We Americans, as a group, tend to feel guilty about wealth and all its trappings. Perhaps it's a remnant of our Puritanical forebears, but being described as conspicuously materialistic carries with it a connotation of negativity; hedonism is passe, the Gilded Age has passed, and no one has fun with money anymore. Sure, we still go on buying monstrous houses and ridiculously expensive thigh creams, but we feel remorse about it, certain that we'll face swift retribution if our purchase doesn't have some redeeming quality.
Well, I say bring back all the accoutrements of having an obscene bank account. I mean, obviously, you've worked hard for your money, right? Revel in opulence! Let them eat cake! And for heaven's sake, buy a super-luxury sedan! Here's a good one to consider: the 2001 Lexus LS 430.
When Toyota announced its luxury division in the late '80s, much skepticism abounded as to whether it would make a dent in the luxury car pantheon. Instead, the LS 400 left a gaping maw of a gash that has forever altered the landscape, proving that the Europeans don't have a stranglehold on the premium-brand market, that buyers don't have to deal with snooty salespeople or bring in their luxury conveyances for expensive repairs so often. And if it was a smooth ride buyers wanted, it offered one, par excellence.
Since then, Lexus has become the best-selling luxury marque in America, beating out stalwarts Mercedes and Lincoln for that crown (in model year 2000 Lexus says it sold 423 more units than Benz did). This is the LS' third iteration, and the best yet. Why? Well, the previous two versions may have offered superb build quality, great reliability and a smooth ride, but they lacked character. Much like Charlie Rose, the LS 400 was inoffensive and did its job, but was deficient in personality and spirit. The new LS 430 actually has some soul. Not Ella Fitzgerald levels, mind you; it's just less Burt Bacharach and more Quincy Jones.
Again, why? Because Lexus has not only increased engine performance, it has also improved handling characteristics, as well as crammed it full of toys galore. We like that a whole lot.
Although the basic rear-wheel-drive design remains the same as the previous version's, more than 90 percent of the car is brand-new. Lexus has lengthened the wheelbase by 3 inches to 115.2 (while maintaining the overall length of 196.7 inches), which increases passenger room and has the added benefit of superior cabin isolation from bumps.
Bumps? What bumps? Somehow, Lexus has figured out how to make a car feel like it's riding on a layer of emollient, gliding along upon a frictionless lubricant. This is ostensibly done through the use of a sophisticated double wishbone suspension system front and back, but we think that there's voodoo involved. Our particular model was tuned with a sport suspension, a free option which really isn't, since you have to get either the $100 17-inch W-rated summer tires with alloy wheels (which is what our test vehicle had, shod with Dunlop 225/55R17S) or the $1,800 17-inch all-seasons tires with chrome wheels. Of course, no car can overcome physics, and when the wheels encountered a substantial pavement irregularity, such as a pothole, the sport-tuned suspension allowed for more jostle in the cabin than what we're used to in a Lexus. Those who mainly use their cars to ferry family members around town will want to consider going with the regular suspension.
What delighted us is the sport version's newfound ability as a competent canyon-carver. Previously, in the LS 400, the soft-tuned suspension allowed for plenty of body roll on curvy roads, confirming its status as a city slicker and no more. While the LS 430, weighing in at 3,955 pounds (gaining 65 pounds from the 400), can't compete in terms of sheer athleticism with a BMW 7 Series, or even its new, lighter and very worthy opponent, the 2002 Infiniti Q45, it remained surprisingly stable on twisties and even encouraged spirited driving on Mulholland Highway, our favorite meandering road in the Malibu Canyons of Southern California.
Meanwhile, the Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) system quelled potentially dangerous skids or spins by activating either the traction control system or applying the brakes to one or more wheels. We intentionally provoked the VSC system and found that it gently corrected mistakes without harshly chastising the driver for getting in over her head. Eh, if she did, all she had to do was slam on the brakes; the ABS-four-wheel discs arrested the LS from 60 to 0 mph in 118 feet, an incredibly short distance for this large car. This is especially impressive in light of the fact that the much-lighter IS 300 which has, by far, the best halting power in its class, stops at 117 feet. ABS pulsation is greater than in most cars, but stopping is linear and true; there's none of the slight wavering or pulling to one side associated with an inferior system. Helping with the hard stops is BrakeAssist, which aids in activating the ABS even if the driver doesn't press the pedal hard or fast enough in an emergency situation, as well as Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD), which helps to shorten braking distances when the vehicle is heavily loaded.
