Up until recently, Lexus had been swimming in dangerous waters. The Japanese luxury brand had become stagnant with its design philosophy, offering up little aesthetic excitement in comparison to some of its rivals, most notably BMW, Audi, and Mercedes. To draw a sports analogy, it seemed Lexus was merely content with becoming the automotive world’s equivalent of former Utah Jazz point guard and NBA Hall of Famer John Stockton: an industrious, hardworking, and unassuming player who was big on performing, but offered little flair or excitement to his approach to the game. While Stockton is regarded as one of the greatest point guards of all time, he was never exactly lighting up the highlight reels.
The same could be said for Lexus, although thankfully things are looking much brighter — and more exciting — at camp Lexus these days. It all starts with the company’s new “spindle grille,” which has finally made its way to the flagship LS sedan after having graced the new GS and ES models. But unlike the recent GS and ES models, the new LS lineup, which includes the LS 460, the all-new LS 460 F Sport, and the Earth-friendly hybrid LS 600h L, is more of a refresh of its 2012 predecessors than an entirely new offering. Thankfully, though, this update provides more than enough substance.
We recently had the opportunity to drive the 2013 LS 460 F Sport through the streets of sunny San Diego, California. Here is what we walked, or rather, drove away with.
More powerful than polite
The old maxim states that you should put your best foot forward; in this instance, however, Lexus has opted to put its best face forward, and it all centers on the company’s new grille. Gone is the sterile and sleepy trapezoidal front end adorning previous model years. Instead, Lexus has wisely opted to bring in a degree of uniformity to its models – and it works. BMW has the iconic kidneys, Audi has its dazzling LEDs, and now Lexus has provided itself with an aggressive aesthetic: a bolder, wider front end with a gaping maw that commands attention. The same look has been implemented across the line.
For the 2013 LS, Lexus also tweaked the front LED headlamps. Gone are the numerous sequential LEDs, replaced by a three-lamp configuration that provides a solid, continuous glow during both day and nighttime driving. It’s a small change, but one that provides just enough significance and visual cadence to Lexus’ flagship sedan.
Even so, while the majority of 2013 LS’ touch ups are more readily witnessed up front, the tail of the car has received some love and attention from Lexus’ engineers. In keeping with the wider, more aggressive theme, the rear of the vehicle compliments the front’s athletic stance with sleeker LED taillamps and more sharply blended pillars.
It’s the little things
As you can imagine from a premium nameplate like Lexus, the LS 460 doesn’t skimp on luxury. For the 2013 model year, the LS 460 demonstrates its quality with a host of features and appointments that seamlessly blend Japanese craftsmanship with 21st century design. According to Lexus, a great deal of effort went into creating a cabin that was both spacious and luxurious. With our time in the LS 460 we see that this is very much the case. Of course, it’s the little things that add up, like genuine spun aluminum used throughout the cabin, and the gorgeous Shimamoku wood trim found on the steering wheel. Simply put, those looking for well-appointed, full-size luxury sedan would do well to cross shop against a comparable Audi, BMW, or Mercedes-Benz.
The technology of luxury
While we could drone on about bolstered seats and a host of other comfort details, what really had us most excited is the available cabin and safety tech integrated into the 2013 LS. We’ll start with the convenience aspect, though.
New for 2013 is a 12.3-inch LCD screen located centrally along the dashboard. In addition to displaying the navigation system, the LCD screen displays both phone and stereo interfaces. Its generous real-estate can be partitioned into three separate displays allowing for simultaneous viewing. For example, if you’re in the midst of using the navigation system, you can also see what track is playing on the stereo, or place a phone calls without having to close out one function over the other. This allows for a greater degree of utility and functionality. While bigger isn’t always better, it’s nice to see Lexus make use of the larger screen size in a smarter way.
Similar to the interface we encountered in our 2013 Lexus GS 350 review, the 2013 LS utilizes the same mouse-like knob for controlling and navigating the vivid LCD screen, which itself is located on the center console. While touchscreens may be more intuitive, we’re proponents of a more tactile like this, and BMW’s iDrive controller. The responsiveness and ease of dial system over the current crop of touchscreens cannot be ignored.
Also available in the 2013 Lexus LS is an HDD navigation system with 80GB hard drive. In addition to downloading, updating, and transferring map data via a DVD or USB thumb drive, a few new features have made their way into the system. Automatic zooming, true 3D map viewing with city model and landmark graphics, as well as relayed speed limit information are all new for 2013. Lexus also tells us that the voice guidance system has been beefed up for the new model year, including active rerouting guidance as well as dynamic traffic guidance on roads without sufficient information.
Integrating into the navigation system is Lexus’ Enform telematics suite. Here, drivers have the ability to download the corresponding Enform smartphone app and gain access to supported apps via voice commands and Bluetooth. Currently, Enform supports various functions such as internet searches via its Bing app, as well as other applications such as iHeartRadio, Pandora, and OpenTable, among others. We weren’t able to test these functions during our brief drive, but we’ll have a more comprehensive rundown once we fully review the vehicle.
