Can you believe it’s been 25 years since Lexus had its US debut? It all hinged on the big LS sedan, which proved to have the mettle to compete with the Mercedes S-Class. The success story continues with the 2015 LS, which has something for for everybody in the executive-sedan market.
That first LS remains one of the most significant cars sold in the US, as it asserted that Japanese cars could be prestigious as well as reliable. The LS 400’s intro price of $35,000 is about $63,250 in today’s dollars.
The base price increased over time as Lexus established its premium reputation, and the tested 2014 LS 460 started at $72,950. BMW and Audi start their executive sedans in the $70K range, while Mercedes pins its S-Class at the top, with a $95K entry point.
At the lower end are the Kia K900 at $55K and the Hyundai Equus at $62K. So the LS’s pricing pegs it in the segment’s middle ground.
For 2015, the LS offers lots of ways to move beyond the beige or silver that this model tends to bring to mind. There’s the F Sport, with its darker trim, sportier wheels and unique grille…
…and its corresponding coal-black interior with shiny accents.
Then there’s “The Crafted Line”, a color scheme that is offered across the Lexus range. Outside it is white with glossy black accents on the door handles and mirrors…
…and The Crafted Line’s interior has bold red accents. These sporty editions are part of the Lexus effort to capture a younger clientele while retaining traditional customers.
The tested 2014 LS 460 is one of the more traditional offerings, and it came well-equipped with about $8K of options, including the Adaptive Variable Air Suspension, which for $2,120 also includes the neat Variable Gear Ratio Steering. It’s a little surprising that a $72K car still needed $500 for the Blind Spot Monitor and $64 for the cargo net, but everybody’s gotta make money somehow.
It had the Heated Wood Steering Wheel with Leather Center Pad, $260, and we didn’t mind that at all. The $1,580 Mark Levinson sound system was pretty terrific too.
You can have the LS as a hybrid, but most come with this 386-horsepower, 4.6-liter V8. That rating is clipped back to 360 horsepower if you opt for all-wheel drive. Response is buttery smooth, and this V8’s heady power output makes driving a pretty much effortless affair. The LS’s eight-speed transmission works without fuss and keeps the engine feeling lively.
EPA mileage is 19 overall – 16 mpg city, 24 highway. Lexus specifies premium gas.
The different driving modes afforded by the air suspension package do make a difference; Comfort is more billowy, and the Sport mode is more planted. These are shades of difference in a car where the main purpose is to muffle intrusions from the outside world; the LS doesn’t suddenly adopt a new personality when you turn the dial. But the air-suspensioned LS can match your mood if you are feeling especially languid or purposeful.
The system’s variable gear steering works a little differently than the BMW’s – it’s not as dramatic in its operation, particularly at lower speeds, where the BMW can cut a tighter line than you ever imagined it could. It’s more of an unseen agility helper; the LS feels as nimble around town as it feels relaxed on the highway, and the malleable steering ratio is part of that.
Inside, the instrument panel is a familiar shape done with impressive execution. Wood trim dominates the visuals, and there’s just enough shiny stuff to deliver for those looking for bling.
The driver’s environment feels at once roomy and cozy. There’s plenty of room for legs and shoulders, and the high-rising center console sets its controls close to your hand.
The Lexus Enform system works to great effect in the LS, with its easy-to-manipulate controller and its haptic (vibration) response helping you work the very wide center screen. Like other Lexuses, that center screen is thoroughly shrouded from reflections.
The rear seat is inviting with a thickly padded seat, although its 35.8 inches of rear legroom would be on the low side for a mid-sized sedan. The LS 460 L has a five-inch longer wheelbase, but only 0.9 inches of that benefit makes it to the rear seat, to make it still a couple inches short of the Toyota Camry in rear legroom. Curious, no?
The optional Alcantara headliner is lovely.
Prestige and image are part and parcel for cars in the executive segment; it’s why Hyundai Equus starts in the lower in the $60K range, as the original LS did. That company is still building its brand.
Lexus, on the other hand, has come all this way to seamlessly enter into consideration alongside the storied German sedans. The LS gives an unquestionably premium experience, and the different flavors it offers for 2015 sweeten the pot. The LS is not as engaging as an Audi or Mercedes, and it isn’t meant to be. It succeeds as it always has as in being a very nice way to cover the miles.
2015 Lexus LS 460
Base Price: $72,140
Price as Tested: $81,179
Adaptive Variable Air Suspension: $2,120
Variable Gear Ratio Steering
Comfort and SportS+ Driving Modes
Comfort Package: $1,650
Climate-Comfort Front Seats
Power Rear Sunshade
One Touch Power Trunk Open/Close
Mark Levinson 19-Speaker Sound System: $1,580
19-Inch Split Seven Spoke Wheels With All-Season Tires: $1,100
Semi-Aniline Leather Trim Interior And Alcantara Headliner Upgrade: $550
Blind Spot Monitor With Rear Cross Traffic Alert: $500
Heated Wood Steering Wheel With Leather Center Pad: $260
All Weather Package: $200
Windshield Wiper Deicer
Enhanced Interior Heater
High Capacity Battery
Trunk Mat: $105
Cargo Net: $64
Destination Charge: $910
Powerful V8 engine
Variety of trim options
Unimpressive rear legroom
Some options should be standard