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2004 Lexus LS 430 Road Test

By CharlesOfria

Category: $55,000+ Premium Luxury Sedan
Who should buy this car: A person looking for the perfect luxury sedan with absolute reliability at a sensible price.
Comparable cars in this class: Audi A8L, BMW 745Infiniti Q45, Jaguar XJ8, Mercedes Benz S430

ou don't ordinarily consider yourself fussy, but  if you are going to spend more than 50 grand on a car, you want that car to be... well, perfect.  "Perfect" means that the vehicle mustcapture your imagination at first sight and then, years from now, make you dreadthe approach of trade-in time.  But, where to look...

The first step to finding a car that is a standout in its class is to payclose attention to thebasics. An outstanding vehicle begins with a solid body structure, a refined engine and a smooth, responsive powertrain. If it's a luxury sedan that you areconsidering, then a superb ride, absolute quiet, sophisticated styling, super comfortable seats, gobs of power,an ultimate sound system and the latest high tech gizmos are essential. But, where tolook... 

You know that cars like the Mercedes S-Class and BMW 7 Series have all the right stuff, but they can be pricey. The Audi A8 and Jag XJ are "perfect" to some, but also up there in the sticker price stratosphere. Then there's the new Lexus LS430.  Hmm. Excellent quality, superb ride and comfort, and serene quiet, except when the sound system is engaged.  And the price?  An astonishing $10,000 to $20,000 less than the aforementioned vehicles -- savings that could buy a pretty fabulous vacation for your family.  In this lofty sedan class, only the Q45 has a comparable sticker, but it's personality is different.  A Q45 is more of a driver's car; while the LS430 leans more toward coddling the passengers and driver in pure luxury while minimizing tendencies toward an extroverted personality.

TheLexus LS430 had a major redesign for the 2001 model year, but to keep it fresh and on top of its game, Lexus has made some significant upgrades for 2004.  A new 6-speed automatic transmission with a shift-it-yourself mode heads the list.  There is a freshening of the front and rear styling that removed some of the awkwardness of the previous design, but the styling remains conservative and, well... unimaginative.  No excitement in the driving feel either, but not everybody looking for a luxury car wants a brash personality.  Lexus feels that it is targeting the majority of luxury car buyers with the LS 430, and their sales numbers validate their position

The week I had this car was a very special week in my life.  About a year ago I was contacted by an old friend from my elementary school in Brooklyn NY.  We both graduated from this school in 1957 and I haven't heard from him until I received his email last year.  It turns out that my friend is now retired and living in Florida.  He decided to make it his mission in life to find as many classmates from our graduating class as he could.  He found more than 30 of us and decided to arrange a class reunion, our first in 46 years.  That reunion took place the week that I had this new Lexus so, of course I offered to chauffer anyone who needed a ride.

This car impressed everyone who rode in it.  It didn't hurt that it was equipped with the Ultra Luxury package which adds a whopping $13,000 to the price of this already well-equipped car.  That package includes all the options you would want including a computer-controlled air suspension system as well as a number of luxury features for the back seat passengers.  Rear seat niceties included power reclining rear seats, rear seat vibrate-massagers and climate controlled rear cushions that could send heated or cooled air through the perforations in the leather.  It also included audio and climate controls in the rear seat armrest as well as sun shades for the side door windows and a powered one for the rear window.

On the road, this car offered a creamy smooth ride and a hushed silence that made you think you were wearing ear muffs.  The new six-speed automatic transmission made the engine seem even smoother than the already world class 2003 model with the added benefit of giving it more of a kick off the line.  When prodded, this engine surprises with immediate and powerful thrust to blast you onto the highway without raising the decibels any louder than other high end cars produce while cruising.

Steering and overall handling, while confidence inspiring, was not very exciting.  This car feels like a luxury car with no ambition to take on the European sports-sedan crowd.  That is until you flip the electronic suspension into sports mode.  The sport mode improves the handling and allows less body lean when cornering, but at the expense of some ride smoothness.

