2015 Lexus LS 460 AWD: The new Buick?

2015 Lexus LS 460 AWD | MSRP (base model): $75,465 | Price as tested: $80,630

Engine: 4.6L; 360 h.p.; 347 lb.-ft. | MPG: 16 city / 23 hwy

Features: Blind-Spot Monitor, Brake hold, Heated and ventilated seats, Navigation with 12.3-inch screen, etc.

In 1989 Toyota introduced the Lexus LS 400 to the world, and it was a shot across the bow of the then luxury car establishment German brands. What Lexus, along with Acura and Infiniti, did was force the Germans to get off of their laurels and improve their cars to stay competitive. Now things have changed and it is the Koreans who are doing the same, and Lexus seems to be stuck somewhere in the middle of this battle. The value the Lexus LS once brought to the table is diminished when there are other options out there for less money with more standard options.

The LS 460 AWD we have here has an MSRP of $80,000 and yet does not have some of the technology that we are already seeing trickle down to entry-level and mid-priced cars. I just drove a $29K 2015 Subaru Legacy with adaptive cruise control, and Lexus can’t see it fit to have this standard on their flagship? Come on Lexus, I realize the average age of the LS buyer puts them in a group that is not as interested in all the latest gadgets, but them folks may not be around very much longer and you need to appeal to the younger crowd, who do want the latest and greatest tech. I certainly do appreciate the effort Lexus has put forth with the F Sport line of their cars, but they need to put a bit more content into the LS.

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When going over this car I was surprised to learn that if you select the AWD version you go from 386 HP to 360 HP.  According to Lexus, this is due to changes made to the exhaust system to make room for the AWD system. I can see losing 5 HP, but 26 seems like a lot. Add that to the additional weight and this car feels a little lacking, more like there is the V6 under the hood and not the V8.

The 8-speed transmission is extremely smooth shifting and won’t spill your Evian as you accelerate away from a light. You are whisked around in a well-damped environment isolated from the rest of world, crank up the classical music and you will arrive well rested and relaxed. You also have Lexus Drive Select, with which you can tailor the car’s performance to your driving style or mood by selecting one of three settings  – “Normal,” “Eco” or “Sport S.” The system automatically adjusts several performance parameters, including transmission shift points and throttle response. “Eco” prioritizes fuel efficiency, while “Sport” quickens responses for a livelier feeling. To be honest, there wasn’t a very noticeable difference between the settings.

The interior is very well put together, and the optional Alcantara headliner really looks sharp. The leather seats are luxurious, the front seats are heated and cooled and the steering wheel is also heated. New for 2015, the LS gains a new multimedia system. The multimedia system, accessed through the navigation screen, provides a multitude of capabilities. The navigation system provides up to date and predictive traffic information, including detour preview, ETA calculation and low-fuel coordination with available fuel stations. Navigation also includes the subscription-free Lexus Enform App Suite and features bird’s eye map views with 3D building views.  There is also a new central controller that is not always very easy to use to navigate the main screen.

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The Lexus Enform Remote can be used to control certain vehicle features via the mobile app. Key elements include remote door lock/unlock; remote stop/start for the engine and climate control; vehicle finder, guest driver monitor and more. Great way to keep an eye on the kids or grandkids when they borrow the car.

The 2015 Display Audio includes HD Radio, Bluetooth audio, automatic phone-book transfer, a vehicle-information display and complimentary traffic and weather data provided via HD Radio. One of my favorite features is that when a favorite song comes on HD Radio, pressing the cache radio button will save up to 15 minutes of music to replay later. Very nice!

Lexus has become the new Buick, and this is not a bad thing, as the world needs a car that will comfortably, quietly and smoothly get you from point A to point B, especially after a hard day at the office. I once gave a ride to my Buick-owning father-in-law in one of my cars and asked what he thought of the ride. His answer was that it was nice, but no Buick, and I think this car would be perfect for him.

Enrique.R@mychinews.com

Special thanks to Lexus Division of  Toyota Motor Corporation for providing this week’s car, the 2015 Lexus LS460.

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