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Test Drive: Luxury Sedans - Ladue News: Import

Test Drive: Luxury Sedans

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Posted: Thursday, October 30, 2008 12:00 am

For those lucky few with money left during the current economic crisis, there are a number of very attractive options in the premier luxury car category. Two that combine good looks, performance and the ultimate in luxury include the Mercedes CLS and Lexus LS460.

    The Mercedes CLS is first and foremost a fabulous looking car with the lines and good looks of a coupe. The flowing lines look good from any angle and hint at aggressive performance. Fortunately, its performance lives up to its good looks.  A 5.5-liter V-8 engine pumps out 382 horsepower to the rear wheels via a 7-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters behind the steering wheel, if you feel like shifting gears yourself. Sixty miles an hour can be reached in just 5.4 seconds. Acceleration is very quick, and an adjustable suspension allows you to choose between a comfortable and sporty ride. With the sport suspension engaged, handling is excellent, and the ride is firm but not jarring. The power rack and pinion steering provide good feedback, increasing tightness as speed increases. Gas mileage is 14 city, and 21 highway.

    Thankfully, the controls for the audio and climate are straightforward and simple. There is no computer screen interface to complicate things. The dual automatic climate control works via simple buttons and dials, and the audio system controls are relatively easy to use.

    Heated and cooled front seats are well bolstered for spirited driving, and there’s a decent amount of room for the two back-seat passengers, who also get their own dual climate controls and vents. Headroom in back is a bit low due to the rakish slope of the rear window. Rich leather and beautiful wood abound throughout the interior and exude luxury. The trunk is huge, but the opening is a tad small.

    Harl White, sales manager at Plaza Mercedes, says of the CLS, “It has the look of a coupe yet the utility of a four-door. It’s very sporty looking, it handles well, and it’s very fast.” Of course, good looks and power don’t come cheap. The CLS 550 has a base price of about $78,000 and reaches $82,000-plus fully loaded.

    Another superb luxury sedan is the Lexus LS460. Sporting attractive but not head-turning styling, the LS460 is a phenomenal luxury car. Its ride is smooth and comfortable, as are its seats, and a myriad of accessories make driving and riding in it easier and more comfortable. It’s no sports car, but if you value comfort and smoothness, Lexus has pretty much perfected the luxury car.

    Unlike a number of other top-of-the-line luxury vehicles, the LS460 eschews an unnecessarily complicated computer interface for the dual automatic climate control and audio controls, which are pleasantly simple. Luxury features abound, such as a heated front windshield, navigation, steering wheel mounted audio controls, moonroof, sumptuous leather and attractive wood, electrically adjusted seats and steering wheel, heated and cooled front seats, rain-sensing intermittent windshield wipers, and automatic headlamps. One of the best safety/luxury features is a back-up camera that displays what’s behind you. Sensors also alert you when the front end is approaching an object.

    The crown jewel of the LS460 is its back seat. There’s enough leg room for an NBA player to stretch out. And he could do so in luxury and comfort with a heated and cooled seat that reclines, an electric sun shade, a lighted vanity mirror that descends from the ceiling, four air vents and his own temperature control. The trunk is of average size and has a backseat pass-through for long objects.

    The LS460 is motivated by a 4.6-liter V-8 that pumps out 380 horsepower. Power is routed to the rear wheels through an industry first 8-speed automatic, and shifts are smooth and seamless. There is decent power on tap, and braking is also good. The ride is smooth thanks to soft suspension, with luxury car steering that is somewhat overboosted. Traction control, ABS brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution and stability control combine with eight air bags to provide a high level of safety. Gas mileage is 16 city, 24 highway.

    Attorney Howard Wittner recently purchased a LS460 and loves it. “It’s extremely smooth and has a quiet ride. Its comfort is unmatched. I was especially surprised by the good gas mileage, even above what’s listed as expected mileage.”

    According to Liz Sherman, product specialist at Plaza Lexus, “The LS460 offers quality, luxury, dependability and performance all in one beautiful package.” Prices start about $64,000 and can reach six figures for the hybrid model. 

Robert W. Paster is also an attorney in private practice, concentrating in estate planning and probate; robertpaster.com.

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