Home » Here’s Why The Lexus LS 430 Is Still The Best Luxury Car To Own

Here’s Why The Lexus LS 430 Is Still The Best Luxury Car To Own

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Buying a used flagship sedan is often a mixture of sublime and scary, but what if you could buy one with all of the excellence and none of the crazy maintenance headaches? The Lexus LS 430 isn’t just a world-beating flagship luxury sedan, it’s one you’d still want to own today and keep until the end of time. It might not have the most striking image, but it’s just so exquisitely engineered that if you were to buy one, you’d have a hard time getting bored of it.

Best of all, unlike nearly all of its competition, it’s reliable. Not just reliable for a luxury car, reliable period. It’s not significantly more taxing on the pocketbook than a Toyota Camry, but it’s not just another midsize sedan, it’s a genuine slice of the good life. How’s that for ownership appeal?

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Welcome back to Beige Cars You’re Sleeping On, a weekly series in which we raise the profile of some quiet greats. We’re talking vehicles that are secretly awesome, but go unsung because of either a boring image or the lack of an image altogether.

Launched for the 2001 model year, the Lexus LS 430 was almost entirely new compared to its predecessor, and it showed. We’re talking about benefits like two inches more rear legroom, a drag coefficient of just 0.25, titanium silica-coated water-repellent auto-dimming side mirrors, cooled front seats, laser-guided adaptive cruise control, and passenger-sensing solar-detecting multi-zone automatic climate control with automatically oscillating center dashboard HVAC vents. We’re talking about a car so thoughtful and so advanced, it’s easy to picture German engineers screaming, crying, and throwing up at their desks when this was unveiled on the auto show floor.

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Under the hood sat a 4.3-liter quad-cam V8 which made exactly the same 290 horsepower as the old four-liter V8, but made peak torque at 3,400 rpm, a full 600 rpm lower in the rev range. It’s a buttercream-smooth unit, and it meant Lexus claimed a zero-to-60 mph time of 6.3 seconds. Let me tell you, it’ll take you there in absolute serenity, with the sort of unbothered yet relentless acceleration normally reserved for passenger jets. In fact, the loudest thing on the car was the available Mark Levinson sound system.

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See, Harman International didn’t acquire Mark Levinson until after the LS 430 was launched, so the nine-speaker sound system was all Mark Levinson, from the drivers to the 24-bit floating point digital sound processor. Even against today’s high-end branded audio systems, this one still holds up, with faithful, detailed recreation of sound. Sure, the imaging isn’t seamless, but as far as factory-installed systems go, this one’s a listener’s delight.

Mind you, it’s not like the Germans didn’t try to beat Lexus. After the automaker put the LS 430 on sale, BMW launched a new 7 Series, Audi gave the world a new A8, Jaguar put its big XJ sedan on a new aluminum platform, Mercedes-Benz made improvements to the S-Class, and Volkswagen gave the world the Phaeton. It still wasn’t enough, because even nearly at the end of its product cycle, the LS 430 vanquished the lot in a Car And Driver comparison test. It isn’t a sporty car in the slightest, but the magazine summed up the appeal of the big Lexus well:

If you just walked up and asked, we’d say this is not a Car and Driver sort of car. But like gravity, the Lexus kept pulling on us. It’s so confident. It does so many things beautifully. It’s like the salesman who never quits, and finally, you find yourself agreeing with him.

From seats that are the perfect blend of comfortable and supportive for every body type under the sun, to the impressively deep paint, to the wondrous array of thoughtful amenities, Lexus just nailed everything on this car. It’s cushy without being too isolating, tracks dead-ahead like a bloodhound on a mission, gets impressive real-world highway fuel economy, and has all the space you could realistically ask for.

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Oh, and because it’s a Golden Era Lexus, it’ll never actually break on you. Sure, a side marker might go out, or the subwoofer foam might deteriorate, but that’s about it. So long as you change the timing belt according to the recommended interval, change the oil periodically, and keep up on rust protection, the LS 430 will provide mile after mile of sublime comfort until the sun collapses in on itself.

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Best of all, the LS 430 kept getting better throughout its life. A 2004 facelift gave it a more assertive face, radar-guided cruise control, knee airbags, and a six-speed automatic transmission that’s smoother than most modern eight-speeds and surprisingly quick. By the end of its life, it was still one of the finest luxury sedans ever made, to the point where it felt like even Lexus couldn’t do it again.

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So, what about the LS 460 that came after? Didn’t it use the chain-driven 1UR-FSE V8? Why yes it did, but it also ushered in new complexity and pain points for the LS nameplate. On the minor end, front upper control arm bushings are short-lived. On the more major end, air suspension and therefore air suspension problems became far more common, and then there’s that little issue with an excessively complex braking system. See, the LS 460 featured an early non-hybrid implementation of electronically assisted brakes, and Toyota didn’t quite get the brake actuator right on the first go. A new brake actuator costs $1,223.49 from Lexus, and can only be sourced through the automaker. Not ideal for long-term ownership. Plus, the LS 460 just wasn’t as nice to drive as the LS 430. The odd brake arrangement led to an unnatural pedal feel, and the air suspension calibration was on the queasy side, a shock considering the magic carpet ride of the LS 430’s standard coil-sprung suspension.

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These days, you can buy a nice LS 430 for the price of a used Honda Civic. This 2005 model year example with just 74,500 miles on the clock recently hammered on Cars & Bids for $16,250. Not only has it spent its entire life registered outside the rust belt, it’s specced in a gorgeous combination of Black Cherry Pearl over airy beige leather.

