Taking the corporate “spindle grill” to heart, the heavily revised-for-2013 Lexus LS 460 joins the rest of Toyota's luxury division in putting on the new face of the brand.
But can a new look inside and out revitalize the flagging LS? The car that single-handedly changed every facet of the luxury industry – and not just the automotive industry – has become something of a non-entity over the last decade. We traveled to Tucson to play amongst the roadrunners, coyotes and airplane graveyards to put the new LS through its paces.
Something for everyone
In 1983, as the story goes, a top-secret meeting was held where Eiji Toyoda decreed that the company should embark on a journey to make the best, fastest and most luxurious sedan known to the industry. In 1989, the Lexus LS 400 was the result. Now into its fourth generation, which originally appeared in 2006 as a 2007 model, it has been continually refined through the years in its quest for relevance.
The new LS is available in seven flavors, which should most buyer needs, although Lexus isn't moving toward lower displacement turbocharged engines like its rivals. Starting with a base LS 460, the line moves upward to include all-wheel-drive and an extended wheelbase, plus a more powerful LS 600h L hybrid. Finally, for the somewhat enthusiastic driver, there is the LS 460 F Sport in rear or all-wheel-drive variants.
Power for the LS 460 comes from a singular 4.6-liter V8 engine. A direct-injection mill, it makes 386 horsepower (up six ponies over last year’s model) at 6,400 rpm. Torque checks in with 367 lb-ft of twist at 4,100 rpm. That’s for the rear-drive version. Order all-wheel-drive, whether in standard or F Sport, and you’ll be saddled with 360 horsepower and 347 lb-ft. Power gets to the wheels through a still-sophisticated eight-speed automatic with paddle shift levers on the F Sport versions.
Speaking of F Sport, the package includes an aggressive looking grill, special badging, an interior with embossed seating and an aluminum-trimmed dashboard. Six-piston Brembo brakes keep things under control at the front wheels. A V8 sound generator kicks the volume and growl up a notch when pressure is applied to the skinny pedal. A sport-tuned air suspension is standard, as is a central Torsen limited slip rear differential on the AWD model, which varies torque braking and distribution from side to side and front to rear.
The base LS standard coil springs hold together the traditional front and rear multilink setup. An available air suspension adjusts on the fly, dropping the overall height and ground clearance. The steering is assisted by an electric rack and pinion kit and includes variable gearing for a tighter feel when the air suspension system is ordered.
The center console’s new Drive Mode Select dial seen on other Lexuses offers three settings: ECO, Normal and Sport modes. Order the air suspension and you'll net Comfort and Sport S+, which vary the firmness of the suspension as you might expect.
Judging a book by its cover
Based on the model introduced in 2006, the 2013 model is a stylish revision that moves the car forward. Although Lexus claims over 3,000 new parts on their flagship, the most noticeable change is the addition of the large-mouthed “spindle” grille.
Now sporting a drag coefficient of 0.26, the car remains 58.1 inches high on its coil springs. Order the optional air suspension-equipped model for a 10 mm lower ride. The F Sport model comes in lower still with a 20 mm drop below the base vehicle. Chromed trim strips and other ground effects tricks contribute to an appearance that makes it look even more so.
A horizontally influenced dashboard spans the width of the cabin and features a new 12.3-inch screen that works in conjunction with the Remote Touch Interface. Able to control everything from Navigation to Bluetooth to Audio, it still lacks the 3-D mapping that is available in all the vehicles that make up the LS’s competitive set. A new GPS-synced analog clock is included that updates itself automatically as you cross time zones.
The seating has received improved bolstering and heating/ventilation through a new, bigger blower and larger perforations in the leather seating. Finally, a new Shimamoku wood trim is available. Meaning “striped wood,” it uses an Agathis wood treated to 67 processes over a 38 day period. The result is stunning. The rear seat is large enough to accommodate a house party, and can be had with a center console, and available Executive Class seating, which includes a right-rear power recliner with massage and leg rest functions.
Finally for those needing visual, as well as audio stimulation, the 19-speaker, 435-watt Mark Levinson system can be ordered with a BluRay player with the Executive package. But above all, if no added volume is wanted, the interior is still Lexus-quiet.
The power from the 4.6-liter V8 is impressive despite the 4,233 lbs. curb weight of the standard RWD car or the 4,717 lbs. tariff of the F Sport AWD. Lexus claims 0-60 times of 5.4-5.9 seconds, although the presence of the local constabulary prevented us from truly pushing F Sport’s limits.
Speaking of numbers, the EPA estimates 16/24 mpg for the rear-drive and 16/23 for the AWD. We observed an 18 mpg average during our time behind the wheel of the AWD.
The coil-spring and air suspension models offer a tale of two cars. The electric power assisted steering gave good, but overly boosted feedback, which puts it firmly in place with other cars in this luxury class. Both operated in a quiet, subdued manner to which we would very much like to become accustomed, offering a serene ride over normal surfaces throughout the glassy Arizona highways.
The multi-mode air suspension gave us everything from a too-soft and wallowy feel in comfort to a borderline European feel in Sport and Sport S+ modes. The firmness of the two sport settings was just the thing for this two-point-something tonner to achieve vehicular nirvana over the backroads of the Sonoran desert.
Leftlane's bottom line:
Lexus continues to improve its luxury flagship with additions in technology and aesthetics. Now into the seventh year of this particular design, we think this latest refresh managed to keep up with, but not exceed, the market.
Future improvements are in the works, but Lexus' rivals are also hard at work.
2013 Lexus LS 460 base price range, $71,990 to $84,885.
Words and photos by Mark Elias.