won’t command the attention of the Nimitz-class Mercedes or BMWs, the LS is more like a Littoral Combat Ship that navigates under the radar. The exterior styling is attractively innocuous and the interior is both comfortable and blandly luxurious. Lexus would probably dispute that, but just look at how much Camry there is in the LS. Or is it LS in the Camry? Does it matter, either way?

Well, that’s about the long and short of it on the car end. The Lexus LS 460 is as the LS has always been, now with some added technology to serve as press release talking points. The bigger thing going on with Lexus is that it’s become a part of the establishment it was conceived to slap around.

In 1990, the Mercedes-Benz S Class was the top dog, a resolute car that was also never short on innovation. The LS 460 is every bit the obsessively-fettled accessible high-ender it’s always been. This car is a known quantity, and the impressions of the original LS 400 are pretty much the same thing you can say about the LS 460.

When did the Lexus LS go from gob-smacking revolution to same-as-it-ever-was? Maybe around the time Autoblog said something like “Lexus-quiet,” but probably before that.

The LS 460 is passionless and competent. It’s got all the acronyms, there’s more tech than you’ll want to bother with, let alone learn to master. The haptic controller is both loved and loathed, but the heart of the matter is that the Lexus way of navigating around its app suite and infotainment system can be a more positive experience than stabbing at a screen with your finger. Those that hate it probably want to hate it.

There’s a lot of words in press releases, but the LS 460 doesn’t create a lot of conversation about itself. It’s quiet, comfortable, it ticks all the boxes, but it’s still not likely to get your ticker going.

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58 Comments on “Capsule Review: Lexus LS460...”

  • avatar

    I guess all the resident Japanese car lovers are sleeping in…or more likely they’re just on Pacific time.

  • avatar

    Isn’t there an F-Sport version of this that would have a *little* more sportiness? I’ve always liked the LS, if I needed a high buck highway cruiser this would be on the short list. However, I’m still partial to the Teutonic Autobahn sleds…if I had the cash an E63 or S6 would be in my garage.

  • avatar

    “The exterior styling is attractively innocuous and the interior is both comfortable and blandly luxurious.”

    Needs more .25 cent adjectives please.

  • avatar

    And then they ruin this lavishly generous sedative-on-wheels with that weaponized basking shark front.

    • 0 avatar

      Much obliged for your preponderant post outlining the relaxed, subliminal nature which obviates any pretensions of the sports-luxury dichotomy.

    • 0 avatar

      So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

    • 0 avatar

      The only criticism I’d ever make of Japanese auto manufacturers is that they just don’t get Gravitas. I think they let styling concerns subvert this every time.

      Sprightly, buki-tough and sunrise-reliable transport appliances? Oh, hell yes. But nothing with the Germanic aesthetic of ponderous power carrying brutal styling cues. They just don’t get that so they default to a trendy, lightweight Manga mentality.

      I feel slightly sick for admiring the German aesthetic.

      • 0 avatar

        You’re spot on, Kenmore. What they are picking up from the Germans is ‘family identity’ ie a corporate face. Unfortunately for them, since everything tasteful under the sun, face-wise, has already been tried, combined with their national prideful ‘no outside help’ attitude, in a desperate attempt to be distinctive, all they can do is be awkward at best, and downright ugly here in this Lexus case. OTOH, the day they pick up the phone and call a western stylist, they’ll rule the road…

    • 0 avatar

      Suddenly it’s 1961!

  • avatar

    Huh? This review is like someone complaining about the low tow rating on a Lotus Elise.

    Some people want and are excited by a big, quite, comfortable car.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree, let’s review cars by defining what they are first and see if they deliver.

    • 0 avatar

      Not exactly that – a Benz S-Class is still, to many people, the standard by which all all big, quiet, comfortable cars are judged. But it has presence. The Lexus is a very nice big, quiet, comfortable car, but it has little presence. If that doesn’t matter to you, this is an excellent choice (and I say that as someone who likes the LS).

