| First Drive | Nice, France | Lexus LS 460 |
Engine: 4.6-litre V8 petrol
Transmission: rear-wheel drive, eight-speed automatic
Body style: four-door saloon
Rivals: Audi A8, BMW 7 Series, Mercedes-Benz S-Class
CO2 emissions: 249g/km
Combined economy: 26.4mpg
Top speed: 155mph
0-62mph: 5.7 seconds
In the Metal:
Introduced back in 2006 - and significantly overhauled this year with a cited 3,000 changes - the new LS adopts the 'spindle' grille introduced to the marque by the CT 200h hatchback. It's a neat integration of the company's now signature grille, and the bolder front end is framed by LED enhanced headlamps and a more contoured bonnet. The rear also gains restyled lights, though the large, rather featureless flanks remain much the same.
Inside there are more improvements. Lexus claims a cut in the number of buttons, but the cabin is still littered with switches for the vast array of equipment that comes as standard. There's a central controller for many of the infotainment settings, though it's more 1980's Amstrad than Apple in its operation.
Lexus has made a number of revisions to the chassis in a bid to improve the driver appeal of the LS. Why it has done so remains the biggest question, as the biggest draw of the luxury Lexus was always its comfort. Refinement levels are still superb; the suspension's ability to soak up bumps and ripples is admirable, but up the speed and the Lexus is all at sea, with substantial body roll and steering that delivers nothing in the way of feel - or indeed much confidence or accuracy. Choose one of the more driver-orientated settings and things improve, marginally, though the LS is utterly outclassed behind the wheel by its German and British rivals. It's best to leave it in Comfort mode and take it easy.
The V8 engine is quiet and quick while the eight-speed automatic transmission shifts swiftly and cleanly. The LS's appeal lies in its smoothness and virtual silence rather than any sort of sporting prowess. The driving experience is far too remote to be enjoyable, but it is a car that appeals if you want to cruise around in quiet comfort. The petrol engine's performance is ample, even if it does lack the sort of easy mid-range shove of its diesel rivals, needing revs for brisk progress.
This car's biggest failing though is economy. The official combined figure of 26.4mpg will be a rare occurrence; it's likely the big V8 will typically return figures in the mid to high teens and early twenties in real-world driving.
What you get for your Money:
In Luxury specification here you get a sizeable, if not overly generous standard specification. There's leather upholstery, electrically adjusted seats with heat up front, a Mark Levinson stereo, satnav, DAB and plenty more besides, though the Luxury model does make do without the rear seat cushion airbags, rear side airbags and Lexus's advanced safety package including Lane Keep Assist, Pre-Crash system and Driver Monitoring. It only comes with regular, rather than adaptive cruise control, too.
Lexus will offer this LS 460 in both Luxury and F Sport trim, the latter gaining driver-focused equipment like Brembo brakes, F Sport tuned suspension and aluminium trim inside. Don't expect it to bring AMG, M, or S-chasing performance and dynamic prowess, though it does add visual appeal inside and out.
The Lexus LS's appeal is very limited, thanks largely to the lack of a diesel offering. As comfortable as this car is, it doesn't cut it as convincingly as its European rivals in the true luxury stakes. A petrol-fuelled BMW 740i offers the same 0-62mph time, but adds nearly 10mpg to the Lexus' economy figure - yet costs £10,000 less. One for comfort seeking individualists, with very deep pocket.