2008 Lexus LS460 review

No one has ever denied that Lexus makes a quality car. Seemingly every year, they notch another quality award from various major sources. Maintained properly, their cars, much like the Energizer bunny, just keep going and going and going. You could see this in their slogan – “The relentless pursuit of perfection”. But if Lexus cars are criticized for anything, it’s for injecting Novocain into their cars. No one this side of a Rolls Royce provides a more isolated drive. Perhaps sensing that people wanted a tinge of excitement, not long ago Lexus modified their slogan to “The passionate pursuit of perfection”. Nice play, but did that idea trickle down to their newer machines?

You can see my reviews here of some of their other models to help answer that. This time I thought I’d try out the big-dog LS460. This is the top of the heap for Lexus; everything they know is built into this car. The LS is available in both standard and long wheelbases. Power is derived from the 4.6L V8 in Lexus’ parts bin. A significant and odd omission is that AWD is not available, unlike their competitors. This is supposed to be rectified for the 2009 model year. The one reviewed here is the standard wheelbase with RWD.

The outside is very stately and attractive. It speaks with a quiet elegance. Other motorists will notice you're in a nice car without shouting it to the rest of the world. Inside is every bit as classy as you might imagine. All the toys and then some are there. Options are few but a notable one is an audio system by none other than Mark Levinson. Audiophiles, rejoice! Even in the standard wheelbase version, interior room is ample, even in the backseat. The seats are quite comfortable, the materials and build quality are top-notch. All of the controls are laid out logically and fall readily to hand. The operation of all components are fluid and very quiet, from the sunroof to the sunshade to the climate system. The engine starts near silently and without drama. One might also say without passion. Slip the 8-speed automatic into Drive and you’re on your way.

The LS is, again as expected, very silent inside. Very little of the outside world gets in to interfere with your life. The engine has a muted but pleasing growl under acceleration. The 8 cogs in the transmission virtually guarantee that you’ll never find yourself outside of the powerband when you may need it most. Shifts are unobtrusive and well-damped.

The suspension absorbs bumps and other assorted imperfections with a quiet *whoomp*. Steer the car into a bend and again you’ll find the chassis mostly willing, but uninvolving. The steering doesn’t help much here either. While accurate, there’s not a lot of tactile feedback either.

One reason people buy a Lexus is the phenomenal resale value. One curious thing though – it’s not hard at all to find dealers offering north of $10,000 off of the sticker price just for saying hello. There are a couple of factors in play (prices from late September 2008): they’re trying to dump year-end inventory and the economy is not exactly conducive to selling $70k luxury cars. Offering a five figure discount is sure to wreck initial resale value, and scanning the prices of late model used cars confirms this. Interestingly enough too, the LS is rated as one of the luxury cars with the steepest initial depreciation curve – a surprising award for a Lexus, but one I’m sure they’d rather not win.

So, what to make of the LS? It’s nice enough for sure. It certainly feels luxurious in all the right ways. It’s screwed together solidly and will no doubt provide years of worry-free service. Those are the pluses, and those are not bad qualities. On the minus side, it’s just not involving to drive. Competent, yes. Memorable? No. You really have to ask yourself, “Could I see myself driving this for X number of years and stay interested?” Some might, but enthusiasts won’t.

Ok, so this is the part where I defend my review by acknowledging that the LS is not supposed to be a sports machine or an Autobahn burner. I understand all of that. It’s aimed at a different person. But Lexus is the one who started using the word “passion” in their ads, trying to win over those with more of an enthusiastic bent. They may very well be passionate about pursuing perfection. But you just won’t find it in the driving experience.

Photos property of Lexus

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