2005 Lexus LS 430 Reviews and Ratings

Sedan 4D LS430

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2005 Lexus LS 430
Mitch McCullough

Drivers who want a smooth, carefree luxury car should look no further than the Lexus LS 430. It whisks occupants along in supreme comfort, allowing the driver to concentrate on other, more pressing matters than the automobile. Its ride is silky smooth yet it handles quite well, with smooth, effortless steering and good grip. It's also powerful, with a strong V8 and a smooth six-speed automatic. And it features the latest in active safety technology.

Inside is a beautiful interior 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.

Quality, durability and reliability are Lexus hallmarks. For the 10th consecutive year, Lexus was the highest-ranking brand in a J.D. Power and Associates dependability study; based on surveys of owners, the study named LS 430 the most problem-free car in its class after three years of ownership. The LS 430 is also a perennial quality leader, as cited in J.D. Power's Initial Quality Study, which surveys owners after 90 days of ownership.

Toyota launched its luxury channel with the 1990 LS 400, an event that changed the rules for luxury car ownership. The third-generation LS appeared as a 2001 model. Model year 2004 brought major changes to the LS 430: revised styling, suspension refinements, safety improvements, and mind-boggling technology. A new six-speed automatic replaced the previous five-speed for improved acceleration performance without sacrificing fuel economy. There are more airbags than ever before (eight) and seat belts with pretensioners. There's a tire-pressure monitor, an optional backup camera, headlights that swivel for seeing around corners, and optional Dynamic Laser Cruise Control that maintains a set following distance to the car ahead. With the options Bluetooth and SmartAccess, you can 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. Model Lineup
The 2005 Lexus LS 430 is powered by a 290-horsepower 4.3-liter aluminum V8 and comes standard with the six-speed automatic transmission. The LS 430 ($55,675) comes as one model, loaded with every feature expected of a flagship luxury sedan and more. Standard features include a power moonroof with auto open/close, a power rear sunshade, and lighted rear-seat vanity mirrors.

Leather trimmed upholstery comes standard, but upgraded leather trim is optional in Black Semi-Aniline ($2,100), Saddle Comfort Nappa ($2,100), and Ecru ($1,460). A Premium Package ($1,390) adds front climate-controlled (heating/cooling) seats, heated rear seats, and sonar-based Intuitive Parking Assist.

Optional 18-inch wheels with all-season tires ($220) are among the options to replace the standard 17-inch wheels. An optional Euro-tuned Sport Suspension ($220) sharpens handling and includes the 18-inch wheels and 245/45R18 tires.

A Custom Luxury Package ($5,935) is available that includes a Mark Levinson audio system, navigation with rear back-up camera, Bluetooth, dynamic cruise control (Dynamic Radar Cruise Control with Pre-Collision Systems or Dynamic Laser Cruise Control without Pre-Collision), Intuitive Parking Assist, climate-controlled front seats with fans that circulate heated or chilled air, rear seat heaters, headlamp washers, and power door closers. The aptly named Ultra Luxury Package ($11,320) features all that plus the Adaptive Variable Air Suspension, SmartAccess keyless entry and ignition, and a number of rear-seat features: sunshades for the rear passenger doors, a rear seat adjuster with memory, rear climate-controlled seats with a massage feature, and a rear air conditioner with optical deodorizer. Walkaround
The Lexus LS 430 is an attractive luxury car that makes a substantial, upscale statement. It isn't a head turner, though, and tends to blend in, particularly in areas frequented by luxury cars.

Subtle but substantial styling revisions instituted for model year 2004 distinguish it from previous models: The front fenders, hood, headlamps, fog lamps, grille, front and rear bumpers, trunk lid, and front and rear combination lamps were redesigned. Dual tailpipes protruding from the lower edge of the bumper project a look of power and performance. LED brake lights are brighter, light up quicker, last longer, and draw less current than traditional brake lights, plus they look neat.

The LS 430 looks long and low, sleek and shapely. It cuts an understated profile that's attractive. Its large passenger cabin with a generous greenhouse is sandwiched between the long hood and short rear deck. Its canted windshield and elegant A-pillars are set off by the slant of the backlight (rear windscreen) and thick, curvaceous C-pillars that blend seamlessly into the rear flanks. The bold, trapezoidal grille thrusts it forward, while the hood bulges with power. The grille is rimmed in bright trim. The short, horizontal deck leads to a vertical back panel with oversized lamps at the corners, camouflaging the mass of the trunk.