    • 0 avatar

      The Lotus doesn’t have a “tow” button but the Lexus has a “sport” button.

  • avatar
    Da Coyote

    A close friend has a pristine LS-400 with over 200k miles on it. It still looks and drives as new. I’d purchase a Lexus if they still made that model. The new ones are – bland – to be complimentary.

    Toyota, please send your stylists to the same place in hell that Bangle runs and hire the folks that did your original.

    • 0 avatar

      Wait, wait…

      Your friend has an LS400 and it’s *not* bland?

      How did he manage that?

      The LS400 was always bland.

      That was the *point*; a copy of the previous S-class, for less money, and not a maintenance nightmare in five years, right?

      The LS has never looked exciting. It’d be doing it wrong if it had.

      (And lest anyone mistake, I mean that as a compliment; the W126 and W140 S classes were bland looking, too. Bland and stately go together well.)

      • 0 avatar
        Dave M.

        Agreed. The LS has always been a better-made knock-off of the MB.

        Personally I like it – it’s stylistically low-key but you can tell it’s expensive. The 7 would be more fun to drive, but the LS better to own.

      • 0 avatar

        Bland is good. Bland is simple. It means there’s nothing awkward, non-proportional, or downright goofy to get tired of. Bland is tasteful and timeless and doesn’t go out of style.

  • avatar

    I am wondering if they could have done a variation on the upside down triangle theme without looking too much like an Alfa. I can picture it and think it would look good. What’s there is an abomination. I actually prefer the spy-shot Genesis grill better. More traditional but at least it is “safe”.

  • avatar

    And it’s not supposed to. The LS460 is a car to be driven in and be seen in to show off how much money you have.

    • 0 avatar

      Nonsense! To flaunt a bit of wealth you’d want a Jag or Benz. Lexus is more about serenity and technical perfection, without blowing your wad. These days unfortunately, you also get an ugly corporate grill, but if you park it carefully, you never have to look at that…

  • avatar

    So many cliches and not enough pictures!

  • avatar

    One look at that grill and I wish I had Robert Farago’s gift for words.

  • avatar

    I recently picked up a 2004 LS430 which is pretty similar. I went shopping for a $10K car to suit MY needs. I typically drive about 40K per year in the upper mid-west. I don’t pay for my own fuel but I do pay for maintenance and repairs. I tested both a DTS and Town Car before I drove the LS. Sorry Panther fans, there is no comparison. Oh sure, I could have saved about $2-3K up front but looking at the long term-I expect to put about 300K on her before I hand it off to the wife-I feel that I made the best decision.

    The LS does not encourage behaving like boy racer. It is made to set the cruise and relax. The styling is pretty sad. The LS460 has the look of a beefed up Camry. At least with the 430 it still looks like a big Benz-if that floats your boat. My perspective, from the drivers seat, is pure comfort with one of the best reliability records of any sedan made. These cars also depreciate like a stone so buying used is not too painful.

    Perhaps in 10 years I will look at the current 460 and it’s additional 89hp as a upgrade. Just because I’m over 50 does not mean I don’t like to nail it once in a while.

  • avatar

    I don’t like to rip on TTAC reviews, because I wrote a couple of them forever ago and they aren’t easy to do. But while there isn’t much to disagree with in this review, it simply doesn’t contain much information. Other than the third and fourth paragraphs, the whole review probably could have been written without ever having to drive the car.

    There are specific things to talk about. The car does still have seats and a dash, and body lean and bump absorption, and the stereo makes sounds, and the electronic toys do or don’t do their respective jobs. My sense is that we readers could fairly well predict all of the above from the author’s general comments (the toys work immaculately, the road feel is nonexistent, the seats are coddling but lack a bit of lateral support), but the point is that I’m guessing; none of that is reported here.