Steering was linear and direct, with a tight rack that yields a slim 37.6-foot turning circle. And unlike the previous LS, the steering rack even offered some moderate feedback from the road, informing the driver as to the condition of the road surface and the grip levels of the tires. However, during our test, it was noted that the tires produced quite a rumble; this was substantiated by our decibel test, which revealed that the cabin was quieter upon the initial full-throttle launch than while cruising at 70 mph. This was likely due to our test car's W-rated summer tires.
Motivating this package is Lexus' new 4.3-liter V8 powerplant, which has inspired auto scribes everywhere to search for synonyms for smooth. As cliche as it may sound, letting the car idle at a stoplight forced us to check the dashboard to ensure that the engine was still on it's that quiet. Push the throttle and 290 horses at 5,600 rpm, and 320 foot-pounds (at 3,400 revs) of torque spring to life, besting the similar-displacement Mercedes S430 powerplant by 15 and 25, respectively. Get close to the redline of 6,200 rpm to overcome its initial decorousness, and you're treated to a pleasant, throaty rumble.
This vigorous engine was able to hustle the Lexus from 0 to 60 mph in 6.4 seconds, and the quarter-mile was completed in a quick 14.8 seconds at 96.1 mph. These excellent numbers were aided by the fact that, somehow, Lexus designers were able to sculpt this huge sedan so that it slips through air barely causing turbulence Lexus says the 0.26 (0.25 with the air suspension available in the Premium package) co-efficient of drag is the lowest of any production model, save for the computer mouse-shaped Honda Insight.
Whilst upshifting, the smooth and seamless five-speed automatic transmission proves to be a gem. We've noticed, however, along with other car publications as well as our astute readers in Town Hall, that the transmission charged with distributing the power from Lexus' 4.3-liter engine has a problem with mid-range downshifts. First, it takes its time in considering its options. Secondly, when it finally does downshift, it, at times, goes from fifth gear to third, neglecting a gear and lurching you forward. This phenomenon also occurred during our GS 430 road test. Switching the Electronic Throttle Control (mysteriously initialed as ECT) button from normal mode to power seemed to make no difference. We'll just have to force ourselves into an SC 430 to find out if this is a problem across the board.
And now for the fun part the kit. Thankfully, our test model didn't have the Ultra Luxury package, or this already long-winded exposition would have considerably lengthened. Just for kicks, we'll list the goodies that come with this $12,290 option: a Mark Levinson 11-speaker premium sound system; Lexus DVD navigation system; Lexus Link; power tilt-and-slide moonroof with one-touch open/close, pinch protection and sliding sunshade; Dynamic Laser Cruise Control; adaptive variable air suspension; wood- and leather-trimmed steering wheel with voice-command button; power rear sunshade; manual rear-door window sunshades; parking assist; front climate-control seats with heat and cool knob; headlamp washer; and the power trunk and door closer. We especially like the rear cooler box in the rear seat console that can hold five cans. But in an incredibly egregious, chintzy move, Lexus forces you to pay more for fancier leather. You must spring for an upgraded leather package if you want the premium bundle; you can choose between the napa leather package at $1,460, or the aniline leather package for a whopping $2,105. Why not give the option of settling for the perfectly lovely standard leather? What, it's not good enough?
We had to settle for the regular old Mark Levinson/navigation package. The single-disc DVD-based navigation system is notable for its excellence in ease of operation, thanks to its touchscreen and expedited processing. An interesting feature is the voice activation system. While Lexus certainly wasn't the first to utilize this technology, it functions differently than in other cars. In most other vehicles, it is used to control the stereo and climate control, but the system in the Lexus does neither. Rather, it controls some of the functions of the navigation system (as of yet, no manufacturer has figured out how to allow a driver to enter a destination address vocally, which would probably be the best way to enter information without taking the driver's eyes off the road).
