This Lexus LS series as a whole came as a refreshing change to that which went before. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and as such, perhaps Mercedes was blushing coyly as the first two generations of LS models shamelessly aped the S-Class in many details and functions. By 2006 however, having matured as a company, Lexus was able to express its own design language and its own philosophy on how a luxury car should operate.
The LS could be nothing other than Japanese and although it is very different in execution to the alternatives from BMW, Audi and Mercedes, it's no less effective. Although the fascia could never be described as pretty, being illuminated like Shinjuku at night, it's easy to access all the major functions, of which there are a lot.
Build quality is excellent, space in the front is excellent and space in the back of the short wheelbase model is adequate, if a little down on the German competition. The long wheelbase car offers enough room to really stretch out and warrants the employment of a chauffeur. The only minor grumble is the relatively mean 330 litre boot in the LS600h, the capacity of which is impinged upon by the hybrid battery packs.
Lexus build quality and reliability really does set the standard and niggles with the manufacturer's products are rare. There will be concerns about buying a vehicle as complex as the LS600h second-hand but as yet, there's little evidence to suggest it will be anything other than faultlessly reliable. Insist on a detailed Lexus service history and a high specification.
(approx based on 2007 LS460) A new radiator is around £900. An alternator should be close to £750, a starter motor around £450 and rear brake pads would be around £80. A headlamp will be around £350, and expect to pay close to £1,000 for a full exhaust system (inc Catalyst).
The 4.6-litre V8 engine that powers the Lexus LS is virtually inaudible at idle and little changes as you ease it up to cruising speeds. Perhaps it lacks the devilish punch of acceleration you get when flooring the throttle in an S500 or a 750i but the LS460 is far from slow. It's just that the silky engine, the slurring 8-speed automatic gearbox and the soothing multi-link air suspension work to slow your perception of the car's pace.
The Lexus handles tidily up to a point and then you begin to feel its substantial bulk but most of the time, it's a car that demands to be driven in a calm, measured manner, so its effortless progress can really be appreciated. Behind the wheel or camped in the rear with a copy of the FT, the LS never feels less than luxurious on the road.
Although it may be a hybrid, the LS600h isn't lacking in power. There's a total of 439bhp on tap, courtesy of a 388bhp 5.0-litre V8 petrol engine and a 221bhp electric motor which combine to devastating effect. Drive the Lexus LS600h as if you stole it and it will accelerate to 60mph in 6.0 seconds and run on to an electronically limited top speed of 155mph.
Unlike the LS460 petrol model, the hybrid gets a clever variable transmission that's mated to a Torsen differential that divides the engine's power between the front and rear wheels. If anything, it's even quieter and is at its best silently wafting around town on just the electric motor. Vigilance will be required though as pedestrians won't hear it coming. Don't expect a sports car, as the 2,355kg kerb weight means this is a hefty piece of automotive real estate, but the LS600h can still corner with some tenacity when pushed. The official economy figure is just over 35mpg, with emissions measured at 219g/km. That's not bad for a luxury saloon but it hardly makes the LS600h an environmental poster child. The LS460 gets 25mpg and 261g/km.
A used Lexus LS is a very interesting proposition. The wonders of depreciation (only if you're the buyer not the seller) mean that this top line luxury saloon can be obtained for tempting prices these days and there's no question that it's a highly capable vehicle.
An LS is a very different proposition from the usual Germanic options. It's extremely well built but lacks the same design subtlety in the cabin. Reliability should be top draw and no car is much more refined and comfortable than an LS when cruising. Performance is strong but the 8-speed gearbox on the LS 460 can get itself in a muddle with all those ratios and the LS isn't one to hurry along a twisty road. In the end, it amounts to the Lexus take on what a luxury saloon should be. On sampling the car, you may well agree that it's a perspective that makes sense.