    Case in point: The esteemed Michael Karesh tested this car’s predecessor a couple of years ago and carped that the door armrest was inexcusably hard and cheap for the car’s pedigree and luxury pretensions. A small thing? Not to me, not at these prices, not when it’s MY elbows. If gratuitous details like these didn’t matter, we wouldn’t need sites like this one.

    End of rant. Thanks for reading.

    • 0 avatar

      +10. On a totally unrelated note, the older I get, the nicer the LS becomes :-).

      • 0 avatar

        Aquineas, I get a good chuckle out of your comment, because I agree with it.

        I was telling a friend just the other day that in my advancing age, my own mushy and silent luxo-boat (of a competing make) has me completely spoiled for all more tactile iron. I rode in a friend’s perfectly serviceable four-banger ’04 Accord and thought my ears were being mugged. Then I rode in a well-maintained same-age Acura TL and thought my backside was being whacked with a baseball bat. Soon I’ll think the driver’s ed classroom simulator has unpleasantly heavy steering with too much kickback. :.)

    • 0 avatar

      With all respect, this review is sorely lacking in useful information. We all know the car is bland and luxury oriented, so as the reviewer states the only thing new is the tech yet almost nothing is provided to assess the new tech. The Avalon has wireless charging for smart phones (iPhone 5 only I think); does this car have that feature? does it work? I’m sure the seats are comfortable but do they have a massage feature? did it work well? better than the competition? Does the voice control feature work well? I’m one of those that hates the mouse controller and if voice works well you could largely avoid the mouse and keep your eyes on the road. I could go on for paragraphs about things I would have liked to know about but one in particular needs emphasis.

      Adaptive cruise is spreading like crazy, Eurocap requires it for a 5 star safety rating in Europe, the new Golf will include it as standard in all models, Subara has Eyesite, it’s in the Mazda 3 and 6, etc. Lexus is late to this party and I’m curious if this car had the feature and know how it worked. The German systems are awesome and most folks who’ve experienced the technology are very positive about it. You did not even mention it as an option for this car.

      So overall a very disappointing review; but it does serve as stark contrast to the remarkably complete reviews provided by Mr. Dykes on this site.

  • avatar

    “The HS250h and CT200 are not surprise success stories, but predictable failures”

    The CT200h which replaces the HS250h is currently the best selling Lexus in UK and other European countries, well ahead of the RX. The IS might give it some competition this year, but the IS300h has not been well received.

  • avatar

    I do appreciate one part of this review.
    “The haptic controller is both loved and loathed, but the heart of the matter is that the Lexus way of navigating around its app suite and infotainment system can be a more positive experience than stabbing at a screen with your finger. Those that hate it probably want to hate it.”
    Using a mouse positioned right where you would expect it to be, moving as you are accustomed to it moving, to control a screen a couple feet away from you makes a lot of sense. Reviewers’ complaints of it do strike me as rather insincere.

    • 0 avatar

      Have you ever actually tried the Lexus system? It really is terrible.

      You can acquire a target for your fingertip with a quick glance at a touchscreen. With iDrive/MMI-type control knobs, you quickly count how many icons you wish to move the focus past and then replicate that count with clicks of the knob. The Lexus system, by contrast, requires manipulation of a freely-moving cursor, and that’s just a pain in the ass while driving.

  • avatar

    “Lexus would probably dispute that, but just look at how much Camry there is in the LS. Or is it LS in the Camry? Does it matter, either way?”

    Sadly, I don’t think there’s been any LS in the Camry since 1997. In the ’90s the LS was truly a revelation. Now it’s just a very nice car.

  • avatar

    TTAC has some reviews like this. I remember another writer wrote about the Lincoln whatever – and I and a few other reviewers weren’t entirely convinced that he drove the car (though I think now he did).

    It’s a writing/money issue for the most part. Bash the magazines all you want but they produce a much higher quality product then a blog. Part of it is they run it through tests and such – and that gives them a lot more to talk about.

