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LAP OF LUXURY: Lexus LS 460 coddles occupants in near-silent, leather-lined cocoon

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — When Lexus designed the current LS 460 luxury sedan, it put a high priority on pampering.

Its main competitors – the Teutonic triumvirate of Audi A8, BMW 7-Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class – emphasize expanding the segment’s performance parameters as well as providing top-end luxury.

But Lexus takes a more restrained route, luring luxury buyers with exquisite interior materials, painstakingly assembled; meticulous fit and finish inside and out; a creamy-smooth highway ride; and conservatively expressed styling so as not to draw undue attention to the owner’s financial status.

While the LS provides more-than-adequate power from its silken, twin-cam V-8, it won’t win any stoplight hijinks against the Germans, which offer up cutting-edge, turbocharged engines in both six- and eight-cylinder denominations. And the Lexus’ fuel consumption falls a bit short as well: Our all-wheel-drive tester managed an average of just above 18 mpg – premium grade, please – over a three-day trip from Albuquerque to Taos via the High Road on the way up and the river route on the return drive.

Still, owners will likely be more than pleased by the LS’ overall sense of refined performance, abetted by the eight-speed automatic transmission’s barely detectable, seamless shifts.

The big sedan covers miles of asphalt in near-silence. When trying to hustle, the twists and turns of northern New Mexico’s two-lane backroads tend to intrude on the passengers’ comfort zone: The chassis – even with the optional adaptive variable air suspension with a Sport mode – prefers progress at a more placid pace.

2013_Lexus_LS_460_interior_002_043E79573631A43DB0F381F9EB8F7CCD7E2DFACEThe cabin provides a respite of calm relaxation, with lovely wood trim and big, comfy thrones up front. As expected at this price point, every interior adjustment is made via motors and servos at the touch of the appropriate switch or button.

A raft of options, including safety and convenience assists, helped push up the price to just over $90,000. Rest assured, all those techy gizmos are well-protected by Lexus’ vaunted reliability.

Still, for that amount of cash you could buy three nicely equipped Camrys.

But you wouldn’t get that deep sense of satisfaction the LS 460 provides.

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