EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 29, 2013

Lexus LS 460 offers all-season luxury

Motor Mouth
Jeffrey Zygmont

---- — Winter is the best time of year to be pampered, and the Lexus LS 460 might be the best car for the job. The big, stately cruiser even looks the part, with a shape, stance, style and demeanor that make it the moving equivalent of a mansion staffed by butler and maids.

The four-door, five-passenger sedan starts with a list price of $73,050. But around here – after the last couple of weeks especially – drivers feel tempted to add the extra traction of all-wheel drive for an additional $2,945 on the base model. In standard trim, this flagship Lexus sedan uses rear-wheel drive, the common configuration for full-size cars in the luxury class.

You have to add even more to get the pampering that’s particularly appreciated in the Merrimack Valley, where our winters can make common life a hardship. The LS 460 I evaluated last week came with a $2,090 “Comfort Package” option that bundled together four extra features. The power-hinged trunk was nice. The power up-and-down back-window sunshade was an amusing distraction that could prove moderately useful in summer – or very useful to our neighbors in southern climates. But the big bonuses for us northern toughs were the package’s heated front and rear seats. The front seats also had dial settings to provide cooling ventilation, but who cares?

For an additional $110, my test model also included a heated wooden steering wheel. The wooden portions were glossy, thick arcs making up the top crescent and bottom sections of the wheel. The finely polished wood adds an aura of rich craftsmanship, and brings the authenticity of a natural material to the opulent Lexus. But who cares? I wanted the heat, which seeped luxuriously into my fingers from soft grips at the three-o’clock and nine-o’clock positions.

So the pampering I appreciated most while driving the Lexus LS 460 last week came from special features added for cold-weather survival. Heating coils in the driver seat and steering wheel carried me through a week that started with frigid temperatures and a big dump of snow and ended with coated roads, sleet and sloppy rainfall.

But heated seats and even heated steering wheels come as options on too many cars today to consider them a measure of luxury. As much as I appreciated those features last week, in the big, swaggering Lexus they were starting points, admission tickets, qualities the car just had to have to make its claim to luxury seem legitimate.

Beyond them, the LS 460 packs in plenty of exceptional characteristics to give it top-flight status in the luxury class. For starters, the model is large, solid and substantial, with a high-gloss finish and richly wrought details that give it sparkling presence and upper-crust attitude. That’s important because much of the appeal of luxury cars is the prestige drivers feel inside an auto that many other people just can’t afford.

The cabin of the LS spreads comfort wide. It mimics the exterior’s reliance on careful details, fine materials and edge-to-edge styling to create a stand-out environment. It avoids flash-bang trendiness, instead presenting an interior fashioned with traditional elegance. The car is engineered for noise suppression, with sound-blocking barriers added, to help make the ride inside calm and sedate.

The equipment built into the LS 460 includes the full supply of useful, efficient and entertaining aids. It comes with a power adjustable steering wheel, power front shoulder-strap adjusters, a large, 12.3-inch center screen for controlling cabin comfort, communication and entertainment systems, and for displaying the back-up camera image and operating the navigation system that includes traffic and weather reports.

A notable feature of the LS 460 is its smooth, powerful, eight-cylinder engine that propels the car with calm and easygoing surety. A lot of competing models in the full-size luxury class now use six-cylinder engines in their standard trim, with V8s sometimes available as options. The LS 460 comes with an eight-speed automatic transmission, which was the car industry’s first eight-speed when it first arrived in the LS in 2007.

Lexus also sells a hybrid version of the LS. But packed with features, powered by a gasoline-and-electric drive system, and priced over $100,000, the LS 600hL is in a separate class than the standard, gasoline-powered model.

The LS 460 was redesigned, modernized and improved for 2013. Lexus, the luxury-car division of Toyota, sells the LS 460 in two sizes. In addition to the standard LS 460, a stretched version called the LS 460L is five inches longer, with the space added to the back seat. An F Sport model comes with the same engine and transmission as the standard LS, but it includes upgraded equipment for more athletic driving, such as additional seat bolstering, faster steering, a specially tuned air suspension, and more aggressive, Brembo brakes. To make the F Sport look the part, Lexus adds styling details like slick low air intakes and a black mesh grille in place of the standard model’s bright horizontal bars.

Together, the sporty features added to the F Sport version bring more heat to the Lexus LS 460. But from now till March, you’ll still want the heated seats and steering wheel.

Jeffrey Zygmont is an author of fiction and non-fiction books, and a long-time auto writer. Contact him at www.jeffreyzygmont.com.

Lexus LS 460 Vehicle type: 4-door, 5-passenger, rear- and all-wheel-drive full-size luxury sedan Price range: $73,050 to $120,970 (plus options) Warranty: 4 years/50,000 miles basic warranty; 6 years/70,000 miles powertrain warranty; 6 years/unlimited miles corrosion warranty Engine: 4.6-liter V8 Power: 386 horsepower at 6,400 rpm; 367 lb.-ft. torque at 4,100 rpm Transmission: 8-speed automatic Fuel economy: 16 mpg city; 24 mpg highway Wheelbase: 117 inches Length: 200 inches Width: 74 inches Height: 58 inches Weight: 4,233 pounds Fuel capacity: 22.2 gallons Turning circle: 35.4 feet