19. September 2013
The word gravitas goes back to ancient Rome, when it was considered to be a virtue. It, loosely translated, means something of seriousness or weight. There is a certain substantialness or authenticity to that which can be described with gravitas. It doesn’t mean ponderous or plodding. It does mean something that has a sense of gravity to it.
The Lexus LS460L seems to me to be a car that can be described as having gravitas.
Which is a good thing when you are considering a four-door sedan in the luxury segment.
The car has presence.
Here’s the tricky part. If you consider the vehicles in this segment from Mercedes, Audi, BMW, Infiniti, or Hyundai, they tend to have a certain modern stylishness to them, a certain degree of sportiness. Sporty has become, it seems, something of a modern virtue. So in saying that I don’t find the LS460L to be sporty, it might seem as though I am damning it to being boring, as though that is the antonym to sporty.
Which is not the point, at all.
Rather, it seems to me that if you’re going to have a large car that costs in excess of $80,000, then it ought to be something that is distinctly different than something that you can buy for $40,000.
There are plenty of cars in the $40,000 price range that have all the sportiness that you could desire.
And to the point of sporty-means-sleek-means-aerodynamically-slippery, it is worth noting that the coefficient of drag of the LS460 is 0.26, a number that plenty of automotive aerodynamicists would love to achieve.
What you can’t get for $40,000 is something that says, distinctively, “I have arrived.” That is something that is going to cost you more. Which is why I find the LS460L, unlike its competitive set, to be more satisfying. To have gravitas. If I was looking for a sporty four-door sedan from Lexus, then I could have $30,000 and get a GS 350.
But to say that the LS460L has gravitas is not to say that it is stuffy. Rather, it is satisfying to drive. Exhilarating? No. But, again, that doesn’t seem to be the point. Don’t get me wrong. This car has power in the form of a 4.6-liter, 360-hp V8 and a full-time all-wheel-drive system. It can move. But it is movement with authority, a solid ramp up, not a discontinuous “Engage thrusters” jolt.
Inside, the materials are sufficiently sumptuous. The leather-clad seats are supportive without being orthopedic.
Many cars in the LS460L’s class have availed themselves of technology implementations that actually bring to mind the need for a science officer to make the necessary adjustments. The Lexus approach is more straightforward and easy to access. There is a massive 12.3-in. high-resolution screen in the center of the instrument panel for the navigation system and audio and etc.; what would be cooler is if the screen was entirely filled by a map in the navigation app, not split so that there are other instructions along the right side.
So for those who have made it, this car stands as a solid but subtle statement that you’ve arrived.
Engine: 4.6-liter, DOHC, 32-valve V8 with VVT-iE
Horsepower: 360 @ 6,400 rpm
Torque: 347 lb-ft @ 4,100 rpm
Materials: Aluminum block and heads
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 121.7 in.
Length: 205.0 in.
Width: 73.8 in.
Height: 58.3 in.
Cargo volume: 18 cu. ft.
EPA: 16/23/18 city/highway/combined mpg