The full-size, rear-wheel-drive flagship sedan from Toyota's luxury division gained substantial modifications for 2004 — though the changes fell short of a full redesign. The Lexus LS 430's front fenders, hood, headlights, fog lamps, grille, bumpers and trunk lid were new, and the brake lights incorporated LEDs. An Adaptive Front Lighting System, which can swivel the low beams up to 15 degrees to light curves in the road, was added.
On the safety front, the LS 430 gained front knee airbags and a tire-pressure-monitoring system. A new six-speed-automatic transmission had a manual-shift provision. XM Satellite Radio was newly optional, and a powered rear sunshade became standard. Additional options include a rear backup camera with a full-color monitor, rear climate-controlled seats, and a SmartAccess entry and engine-start system.
A Pre-Collision System that provides a warning, cinches seat belts and prepares brake assist if a collision is imminent also became available for 2004. For 2005, Lexus added all-season tires to the LS 430's optional sport suspension but removed the in-car assistance and concierge service. The 2006 LS 430 is identical to the '05 model. Power ratings have dropped slightly due to new testing procedures by the Society of Automotive Engineers, but performance remains the same.
Riding a 115.2-inch wheelbase, the LS 430 measures 197.4 inches long overall. Its styling is somewhat chiseled and muscular. A moonroof is standard, and an air suspension is included with the Ultra-Luxury option group. Seventeen-inch aluminum wheels are standard, but 18-inch wheels are available with the sport suspension.
An in-dash six-CD changer, leather upholstery and genuine wood trim are standard in the five-passenger interior. An 11-speaker Mark Levinson audio system is optional. Convenience features include a 14-way power driver's seat, a 10-way adjustable power front passenger seat, and memory operation for the driver's seat, mirrors and steering wheel. Trunk volume is 20.2 cubic feet.
Working with a six-speed-automatic transmission, the 4.3-liter V-8 produces 278 horsepower and 312 pounds-feet of torque. Those numbers are down slightly from the 2005 model's 290 hp and 320 pounds-feet due to new SAE testing procedures; actual power remains the same. Lexus says the LS 430 can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 5.9 seconds.
Antilock brakes, traction control, an electronic stability system and eight airbags — front head and chest airbags, front knee airbags, side-impact airbags for the front seats and side curtain-type airbags — are standard.
Loaded with luxury features, the flagship LS 430 delivers all-around excellence in ride, performance and stability, and it provides bountiful interior space. On the road, the relatively soft suspension delivers a well-controlled and soothingly smooth ride.
Performance is vibrant for a car that weighs nearly 2 tons. Passing and merging don't trigger a shred of concern because the energetic V-8 is eager to respond.
The LS 430 is simple to drive, and it steers with a relatively light touch. Other than a slight whine while under way, this sedan is 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.