Finding an ideal driving position in the 14 way power seat is a snap.  The seats are extremely comfortable and have adjustments for all the normal stuff like up, down, forward, back, tilt and recline, plus cushion length, headrest height and upper & lower lumbar support.  Couple that with the power tilt and telescoping steering column and you can plant yourself right where you want to be.

The LS430 pricing starts at $55,125 and goes up to around $70 grand when you stuff it with all the available options like our tester had, but what do you get for the base price?  With close to $15,000 worth of options on the list, if you order the car without checking any of them off you must get a pretty stripped car, right?  Well, no actually.  The base model comes quite well equipped for the price and includes more standard features then many of the other cars in this class.

Some of the fancier items that are standard equipment for the base price of $55,125 include:

  • 6-Speed Automatic Transmission
  • Power Moonroof
  • Leather and Wood Trimmed Interior with 14 Way Power Driver's seat with memory and 10 way power passenger seat
  • Wood & Leather-Wrapped Steering Wheel with Power Tilt & Telescoping Column
  • Dual-Zone Automatic Air Conditioning with smog sensing auto recirculate and sun sensing swing air registers that automatically direct air where it is needed.
  • Outside-air filtration and deodorization system
  • Power Rear Sun Shade
  • Lighted rear-seat vanity mirrors
  • Automatic Rain-Sensing Variable Intermittent Windshield Wipers that seem to read your mind.
  • HID Headlights with Adaptive Front Lighting that directs headlight beams into a turn.
  • AM/FM Stereo w/Cassette & in Dash 6-disc compact disc changer
  • Dual Front, Front Side Impact, Front Knee and F&R Head Curtain Air Bags
  • Power trunk closer
  • Carpeted floor mats
  • This is by no means a complete list...

One of the things that I like about Lexus cars is their thoughtful attention to detail that other manufacturers often miss.  Like logically placed and easy to understand controls for every thing from the climate controls to the buttons that allow the driver to move the passenger seat without reaching across the car.  Or the foam filler panel between each front seat and the console to prevent dropped food or other objects from falling out of reach.  The interior door handles are dimly illuminated when you put the car in park as are the footwells.  The seat belt buckles are also illuminated.  There is interior storage aplenty with compartments under the front seats, to the left of the steering column, in the console and in the rear arm rest to go with the flip-out front and stationary rear door pockets, double-decker console box and large conventional glove box.  All these features are standard and included in the base price.

Other features, some of which are optional include: a voice recorder that allows you to take notes or remember phone numbers, a voice activated navigation system with 5 million points of interest and a Yellow pages-like directory of phone numbers.  When you are in reverse, the navigation screen becomes a rear view monitor with a camera just above the rear bumper so you can see any obstructions in your path,  There is also Bluetooth technology that allows you to interface your Bluetooth enabled cell phone to use the speakers and microphone in the car so you never need to take the phone out of your pocket or purse while driving.  Bluetooth will also allow you to transfer your personal phone book from your cell phone to the navigation system.

Want some more?  How about the power door closers in the event that you didn't close the door with enough force, or the Sonar Parking Assist that places a graphic of the car on the navigation display when you are parking to show you how close you are from any obstruction.  And let's not forget the spectacular Mark Levenson sound system that is as good as an expensive home audio system.  There is also an available Dynamic Laser Cruise Control system which will adjust the car's speed to maintain a set distance from the car ahead.

If you decide to order your Lexus with the Ultra Luxury Package, you get a lot more to show off, much of it in the rear seat area.  How about power reclining rear seats with memory that have a vibrate-massage feature, or the climate controlled front and rear seats that allow heated or cooled air to circulate through the perforated leather seat cushions, or the rear controls for the air conditioning and sound system.  This package also includes a computer controlled, self-leveling air suspension system that allows the driver to switch between Normal and Sport modes or lift the car up for additional ground clearance on bad roads.  Oh yeah, there is also a small refrigerator in the back seat that will hold a six pack.  I kid you not.

