Vehicle Type: Large Luxury sedan
History/Description: I’ll break from the norm in this review a little and start with a personal note. In the many years and hundreds of reviews I’ve compiled on used cars, I’ve formed a few opinions about buying a used flagship luxury car. The sticky? If you’re willing to put up with fussy electronic systems, high maintenance and repair costs, and a higher-than-average likelihood of frustrating issues that’ll get you Italian-level angry and see you inventing new swear words, you’ll benefit from a beautiful driving experience. But you don’t buy a flagship car for low running costs, cheap maintenance, and trouble-free operation. You buy it to have a flagship car.
Unless, maybe, you’re considering a Lexus LS. A frequent winner of awards celebrating quality, dependability and trouble-free, no-nonsense motoring, this machine looks like a pleasant departure from the ‘module-this, wiring-that, failure of something-or-other’ reports that pop up vigorously when searching for reliability information on other great big flagship cars.
Sure, the LS lacks the stylistic passion you’ll find in a comparable European flagship, though the promise of above-average reliability, partially enabled by the Japanese reputation for knowing how to do wiring and electronics, should compensate.
Perhaps best of all, the current-generation LS came into existence for 2007—meaning that there’s been plenty of time to iron out any bugs. If you’re after a flagship sedan, but low running costs are a priority, this might be the most important used-car buyer’s guide you read.
There’s no shortage of premium features: look for a vivid Mark Levinson audio system (perfect for listening to in the ultra-quiet LS hybrid), navigation, self-parking system, voice-command capabilities, massaging seats with climate controlled leather, hard-drive music storage, night vision, power door cinchers, a rear-seat ottoman, and heaps more.
Engines / Trim: Look for LS 460 models, packing a 4.6L V8, and the LS 600h, packing a 5.0L V8 with hybrid drive, offering more power and performance, and reduced fuel use. All-wheel drive was available on all units, and extended-wheelbase models, with limousine-like rear seating accommodations, had an extra ‘L’ in the name badge. Standard models packed about 380 horsepower, with hybrid models increasing that figure to the better part of 440. Depending on the year, you’ll also find F Sport models, dressed up with added cosmetics and tweaked wheels and suspensions for a sportier drive.
What Owners Like: A check of owner reviews and your writer’s past test-drive notes confirm the unsurprising: this car was engineered meticulously to deliver tranquil, effortless and tremendously quiet and creamy drives on short trips or long. Craftsmanship is flaunted throughout the cabin, every control and switch and lever feels top quality and solid, and though the look is far from exciting, the cabin is lavish throughout, and the styling is stately. Performance from either powerplant is rated highly, as is refinement.
See what’s in the cards: Lexus LF-FC hints at the future of the LS
What Owners Dislike: Complaints typically include a numb steering feel, reduced trunk capacity on hybrid models (thanks, batteries!) and reduced outward visibility through the windshield, thanks to the camera and sensor grid mounted up top of it. Headroom is also less than expected, with many owners wishing for some more space between the top of their craniums and the velvety suede above.
Here’s a few owner reviews to check out.