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Want a higher spec? No problem. This 2004 model with 140,600 miles on the clock recently sold on Cars & Bids for $11,200, and it has the coveted Ultra Luxury package. Sure, this does add air suspension which adds a bit of complexity, but it also adds massaging, climate-controlled, power-reclining rear seats, a UV-based deodorizer, soft-close doors, and the ultimate feature, a fridge. It’s also a California car since new, so its underbody is spotless.

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Now, is the price of a gently used Honda Civic somewhat expensive for a 20-year-old sedan? Sure, but the Lexus LS 430 is also one of the best luxury cars of the 21st century, with the right combination of engineering excellence, cosseting toys, and incredible reliability that so long as you defend it from road salt, it could be the last car you ever need. Can you really put a price on forever?

(Photo credits: Lexus, Cars & Bids)

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David P Eyler
David P Eyler
18 days ago

I’ve owned an LS460 AWD since 2010, now with almost 190K, and it’s been the best car I’ve ever owned. We’ve had two ESs and two LSs, but the 2010 stands out the best. The only thing I’ve had to replace are the struts, but that was covered under warranty. It’s also the only LS that I’ve seen that had a rating or 99% in the Consumer Reports annual “Auto” issue! That sold it for me.

Kyree
Kyree
19 days ago

I agree that the fourth-gen LS (2007-2017) is not all it’s cracked up to be. I briefly owned a 2011 LS 460 L AWD and a 2008 LS 600h L. Both were as expensive as or more expensive than their German competition to run and fix.

The LS 430, by comparison, is a creampuff. Modern enough to be a good daily driver twenty years on, but not so complicated that there’s a ton to break.

Temple Of Toyoda
Temple Of Toyoda
19 days ago

Currently own an 03 with 135k. It really is an excellent car and not hard to do normal maintenance with minimal effort. I put rear brake pads on a few weeks ago in ~35 minutes. Parts are not the cheapest but as multiple sources have demonstrated they’re made to last.

Fall of ’21 during the end of covid we hammered cross country twice in 18 days with a 12 week old daughter, 90 lb dog and two adults. Highway we were getting almost 500 miles per tank, and I’m incapable of driving under 80 mph. The wife got the only ticket of the drive doing 96 in Wyoming lol! We did about 3300 miles on that trip and the only casualty was an o2 sensor that cost ~$40. I’m determined to drive this car until my daughter is old enough to wreck it.

Scott McAfee
Scott McAfee
19 days ago

If there was an all-time great car list, this would have to be in the top 10. I leased a 2003 and the dealer refused to let me buy it off the lease (demanded a $4500 lease termination fee) as they could sell it for so much more than the lease buyout.

My 0.02 Cents
My 0.02 Cents
19 days ago
Reply to  Scott McAfee

You’re leasing from Lexus / Toyota not the dealer. Your contract was with Lexus / Toyota. Next time go to a different dealer or deal with Lexus / Toyota directly.
We turned in our leased Prius back in ’09 to the Lexus store next door.

Last edited 19 days ago by My 0.02 Cents
William Truex
William Truex
20 days ago

I owned a 2004 LS430 for fifteen years. For years we drove from our TN home to our FL beach home frequently. It was an 8 hour drive. I narrowed things down to the S class, the LS430 or the BMW 7 series. I drove them all extensively before deciding (had a friend with a 7 series and another with an S class).

They were all great, but I settled on the Lexus…it actually stood out in the sea of Mercedes and BMW sedans where I lived, even if it stood out for being a bit understated (or bland for some).

However, the ownership experience was near fantasy-like. 290hp and 320ft/lb of torque was excellent around town and on the highway. with the 6 speed introduced for 2004, mine did an honest 6.0 second 0-60, and the transmission was silky smooth.

I ran mine to 17X,000 miles. services included a slightly early timing belt change, at which point I preventatively had the water pump and serpentine belt replaced since it was all apart anyway, as well as a transmission fluid change at the same time. the technician said it was a “life fill” but I simply asked to have it changed anyway, and they did. He told me it was good I changed it from the visual of the old fluid. A couple of batteries, brake pads, oil changes and tires. that was it. My LS430 was utterly dependable and drove as well when I sold it as it did when I purchased it.

It ate the miles on roadtrips like nothing else. My passengers rarely felt the speed on the interstate…it was as quiet and sublime at 75mph as it was at 90mph. No one seemed to ever mind being a back seat passenger. and Lexus did so many little things that were so appreciated: a tiny sunvisor above the rear view mirror for when the sun is shining right in that little gap to blind you…it was a great feature among many little things like that. And the electric rear screen shade was a nice touch…I used it once show a road rager behind me that I didn’t care if he was flipping me off and yelling me…I just raised the blinds.

I could go on and on about the 2004-2006 LS430 and would highly recommend it as a used buy if you want luxury and comfort and reliability (with proper preventative maintenance). My whole family still talks about that car, and I am a car enthusiast, so they have many vehicles to truly compare. One final note, it used to get noticed by the valets back in the day because it was a bit rarer than the plethora of mercs/bmws/jags around.

The interior was, for me, the end of a wonderful era. My GPS nav experience was excellent on the ’04…intuitive, easy to use, good navigation for it’s time. Excellent leather that held up to our family use well, woodgrain that was gorgeous. The heated and cooled seats were still working when I sold it in 2020 (along with everything else except for one parking sensor). This was the best luxury/touring car we owned, and it would get to it’s 130mph max velocity quite rapidly, with a silky smooth V8 sound that was only heard when you stomped it. One last thing, it’s the only car I’ve ever owned that when I changed the oil it was always still quite translucent (not black). I changed every 5k miles.

CTSVmkeLS6
CTSVmkeLS6
8 days ago
Reply to  William Truex

Excellent sir…. I always liked these. Your experience bolsters this.

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