What is it?
The LS was the car that launched Lexus back in 1989. But as the firm's range has filled out this high-end limo has become a minority-interest model, finding only 100 buyers last year.
The financial crisis hasn’t helped, and neither has the LS's age, which is why this facelift has penetrated more deeply than most makeovers to feature 3000 changes, ranging from an exterior restyling to a new dashboard, structural strengthening, a revised climate control system and, intriguingly, the reintroduction of the petrol V8 without hybrid hardware.
That may seem odd in these CO2-obsessed times, but Lexus is confident that around 80 per cent of the 300 to 400 LS’s it expects to sell next year will be V8s, the rest accounted for by the long-wheelbase LS600h L hybrid.
Lexus is confident because it’s still in touch with a pool of several thousand LS V8 owners who’d like to renew without the complexity of a hybrid.
The other major change is the introduction of a sporting LS F Sport, its arrival mirroring the offer of more dynamic F versions across the rest of the Lexus range. It will take 40 per cent of sales. The LS460 Luxury sampled here will account for another 40 per cent.
Among the myriad detail improvements are aerodynamic tweaks to improve high speed stability, an ambient cabin lighting system, upgraded LED exterior lamps and an impressively scaled multimedia screen of somewhat dated graphics.
What's it like?
The V8 propelling all this kit spills 382bhp at 6400rpm and 364lb ft of torque at 4100rpm, number combinations that looks decidedly old-school these days. And despite the fitment of an eight-speed automatic, a CO2 emission figure of 249g/km isn’t great either. But this is an impressively willing V8, free-revving and smooth, too, if a little hard-edged at high revs.
Few will find this out unless they hold a low gear, because ample torque and eight speeds obviate the need for high revs unless you’re going for a flat-out getaway. And that’s unlikely, because this Luxury Lexus is all about oozing to your destination in unflurried, silent comfort.
The silent bit it manages exceptionally well, too. The powertrain rarely intrudes and the commotion of motion emerges only faintly at close to three-figure speeds. A soft ride is evident almost from the moment its wheels turn, thanks to the air springs which are as pliant as pillows. But rather like sitting on a well stuffed cushion, this Lexus has a faintly topplesome feel to it that makes this suppleness less soothing than you’d expect. You feel like you’re sitting on the car rather than properly in it, which produces a less slightly less restful experience.
Though this sensation can be diminished by selecting Sport and driving fast enough for the air springs to firm sufficiently, you’ll need to be travelling at near-to-illegal speeds to get there. The F Sport version is likely to be better, especially as the LS is better balanced than its cosseting remit might suggest.
Should I buy one?
There’s no escaping the fact that, facelift or not, the LS is feeling dated.
Though finely constructed – and available with an uncharacteristically wide array of colours and woods for a Japanese car – the interior looks curiously uncoordinated, the chassis is well short of providing the handling and comfort mix that its competitors manage and the V8’s emissions are almost wilfully out of kilter.