Another new option is Smart Access.  This allows you to drive the car without ever taking the key out of your pocket.  As long as the electronic key is within arm's length of the car when you grab the door handle, the door (or doors, depending on how you set it up) will unlock, allowing you to enter.  You can then start the car by simply turning the ignition switch (there are finger grips on the ignition switch that allows you to turn it without using the key).

Despite all the cutting edge features that Lexus has always packed into the LS since its introduction in 1990, these cars have proven to be among the most reliable vehicles on the road.  In other words, all these gadgets will remain trouble free well into 6 digit mileage figures.  Just ask anyone with an old Lexus, they will tell you.  And the 2004 models look like they will continue with that golden reputation.  The fit and finish on our test car was second to none with flawless paint and tight fitting body gaps throughout.  The quality extends to every part of the car that you can see, hear or touch.

The LS430 is available with 3 different suspension systems.  Normal, Euro-Tuned Sport Suspension and and the Semi-active air suspension system that is part of the Ultra Luxury package.  The Normal setup has a great ride and competent handling.  The Sport suspension trades off some ride quality for better handling and sharper steering feel, while the air suspension tries to give you the best of both worlds and pretty much succeeds.

The engine on the LS430 is a carryover from last year. At idle, it is almost totally silent. You can barely hear the starter when you crank it up. You know it's running because the warning lights go out and the tach needle moves away from zero. At full throttle, the engine sounds sweet, but it seemed like you were hearing the engine from a car two lanes away. Floor the gas and you're treated to a rush of power that will bring you to 60 mph in 5.9 seconds with almost imperceptible shifts from the new six-speed automatic transmission.  The six-speed sequential shift transmission has a lower first gear ratio, which is why the 0 to 60 times have improved by almost a half second over last year's numbers

There's lots to talk about regarding safety on the new LS430 and much of it is standard equipment.  New standard features for 2004 include front knee air bags, Adaptive Front Lighting System (AFS) which allows the headlights to steer into turns for better visibility, and a new Tire Pressure Monitor (TPM) (available January 2004) that will turn a dash indicator on if a tire is under inflated.

There is also a new optional safety system for 2004 that is going to push safety technology to new levels.  It is called Pre-Collision System (PCS) and will become available as an option in January of 2004.  The system uses a millimeter-wave radar sensor that can see obstacles in the car's path.  If the computer determines that a collision is unavoidable, it will draw the driver's and front passenger's seatbelts up tight and set the Brake Assist system for maximum stopping power.

Is this the best sedan on the planet?  Well, if money is factored into the equation and reliability is important, then I would have to say yes, this is the best sedan you can buy.  However, if money is no object and you have an additional 30 grand to spend, the Mercedes S500 can be optioned out with all the same features and will also give you all-wheel drive and the best ride of any car on the road.  But is it worth that much additional cash?  I dunno.  I never had that much money to play with.  But my classmates from 1957 think I do, so all is well.

Do you have any feedback on the Lexus LS430?  Any opinions or experiencesof your own?  We would love to hear from you. 
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Clickhere for more pictures of the LS430

How would I improve this car?

  • Ummm
  • Let me think...
  • How about... no, its got that already.
  • Styling needs to be kicked up a notch or two.

How does the LS-430 fit yourdriving style? 

Conservative drivers This is your dream car.  As good as it gets.  Easy to drive smoothly with plenty of power when you need it.  A comfortable back seat with plenty of room. 

Sporty drivers There are smaller cars that handle better, but if you need a large luxury sedan, opt for the Euro-tuned Sport Suspension and have fun.

