By ANN M. JOB
It’s misleading to call the 2015 Lexus LS 460 a car, or even a luxury sedan.
The quiet interior, silky smooth ride and roomy, upscale environment of this flagship Lexus make it more of a haven from the stresses of the day than an automobile. Heck, the LS 460 doesn’t even have to be moving for a driver and passenger to begin to feel tension dissipating.
High-tech features such as navigation system, Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity and a subscription-free suite of apps come standard. So does a center console-mounted, mouse-like device that moves a cursor on a big, high-resolution, 12.3-inch display screen to activate and control settings.
But the LS 460 is just as pleasant _ perhaps more so _ when the world of phone calls and finding a destination is muted and the Lexus Mark Levinson 19-speaker surround audio system plays.
Best of all, the LS 460 is a recommended buy of Consumer Reports, and predicted reliability is rated better than average. Indeed, Lexus remains atop the J.D. Power and Associates annual Dependability Study, where owners of 3-year-old cars reported nary any problems with their Lexus models.
Starting manufacturer’s suggested retail price, including destination charge, is $73,445 for a base, 2015 LS 460 with rear-wheel drive, 386-horsepower V-8 and eight-speed automatic transmission. The lowest starting manufacturer’s suggested retail price, including destination charge, for a 2015 LS 460 with all-weather drive, as Lexus calls its all-wheel drive, is $76,390.
There’s also a longer-length version of LS called the LS 460 L. Adding 5 inches bumper to bumper on the car _ with much of it devoted to rear-seat legroom _ the LS 460 L model has a starting retail price of $79,745. It uses the same V-8 and transmission as the regular LS 460.
Considering all that comes with the LS, the pricing vis-à-vis competitors in the large, luxury sedan segment, is noteworthy.
The 2015 Audi A8 carries a starting MSRP, including destination charge, of $78,295 with 333-horsepower, supercharged V-6, eight-speed automatic transmission and standard all-wheel drive. A 2015 A8 with 435-horsepower V-8 has a starting retail price of $87,295.
The 2015 BMW 740i has a starting MSRP, including destination charge, of $74,950 with 315-horsepower, twin-turbo, inline, six-cylinder engine and rear-wheel drive. The 2015 BMW 850i with 445-horsepower, twin-turbo V-8 and rear-wheel drive starts at $88,250.
It has been a while since the LS was revamped in a major way, and U.S. sales declined 20 percent _ to 8,559 _ last calendar year compared with 2013. They are down another 8.3 percent in the first four months of 2015 compared with the year-earlier period.
Truth be told, sales last year of Audi’s A8 and BMW’s 7-Series large sedans also declined as luxury shoppers turned increasingly to sport utility crossovers, rather than sedans.
Still, the LS remains a solid choice for big-car buyers who can afford luxury and quality and who don’t need a lot of gimmicks or flashy styling.
The exterior of the 2015 LS 460 is pleasing and, by now, familiar. But even with light-emitting diode daytime lights, the styling doesn’t bristle with upscale personality, and the test car _ a LS 460 L that stretched 17.1 feet in length _ didn’t get a second glance for its looks.
What did make an impression on other drivers as well as LS passengers was the smooth, direct power that the 4.6-liter, double overhead cam, direct-injected V-8 produced. The LS 460 L moved strongly from stoplights, leaving other vehicles in the dust. It merged quickly into traffic, too, and passed cars on highways with ease.
All of it was done with a smoothness and a lack of noticeable shifts that have become a hallmark of this car. It’s no wonder the word most often associated with the LS is “refined.”
Also notable is how quietly the car accelerates. There was nary a rumble from the engine as it propelled the heavy, 2-ton LS forward.
Peak torque of 367 foot-pounds comes on at 4,100 rpm in rear-drive models. It’s less _ 347 foot-pounds at 4,100 rpm _ in all-wheel drive models.
There was never any straining or hesitation from the Lexus V-8, which has been a stalwart performer for years.
Fuel economy isn’t the greatest, however. The tester averaged 20 mpg in city/highway travel that was 50 percent in city traffic and 50 percent on highways. This was better than the federal government’s average 19 mpg that stems from a 16/24-mpg fuel economy rating.
With a 22.2-gallon gasoline tank and with today’s prices, the LS 460 L with rear-drive cost just over $67 to fill. Premium is the required fuel.
In comparison, the 2015 A8 L with V-8 has a government fuel economy rating of 18/29 mpg, while the 2015 BMW 750iL rated 16/25 mpg.
Every trim piece inside and every bit of stitched leather was perfectly aligned in the LS test car. The luminescent gauges in the instrument cluster were easy to read, and the radio controls included a convenient volume knob and tuning knob. Side windows went up and down quietly, and seats were wide and well-padded. Passengers dropped down onto the perforated leather seats.
Lexus reports 36.7 inches of legroom in the back seat. But front-seat tracks are so lengthy that with front seats up even a bit, there is way more legroom available. In fact, tall teenagers had ample legroom back there.
Trunk space _ much of it under the rear window _ totals only 18 cubic feet.