Lexus LS 430 Review

Lexus LS 430 Review

Since its inception, the Lexus luxury division has been steadfast and relentless in its pursuit of, well, perfection. A challenging benchmark to be sure, but one the brand has been exceedingly successful at meeting with home run after home run. The original first-generation LS 400 was a smash hit that quickly rose to the head of the luxury sedan class with a large and loyal owner base and a slew of industry awards.

For the mid-'90s second-generation makeover, Lexus was wise enough to leave well enough alone and not fix what wasn't broken. So when a third-generation redesign was slated for 2001, exactly how would Lexus better its top-rated sedan in the premium luxury segment? The answer was to swing for the fences yet again with more of everything: design edginess, interior room and comfort, performance, safety and technology.

The resulting Lexus LS 430 was one of the finest luxury sedans available anywhere. A two-time winner of an Editors' Most Wanted award, the LS 430 boasted a top-notch interior, a superb ride, excellent build quality and an impressive array of features. The only thing that gave shoppers pause at the time was the car's price. Loaded with options, this was the first LS-series car to finally reach the price levels of premium European luxury sedans.

With price depreciation having set in, that's less of an issue now. As a previously owned model, the Lexus LS 430 provides the same exceptional luxury sedan experience as it did when it was new. For shoppers in this segment, especially ones wanting a luxury sedan that's a bit more demure than its German rivals, the LS 430 is an excellent choice.

Most Recent Lexus LS 430

The Lexus LS 430 was produced for the 2001-'06 model years. As a redesign of the previous LS 400, it featured a 4.3-liter V8 engine, a freshened aerodynamic shape and a new suspension that offered greater stability and a smoother ride. The new LS 430 also offered a richer, more stylish and roomier interior with advanced safety and luxury features.

The sedan's V8 provided 278 horsepower and 312 pound-feet of torque. Initially, power flowed to the rear wheels through a five-speed automatic transmission with manual shift control. (In 2004, Lexus upgraded the transmission to a six-speed.) A full complement of airbags came standard, as did antilock brakes with brake assist, traction control, the VSC stability control system and tire-pressure monitoring.

Naturally, plenty of luxury features came standard as well, including dual-zone climate control (with air registers that swept back and forth), a 14-way power driver seat with memory positioning, cruise control, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, auto-dimming mirrors, an in-dash CD changer and a power trunk closer. Many used LS 430s will also have the optional upgraded leather upholstery, heated and cooled front seats, moonroof, voice-activated navigation system and 240-watt Mark Levinson premium audio system.

Additional options included rear-window and rear-door sunshades, parking assist, rear seat heaters and power door closers. The Lexus LS 430 was also available with adaptive cruise control, a smoother-riding air suspension, power-adjustable rear seats and a separate rear air-conditioning system.

The cabin of the Lexus flagship was warm and inviting given its high-quality leather, abundance of rich walnut or maple trim, sharp electroluminescent gauges and wonderfully comfortable seats. It offered plenty of headroom and legroom for both front and rear passengers, and the large trunk held 20-plus cubic feet of luggage.

Serene in nearly all situations, the Lexus LS 430 excelled in both urban commuting and long-distance road trips. The suspension easily soaked up road irregularities, especially when equipped with the optional air suspension. Although they excelled in nearly all other areas, previous LS models weren't known for inspired driving dynamics -- and though capable in the curves, the LS 430 also did little to engage more passionate drivers. Therefore, if you expect some excitement from your luxury sedan, we think one of its European rivals will suit you better.

In terms of selecting a particular vintage of LS 430, there are only minor changes to be aware of. Nothing really happened until 2004 when the LS received a major midcycle update that consisted of mild exterior revisions, the aforementioned six-speed automatic transmission, adaptive headlights, knee airbags for front occupants and a standard moonroof. New options included the Pre-Collision system, SmartAccess keyless start, a Sport package with 18-inch wheels and an enhanced navigation system with a rear back-up camera, expanded voice recognition functionality and Bluetooth phone capability. The upgraded Mark Levinson stereo, also part of that refresh year, provided optimized sound for different seating positions, and satellite radio was also offered.