The Mark Levinson audio system is unchanged from previous model years of the LS 460, but that is not a bad thing. With 19 speakers, 450 watts, and 7.1-channel architecture, it is definitely an audiophile system. It delivers excellent instrumental detail over a wide stage. Its frequency response is well-balanced from the highs to the bass.
Listening to electronic music with complex layers, we could hear subtle sounds included in the tracks. Bass came through strongly without being overpowering or rattling door panels. High-pitch notes from vocals and acoustic tracks were soft, with no shrillness.
The stereo itself gave us a reasonable number of choices for audio sources. We tended to rely on the integrated iPod support, but found some inconvenient quirks. The interface let us browse our iPod's music library with the usual artist, album, and genre categories, but it was very sluggish. Touching the album tab on the LCD, we had to wait a little bit for the first screen to load. Scrolling down the alphabetical list, each new screen took equally long to load. We got used to touching the scroll button, looking back to the road for a bit, then returning attention to the screen. It was tedious.
Although maybe not the car's fault, we were also dissatisfied with the audio quality when using an iPhone that was simultaneously paired to the car's Bluetooth phone system. During playback, we heard frequent pops, ruining the listening experience. This problem may have been more because of the iPhone being overtaxed, as we did not encounter this problem with an iPod Touch.
Other audio source choices included satellite radio and a six-CD changer. Although the navigation system stores its maps on a hard drive, there is no onboard music library for the car.
The navigation system has not changed much over the years. Even as Lexus switched from DVD to a hard drive, the look of the maps remained largely the same. These maps are very readable, with bright, well-defined colors and large graphics showing upcoming turns. But Lexus only offers 2D maps where other luxury automakers have gone to rich 3D maps with rendered buildings.
For the 2010 model year, Lexus added its Enform telematics service to the navigation system, giving users the option of calling an operator through the navigation interface and requesting an address lookup. We were also impressed with the ease of entering an address through voice command, as the system understood our standard test address street, Tehama, a name that usually trips up voice recognition.
Traffic information is integrated with this navigation system. As we drove around the San Francisco Bay Area, we frequently heard its warnings of slow traffic on the freeway ahead. The system issues a vocal warning if traffic is running between 20 and 40 mph, and dynamically changes the route if traffic is slower than 20 mph.
Very disappointing for a carmaker that competes with the likes of Mercedes-Benz was the total lack of driver assistance features on the option sheet. No blind-spot detection, no adaptive cruise control, not even the automatic parallel parking technology Lexus offered when it launched the LS 460.
The high point of the 2010 Lexus LS 460 is really its performance technology, despite the fact that it handles like a pig. The engine generates a good amount of power and is fairly economical. Although the transmission has eight gears, it never feels intrusive. And the air suspension helps the LS 460 ride over obstacles with little cabin involvement.
And the LS is a good-looking vehicle, too. Its lines may not be stunning, but its understated aesthetics go along with its mission. We particularly like the way Lexus insets the rear pipes in the body molding, something many other automakers have since copied.
Although we like the audio system quite a bit, the rest of the cabin electronics do not raise the bar. The navigation system does not look quite as good as those from other automakers and the phone system is run-of-the-mill. But what really hurts the car in this area is the lack of driver assistance features, an area where a car company can really set itself apart.
|Model||2010 Lexus LS 460|
|Power train||Direct injection 4.6-liter V-8, eight-speed automatic transmission|
|EPA fuel economy||16 mpg city/24 mpg highway|
|Observed fuel economy||19.5 mpg|
|Navigation||Hard-drive-based with traffic|
|Bluetooth phone support||Standard|
|Disc player||MP3-compatible six-CD changer|
|MP3 player support||iPod integration|
|Other digital audio||Satellite radio, USB drive, Bluetooth streaming|
|Audio system||7.1-channel 19-speaker Mark Levinson system|
|Driver aids||Backup camera, park distance warning|
|Price as tested||$76,979|