What's cool (some have divergent opinions) is that you can utter a phrase to locate a specific destination. Say "I'm hungry," and all the local eateries pop up on the screen. In the mood for a specific kind of restaurant? Simply state your mainstream preference (Chinese, Japanese, American, Continental, French, Italian, Mexican, seafood) and the properly themed icons will appear on the screen. Touch the icon, and it gives you the name, address and phone number of the restaurant.
The voice system is not merely for epicures, mind you. It will also recognize main public transportation depots, historical monuments and the all-important rest stops. Gas stations, ATMs and hospitals are also recognized, as is "casino" to relieve that baccarat itch. But it left us wondering if they went through all that trouble to program this system, why not have it control the climate and the excellent stereo system, as well?
Ah yes, the Mark Levinson stereo system. We practically had to wipe the slobber off the dash, so enthused was our stereo evaluator. He claimed that it's the best OEM sound he's ever had the pleasure to listen to, bar none. .
And, correctly, the six-disc changer is in-dash, not glovebox-mounted like in the LS 400. It's also hidden behind a discreet panel of wood to maintain homogeneity throughout the dash. However, many of the audio controls are integrated into the touchscreen, as are some of the climate control adjustors. This forces you to take your eyes off the road for longer than is necessary, although the steering wheel-mounted controls help matters. What should be combined with the screen, but is instead located on the dash, is a digital readout of the trip computer that gives information of the average fuel consumption, current fuel consumption, fuel consumption since the last refuel, available driving distance, elapsed time and average speed. The Infiniti Q45 has a cool tire-pressure monitor, which would be a welcome addition on the LS.
Our tester also had the optional Lexus Link, a telematics system that connects you to the Lexus Link center. They'll be notified if your airbag deploys, or you can push the overhead button, and they can send help in the form of emergency services, track your vehicle if it's stolen or unlock your doors. Get the premium package, and the rendered services include route support, ride assist (taxi request), and information and concierge services. The basic yearly subscription for services is $215 and $415 for the premium service. Lexus has partnered with GM's OnStar, with specially trained advisors housed at OnStar's call centers. But a $1,250 option, guys? C'mon, a Chevy Impala LS has it standard!
To our dismay, a power sunroof isn't included in the base price of your $54,005 vehicle; it can be had as a stand-alone option, which will set you back $1,120 or as part of an options package.
Other gadgetphile lures that you don't have to pay extra for include side mirrors that not only provide puddle lamps, but also can be set to fold in automatically when you park your Lexus. The mirrors themselves tilt down when you're backing up. The center air vent can be set to automatically undulate, and we felt as if we were in a tropical locale being fanned with a giant palm frond when trying this feature out. You get xenon headlamps as standard equipment, and the wipers are rain-sensing, not merely speed-sensitive, as on the 2002 Q45.
Lexus was most thoughtful about storage space in the LS 430. There's a dual glovebox, each of which are sizeable. Expanding door bins allow for easy access to your things. The center console is dual-tiered, but you'll still have access to the upper tier when you open the second deeper bin. There's a sunglasses holder overhead, and a convenient 5-minute voice recorder. A double sunshade prevents the sun from unduly causing a glare.
Our test car came wrapped in Millennium Silver paint, noted for its flawlessness. However, the vehicle had several minor fit-and-finish issues, such as a wood trim piece that was slightly crooked and an exterior door trim piece that could have been aligned better. One of our editors also noted a slight rattle coming from the rear of the cabin, but could not isolate it. But since Lexus build quality is legendary and usually unblemished, we're willing to give it the benefit of the doubt that these issues were relegated to this particular test car.
The incredibly comfortable driver seat offers 14-way power adjustment with lumbar control and a power height-adjustor seatbelt, which is easy to insert into its slot thanks to the illuminated buckles. Beautiful Optitron gauges provide great gauge cluster visibility, and the premium-quality California walnut wood trim and delectable leather will mollify even the most discerning of tastes. The tilt/telescoping steering wheel and the seat move out of the way for easy ingress/egress. While the wood-trimmed steering wheel gleamed in the sunlight, some of our editors would have preferred a circle with a slightly smaller diameter; others who like to slather their paws in lotion griped that it could get real slippery if they should get sweaty.
