|1. While technically a mid-cycle refresh, half of the LS’s 6,000 parts have been reengineered.
2. An updated air suspension delivers an even smoother ride, helping to further minimize the car’s bounce, pitch and roll.
3. Most notable inside the cabin is a new 12.3-inch display screen.
4. A new Drive Select Mode adapts steering, acceleration and braking response.
5. The newest edition to LS line-up is the LS 460 F Sport with a more dramatic exterior, custom interior with better bolstered seats and an Alcantara headliner, not to mention 19-inch wheels, Brembo brakes, a unique chassis setup and a sound generator to help emphasize the car’s character.
Now long in the tooth, the current flagship LS sedan has been on the market since way back in 2007 and so its no surprise to see it gain a slew of improvements to satisfy consumers looking for the freshest look on the road for 2013. In fact it’s quite overdue.
The line-up includes the familiar LS 460, LS 460L, LS 600hL hybrid and the first-ever LS 460 F Sport. Immediately obvious details include the dramatic new spindle grille and an impressive new interior. But there’s also plenty new that you can’t see. In total, half of the car’s 6,000-odd parts have been reengineered and it shows in every way.
Each LS is different in subtle ways, yet part of a successful DNA of great engineering. The LS 460 and LS 460L are available with rear-wheel drive and AWD drivetrains. Under the hood is a 4.6-liter dual injection (conventional and direct-injection) V8 engine. The RWD model makes 386 horsepower (six more than 2012) and 367 lb-ft of torque. The AWD makes an additional two horsepower over it predecessor.
With a 0-60 mph time of just 5.4 seconds, this big boat hustles. Fuel economy, however, isn’t brutal at 16-mpg city, 24-mpg highway and 19-mpg combined on the RWD car, with AWD models just one tick less both highway and combined. Helping deliver the best in both departments is a reworked 8-speed automatic with shorter first and second gears for better acceleration and longer third through eighth gears for fuel economy.
Totally unique in the large luxury segment is the LS 600h L hybrid, mating a 5.0-liter V8 engine to an electric motor and using a CVT transmission. Making 389-hp and 385 lb-ft of torque on gasoline alone, it delivers a total system output of 438 hp. Substantial power, it’s also capable of 19-mpg city, 23-mpg highway and 20 mpg combined. Now available with AWD, fuel economy numbers drop only slightly, while the car gains a central Torsen limited slip center differential for better grip, traction and cornering.
Like many high-end automotive manufactures, Lexus is tailoring its vehicles with a Drive Mode Select that allows for particular powertrain, suspension and steering characteristics. Modes include Eco, Normal and Sport and function to what their names imply. LS models equipped with air suspension (optional on the LS 460 and standard on the rest) add Comfort and Sport S+ modes. And for the record, Sport S+ makes the drive more intense, improving the steering, throttle and braking sensitivity.
One of the standout improvements that can truly be felt is the revised air suspension system. Previously all four wheels acted independently (which you’d think would be a good thing), but now the system acts as a whole, helping better control the three types of body movements (bounce, pitch and roll). With an almost unmatched luxury glide, it also helps such a large vehicle feel nimble and easily maneuverable.
Further improving that sensation is a new steering system with a gear ratio that’s eight percent more responsive.
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No different in size or weight compared to the 2012 model, the refreshed LS is lower, bolder and has far more road presence. This is due mostly to the new “spindle grille” first seen on the GS model, blending the former upper and lower grilles into a single, aggressive element.
Adding to the fearsome front fascia is a surplus of sophisticated lighting design. All standard exterior lighting is HID. But if you're looking to make more of a statement, optional three projector LED headlamp units as well as turn signals, fog lamps and Lexus-logo taillamps are available, which all look remarkable night and day.
External paint options are repeated from last year with the addition a few stunning color options such as Nebula Gray Pearl, Liquid Platinum and Matador Red Mica. The truth is that the new LS looks good in every color, though the 18 and optional 19-inch wheels do seem a touch undersized for a car with this much presence. Regardless, from roof to rim, you won't miss it pass you by.
