The LS430 has never had the most elegant shape, going for old-fashioned heavy presence rather than sleekness.
Although there are some changes around the front – new grille and headlamp units to give a more 'muscular' profile according to Lexus – the effect remains pretty much the same as before.
Apparently, the bigger revisions are in the area of construction standards, which has always been a Lexus hallmark anyway. Lexus reckons it has improved its body stamping processes, made the bodywork and underfloor flusher and improved aerodynamics.
It might not look it, but Lexus claims the LS is the most slippery shape in the luxury class, which helps to eliminate wind noise and help high-speed stability.
There has been some tweakery in the engine department as well, which has improved fuel consumption and emissions. The 4.3-litre V8 engine now has 278bhp at 5,600rpm and 308lb-ft of torque at 3,500rpm. The transmission has also been improved, with the addition of a six-speed gearbox, called Super ECT-i, with ratios that are closer together than before to beef up performance.
And performance certainly is beefy. The LS430 is almost totally hushed when cruising, and the new gearbox slips imperceptibly between gears. As travelling goes, this makes the Lexus as effortless as it gets.
It's seats are big, squashy, soft leather armchairs and much more accommodating than the leather chairs that German cars tend to have, which often has tauter material and is harder-backed. Like a mattress though, it often comes down to personal taste.
I find the interior of the LS430 variable – though not in quality (everything has been lashed down and bolted tight with sadistic glee) or ergonomics.
All of the equipment, and the list is long enough to run to pages, is extremely easy to use and works perfectly. It has the best sat-nav system there is, cruise control, sunroof, rear parking camera, a stupendous Mark Levinson 11-speaker hi-fi system, CD autochanger, air conditioned electric memory seats, rain sensitive wipers and climate control, to name a few.
But here's my contention: luxury cars should have style, grace and sophistication, and the high-quality materials in the LS430 are let down by a treatment that has concentrated almost totally on logic and practicality. A great sentiment, but in this class it needs more class.
The buttons all have their functions written in great big white idiot-proof letters, and all the switchgear is large and chunky enough so that an elephant could adjust the climate control or use the CD.
Make no mistake, this is a fabulously well-engineered car, which glides along and will leave the driver and passengers completely relaxed at the end of any journey.
But while Lexus was feverishly chasing rationality and build quality, somebody forgot to mix in that magical je ne sais quoi that defines a luxury product.
Lexus LS 430 auto
standard car (P11D value)
CO2 emissions (g/km) 270
BIK % of P11D in 2004 35%
Graduated VED rate £160
Insurance group 17
Combined mpg 24.8
CAP Monitor residual value £19,500/34%
Depreciation 59.09 pence per mile x 60,000 £35,454
Maintenance 4.12 pence per mile x 60,000 £2,472
Fuel 15.39 pence per mile x 60,000 £9,234
Wholelife cost 78.60 pence per mile x 60,000 £47,160
Typical contract hire rate £1,192 per month
All figures based on 3yrs/60,000 miles. Monthly rental quote from HSBC Vehicle Finance
At a glance
Three rivals to consider
All four cars come with very high specification for their price and no driver should feel short-changed with any of them. All are sumptuous, with plenty of space and lots of presence.
However, to bring it to a specification anywhere near the Lexus, the Range Rover would cost nearly £5,000 more, while the A8 and S430 can't match its air-conditioned seats, 11 speakers and voice control system. Lexus offers a car that looks good value for money, even at this hefty price.
Range Rover £60,797
The Lexus looks miles ahead when it comes to service, maintenance and repair costs, with a rate over 60,000 miles of 4.12ppm, reaffirming the brand's – and parent company Toyota's – enviable reputation for reliability and buttoned-down service and repair pricing.
The next best is the Audi at 5.16ppm, but some context needs applying here. The Lexus would cost £600 less than the Audi at about £2,400, but both are looking at total wholelife costs of nearly £50,000, so SMR isn't going to be much of an issue in the face of other huge bills.
Range Rover 5.33ppm
The Range Rover is one of the thirstiest cars ever to be produced, and even rating it at its combined figure of 17.4mpg – not easily achieved if our experiences are anything to go by – would result in a bill for 60,000 miles' worth of motoring of more than £13,000. The A8's four-wheel drive makes it slightly worse than the Lexus and Mercedes-Benz, but all three are going to costs, at least £9,000 in fuel over the period, no matter how carefully they are driven.
Range Rover 21.94ppm
The Range Rover manages the trick of being the most expensive at the front end at more than £60,000, while having the lowest pence per mile cost for depreciation at 58.95, illustrating its unique standing in the sector. It would lose more than £35,000, while the most expensive, the S-class, would lose nearly £36,500, so there's not much in it in cash terms.
From a CAP RV point of view, the Lexus would be worth 34% after three years/60,000 miles, the Audi 36%, the Mercedes-Benz 38% and the Range Rover a very healthy 42%.
Range Rover 58.95ppm
Not unexpectedly, the Range Rover proves to be the most expensive to run, with its high front end price and astronomic fuel consumption. Three years' motoring would cost nearly £52,000. The best would be the LS430 which, at a pence per mile charge of 78.60, would total £47,610. It manages that through good servicing rates, a lower P11d price that impacts less on depreciation ppm rates, and the best fuel consumption. The Audi and Mercedes-Benz come a close second and third.
Range Rover 86.22ppm
Emissions and bik tax rates
Drivers of any of these cars would always be taxed at 35% and as they are going to be 40% taxpayers, some of the bills would fund a small army. The smallest is the Audi A8, which would cost £7,808 a year in tax while the most expensive, the £60,797 Range Rover would end up with a bill of £8,512. Of course, with these cars, such is the tax bill that opting out would be an issue, but the running costs of these cars are so large that it is by no means the default option.
Range Rover 389/35%
The Lexus is the best value for money here and comes with a level of equipment the rest can't match. For a fleet manager looking to source the best cost option, it would be worth a look. However, the A8 runs it close on bills, feels more like a luxury product, has an interior that matches the Lexus on build quality and beats it on style, while also having the added security of four-wheel drive. As such, the Audi A8 wins.