When the LS460 won the World Car of the Year (COTY) in 2007, few were surprised; with the latest incarnation of the range-topping LS-model Lexus had satisfied just about every need a person could have when it comes to a car. Now an established, stand-alone luxury brand un-diluted by the vastly different values of parent company Toyota, Lexus has achieved significant successes in highly competitive markets, such as that of the US.

In the metal, the LS460 is huge in every aspect, almost intimidating, which is part of why I like it so much. The exterior design is a flowing and elegant evolution of the original LS design, albeit better proportioned and better executed. Build quality and paint finish is flawless, and, in a superbly understated fashion, manages to look sporty and graceful at the same time.

In terms of specifications, LS460 is solidly on par with its rivals; if you can think of a bell and whistle, odds are that the LS460 will have it fitted as standard. Its interior is adorned with top-quality wood and leather, and all four seats are electrically adjustable with seat heaters and coolers. The exceptionally efficient four zone climate control allows individual temperature settings for each passenger, further enhancing the feel of exclusivity.

The multi-function leather steering wheel is electrically adjustable for reach and height and includes controls for the Bluetooth telephone system, cruise control and audio, as well as a very nifty “hold” button that allows you to take your foot off the brake in traffic. It also makes pulling off against a hill much, much easier.

Lexus has left very little on the options list, with standard features that include electrochromatic mirrors, automatic headlights and wipers, an easy-close boot lid (for when your hands really are too full), one-touch electric windows and a six-CD Mark Levinson premium sound system with 19-speaker digital surround sound. Sound impressive? Until you experience it, words really fail to describe the phenomenal sound in this car!

Another truly ingenious feature (and probably my favourite after the sound system) is the LS460’s park distance control system with sonar and a rear camera with guiding function as standard equipment. Once you can get yourself away from the driver’s seat, the back offers electric rear blinds for the rear windscreen and rear side windows that can be operated from the front or rear.

The LS460 is however not only about sound and opulence. Under the bonnet lies a V8 engine that was developed with one eye on refinement and the other on performance. The 4.6-litre engine develops 280kW at 6 400 r/min and maximum torque of 492Nm at 4 100 r/min. Put your foot down, and the LS460 propels forward much quicker than expected, the automatic gearbox seamlessly working its way through the world’s first eight-speed transmission.

Also standard is ABS with electronic brakeforce distribution and brake assist. Should you lose control of the car, you’re protected by no less than 10 airbags: two-stage front airbags, driver and front passenger knee airbags, front and rear side airbags as well as side curtain airbags. In addition, the LS460 is also fitted with cornering headlights (which Lexus dubs Intelligent Adaptive Front Lighting System) and a tyre pressure warning system.

Driving the Lexus is an experience. While it’s more than capable of a top speed of 248km/h, I never once had the urge to push it to its limits. In fact, because of the exceptional driving position and the complete luxury in which I was traveling, I never once went over 160km/h, and that on a deserted highway with the cruise control on.

LS460 has been criticised for its soft ride and lack of maneuverability compared to something like a Mercedes-Benz S-class, but I honestly never felt that it was too soft or experienced vague feedback. In this league however, such things are really based only on personal preference, and for me to find major faults with the LS460 was basically impossible.

But let’s not beat about the bush – R803 400 is a lot of cash for something that will essentially get you from point A to point B, albeit in supreme comfort and luxury. But it’s when you look at the LS460’s competitors that things start falling into place. With remarkably similar specifications, your options include BMW’s 750i and Audi’s A8 4.2 Quattro Tiptronic. Both offer less power and torque and are between R24 600 and R73 600 more expensive.

If you do want a bigger engine with more power and torque, add R181 600 to the LS460’s price tag and get a Mercedes-Benz S500. As such the LS460’s biggest competition doesn’t come from Merc’s S-class, but from the quirky CLS-range. The CLS500 retails for R28 400 less than the Lexus, but has the same engine as the S500…

Last year, the “baby” IS250 provided stiff competition in the SA COTY contest, already giving strong indication that Lexus was – and is – indeed a brand to keep your eyes on. Am I surprised that the sublime LS460 also lost out this year? Not at all, really. In the South African context, the Mazda2 makes much more sense, and as such I am very happy about its win this year.

That, however, doesn’t change the fact that the Lexus LS40 is an automotive masterpiece. It is in a completely different league, in a way that transcends competitions that attempt to provide a pecking order between class-hopping vehicles. If you are in the market for a luxury car, you would truly be a fool not to at least try the LS460. It is certainly at the top of my list.

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