Wheels

Lexus LS460 Sport

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While spending a week in Hunt Country behind the wheel of a new Lexus LS460 Sport model it occurred to me that my drive down memory lane with another Lexus automobile began more than 20 years ago at the introduction of the LS400 “flagship” luxury sedan.

The Lexus Story is a textbook study of how a visionary and well-executed business plan redefined the way that luxury cars were sold in this country.

Here’s the back story: In 1983, Toyota Chairman Eiji Toyoda asked his senior management, “Can we create a luxury car to challenge the very best?”

After six years in development, the work of 1,400 engineers, 2.7 million test-driven miles, and a $1 billion investment, the 1990 Lexus LS400 luxury sedan was born.

Prior to Lexus’ entry, European companies dominated the luxury car market. There was considerable room for improvement in the quality of the customer sales experience and service at the time.

Faced with the daunting task of going up against established European luxury marques, in 1987 Lexus general manager Dave Illingworth created The Lexus Covenant. He, his team, and all Lexus dealers committed themselves to providing owners with un-precedented levels of product quality and customer service.

From a single luxury sedan, Toyota’s Lexus division has become a world-class competitor and customer-focused enterprise, adding luster and customer loyalty to the logo on its vehicles. Today Lexus sells more than 20 models and variants.

My Lexus test vehicle is a LS460 with an optional Sport package, the first model of its kind for the U.S. I requested the Sport edition because I wanted to experience Lexus” definition of “sport” in its fourth-generation flagship.

My tester sported a Matador Red exterior, a more rakish front fascia, bolder chrome trim, 19-inch wheels with tires that filled out the wheel wells, and high-performance Brembo brakes with their familiar red faces visible through the spoke wheels.

Open the door and—wow—a Lexus cabin like no other. Behold the serpentine blend of saddle tan and black leather covering the door panels, accented by matte dark-brown highlights. Put on your English hunting jacket. We’re off to the hunt!

Is Lexus” sport claim just promotional, or is it real?

The “sport” setting on the rocker switch next to the gear selector answered the question. Engaging the sport mode on the fly morphed the 5,480-pound sedan from a serene highway cruiser to a taut curve hugger with minimal body lean, compliments of the adaptive air suspension system. I called on the large Brembo brakes at times to curb my cornering zeal while driving the back roads from Hockessin to Kennett Square and beyond.

More sporty performance awaits when using the Formula-One-style paddle shifters on the steering wheel to accelerate to 60 mph through the LS’s silky 8-speed automatic transmission mated to the spirited 380-horsepower V8 engine. The zero-to-60-mph sprint takes 5.4 seconds.

The traditional luxury features you expect in the Lexus flagship—and more—were included in my Sport model tester. A parking guidance system assists with parallel and back-in parking. The front seats are heated and cooled and the rear seats are heated.

The surround-sound audio system has 19 speakers, and a rear sunscreen is power operated. The Sport option package adds $6,185, bringing the sticker price of my LS460 Sport model to $76,714. The Sport Package is available only in rear wheel drive. Other Lexus LS460 models are available in all-wheel drive and with long wheelbases.

The EPA fuel economy estimate for the LS460 Sport is 16-mpg city, 24-mpg highway.

The Hunt Spring 2011  Issue

This article was published in Wheels from the Spring 2011 issue.
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