Fast drivers The Vehicle Skid Control will help you explore the limits of this car's handling potential while the wonderfully  smooth engine and powerful brakes leave little to be desired


Engine Type 4.3-liter V8, DOHC Aluminum block and aluminum heads. Variable Valve Timing with Intelligence (VVT-i).  
Horsepower 290 @ 5,600 RPM
Torque 320 @ 3,400 RPM
Fuel Recommended Premium 91 Octane Unleaded.
Transmission Six Speed Electronically Controlled Transmission with Intelligence (ECT-i)
Tires - Standard
P225/55R17   H-speed rated summer tires (all-season tires optional)
P245/45R18 W-rated summer tires
Overall Length 197.4"
Wheelbase 115.2
Width 72"
Turning Diameter 35.8 ft Curb to Curb
Curb Weight 3,990
Fuel Tank 22.2 Gals.
Miles Per Gallon EPA city 18, hwy 25. 
Acceleration 0 to 60 5.9 Seconds
Base Sticker Price $55,125 plus $625 destination charge

Lexus LS-430 Rear Wheel Drive Premium Luxury Sedan

Standard Equipment

  • Leather Trim in Saddle, Ash, Cashmere Ecru or Black
  • Wood and Leather Steering Wheel
  • Wood and Leather Shift Knob
  • Automatic Dual Zone Climate control with Smog Sensing Auto-recirculation System and Temperature and Sun Sensing Swing Air Register
  • 14 Way Power Driver Seat with 3 Position Memory and 10 Way Front Passenger Seat
  • 15 Function Information Display with Trip Computer
  • Scheduled Maintenance Indicator Light
  • Cruise control
  • Compass and Digital Clock
  • Power Tilt and Telescope Steering Column with Automatic Tilt-away
  • Power Windows with Auto-Up/Down on All Four Windows
  • Power rear sunshade
  • Lighted rear-seat vanity mirrors
  • Rain Sensing Windshield Wipers
  • Power Trunk Closer
  • Automatic Headlamps with HighIntensity Discharge (HID) units and Adaptive Front lighting System (AFS)
  • First aid kit in Dedicated Box Under Driver's Seat
  • Lexus Premium AM /FM/cassette stereo with  Six Disk In-Dash CD Changer and 7 speakers.
  • Four Wheel Ventilated Power Disk Brakes with ABS and Brake Assist
  • Vehicle Skid Control with Throttle Control, Individual Wheel Braking and Traction Control
  • Multi-function In-key Remote with Engine Immobilizer, Theft-deterrent System and Remote Window "down" Feature
  • Electronic Throttle Control System with "Snow and Power Mode"
  • Vehicle-Speed Sensing Progressive Power Rack and Pinion Steering
  • Driver and front passenger knee airbag Supplemental Restraint System (SRS)
  • LED brake lights
  • Tire pressure monitoring system

Major Available Options

  • Euro-tuned Sport Suspension
  • Upgraded Tire Package with 18 Inch Wheels
  • Chrome Wheels
  • Smart Access electronic-key entry and engine-start system
  • Heated Front and Rear Seats
  • Dynamic Laser Cruise Control
  • Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (with Pre-Collision System, included only in the Ultra/Custom Luxury Packages) (Available in January 2004)
  • Mark Levinson Audio Package
  • XM Satellite Radio
  • Navigation System Package with Bluetooth and Rear back-up camera
  • Interior Upgrade Package with Semi Aniline Leather Trim
  • Interior Upgrade Package with Nappa Leather Trim
  • Interior Upgrade Package with Antique Walnut wood trim
  • Ultra Luxury Package: includes Mark Levinson Audio, Navigation System, Lexus Link including One Year of Service, Dynamic Laser CruiseControl, Air Suspension with AVS, Laminated SideGlass, Manual Rear DoorSunshades, Intuitive Parking Assist, Power Rear Seats with Memory and Massage Feature, Air Purifier with Optical Deodorizer, Rear Cooler Box, Front & RearClimate-Controlled Seats with Heat and Cool Knob,Rear Air Conditioner and Air Filtration System, Swiveling Rear Seat Reading Lights, Headlamp Washers, Smart Access and Power Door Closers.

For more information on the LS 430, visit

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