KBB Editors' Overview
By KBB.com Editors - Updated Date: 11/14/2011
This, some 20 years after the launch of the franchise, is the evolution of the car that established the tone for that franchise. And rarely has one model better defined a brand's mission, with craftsmanship, comfort and composure wrapped in a structure constructed by artisans. The 2012 Lexus LS sedan, in any of its iterations, isn't leading-edge in any one category (save, perhaps, the Hybrid), but is so complete in its concept, design and execution that its overall competence creates its own category.
You'll Like This Car If...
Any of the LS variants is built with a comfort bias, which isn't a bad thing in a luxury sedan. And if – in making an investment north of $70,000 – you care to hold onto it past the payment period, there's a lot to be said for older Japanese vis-à-vis older German. Lexus holds its high resale value, in part, because of better long-term reliability.
You May Not Like This Car If...
If you enjoy leading-edge design, along with a cut-and-thrust capability, the LS sedan may not be your cup of espresso. That said, we've yet to see a BMW 7 Series or an Audi A8 on an autocross course, begging the question: Why not a Lexus?
What's New for 2012
With earthquakes followed by a tsunami in 2011, it's understandable that Toyota and Lexus may have been focused elsewhere. To that end, there's a new color, Nebula Gray Pearl, replacing Smoky Granite Mica. This is the sixth year for this LS, the fourth generation.
In a word: Isolation. And that isn't, thankfully, the isolation of your dad's 1953 Buick. Rather, the 2012 Lexus LS sedan – in any of its variants – provides the isolation of a good neighborhood, marked by well-paved streets, homes set back from the traffic, and businesses placed in business districts and not in someone's front yard. Steering, braking and suspension are all better than you'd expect from what is traditionally regarded as the luxury segment, although all three may fall dynamically short when compared to offerings from BMW or Audi. If you absolutely must be better connected to the roadway, Lexus offers a Sport kit, with upgrades to the LS 460's suspension, brakes and seating. Or you could buy an LFA...
Sport Package (LS 460)
"Lexus" and "Sport" might seem to be an oxymoron, but if you're looking for a big sedan with a semblance of athletic capability, while wanting to do little more than fill the tank and check the oil level, there are worse alternatives than the LS 460 sedan fitted with the Sport Package. We like better braking and enhanced suspension, but even with the Sport moniker this isn't a sport sedan; it's a Lexus LS.
Executive-Class Seating Package (LS 460 L and LS 600h L)
One of the better reasons to buy a large luxury sedan is comfort. Of course, if you want to seat five or six comfortably you'd be better served by Cadillac's Escalade. But if it's only you and three close friends, you won't do better than the Executive-Class from Lexus. The rear compartment features two seats and a fixed rear console, in combination with power seats for both rear passengers, and a power recliner on the curbside seat. In short, first-class accommodation with everything but the warmed nuts.
From its wood-and-leather steering wheel to the closure of the cup holder's cover, everything – EVERYTHING – within the Lexus LS is intended to provide comfortable and composed transport of four or five adults. Of course, you can throw as much leather, wood and technology at an interior as you'd care to, but without the right platform, and full-time commitment, the recipe will fall flat on its face. With Lexus, the comfort begins at the contact patch of the tires and works up from there. Of course, should you want to take the standard interior furnishings up a notch, the Lexus product team is there for you, with Mark Levinson Reference Surround Sound Audio, climate-controlled front seating and power door closers (really!). Should you want more rear-seat space, the "L" version provides almost five inches of additional legroom.
If the Lexus interior can boast of "quiet," the exterior of the LS 460 is "very quiet." Although the initial LS sheet metal virtually defined derivative, taken, as it was, almost intact from the Mercedes S-Class sedan, the Lexus LS has quietly evolved over the last two decades to define a style – albeit conservative style – all its own. And if you look beyond the less-than-expressive sheet metal you'll find body gaps pared to the absolute minimum, a low front grille and what Lexus terms "deep-drawn" fenders, all contributing to a carefully crafted, masculine footprint. One thoughtful addition is Lexus' anti-scratch clear-coat paint, whose molecular structure will actually restore minor scratches.
Notable Standard Equipment
The emphasis, of course, is on luxury. To that end, for your $70K you can expect – and receive – a veritable boatload of comfort and convenience options fully appropriate to that luxury mandate. Customers can select from four leather-and-wood interior combinations, and enjoy 16-way power driver's-seat adjustment, dual-zone climate control, Lexus Premium Audio and a standard moonroof. All of this comes, of course, on top of a responsive 4.6-liter V8 with direct fuel injection, 8-speed automatic transmission and, for many, an optimal balance between comfort and control. Finally, with each and every LS sedan comes an almost obsessive attention to detail by the engineering team and assembly workers.
Notable Optional Equipment
You could fill pages with what's available from the Lexus option sheet. Those options we regard as notable include all-wheel drive (AWD), providing all-season capability with a performance-biased system; 3-Mode Air Suspension, which includes a Sport setting for a controlled, athletic feel; Lexus HDD Navigation in combination with the Mark Levinson Reference Surround Audio; and the Sport Package (LS 460 rear-wheel drive), which provides both a functional and visual upgrade to the LS' platform. Of course, comfort at Lexus comes in two variants: Comfort and Comfort Plus. Opt for Comfort and you can replace the driver with a heated steering wheel (RWD only) and Lexus' Intuitive Park Assist.
Under the Hood
The 2012 Lexus LS 460 sedan family comes with a 4.6-liter V8 engine that delivers 380 horsepower and 367 lb-ft of torque in the rear-wheel-drive configuration. All-wheel-drive models boast a more modest 357 horsepower and 344 lb-ft of torque. Combined with a well-sorted 8-speed automatic transmission, either model can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in around six seconds. Thanks to electronically controlled intake valves and hydraulically manipulated exhaust valves, the LS 460 manages to meet ULEV II emissions standards and return 16 mpg city and 24 mpg highway in rear-wheel-drive models and 16 mpg city and 23 mpg highway in the all-wheel-drive versions. For those wishing to go green – or at least looking as if they have – the LS 600h L combines a 5.0-liter V8 and two "motor generators" (one serving as a primary generator and a second driving the rear wheels) for a total system horsepower of 438. Despite its green credentials the resulting efficiency barely moves the needle, delivering 19 city and 23 highway.
380 horsepower @ 6,400 rpm
357 horsepower @ 6,400 rpm (AWD)
367 lb-ft of torque @ 4,100 rpm
344 lb-ft of torque @ 4,100 rpm (AWD)
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 16/24 (rear-wheel drive), 16/23 (/18 AWD)
5.0-liter V8 with Hybrid Battery Pack and Two Motor Generators
389 horsepower @ 6,400 rpm
385 lb-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpm
Sealed nickel-metal hydride battery (Ni-MH) producing 49 horsepower
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/23
Notably, no version of the Lexus LS sedan suffered a price increase at the beginning of the 2012 model year, signaling an aggressive posture on the part of Lexus marketers. The LS 460 has a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of just over $68,000 with destination, while the AWD variant adds roughly $2,300 to that $68K base. Stretch the wheelbase five inches and you'll spend approximately $73,500 for RWD and under $76,000 for AWD. The Big Green comes with going green; Lexus wants over $113,000 for the hybrid on the LS platform. That $40K difference would, coincidentally, buy one well-equipped Prius. For an accurate guide to what consumers are paying in your market area, consult Kelley Blue Book's Fair Purchase Price. And don't fret regarding return on investment. Historically, Lexus enjoys the highest resale values in its competitive category.