Redesigned for the 2001 model year, the full-size, rear-wheel-drive flagship sedan from Toyotas luxury division gets substantial modifications for 2004 though it falls short of a redesign. The LS 430s front fenders, hood, headlights, fog lamps, grille, bumpers and trunk lid are new. Its dual-exhaust tailpipes are now exposed. An Adaptive Front lighting System (AFS) can swivel the low beams up to 15 degrees to light the path ahead in curves. LED brake lights are installed.
On the safety front, the LS 430 gains front knee airbags and a tire-pressure monitor. A new six-speed-automatic transmission operates with multimode sequential shifting. XM Satellite Radio is newly optional, and a powered rear sunshade is now standard. Additional options include a rear backup camera with a full-color monitor, rear climate-controlled seats, and a SmartAccess electronic key entry and engine-start system. Early in 2004, a Pre-Collision System that provides a warning and cinches seat belts if a collision is imminent will be offered.
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. The 2004 model arrives at dealerships in late September.
Riding a 115.2-inch wheelbase, the LS 430 measures 197.4 inches long overall. Its styling is somewhat chiseled and muscular looking. A moonroof is standard, and a Euro-tuned sport suspension is optional. An air suspension is included with the Ultra-Luxury option group. New 17-inch aluminum wheels are used, but 18-inch wheels are available with a sport suspension.
An in-dash six-CD changer, leather upholstery and genuine wood trim are standard in the five-passenger interior. A Mark Levinson audio system with selectable Position Optimized Sound is optional. 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. The LS 430 can be set up for Bluetooth wireless communications.
Under the Hood
Working with a six-speed-automatic transmission, the 4.3-liter V-8 engine produces 290 horsepower and 320 pounds-feet of torque. Lexus claims the 2004 model can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 5.9 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 seats 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 and stability, and it provides bountiful interior space.
On the road, the relatively soft suspension almost 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 well-controlled and soothingly smooth experience.
Performance is vibrant 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. Except for a slight whine while moving, this sedan is almost eerily quiet. 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. The interior provides ample space on cushiony upholstery, though rear headroom is hardly huge, and the center rear spot is cramped.