Rear-seat passengers receive 37.5 inches of legroom and adjustable headrests, as well as optional rear-seat heaters. The fold-down center armrest reveals a sizeable storage bin and cupholders. Just don't tell them about the rear-seat accommodations in the aforementioned ultra-luxury package, because they'll get bummed.
Open the trunklid, supported by gas-strut hinges, to reveal a cavernous 20-cubic-foot trunk. The load floor may not be flat, but you can't argue with the amount of storage space. And you get a standard ski pass-through, which is optional in some other luxury cars.
The LS 430 is unabashedly luxurious; the few faults we found were minor. Lexus' flagship sedan proves that there is no shame in flaunting your wealth, and boy howdy, you need to be wealthy to own such a superb car. Ay, there lies the rub it's expensive. One of the reasons that Lexus became such a powerhouse is that it was able to offer its flagship sedan at a price much lower than its European competitors. Now, fully optioned, the Lexus pushes the lofty $70,000-plus mark, the dangerous treading waters of some of the finest automobiles in the world. The Lexus still costs less than comparably equipped German super sedans, but you would be behooved to drive the 2002 Q45, which offers a similar ride, quality and playthings for considerably less money, before completely settling for a Lexus.
The LS will provide the same refinement levels as the German uber-sedans, only without the holier-than-thou attitude. And if your ingrained Puritan is nibbling upon your conscience for your flagrant disregard of your upbringing, quell it by telling it that you're driving an ultra-low emissions vehicle.
For the 2001 model year, Lexus has made improvements to its already excellent flagship sedan. These include the following:
System Score: 9.75
Components. I have an apology to make. Several months ago we road-tested a Lexus GS 430, and I declared, in my infinite wisdom, that the Mark Levinson audio system in that car was the best factory sound system I'd ever heard, end of discussion, don't even ask me. I said don't ask me. I must now retract that statement. The Mark Levinson factory system in this car is now the best I've heard. Automotive journalists are so damn fickle.
Although both systems are similarly configured, using the same seven-channel 240-watt amplifier to deliver power to the speakers, I felt the speaker setup in the LS 430 sounded slightly better. Slightly. That's not to say I couldn't be wrong. Ideally, I'd want to have both vehicles side by side for a few days to make a valid comparison. In fact anyone at Lexus listening out there? I think the company should deliver both vehicles to my house posthaste for a week-long comparison test, at which point I will announce the real winner. Since the likelihood of that happening is about as probable as predicting the next Mount St. Helens eruption, I have to compare them in my head.
The system consists of a touchscreen display, coupled with some basic manual controls in a standard head unit positioned immediately below the screen. The touchscreen also doubles as a navigation display, so you have to play with it a little to get it to do what you want. Presets and most of the tone adjustments are made through the touchscreen, while the radio below houses a cassette player, volume control and a few other minor functions. Buttons are logically positioned and well spaced. A six-disc CD changer is built in the dash, just below the head unit.
While the GS 430 offers 10 speaker positions, the LS 430 goes with 11. Is that an advantage? On first impression, I question Lexus' decision here, since the GS 430 has a centerfill speaker in the center of the dash that does much to add to the soundstage and spaciousness of the sound. Did the Lexus guys botch this one up? Turn on the system, and all sins are immediately forgiven. The LS 430 sounds even better. How'd they do that?
It begins with a pair of coaxial speakers in the corners of the dash. Coaxial means "dual-axis." In this case, each speaker position holds a combination of a high-frequency compression driver (also known as a tweeter) with a 2.5-inch horn-loaded midrange. As mentioned, these speakers are located in the corners of the dash, just inside the A-pillar, and fire upward into the windshield glass. Their excellent dispersion and reflection hold the key to the fabulous sound in this system.
Other speakers include a pair of 6.5-inch mid-woofers in the front doors and another combo deal mounted in the rear doors consisting of a 4-inch midrange driver and a .75-inch titanium tweeter, one per side. Finally, an excellent 8-inch subwoofer graces the center of the rear deck.