    The question for this car – is why buy it over the GS? The GS is sportier and looks better. If you want a Lexus – go GS.

    • 0 avatar

      Disclosure: Lexus bought me off with a 5 day loaner experience with a GS350 AWD F-Sport.

      Unless you want the isolation, the GS is … nicer.

      • 0 avatar

        You’ve probably experienced the future of automotive retailing. “Sir, we’ve noticed your lease is almost up/you last bought a car from us 4 years ago. There has been been some innovations in the new GS/ES/LS/RX/etc. and, with your permission, I’d like you to try one for a week. Just pay for the gas. I’d really love to get your honest opinion.”

        It’s like taking a puppy home. I’m surprised more dealerships don’t do this.

        • 0 avatar

          This happens when your car’s been crashed, and they don’t have any of the marque you drive, so they give you a cousin.

          Apparently the woman thought I30 = Infiniti = Nissan, so they gave me a CVT Murano. (This was back in 08.)

          BLEH, take it back.

  • avatar

    The LS is not an exciting car, but it is a good, spacious, reliable and quiet luxury car. For some odd reason these things are all over Texas. It does what it is supposed to do, replicate as closely as possible the S Class, A8, 7 series for a cheaper price and it does so reasonably. One of my neighbors had a first year LS and she must have had that thing for over 12 years. If it was not for her Dr. Destructo son, she would probably still have it to this day.

  • avatar

    Look in every nook and cranny of this car, look at the bottom of the doors and door panels, look in the spare tire well, look under the car when it is on a lift, this is THE epitome of attention to detail. There are NO unfinished areas on this car. It is almost creepy. I understand previous generations were the same way. Say what you will, this thing make other Lexus’ look 80% done.

    That said it is for those seeking the ultimate sedate sedan and it succeeds. The old nose was better looking, IMO. Make mine red.

  • avatar

    It’s quieter, faster, more comfortable and has more presence than the hopped up pickups with roofs most choose for the duty it’s meant for. It will start every day of it’s 7th year, unlike the Audi/BMW/Mercedes, and it’s transmission will still work, which is better than the Audi’s first year. It’s not my thing, but it’s good at it.

  • avatar

    I own the 2008 version – and not much has really changed since then except a few electronic doo-dads and the grille. That can be considered good or bad – as the car is certainly competent. I am not a TMC fanboy – and this is the only Lexus (heck – the only TMC vehicle) I have ever owned.

    In our metropolitan area they are quite common – and the LS460 is not seen as a vehicle for people who are seeking to flaunt their status – in fact, quite the opposite. This model is viewed as the “prudent” or “thinking man’s” choice for one who needs a reliable and large luxury sedan.

    The Mercedes S class and BMWs in our neighborhood tend to be driven by those who need to show some flash (and that can be for a legitimate reason depending on your business). My spouse and I attended a fundraiser hosted by the President of her college and of the ten couples – there were four LS460s.

    I will say that it is quient and comfortable – which is what it is known for, and that there have been zero service issues since purchased – just regular scheduled maintenance. Someone said the LS460 is the best Buick ever made by TMC – and there is a lot of truth in that when you look back to Buick’s better days.

    Would I buy one again? Maybe – but they do need to get some excitement in there – it is hard to win anyone’s heart when your claim to fame is that you are the quietest and most reliable luxury appliance/car. That is especially true in the market in which these vehicles compete – there are a lot of choices for customers. And if you want you can always get a very reliable non-luxury vehicle (which have also become quite nice and which are also very reliable).

  • avatar

    Nice to see that Lexus went back and time and ripped off the 1961 Plymouth grill, of which the Lexus fanbois will deny, yet scream bloody murder about the Hyundai designs.

  • avatar

    Lexus are as rare as teeth on a hen in my country. People are too much into brands. Audi, BMW or Mercedes shows that you have made it. Lexus? You bought a Toyota in fancy clothes, or you want to be different.

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