New internal modifications make the LS even more luxurious, like quicker heating/cooling systems for the seats, an auto-heated steering wheel, a Climate Concierge regulating 2-zone and 4-zone temperature conditions, an all-new gear shifter and an unmissable standard 12.3-inch split-screen navigation and operations zone. Seemingly dated, however, is the second-generation haptic joystick used for navigation and other functions. Unfortunately it’s unnecessarily sensitive and at times mildly frustrating to use. A wrist-turning circular toggle switch would be more effective.
Nothing has changed with the standard 10-speaker audio system, though for those who prefer their volume at 11 (and still demand the audio be crystal clear) there’s the option of the 450-watt 19-speaker Mark Levinson Surround System which provides a 5.1 home theatre surround sound.
And for people who like their apps, incorporated into the Enform tech system is App Suite allowing smartphone connectivity to handy lifestyle applications such as Bing, Facebook Places, OpenTable, MovieTickets.com and internet radio stations Pandora or iHeartRadio.
Technology doesn’t stop there either with safety features like Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, full-speed adaptive cruise control, an auto high bean function, lane keeping assist, and even a pre collision system that can apply full brakes if it detects a crash is imminent.
The LS interior combines the classic elements of stretched leather, shaped metal and polished wood in a modern fashion infused with intuitive technology.
Improved is a simplified and elevated dashboard cluster with a 5.8-inch multi-information screen. Furthermore, the signature Lexus analog clock is now equipped with a GPS-based time correction.
In typical Lexus fashion, interior trim offerings come in five conservative color schemes: Ivory, Light Gray, Black, Black and Saddle Tan, and a newly available Topaz Brown. Optional wood trim compliments are Walnut, Matte Brown Bird’s Eye Maple, Bamboo on the hybrid and a wild new Shimamoku Espresso. Perfect for giving the LS a full black interior, Shimamoku means “striped wood” and uses meticulously layered cuts of dark and light shaded wood veneers created in a process of 67 steps in 38 days. It is the interior trim to sport if you’re not rolling in the LS 460 F Sport with its black leather and metal accents.
Now, if you require even more luxury, there’s also an Ottoman Seating Package with Shiatsu Massage and a Rear Seat Entertainment System featuring ceiling-mounted nine-inch screen and Blu-ray DVD player because you can't go wrong with a massage and a movie.
Four hundred horsepower hybrids be damned, the LS 460 F Sport is easily the most compelling item in the new LS lineup. Defined by its riveting front fascia, it incorporates a chrome-plated outline with a highly textured black mesh grille with larger cooling openings and exclusive round LED fog lamps. The chrome theme continues below the doors and out back with wide, soft-edge rectangular tailpipes. Both front and rear bumpers are exclusive to the model, as is the obligatory black and silver badging and an exclusive Ultra White paint.
On the inside, what separates the F Sport from all the rest is the touch of aluminum ornamentation on both the dashboard and pedals, not to mention the sumptuous black Alcantara headliner. Plus don’t forget the special steering wheel and better bolstered seats with logo-embossed headrests.
Upping the performance ante is a Torsen limited slip differential, Brembo brakes, a re-engineered chassis and suspension plus with hollowed noise-reducing 19-inch BBS wheels. It even sounds the part with Lexus adding a little aural drama by installing an intake sound generator for a more performance style engine growl. Sadly, however, power is kept to the same as the base LS460 models.
After pushing the F Sport on the open road and around some great curves, we can say it’s a vehicle that offers priceless pleasure and drives beyond expectations. Don’t think of it as a sporty land yacht, rather it’s the pavement-hugging equivalent of a 50-foot cigarette boat.
Thoroughly reworked, the LS continues to represent the very best the Lexus brand has to offer. Matching, and in many ways besting its German rivals, it’s now packed with more technology, craftsmanship and luxury, while offering improved driving comfort and enjoyment, not to mention a look that the fashion conscious will flock to. And on top of all that, it’s all but certain to retain the brand’s quality and reliability, making owning a luxury machine hassle free.
And while the base and hybrid LS models are excellent, the real exception is the F Sport with its dramatic styling and engaging nature. Combined, it’s a package that’s so hedonistic, those who can, absolutely must.