2006 LS 430 New Car Test Drive
The Lexus LS 430 is among the easiest of the big luxury cars to live with. It whisks occupants along in supreme comfort. Its ride is silky smooth. It handles well, with effortless steering and excellent grip. Its powerful V8 delivers strong performance and is paired with a smooth six-speed automatic.
Inside is a beautiful driving environment with rich wood accents and buttery soft leather trim, seats so comfortable that you never think about them, and controls that are a paragon of ergonomic excellence. Every convenience feature imaginable is provided and, for the most part, those features are easy to operate. In every way, the LS 430 is the hassle-free luxury car. It may not have the cache of the European cars, but it's far easier to operate than the BMW 7 Series and it's more up to date than the aging Mercedes S-Class.
Safety is state-of-the-art. Every LS 430 comes with no less than eight airbags, plus seatbelts with pre-tensioners. Its headlights swivel to help drivers see around corners. An optional Pre-Collision Safety System actually anticipates accidents, preemptively tightening the front seat belts and pre-arming the Brake Assist. Also optional are a backup camera for seeing what's behind you, and Dynamic Laser Cruise Control that maintains a set following distance from the car ahead. Other high-tech options like Bluetooth and SmartAccess allow you to unlock the doors, start the car, drive off, and make hands-free phone calls without even pulling your key or your cell phone out of your pocket or purse.
The LS changed the rules for luxury car ownership when it was originally introduced, combining quality, technology, dependability and excellent dealer service, and that continues today. Lexus has been the highest-ranking brand in the J.D. Power and Associates dependability study for more than a decade; based on surveys of owners, the study named the LS 430 the most problem-free car in its class after three years of ownership. The LS 430 is also a perennial leader in the firm's Initial Quality Study, which surveys buyers after 90 days of ownership.
The 2006 Lexus LS 430 comes in just one trim level ($56,525), and it's loaded with luxury and convenience features. Among them: a power moonroof with auto open/close, a power rear sunshade, and lighted rear-seat vanity mirrors. Leather-trimmed upholstery comes standard, of course.
Several leather upgrades are available, however, including Ecru ($1,460), Black Semi-Aniline ($2,100) and Saddle Comfort Nappa ($2,100); all three require the purchase of an additional upgrade package, and Saddle Comfort Nappa is restricted to models painted Black Onyx or Flint Mica.
The Premium Package ($1,390) adds climate-controlled front seats with fans that circulate heated or chilled air, heated rear seats, and sonar-based Intuitive Parking Assist.
The Modern Luxury Package ($4,980) bundles a Mark Levinson audio system, navigation system, reversing camera, Bluetooth communications technology, climate controlled front seats, heated rear seats, and Intuitive Parking Assist.
The Custom Luxury Selection ($5,935) includes the Mark Levinson audio, navigation system, rear backup camera, Bluetooth, Dynamic Laser Cruise Control, Intuitive Parking Assist, climate-controlled front seats, rear seat heaters, headlamp washers, and power door closers.
The Ultra Luxury Selection ($11,320) features all that plus Adaptive Variable Air Suspension, SmartAccess keyless entry and ignition, and a number of amenities for rear seat passengers, including: sunshades for the rear passenger doors, a rear-seat adjuster with memory, climate-controlled rear seats with a massage feature, and a rear air conditioner with optical deodorizer. The Custom Luxury and Ultra Luxury packages can be paired with the Pre-Collision Safety System, in which case Dynamic Radar Cruise Control is substituted for the laser system.
The Sport Package ($220) combines a handling-tuned suspension with 18-inch wheels and summer tires. The same package with chromed wheels costs a bit more ($1,920).
The LS 430 comes with a 278-horsepower 4.3-liter aluminum V8 and a six-speed automatic transmission. (The same engine was rated 290 horsepower last year, which might lead some consumers to wonder how Lexus let those 12 horses get away. What has in fact happened is that the Society of Automotive Engineers, or SAE, has revised its test procedures for horsepower and torque, and as a result some of the numbers are coming out lower this year. So in fact all the ponies are still in the stable; but the racing commission is counting them differently. There is no change in performance over last year's model as it's the same.)
Passive safety features include seat-mounted side-impact airbags (for torso protection), rear side curtain airbags (for head protection), and knee airbags, in addition to the federally mandated dual frontal airbags. Most important are the seatbelts, which feature pre-tensioners, force limiters, and retractors; be sure to use them as they're the first line of defense in a collision. The optional Pre-Collision System uses radar to detect obstacles in front of the car and, if it determines an accident is unavoidable, can preemptively retract the driver's and front passenger's seatbelts, which can help reduce injuries. The system also pre-pressurizes the Brake Assist which, after the driver applies the brakes, automatically applies increased braking force to help reduce collision speed.