According to Mark Levinson, the subwoofer produces only those frequencies below 60 Hz. Surprisingly, the sub does not require an enclosure, but instead utilizes a technology developed jointly by Mark Levinson and Lexus. Called Integral Vehicle Enclosure (IVE), the design allows the sub to operate free-air and still attain superb low-frequency performance. Whatever you call it, it sounds fantastic.
In addition to the amp, the system includes a Digital Signal Processing (DSP) unit that holds a digital-to-analog converter and the rest of the brains of the operation.
Performance. It sounds better than you could imagine. One of my fellow editors had left a Best of Frank Sinatra CD in the vehicle, and I plopped it in. I heard things on that CD I'd never heard before and on the same cuts I've listened to dozens of times. The tinkling of a triangle stage left, horns so crisp and clear you feel you could reach out and touch them, Frank's booming and mellifluous voice filling the entire cabin. The most impressive thing, though, at least from the front seats, was the soundstage, so lifelike and natural that you could close your eyes and imagine yourself at a concert.
Bass response was superb deep, rich, luscious and, depending on what kind of music you listen to, potentially thunderous. Likewise with drums and percussion, which had great attack and incredible dynamics. Vocals were lively and well-defined, with intricate detail, smoothness and real warmth. Also, you could actually hear the "woodenness" in acoustic strings, a rarity in any sound system and especially welcome in this car. Unless you're going to build your own system from scratch, it doesn't get much better than this.
Best Feature: Incredible sound quality.
Worst Feature: A little too much reliance on the touchscreen display.
Conclusion: Some of the controls in this system aren't as intuitive as they might be. I prefer the tactile feel of a circular knob versus jabbing at an LCD screen while I'm trying to navigate my car down a crowded boulevard. There's a certain sensual pleasure in cranking the controls, and it's safer.
Senior Editor Brent Romans says:
I wish I were a highly successful businessman (or a highly successful criminal) so that I could afford something like the new LS 430. As it is, I just have to pretend that the dot-com bubble never burst, and I bought this Lexus with a few sold stock options. There's no question that this car is better than the one it replaces. Our major complaint about the LS 400 was that it lacked high-level features found in other cars like the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and BMW 7 Series. That issue has certainly been addressed; there's so much kit offered that I'm surprised there's not an option to add a jacuzzi and a wet bar.
The driving experience is one of the most pleasant and serene you can experience in a vehicle. Even when equipped with the Sport package, the LS 430 smoothes over bumps in effortless fashion. At speed, the 4.3-liter V8 is super quiet. Push it, and it emits a refined and proper growl. Power is abundant from idle to redline. Oh, did I mention that the engine is rated for ULEV emission status, too? Yes, a good place to be is behind the wheel of an LS 430.
Even the automotive journalist's standard Lexus complaint of "no personality" has less relevance now. Not that I really found this new car to have much more personality than the last one. But after 11 years of production, it is clear to me that "no personality" is the car's personality. This is refined luxury transport without European smugness. If that appeals to you, and you still have an eye on budget, I have no problem recommending this car.
Executive Editor Karl Brauer says:
Lexus came up with an ingenious method to keep its LS 430 from getting dinged for rattles, squeaks and road noise. They put a Mark Levinson sound system in it, and it was so stunning I couldn't turn it off to evaluate cabin isolation properly.
Actually, after struggling for several minutes with the question of doing my duty versus simply enjoying the ride, I finally hit the main off button, quickly confirming what I already knew without ever previously driving an LS 430: The new car's cabin is as vault-like as the model it replaces. Now, however, the somewhat stoic interior of the LS 400 has given way to a feature-laden cockpit. Not that the old 400 model was lacking in upscale touches. It had exceptional wood trim, a DVD-based nav system and supple leather. But it also had a six-disc CD changer that was mounted in the glovebox, no steering wheel-mounted audio controls and no rear climate control. Even more amazing, despite its rather archaic design and anemic feature list compared to last year's Audi A8, BMW 7 Series, Jaguar XJ8 and Mercedes S-Class, the car took third place in our Super Luxury Comparison test, striking within three percentage points of the second-place S-Class and trophy-bearing 750iL.
