Lexus LS460 – New Premium Luxury Segment Benchmark?3
Now that I have had a chance to digest the upcoming all new Lexus LS460 I have to conclude that it will be one formidable competitor. VehicleVoice and AutoPacific analysts concur.
In an auto show season when the USA audience has the chance to see an all new (to the USA) Mercedes-Benz S-Class and Lexus LS460, there is an opportunity to do some deep soul searching about the group of flagship sedans that top the car market in the USA. We include the Audi A8, BMW 7-Series, Infiniti Q45, Jaguar XJ, Mercedes-Benz S-Class and Lexus LS in this group of excellent cars. We might reach downmarket a bit to the Acura RL and upwards a lot to the Bentley Continentals, but the key competitors are Audi, BMW, Jaguar, Lexus and Mercedes. By far, the best seller has been the Lexus capturing 27% of the class in its last full year of production.
So, why would a Japanese luxury car now be worthy of becoming the benchmark of the Premium Luxury Segment? The Lexus LS has had the corner on durability, quality and reliabiliity consistently rating higher than the German marques in AutoPacific quality and satisfaction research. In fact, in most years the Lexus LS wins AutoPacific’s prestigious Vehicle Satisfaction Award (in 2005, the Jaguar XJ won by a nose over the Lexus). So, now, the new Lexus LS may clearly establish its mainstream models as the cream of the Premium Luxury Car crop because now the car will have distinctive styling arguably on a par with the best coming from Europe. No longer can the LS be described as boring and bland.
LS460 Style an Excellent Melding of German-Japanese Design Language
In front view, the Lexus evolves nicely from the Lexus GS330 and GS430. The family resemblance is clear. The sideview is uncannily similar to the BMW 7-Series right down to the kink in the rear door that has been so characteristic of BMW styling for decades. Avoiding the descriptor of “Bangle-Butt”, the LS460 rear end style is crisp and taut.
For the first time, the Lexus LS460 is available in short and long wheelbase models. Previously, having only a short wheelbase model may have limited sales to those wanting commodious rear seating. Adding the 460L to the lineup fills one of the few holes in the LS460 model lineup. The 460L is about the same length as the BMW 750iL and the American market Mercedes S-Class. Interestingly, the new Lincoln MKS also is about the same size.
LS460 Interior Functional, Luxurious Easy to Use – Avoids Interface Pitfalls
The interior is gorgeous with functional use incorporated into shapes communicating luxury and prestige. Also, thank heavens, Lexus has avoided the German tendency to adopt multi-function displays like the Mercedes COMAND system and BMW’s iDrive. These German systems have proven to be a customer satisfaction and warranty nightmare for both Mercedes and BMW. At-a-glance, the new Lexus “Human Machine Interface” looks like it could pass AutoPacific’s Rental Car Test (not that an LS460 will be found in a Hertz lot any time soon). Ease of use has always been a primary objective of Lexus and while the new LS460 appears to have gathered many more capabilities, the interface appears to be intuitive.
Powertrains – New V8 Engine and a Rompin’ Stompin’ High Performance Hybrid Model
The base LS460 engine is a 380 horsepower 4.6L V8 that can hit 60 mph in less than 5.5 seconds. Used to be when only sports cars had this kind of acceleration! The V8 is mated to an 8-speed automatice transmission… that’s right – 8-speeds. But that is for the “mundane” base LS460. The 460h Hybrid version is the high performance version of the car and promises to provide truly remarkable performance. Biased towards performance, the Hybrid Lexus flagship should still achieve relatively excellent fuel economy performance. The Hybrid is rumored to have a price point around $100,000.
Has LS460 Beaten the Germans?
It is probably too early to tell if the LS460 really has become the benchmark for the class. Sure it has the style – exterior and interior, it now has an “L” model, it has a high performance Hybrid model, but does it need something like an Audi S8, BMW M7 (OK, that doesn’t exist), Jaguar XKR or Portfolio, or Mercedes S65, AMG or Brabus? Time will tell.
But we can be sure that the new LS460 will be more expensive than the LS430 and its buyer profile will change to be younger, more affluent, more highly educated, and more enthusiastic about cars. No longer will LS appeal only to people wanting bulletproof, A-to-B daily luxury transportation. This car promises to make the blood flow!