One of the most aerodynamic cars on the road, the LS 430 is streamlined that it earns a 0.26 coefficient of drag, 0.25 with the optional air suspension. That contributes to exceptionally low wind noise and improved fuel economy. The slick exterior form is further enhanced by the remarkable fit of the body panels. Although Lexus has long been recognized for superior fit and finish, the quality achieved by the LS 430 reaches a new dimension. Engineers used a supercomputer to digitize all body surfaces, then worked out new fit tolerances 10 times more precise than on the previous-generation (pre-2001) models. Interior
The interior of the Lexus LS 430 is quiet, comfortable and luxurious. It isn't a showy interior, but the workmanship and attention to detail are first class.

Majesty leather trimmed upholstery is standard and comes in a choice of Saddle, Ash, Cashmere, Ecru, and Black (Saddle and Ecru are only available with the Custom/Ultra Luxury packages). We found the light colors beautiful. The black is nice, but no one does black as well as BMW and Mercedes. Perforated semi-aniline or Comfort Nappa leather trim are optional and further enhance the luxurious ambiance. Rich wood trim in Golden Bird's-Eye Maple or Walnut warms the LS 430 interior beautifully and there's an optional Antique Walnut with fired edges that's quite interesting.

The seats are roomy and can be quickly adjusted to a comfortable driving position. The driver faces an adjustable steering wheel trimmed in wood and leather with easy-to-use controls for the audio system. Vivid electroluminescent gauges with white needles rank among the best available. Window switches are illuminated, making them easy to find at night.

The cabin of the LS 430 is loaded with technology designed to make driving safe and pleasant and, for the most part, does just that. The available SmartAccess system eliminates the need to use the keyless remote to open doors and eliminates the need to insert a key into the ignition. Just leave the fob in your pocket or purse and you can open locked doors or start the car by pressing a button. This works well for the most part, but we sometimes found ourselves fighting locks. The system on our car was set up so it only unlocked the drivers door, leaving the passenger doors and the trunk locked.

A seven-inch touch screen at the top of the center stack controls climate and audio and the optional navigation system. A set of hard buttons integrated along the driver's side of the touch screen is provided for the primary climate controls (Temperature, Fan, Auto, Recirculate, Defrost). It's easy to operate. Your passenger should have no trouble finding and adjusting the temperature for her or his side of the cabin. And it's quite sophisticated. Temperature sensors around the cabin detect any hot spots where the sun is baring down and direct cool air specifically to them. The system also takes voice commands. Say, "68 degrees," and it'll adjust the climate control accordingly.

A similar set of buttons to the right allows quick access to key navigation and audio functions. This combination of hard buttons and touch-screen buttons works well, though we struggled at times with the navigation system. At one point, I could not figure out how to get the system to end one destination and take a new one. However, navigation systems are getting better every year, and the Lexus system is sophisticated, with some 5.6 million data points. It even displays building footprints in Manhattan and Chicago.

A backup camera packaged with the system can help the driver spot objects (and children) behind the car. Whenever Reverse is selected, the system automatically projects a color image onto the navigation screen of whatever the camera lens can detect behind the car. Looking at this screen can help the driver spot objects that might be difficult to see in the mirrors or over the shoulder.

Bluetooth capability is part of the optional navigation system as well. When combined with a Bluetooth-equipped phone, this wireless technology lets you transfer personal phone books to the system and make hands-free phone calls using the car's touch-screen display. You can place a hands-free call in different ways depending on your preference, but to reduce driver distraction the one-touch dial feature is the only dialing function that's accessible while underway. The system can store up to 18 one-touch dial numbers, and you can use steering wheel controls to answer and end calls as well as adjust call volume. This greatly extends the utility of a handheld cell phone, which can remain in your pocket or purse while underway. The system can be programmed to work with up to four different phones, allowing different members of the family to tap into the system, and Lexus says its dealers can order compatible phones from a wide choice of major providers.

Back to matters of comfort, a small LED display above the optional navigation screen displays driver's and passenger's temperature setting, outside ambient temperature, and the time. Directly below the navigation screen is a pair of vents that can oscillate from side to side.

