Peter Arnold Chief sub-editor

Peter brings more than 35 years of experience to BRW as production editor, chief sub-editor and motoring writer. He has been Asia-Pacific markets editor for Bloomberg and page one sub editor of The Australian Financial Review.

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Motoring: Serenity stays as Lexus reworks LS range

Published 13 February 2013 08:19, Updated 30 May 2013 14:46

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Motoring: Serenity stays as Lexus reworks LS range

The new Lexus LS600h F Sport. Photo: Nic Walker

You don’t realise how noisy life is until you go somewhere really quiet. That may mean lying on a deserted beach or stretching out under the stars in the outback.

Then it hits you how manic life has become and how there’s always something making a goddamn racket.

In suburbia, you can retreat to the bathroom for some relative peace or, if you have something big and luxurious, your car can provide the sanctuary.

One of the great features of luxury-class vehicles is that once you step inside and close the door, the quiet becomes the most dominant thing. Almost like entering a library, you suddenly feel like whispering. And you can get some serious relaxing and thinking done in the luxurious cave of the back seat.

Lexus understands this and has reworked its LS range to make one of its limos quieter, but it also thinks Australian executives like driving themselves and has injected another with a big dose of testosterone. A bit of yin and yang for the c-suite.

The LS460 is the softer version and has loaded all the accoutrements into the Sports Luxury, including reclining rear seats, with ottoman, that are heated, ventilated and have a vibration setting.

There’s also a Blu-ray entertainment system, four-zone air-conditioning and privacy screens. However, Bluetooth is the only connectivity you get.

The hairy-chested version is the hybrid LS600h F Sport which, because of the extra weight of the batteries, cuts down on the comforts but ramps up the performance. The speed-racer approach will take a bit of pushing for it to succeed, as Lexus and the LS in particular has not been known for its performance characteristics.

Lexus says 50 per cent of the LS range’s components have been re-engineered or replaced, translating into 3000 mechanical and component changes.

Both models have Sport+ transmission mode in which the suspension, throttle and steering sharpen up and the gearbox holds gears longer, increasing the sportiness of what is a pretty large lump of metal at nearly 2 tonnes and 5.1 metres long.

On the mechanical side, the LS460 has a 4.6 litre V8 that makes 285kW of power at 6400rpm and 493Nm of torque at 4100rpm, while the 600h has a 5-litre V8 pushing out 290kW alone and 327kW with the electric motors plus 520Nm of torque at 4000rpm.

The hybrid uses an eight-step continuously variable transmission and permanent all-wheel-drive, while the 460 has a normal eight-speed gearbox and rear-wheel-drive. The acceleration of the LS600h in the 1000rpm to 4000rpm range is impressive but before and after that, it’s pedestrian.

Nevertheless, the LS is a less composed car on the road than some of its more highly priced competitors. It really feels and reacts like a big car, despite its pretensions. The quest to sharpen the experience while keeping the limousine feel needs work.

In the 460, however, the rear seat experience is one of the most quiet and comfortable in its class.

The main difference with a Lexus is value for money. There’s no wallet-emptying options list because all the best stuff is already included.

There’s adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitor, 10 airbags, collision monitor system, automatic high-beam, and stability and braking control systems and much more.

New to this model is a sensor on the steering column that monitors the driver’s eyes and if they move away from the road for an extended period or close for more than a blink, a warning sounds. And if the front radar senses imminent danger it will brake the car, even stop it.

It also has an enormous 12.3-inch centre console screen and magnificent digital radio.

An extra feature to cut down road noise is a channel in each of the rims that Lexus claims turns noise into heat. It’s hard to gauge its effectiveness but the quiet is beautiful.

Despite its shortcomings, the LS is a serious challenger to the Europeans because of its price.

The LS460 Sports Luxury costs $192,400 and the LS600h F Sport $217,900 plus on-roads.

For more: Porsche 911 Carrera, Lexus GS350, GS440h;Lexus LFA; 2012 Maserati GranTurismo S MC-Shift; Rolls-Royce Ghost EW; Mercedes-Benz SLK 55AMG; Maserati GranCabrio Sport; Mercedes E350 CDI; Audi R8 Spyder; Range Rover Evoque; Jaguar XF 2.2D; Audi A6 3.0 TDI and A6 2.0 TFSI; Mercedes-Benz CLS 63AMG; Peugeot 508; Nissan 270Z; Volvo V60 T6 AWD R-Design; Alfa Romeo 159; BMW 535d; Lexus IS350F; Volvo S60; Range Rover Autobiography; Lexus IS F; Audi A8L; Can Am Spyder; Alfa Romeo Giulietta and Mito; Jaguar XJ; Peugeot RCZ; Audi A7; Nissan GT-R

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