The LS400 was the car that defined the Lexus brand. In the intervening years, the LS has grown larger and more powerful, to the point that it now competes directly against top-drawer European luxury sedans. Like them, it is available in standard and extended-wheelbase models; the latter is particularly cosseting. The rear compartment of an LS can be optioned almost like a private jet, with loungelike seats; an extendable footrest; seat heating, cooling, and massage functions; and a DVD player, among other features. All LS460s are powered by a 380-hp V-8 that is paired with an ultrasmooth eight-speed automatic. Acceleration from 0 to 60 mph is in the five-second range. Like Mercedes-Benz and BMW, Lexus offers a choice of rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. Although isolation from the outside world is prized, there is a sport package (for the short-wheelbase, rear-wheel-drive LS460 only) that has a firmer suspension, Brembo brakes, shift paddles, and special trim. All models offer an air suspension (with selectable ride firmness) together with variable-ratio steering. The latter items are standard on the hybrid LS600h L, which functions as the top-of-the-range offering. Priced at $113,100, it matches up against competitors’ twelve-cylinder flagships. Compared with them, the Lexus’s V-8 hybrid powertrain provides similar performance and refinement but better fuel economy and lower emissions. Compared with the LS460, however, the hybrid’s gas mileage is disappointing, doing better in the city but worse on the highway.

Drive: Rear-wheel, 4-wheel
Trim levels: LS460, LS460 AWD, LS460 Sport, LS460 L, LS460 AWD L, LS600h L
Body style: Sedan, 4- or 5-passenger
Engines: 4.6L V-8, 380 hp, 367 lb-ft
5.0L V-8/electric hybrid, 438 hp
Transmissions: 8-speed automatic, continuously variable
Passenger volume: N/A
Cargo space: 11.7-18.0 cu ft

For most of the LS line, 2012 is a carryover year. There is, however, the LS Sport Authentic Special Edition. What makes it authentically special? Nineteen-inch ten-spoke wheels, Brembo brakes, sport-tuned air suspension, nav, parking assist, power trunk and door closers, climate-controlled sport front seats, heated rear seats and steering wheel, headlamp washers, and special trim. Production is limited to 250, and all are black with a black and topaz interior.

Front, knee, and side air bags; ABS; and stability and traction control are standard. Rear-seat side air bags are optional. A backup camera is available. A precollision warning system is optional, along with pedestrian detection, a driver-drowsiness monitor, and lane-keep assist. Safety Connect includes collision response and a one-year subscription.

All: 16-19 mpg city/23-24 mpg highway

  • Serene ride
  • The apex of Lexus refinement
  • Loungelike rear seating
  • Hybrid’s disappointing fuel economy
  • Uh, give us a minute…

This big luxury sedan is the definitive Lexus.

  • Audi A8
  • BMW 7-series
  • Jaguar XJ
  • Mercedes-Benz S-class

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