The standard audio system includes an in-dash, single-feed six-disc CD changer, and a 15-function information display with a trip computer with compass. The audio controls are large, elegant, and easy to adjust. The optional Mark Levinson premium audio system is designed to deliver optimal sound quality regardless of where you're sitting. Presets allow the driver to optimize the sound quality according to the number and placement of your passengers. The speakers were carefully arranged for optimum sound imaging. XM Satellite Radio is available by subscription, eliminating the need for the driver to reset stations when driving long distance. This brings high-quality music and 24-hour news and sports channels into the cabin.

Back seat riders find the LS 430 offers comfortable and luxurious accommodations with lots of leg room and convenience features that aren't included in the front seats of some cars. The three-person rear bench has contoured spaces for two and a broad center fold-down armrest. The armrest features a padded storage drawer and a panel to control the heated seats, compact disc player and rear climate system. Extensive applications of leather and rich wood trim set an opulent mood.

Passive safety features include seat-mounted side airbags, rear side curtain airbags (for head protection), and knee airbags, in addition to the required dual frontal airbags. Most important are the seatbelts, which feature pretensioners, 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, it can preemptively retract the driver's and front passenger's seatbelts, which can help reduce injuries. The system also prepares the Brake Assist which, after the driver applies the brakes, automatically applies increased braking force to help reduce collision speed. Driving Impressions
The Lexus LS 430 sets the benchmark for smooth ride quality. This is one smooth, quiet car, and riding in it is very pleasant. The engine is barely audible. Mechanical and road vibration is damped out. No other automaker does a better job than Lexus in creating a zone of serenity for driver and passengers.

Its soft suspension and slow steering lead some to believe that the LS 430 doesn't handle well when compared with such European benchmarks as the BMW 7 Series or Mercedes-Benz S-Class, but we haven't found that to be the case. The LS 430 can, in fact, be driven hard, whereupon it reveals lots of grip and very good handling. It responds predictably when driven to the limit of the tires in corners, though it doesn't encourage you to do so the way a BMW does. The softness of the suspension results in squirmy transient response when compared with the BMW 745i. But the LS 430 does generate lots of grip and offers the responsiveness afforded by rear-wheel drive and double-wishbone suspension front and rear. Its monotube shock absorbers are larger and more technologically advanced than those on pre-2004 models, resulting in flatter cornering response and a smoother ride. The steering system was also improved, providing more road feel, more feedback, more precision.

For those who want more, two suspension options are available, a sport suspension and an air suspension. The Sport Package features a sport-tuned suspension and 18-inch wheels and tires. This improves handling feel while maintaining a smooth, comfortable ride, and we highly recommend it. While Mercedes and other manufacturers offer sport suspension packages that result in a harsh, choppy ride, this isn't one of them; even with the sport suspension, the LS 430 rides smoothly and softly. The optional air suspension allows the driver to switch between two shock-damping modes (and to raise the ride height for driving in deep snow). However, the car floats a little more on the air suspension, even in the Sport mode, making it feel bigger, more boatlike. We prefer the sport suspension.

To say the Lexus V8 is smooth and quiet is an understatement, and the new six-speed automatic shifts so smoothly it's almost seamless. The 4.3-liter V8 generates 290 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque, the latter figure contributing to the LS 430's impressive acceleration performance. Lexus says the LS 430 can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 5.9 seconds, a significant improvement over pre-2004 models. The performance improvement is almost entirely a result of the six-speed automatic. First gear is lower, and second, third, and fourth gears are closer together, all of which makes for a quicker launch and quicker acceleration. Yet the LS 430 still earns an EPA-estimated 18/25 mpg City/Highway, a benefit of the transmission's long-legged fifth and sixth gears. The driver can manually control shifting, though we found it usually best to put it in Drive and let it does its job. Engine and transmission are designed to favor smoothness over performance, however, so they do not offer the crispness of a BMW powertrain, the other end of the spectrum. The engine's electronic throttle control (drive-by-wire) system helps smooth acceleration from a standing start by very slightly delaying throttle opening when the driver steps on the accelerator pedal, and the transmission favors smoothness over shifting speed. The Lexus V8 and six-speed automatic are a powerful team, delivering strong acceleration performance for quick passing and freeway merging.

