2010 Lexus LS460L

Like other large luxury sedans with price tags approaching six figures, the LS460L provides effortless acceleration, blissful quiet, a cosseting ride (provided you haven't switched the dampers to Sport), plentiful space, and an aromatic leather-lined cabin. But perhaps, even with these things, you've thought that the luxury-car experience was somehow incomplete. You also want the car to tell you a story. Now the LS can do that too.

When I fired up the LS460L, a message flashed onto the navigation screen telling me there was a new Lexus Insider article waiting. Not knowing what the hell that meant, I pushed the button to listen, and heard a three- or four-minute podcast about a historic inn near the Delaware Water Gap. It was sort of like an NPR segment crossed with an article from Travel & Leisure.

The podcast is part of the Lexus Insider series of recorded messages that can be sent to the car's audio system, provided it is equipped with the optional navigation system.

This actually is one of three different telematics services Lexus is offering. The first is Safety Connect (stolen vehicle locating, collision notification, emergency assistance, and enhanced roadside assistance), which does not require navigation or any optional equipment; it's free for the first year and $139.95 per year after that. A second is Lexus Enform (which features live operators on call who can find points of interest and beam their location to the car's nav system; also, an owner can send destinations from his own computer to be stored in the car's nav system). Enform requires the navigation system. This service is also free for a year, after which one pays $124.95 annually, on top of the (required) Safety Connect fee.

Whether or not you subscribe to either of the pay services, navigation-equipped cars can receive the Lexus Insider podcasts, for free. Lexus says the subject matter will fall into a few different categories: partner offers for Lexus owners, tips on how to use some of the car's technical features, travel destination suggestions, music samples, and audio fiction. The podcasts are sent one to four times per month. Drivers can store them for later listening. Or they can choose not to receive them at all. But a luxury car that can't tell you a story-is that even a luxury car at all?

Joe Lorio, Senior Editor

New Car Research

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