Redesigned for the 2001 model year with a larger V-8 engine than the previous LS 400, the full-size, rear-wheel-drive flagship sedan from Toyotas luxury division gets only a few alterations for 2003. The standard wheels now measure 17 inches in diameter, and all-season tires are optional. New stand-alone options include intuitive ultrasonic parking assist and front climate-controlled seats; this equipment was previously available only as part of option packages. Base models ordered with the climate-controlled seats also get new perforated leather upholstery.
Lexus first entered the American market in 1990 with its LS 400, which was redesigned for 1995 and is now in its third generation as the LS 430. In addition to abundant standard equipment, the LS 430 can be equipped with such additional features as an air-suspension system with adaptive shock-absorber control, front and rear obstacle detection, and laser-based cruise control that maintains a set distance from the vehicle ahead.
An optional Lexus Link communication system is essentially General Motors OnStar communication service, but it is staffed by Lexus personnel. Lexus DVD-based navigation system operates via voice control or a dashboard touchscreen.
Riding a 115.2-inch wheelbase, the LS 430 measures 196.7 inches long overall. The LS 430s styling is somewhat chiseled and muscular-looking thats a bit suggestive of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. Lower bodyside cladding, high-intensity-discharge headlights and fog lamps are standard. Lexus claims that with the available air suspension, its top sedan has a 0.25 coefficient of drag, which is a measure of a vehicles resistance to the air through which it passes. A Euro-tuned sport suspension is optional.
An in-dash six-CD changer, leather upholstery and genuine wood trim are standard in the five-passenger interior. Convenience features include a 14-way power drivers seat, a 10-way adjustable power front passenger seat, and memory operation for the drivers seat, mirrors and steering wheel.
Under the Hood
Working with a five-speed-automatic transmission, the 4.3-liter V-8 engine produces 290 horsepower and 320 pounds-feet of torque. Lexus claims the LS 430 can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 6.3 seconds.
Antilock brakes, traction control, an electronic stability system, side-impact airbags for the front seats, and side curtain-type airbags for both the front and rear are standard.
Tucked into the LS 430 are about as many luxury features as any reasonable person could want. More importantly, the top Lexus delivers all-around excellence in ride, performance, stability, maneuverability and bountiful interior space. On the road, the suspension seems to be thinking instantaneously ahead by making excellent judgments about the best way to cope with the next bump. The result isnt a cushiony, gliding ride, but rather a highly controlled yet soothingly smooth experience.
The LS 430s performance is practically startling for a car of this weight. Passing and merging dont trigger a shred of concern because the energetic V-8 is eager to respond.
The LS 430 is very easy to drive. It steers with a relatively light touch but has full control. This sedan is quiet, but its not eerily silent. Even though the LS 430 lacks the sporty behavior of a BMW or the sterner demeanor of a Mercedes-Benz, it can persuade its owner to keep on driving.