The brakes are responsive and easy to modulate for smooth stopping power. Four-channel, four-sensor ABS helps the driver maintain steering control during panic stops. Brake Assist is designed to determine if the driver is attempting emergency braking and, if the driver has not stepped hard enough on the brake pedal to activate the anti-lock brake system, it applies maximum braking pressure until pedal pressure is released. Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) is an excellent active safety feature that helps the driver maintain control under adverse conditions by correcting loss of lateral traction during cornering. VSC integrates traction control to help limit rear wheel spin on slippery road surfaces. All of this stuff helps make it easier for the driver to control the car in those moments when it's most important to control the car.

The optional dynamic cruise control systems are designed to maintain a set distance from the vehicle traveling in front. Some people like dynamic cruise, others don't. Summary
The Lexus LS 430 excels as a luxury sedan with a cabin that's quiet, comfortable, and luxurious. It is a meticulously crafted car that offers every luxury amenity imaginable, plus a few we would not have imagined. Its construction quality is the best in the industry. Everything about its operation is smooth. Its powerful V8 and six-speed automatic are a smooth, silent team. Its ride is silky, its steering is smooth and precise, its brakes allow easy modulation for smooth stops. If you want a premium luxury sedan that delivers no-hassle smooth, luxurious sailing, the Lexus LS 430 should be at the top of the list.

Reporting from Newport Beach, California, was New Car Test Drive editor Mitch McCullough.

Model as tested
Lexus LS 430 ($55,675)
Basic Warranty
4 years/50,000 miles
Assembled in
Tahara, Japan
Destination charge
Gas guzzler tax
Base Price
Price as tested
Options as tested
Euro-tuned Sport Suspension with 18-inch wheels ($220) includes 245/45R18 summer tires; Modern Luxury Package ($4,980) includes Mark Levinson Audio, Lexus Navigation system with rear back-up camera and Bluetoothé front climate control seats, rear seat heaters, Intuitive Parking Assist

Model Line Overview
Model lineup
Lexus LS 430 ($55,675)
Safety equipment (standard)
dual frontal airbags, side-impact airbags, side-curtain airbags, knee airbags, 3-point seatbelts with force-limiting pre-tensioners, ABS, Brake Assist, Vehicle Skid Control, child restraint seat anchor brackets, tire-pressure monitor
Safety equipment (optional)
4.3-liter dohc 32-valve V8
6-speed automatic

Specifications as Tested
electronic climate control, vehicle theft deterrent system, power windows with auto up/down for four windows and jam protection, power tilt/slide moonroof with auto open/close feature and jam protection, power rear sunshade, central locking system with keyless entry, auto dimming interior mirror, auto dimming dual exterior mirrors, power tilt and telescope steering wheel, three memory settings for driver's seat, steering wheel, exterior mirrors and shoulder belt adjustment, 178-watt AM/FM/CD six-disc in-dash changer with seven speakers, trip computer, tachometer, electric trunk and fuel door releases, first aid kit, tool kit, 17-inch alloy wheels with 225/55HR17

Engine & Transmission
4.3-liter dohc 32-valve V8
Drivetrain type
rear-wheel drive
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)
290 @ 5600
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy
Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm)

Brakes, front/rear
disc/disc with ABS, EBD and Brake Assist
Suspension, front
245/45WR18 summer tires
Suspension, rear

Seating capacity
Head/hip/leg room, middle
Head/hip/leg room, front
Head/hip/leg room, rear

Fuel capacity
Trunk volume
Turning circle
Towing capacity
Track, front/rear
Ground clearance
Curb weight

J.D. Power Rating
Overall Quality Not Available
Overall Quality - Mechanical
Not Available
Powertrain Quality - Mechanical
Not Available
Body & Interior Quality - Mechanical
Not Available
Features & Accessories Quality - Mechanical
Not Available
Overall Quality - Design
Not Available
Powertrain Quality - Design
Not Available
Body & Interior Quality - Design
Not Available
Features & Accessories Quality - Design
Not Available

Overall Dependability Not Available
Powertrain Dependability
Not Available
Body & Interior Dependability
Not Available
Feature & Accessory Dependability
Not Available

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J.D. Power Rating Legend
Among the Best
5 / 5
Better than Most
4 / 5
About Average
3 / 5
The Rest
2 / 5

* The J.D. Power Ratings are calculated based on the range between the car manufacturer or car model with the highest score and the car manufacturer or car model with the lowest score. J.D. Power generates a rating of a five, four, three, or two. If there is insufficient data to calculate a rating, “Not Available” is used in its place.

J.D. Power Ratings may not include all information used to determine J.D. Power awards, visit the Car Ratings page to learn more about awards and ratings.