This is my review of the 2007 Lexus LS460 SE-L. I should mention at the start that I am slightly biased having owned not one, but two of these magnificent cars. As you can tell from the last sentence, I do like the car but I hope to be honest about its flaws as well as its wonders. My review is of the SE-L model with all of its toys and conveniences.
First, a bit about my car history so you can understand my references for comparison. I've owned and driven (family owned) the following different cars:
1986 Ford Escort 1.6L, 1986 Metro 1.0, 1991 VW Polo 1.0, 1994 Renault Laguna 1.8, 1995 Mercedes C200, 1992 Toyota Supra 3.0 NA, 1991 Toyota Supra 3.0 Turbo, 1998 Mercedes A140, 2004 Renault Megane Coupe Cabriolet 2.0 Petrol, 2004 Renault Scenic 1.9dci, 2006 Renault Megane Coupe Cabrolet 1.9dci, 2007 Lexus LS460 SE-L, 2008 Lexus RX400h, 2006 Renault Laguna 2.0dci, 2007 Toyota Prius 1.5, 2007 Lexus LS460 SE-L
So you can see that I've driven quite a few different cars, front wheel drive, rear wheel drive, 4 wheel drive, petrol, diesel, hybrid, non-power assisted steering, power-assisted steering.
I'm also a handy kart racer and can handle myself driving sideways or being smooth for ultimate lap times (I beat the original Stig's time at the Team-Sport Tower Bridge circuit)
On to the Lexus LS460 SE-L:
Firstly this car is big. Very big. It looks like a family car that has been on steroids, growing another 10%. The shape is smooth and handsome to my eyes. The large chrome grille with prominent Lexus L looks very impressive as you walk towards the car. Only the headlights look a little bit bulbous - somewhere the LS600 looks better with its row of LED lamps.
This is the biggest failing in the LS460 SE-L. With the rear airconditioner as standard, boot space is restricted to 385 litres, down from the 505 litres of the basic car. There is an awkward shaped lump making it awkward to place multiple large suitcases. I would think twice before taking this car to the airport packing luggage.
Lexus paintwork is very smooth and shiny when new, but it is extremely soft and easy to scratch. Do not go near it with a pressure washer.
Official figures show the LS460 can go from 0-60mph in 5.7 seconds and 0-100mph in 15.3. Even my 7 year old model with 130,000 miles on the clock feels every bit as fast from a standing start if you floor it, and it builds speed from even motorway cruising speeds at a faintly scary rate. I would say though that when the gearbox is left in D, the car tends to shift to as high a gear as possible getting to 8th gear from as little as 40mph, keeping the tacho in the 1500 rpm range. If you ask the car to accelerate fast from there, there is a hesitation as the car seems to make 2 separate downshifts before it gets into the right gear.
This can be avoided if you know in advance that you're going for it, by switching the gearbox to S and manually selecting S3 or S4, forcing the car to downshift. This also has a benefit when driving at low speed as engine braking is more pronounced when the car is in the right gear low speed twists and turns. It does nothing for fuel economy though.
In the standard mode, throttle response is a little bit strange - there appears to be a dead area of initial travel where the car definitely responds but in a very sluggish way - it's enough to make you not want to drive quickly. Switching the ECT mode to Power sharpens this up dramatically but tends to make the car feel a little bit jumpy.
Driving around just in town at low speeds on short journeys in S3 mode, I get around 13mpg! Leaving the gearbox in D and driving on long motorway journeys at an indicated 75mph, I get 32mpg. If you baby the car you can get low 20s in town.
This is my real bugbear with the LS460. The seats have so much adjustment, that it can be very hard to find a position that doesn't leave you with backache after a long journey. The seats are lovely and soft but don't always support you the way you expect. I've noticed that the lumbar adjustment seems to reset itself to the 'off' position if you adjust the backrest position and so you need to carefully reset this to support your back again, before memorising the seat position.
3 of the 5 seats have seat memory. The driver's seat and the outer 2 rear seats. The front passenger can electrically adjust their seat but there is no memory function (why not?)
Space... lots of space. If the boot is ridiculously small, it's because all of the space has been provided for the comfort of the passengers. Nevertheless, this is not a car to transport 5 people. The rear middle seat is not really a proper seat, and it's only good for short journeys. However for 4 people, the car is sublime. Goodness knows how much more room there is in the long wheelbase LS600hL
The front and rear seats can be reclined, heated or cooled, and there are electrically adjustable sunshades for both the rear window and rear side windows. Other luxury cars tend to have manual side rear sunshades.
In standard mode, the ride quality is very very good - smooth as silk but with reasonably good control. For our poor quality UK roads, you can switch from standard to comfort to smooth out the ride even more, but this can feel a bit floaty, like an American car. If you want sharper, more direct handling you can switch to Sport mode (this also quickens up the steering rack) but in my experience, this makes the ride much more knobbly - not as bad as a GS450h, but I don't like it and it doesn't suit the LS at all. If I use Sport mode, I tend to switch back to normal as soon as possible.
This is a mixed bag - the touch screen display is almost identical to all other Lexus models, and even the Toyota Prius. The quality of the switchgear (plastics in the buttons) feels much better than in the RX400h and leagues better than an IS220d loan car I had (which felt low-rent by comparison). LS buyers coming from a Toyota might feel a bit shortchanged by the all too similar interface, but it works very well indeed.
The LS460 SE-L has a couple of standout features that are rare on UK cars. The radar-cruise control works really well allowing you to set your desired maximum speed, and automatically slowing down when a car in front slows down. Don't think about trying to set it and drive into a queue of stopped traffic though. It won't save you from that!
Once the radar cruise has locked onto a car in front, it will maintain a gap (selectable via a button on the steering wheel from 3 choices) braking automatically when necessary. Below 24 mph though it will cancel itself and you need to take control.
My favourite feature though is the Lane Keep Assist. Using stereo cameras and near infrared projectors in the headlamps, this allows the car to keep you in a lane by night or day, so long as it can see the lane markings and if you are in radar cruise mode. You can even take your hands off the wheel for a few seconds to see it working. It's not foolproof though and is only designed to assist you, dramatically reducing driver fatigue on a long journey.
Soft closing doors and boot
I love the fact that you don't need to slam the doors shut - just close them till the latch touches and electric motors will close them the rest of the way. This also works for the boot so you don't need to slam it.
More to follow in another post...