The new model has addressed feature content concerns, with a single-feed six-disc changer in the dash, audio controls on the steering wheel and a rear air conditioning system that features an air purifier. There's a ton of toys added to the new car's high-end (and high-tech) option list, but suffice it to say that no buyers will be left wanting in terms of feeling special while riding in their LS 430s. The car is fast, handles confidently (if not passionately) and more chiseled than before (though the S-Class styling cues border on copy infringement). And the price continues to undercut its primary competition, leaving only the new 2002 Q45 with a possible advantage in terms of pure value.
The last version took third place, and it needed some obvious upgrades. This one has those upgrades, and then some. Anyone care to place bets on our next Super Luxury winner?
Editor-in-Chief Christian Wardlaw says:
Lexus has created the ultimate mainstream luxury sedan in the LS 430. Define mainstream? Attainable. Popular. This isn't a Bentley Arnage Red Label, to be sure, but then again, for the price of the Bentley you could have the LS 430, along with a color-coordinated SC 430 and an LX 470.
This is the perfect luxury car for people who prioritize sumptuousness over performance, refinement over character. That's not to say the LS 430 can't dance; during a spirited drive on Southern California's legendary Mulholland Highway, the big Lexus managed itself with surprising competence, no doubt due in part to our test car's sport-tuned suspension.
However, the LS 430 is most in its element when riding along Santa Monica's Ocean Avenue with the sunroof open or blazing along Highway 101 in the fast lane, eating up mile after mile of freeway. Around town, it's easier to hear the tires of the car next to you whirring along than it is your own.
So nearly perfect is this vehicle that the few nits I have to pick seem silly, save one. For example, the plastic parking brake release exhibits too much gloss. The front passenger airbag isn't seamlessly integrated into the dash or hidden behind the lovely rosewood decorating the panel above the dual-tiered glovebox. Some climate and stereo functions are bundled with the navigation screen, ridiculous given the amount of space gone underutilized on the center stack. And the remote keyless entry fob for this premium car provides poorly marked buttons that are difficult to see in dim light.
The big surprise, however, was how much creaking, rattling and buzzing the cabin of our test vehicle exhibited. Idling at a light, I detected a barely discernable buzz from the rear headliner area. On a rough side street near our office, the interior emitted damped and low-frequency, but still evident, rattles and squeaks. A couple of sharper bumps resulted in creaking from the dash. Considering how well Lexus nailed the rest of the car, this apparent build-quality problem was truly surprising.
Derivative best describes the styling, which to my eye incorporates a combination of past and present Mercedes-Benz cues. The overall effect is pleasing, if unremarkable. I prefer the more forceful appearance of a BMW 7 Series, sleek look of a Mercedes-Benz S-Class, classic image of a Jaguar XJ8 or refined visage of an Audi A8.
Let's say someone came up to me tomorrow, someone like the owner of this company, and said, "I want to buy a premium luxury sedan for my wife to drive. What should I get?" Knowing that the big boss' wife isn't trekking to Willow Springs raceway for hot laps anytime soon, I'd recommend the LS 430 without hesitation.
