THIS is by far and away the best car that Lexus has ever built, so it seems a shame that at the thick-end of £60,000 not many people will get to appreciate it.
It earns this accolade because it follows some very simple principles – luxury cars should be big, quick, comfortable and have a real presence on the road.
The LS460 ticks all of these boxes and also undercuts its rivals on price despite offering a list of standard equipment which stretches to pages.
While the range-topping LS has always been big and comfortable, it has never really had the presence to make it a contender.
But things have changed and the styling and sheer size of the LS make it stand out whether it is rumbling down the fast lane of the motorway or parked in the directors’ parking bay outside the office.
Gone is the bland styling of previous models, replaced by a look which is both elegant and muscular – especially the fat twin exhaust pipes at the rear. You’ll never mistake this Lexus for an overgrown Toyota.
The look inside is not quite as convincing though. It’s well screwed together and the materials used are excellent, but it all feels a little too ‘try hard’.
In a sector where minimalism is the theme with buttons being ditched and replaced by multi-use joystick controls, the LS still has a plethora of buttons scattered around the centre console and steering wheel which give a fussy look. And the wood used has that high-gloss coating which makes it look as unlike real wood as it’s possible to do.
The German marques have realised that less is more when it comes to interior design –something the Japanese have yet to cotton on to.
But on the road the Lexus is pretty much faultless. The 4.6-litre V8 engine is silky smooth and whisper quiet on tickover, yet offers a sweet soundtrack as the unit is wound up towards the red line. It’s not sportscar style, but there’s enough engine noise to let you know there’s a V8 under the bonnet.
With 375bhp it’s not slow either, despite this car’s bulk. Accelerating from 0-62mph takes under six seconds and motorway cruising is done at such low revs that engine noise never intrudes into the cabin.
The engine is connected to a world-first eight-speed automatic gearbox which shifts imperceptibly up the gears. The only slight criticism is that with so many ratios it often kicks down by too many gears when you want to accelerate, resulting in a lurch forward in too high a gear before it realises and changes up.
The ride is utterly comfortable yet the big LS makes a decent stab at cornering, too. Weight and size prevent it being lithe, but it’s no wallowing monster on back roads either.
Lexus has created a real star with the new LS, so it’s a shame there won’t be a cheaper diesel version like its rivals. Instead, Lexus will introduce a £90,000-plus hybrid model.
P11D value: £56,752
CO2 emissions (g/km): 261
BIK % of P11D in 2007: 35%
Graduated VED rate: £210
Insurance group: 18
Combined mpg: 25.4
CAP RV (3yr/60k): £18,175/32%
Monthly lease (3yr/60k): £1,180
We don’t like:
ALL four cars are V8-engined luxury expresses and all come loaded with equipment such as full leather trim, climate control and satellite navigation. The S500 is easily the most expensive and sits on 17-inch wheels where the BMW and Lexus have 18s and the Audi 19-inch rims.
ALL four fall into the highest tax banding, although money isn’t so much of an issue here. For the record, the Lexus will cost the least in BIK tax, with a 40% taxpayer facing a monthly bill of £662. The BMW will cost £664, the Audi £719 a month and the S500 £811.
THE 740i’s Service Inclusive package brings servicing bills down to under £3,500 over three years/60,000 miles, while the four-wheel drive Audi’s high tyre replacement costs hinder its challenge. The Lexus and Mercedes-Benz are equally matched and cost within £300 of each other.
740i: 5.70 (pence per mile) £3,420 (60,000 miles total)
S500: 6.25 £3,750
LS460: 6.81 £4,086
A8: 7.89 £4,734
DESPITE the weight of its four-wheel drive transmission, the A8’s use of lightweight aluminium helps keep weight down. The FSI engine is the most fuel efficient, returning 26mpg for a fuel bill of £9,100 over 60,000 miles. The Lexus returns 25.4mpg, the BMW 25.2 and the S500 24.1.
A8: 15.19 (pence per mile) £9,114 (60,000 miles total)
LS460: 15.55 £9,330
740i: 15.68 £9,408
S500: 16.39 £9,834
LUXURY saloons lose a massive amount of money in depreciation. The S500 retains the best proportion of cost new at 34% after three years/ 60,000 miles, according to CAP, although its front-end price counts against it. The Lexus retains 32%, the BMW 31% and the Audi 30%.
LS460: 64.29 (pence per mile) £38,574 (60,000 miles total)
740i: 65.31 £39,186
A8: 71.73 £43,038
S500: 76.69 £46,014
THANKS to a strong showing in the depreciation section the Lexus takes a very narrow running costs victory over the BMW, with both likely to cost around 70 pence-per-mile to run. The Audi and Mercedes-Benz are much further adrift and are knocking on the £1 per mile mark.
LS460: 86.65 (pence per mile) £51,990 (60,000 miles total)
740i: 86.69 £52,014
A8: 94.81 £56,886
S500: 99.33 £59,598
IN absolute terms, the Mercedes-Benz S-class is still the model to beat in terms of luxury, quality and range (especially in S320 CDI diesel guise). But the Lexus LS460 breaks the German hegemony – it’s an amazing car which is not only incredibly luxurious and good to drive but which, for the first time for a Lexus, has a real presence on the road. The S-class is the ultimate luxury car range, but, between the S500 and the LS460, the Lexus makes a very strong case for itself, both on the road and on the balance sheet.