A new LS? What happened to the traditional Merc hand-me-down styling?
Lexus wanted to create a real identity for this one, so the 460 looks like a scaled up GS. Not unique but recognisably a Lexus and reasonably handsome in a bland Japanese fashion. It certainly looks much happier on the optional 19-inch rims than the standard 18s which are uglier and don't fill the arches as well.
No prizes for guessing that the '460' bit means the engine's new.
None at all. The new 4.6-litre V8 only gains 300cc over its predecessor but power is up by nearly 100bhp to 375bhp, torque by 55lb ft to 308lb ft. At 1945kg it's no Elise but that extra power makes for a fairly brisk package, the sprint to 60mph tumbling from 6.3sec to 5.7sec. Yet economy actually improves by 0.7mpg to 25.5mpg. That's probably got something to do with the addition of direct injection alongside traditional port injection and the variable valve timing system that now uses electric motors rather than oil pressure for better response.
And I suppose that's just the tip of the technological iceberg...
This car positively oozes gadgets. It's got a Mercedes Pre-Safe-style collision warning system that uses radar to detect an impending front-end smash, first sounding a warning and then applying the brakes if the driver still hasn't taken action. It even has a face recognition gadget mounted on the top of the steering column that can recognise if you're looking ahead and paying attention or idly gazing out of the side window. You don't have to pay so much attention when parking though: the LS will steer into a space for you, leaving you to operate the pedals. Then there's the world's first eight-speed automatic gearbox.
Eight speeds! What, how... no, actually just why?
Because it's one more than the Merc S-class offers, two more than everyone else has and because the resulting greater spread of ratios theoretically allows Lexus to get away with a smaller capacity engine than the competition, while offering the same performance. In practice it can mean too much changing down when you need to overtake instead of being able to rely on the V8's torque. The engine defines refinement though, even if it does come second best to arch-rival the S500 for performance.
The Benz is a bit of a tool then in comparison?
More nimble than the LS and more fun to drive – the Lexus disappoints with too-light power steering, little useful engine braking and its lack of gearshift paddles which would help you make the most of those eight gears. That said it carries its weight well with the electronic dampers set to firm, but it's just not an entertainer. But this isn't a car to thrash, it's a place in which to hide from the rest of the world. The cabin takes dullness to a new level but it's superbly bolted together, very comfortable and as quiet as a library – unless you unleash the incredible 450 watt, 19-speaker Mark Levinson stereo. Only the very slightly upset town ride will disturb your zen-like calmness.
Anything else I need to know?
Don't waste your time hoping for a diesel version - there won't be one (a great relief considering the rattly, overgeared IS220d is the firm's only effort so far). But there will be a hybrid, the LS600H, which should arrive lat next year. There will also be a long-wheelbase version of the standard car, but as usual the options list is a short affair. The Mark Levinson upgrade and the 19s will be all you'll need.
Crammed with safety and convenience kit, faster and more handsome than before and as quiet and refined as ever, the only missing ingredient is a helping of soul. No change there then. The reliability and excellent Lexus customer service record might continue to steal a few sales away from the big German brands though. Three years in an LS460 will be relaxing, painless and enjoyable. But it won't be an emotive experience.