"I have researched these two cars (S430/500 and LS 430) since Jan 2000. I came to many of the same conclusions expressed here. Final decision was, I just took delivery of my LS430 Black Cherry Ultra Lux two days ago and don't regret it for a minute. While I don't profess to the wealth of many of you, I could have afforded the extra 15-20 thousand for the Benz, but decided not to. It was, for me, a matter of quality and reliability. For me, while prestige is nice, I also appreciate the value and long-term reliability of the Lexus. The only downside (and a subjective one it is) to the Lexus is the somewhat controversial exterior style. On almost every other count, the Lexus wins. I have read this board and the Lexus board and the number of complaints about both the car and service and dealership attitude is stunningly high for Benz and low for Lexus. No, no car is perfect, but my LS430 (so far) comes much closer than the Benz. As for the reasons some people buy: my wife was initially much more interested in the Benz, because we could go to Germany for delivery and drive there for a month or so (Takes all kinds LOL). Any car purchase is, of course, subjective and personal, as was mine. But, I truly feel, if the only real advantage a car has is its name prestige, and it costs so much more, then my choice is easier. I'd rather be on the road in ultimate comfort with a nav system that is intuitive and an unparalleled ride in quiet, than sitting in the dealer's service department complaining about the rattles, squeaks, cheap plastic parts and various other failings I have read about here. Lastly, I don't intend to put the Benz down I almost bought one and think, generally, it's a fine car, just not a smart buy for my purposes
." flint350, "The Lexus LS," #425 of 975, Jan. 25, 2001
"I took the plunge this weekend and purchased the Lexus LS 430 with the UL package. The car is smooth and luxurious beyond belief. However, the UL package has several relatively useless features including the back seat massage, laser cruise control (for me at least), back seat radio controls, etc. I think Lexus should break the UL package to several components and allow the customers to pick and choose. On the whole, however, this car is like a dream!" newlexi, "The Lexus LS," #21 of 975, Nov. 6, 2000
"The Ultra has a button (air suspension) that toggles between 'normal' and 'sport.' The normal mode is great for the interstate and relaxed easy driving. I had the car in sport mode the other day on a winding mountain road and was very impressed! (My previous car was a '95 SC 300.) The LS 430 leans less than the SC 300. In sport mode, the shocks stiffen. If you are driving aggressively on winding mountain roads; however, you would probably prefer the 740iL. But personally, I don't like the plain interior of the 740iL. I'd rather compromise slightly on the handling for all the luxurious interior beauty and high tech goodies on the LS 430! The sport button on the Ultra is all I need. I like the way I can have it both ways: a cushy relaxing ride or a more aggressive sports car feel with the variable air suspension." barb85, "The Lexus LS," #755 of 975, March 27, 2001
"After much agonizing I went with the LS 430 over the MB S-Class. Almost fell for that MB lore, but in the end, the LS's luxurious interior, elegant ride, ultra quiet cabin and the combo of its nav system and Levinson stereo kept me in the Lexus LS family. I've been leasing LS 400s since '95 and have been very satisfied with the cars, particularly their ride and great reliability. A lot of people seem to complain about MB reliability but then claim the car's still worth it. In the case of the LS, I have never had any problems other than tires wearing out early due to my failure to get a wheel alignment. I evaluated both the S430 and the S500 (to me, the latter is actually the more competitive to the LS due to engine size) and found them to be great cars but didn't feel they measured up to the LS. I prefer the MB design and handling and give both A to A+, versus B+ to the Lexus for both, but Lexus wins everywhere else. The interior is off the scale at A++ vs. a B- for the MB (given its price), and hey, that's where you live. Besides, the LS handles superbly for such a large car and with two kids in the car most of the time I wouldn't drive it like a sports car anyway. I'm sure I would have been quite content with the MB but I actually felt that had I opted for it, I would be sorry I didn't go with the LS and I didn't have any such feeling vice versa. Now that I've driven it for two days, I'm certain I made the right decision. My only complaint against the car is that you can't use the rear seat heaters if you put a child seat in the middle of the rear seats. Perhaps they will fix that in 2002. For anyone else caught between MB and LS make your decision on the car not the MB lore, but both are great cars." ljflx, "The Lexus LS," #358 of 975, Dec. 27, 2000
"Got our LS430 on Dec 1. We decided against the nav system. Living on Mississippi's Gulf Coast, we know our local area, including Mobile and New Orleans . Really enjoy the car. My husband has back problems and never complains of lack of support for his back, even on road trips. Drove to Orlando area for Christmas. Got great gas mileage. Averaged over 26 mpg on Interstate 10 across the Florida panhandle. (The area is very hilly until you get near the Pensacola area.) Rear seats are very easy for the in-laws to get in and out of. Dad is 6' 2" and was surprised at the headroom he had. Also, Mom had knee replacements on both knees and found getting in and out of the car easy. Truck space is huge, and I found it easy to use ." msem, "The Lexus LS," #575 of 975, Feb. 19, 2001
Edited by Erin Riches