The Lexus LS 430 has the posture of royalty, the power of a player, the amenities of a five star hotel and enough attitude to turn heads. Named the most problem-free vehicle by J.D. Power and Associates for the seventh consecutive year.
With a starting price of $55,125, the 2004 LS 430 costs the same as last year's model. But the list of creature comforts has grown and the appearance has evolved.
This year's model has an arresting look starting with a sculpted hood, oversized cats-eye headlamps, a front low fender overhang and exposed dual tailpipes. The rear-wheel drive super sedan has updated shock absorbers, restyled 17-inch wheels, and comes standard with ABS and traction control.
A 4.3-liter aluminum V8 sits under the hood, delivering 290 horsepower and 320 lb.-ft. of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission with sequential shifting and manual shift mode is new for 2004. The LS 430 is FAST and responsive, zero-to-60 time in 5.9 seconds, compared to 6.3 seconds for the 2003 model.
I experienced both sports and comfort suspension modes on my test car and found a distinct difference in the feel. I also drove from Manhattan to Yonkers in 6th gear without realizing I was in shift mode. Despite the over sight, the ride was everything you'd expect---smooth, quick, confident and quiet.
Safety enhancements include a new tire pressure monitor and knee airbags for driver and front seat passenger with larger seat-mounted side airbags.
The interior of the LS 430 is delicious. Lots of creamy beige leather with elegant touches of light woods that frame the dash and doors. There are fold-out door pockets, nooks that fit cell phones, cup holders that hug huge containers, well-placed interior lights and mirrors that close in towards the door when you turn off the ignition. There's also a rear window shade and small cooler in the rear armrest.
My test-model at $69,954 had some rather interesting features that add to the pamper quotient. They included a touch screen navigation system with Bluetooth technology that allows the driver to make hands-free voice-activated calls, a rear camera for backing up that gives a wide angle view of what's behind you, rear seat swivel reading lamps, the Mark Levinson stereo with one-touch individual audio tuning for the driver, front passenger or rear passengers and a power rear sunshade. XM Satellite Radio also is available. The navigation system was more user-friendly than most, the graphics were clear, the guiding voice calm and I still got lost somewhere in the Bronx.