But much more than simply offering superfluous tech features, the 2013 Lexus LS packs three impressive safety technologies drivers are sure to appreciate. First up is Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM). While driving, this tech will alert you tif a vehicle is operating within your blind spot zone. It uses two radars, which are located at both the left and right rear quarters of the vehicle. If you try to shift lanes when they detect a vehicle present, it will will illuminate a mirror indicator to notify you of the potential hazard. If you happen to not being paying attention to the initial warning, BSM takes it a step further by emitting a flashing indicator on the side mirror when engaging your turn signal while a car is drifting in your blind spot.
The 2013 LS also features what Lexus calls its Rear Cross-Traffic Alert (RCTA). While the LS is equipped with a rear backup camera that allows you to see what is directly behind you, RCTA makes use of small microwaves to detect approaching vehicles to either side of you while parked.
Finally, and perhaps the most impressive safety tech implementation, and one we are more than happy to have but hope to never have to use, is Lexus’ Advanced Pre-Collision System (A-PCS). Working in conjunction with millimeter-wave radar, front-facing near infrared projectors, and a front-mounted stereo camera, the A-PCS is designed to detect both vehicles and pedestrians and, you guessed it, avoid colliding into them. A-PCS works in conjunction with the vehicle’s advanced obstacle detection system and provides an innovative way of avoiding low-speed collisions, the key word here being low-speed. At speeds of less than 24 miles per hour, and in the event of a potential collision, A-PCS will assess the probability of a collision. If the system anticipates that a collision is indeed imminent, it will seek to warn the driver by emitting both a visual and audible warning. At the same time, A-PCS will automatically engage a number of safety measures, including emergency steering assist, giving the steering a greater response to the driver’s input; stiffening up the air suspension system for greater evasion controls. Last but not least, the A-PCS will apply a Pre-Collision Brake Assist system (PBA) to aid in emergency breaking force.
If all else fails, you fail to take the appropriate counter measures, and if you’re traveling 24 mph or less, the A-PCS will automatically engage its breaking system, providing approximately 1G of stopping power. Lexus tells us the system will still kick into effect even when traveling at greater speeds, in order to mitigate potential harm and damage.
Rounding out the safety tech in the 2013 Lexus LS is a Dynamic Radar Cruse Control system, as well as an active lane departure system.
Powertrain: Same, but different
Powertrain options across the 2013 LS remain relatively simple as not much has changed from last year’s models. That means we see the same 4.6-liter V8 — only this year, Lexus has manage to squeeze out six more horsepower, bringing the total to 386 hp and sending 367 pound-feet of torque to the rear wheels via an eight speed automatic transmission. We see those numbers dip in the all-wheel-drive model due to a different exhaust setup, where the 2013 LS produces 359 horsepower and 347 lb-ft of torque.
For drivers just as concerned with style and luxury as they are with helping the environment, Lexus continues to offer its LS 600h L for 2013 model year. Its hybrid drivetrain features a 5.0-liter V8, two electric motors, and a nickel-metal hydride battery pack.
As far as engine efficiency is concerned, the 2WD LS should net 16 mpg in the city, 24 mpg on the highway, and 19 mpg combined, while the AWD LS is estimate to achieve 16/23/19. (Both figures based on using premium fuel.) This is by no means stellar, but not the worst fuel economy numbers we have seen in this class.
When it comes to performance, Lexus is looking to kick the LS into high gear. Lexus claims the 2013 LS can dash from 0-60 mph in just 5.4 second with an electronically limited top speed of 130 mph. While we were unable to generate a proper 0-60 time during our ride and drive, it’s clear the latest LS lineup possesses added energy under the hood.
Of course, for those looking for an even livelier experience, Lexus has included the LS F Sport to its 2013 LS lineup. Much like the GS F Sport, this go-fast version of the LS is gifted a veritable amount of tweaks and enhancements such as a Torsen limited-slip differential, Brembo front-brake calipers, 19-inch alloy wheels, and a 10 millimeter lowered adjustable air suspension, among others.
Overall, we really enjoyed our time with the AWD version of the F sport. The tightened air suspension felt comfortable and poised throughout our drive, and the added handling dynamics the F Sport package provides delivered some truly solid road manners. Even though the LS features several driving settings to choose from (Eco, Comfort, Normal, Sport, and Sport+) we never felt much of a difference outside of Eco and Comfort. That’s not to say the LS wasn’t fast or fun, but it never felt as confident or enthralling as we hoped. Still, if you prefer poise over power, the LS delivers without any fuss.
With the LS 460 starting at $71,990, and our LS F Sport north of that figure at $89,310, Lexus’ flagship lineup isn’t exactly cheap. But when compared to full-size luxury sedans from rivals BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Audi, which can easily run upwards of $100,000, it almost seems a bargain… almost.
The pursuit of perfection continues
If you haven’t already gathered, there is a lot to like about the 2013 LS. The 2013 LS F Sport package we spent time in promising evidence that Lexus is capable of doing away with – if even just partially — its stiff persona and injecting a little more life and personality into its vehicles. We would still like to see Lexus approach the LS in a more radical way, but from a design perspective, the new spindle grill is a fine start. Likewise, techies as well as gearheads will appreciate the robust amount of advanced technology this lux sedan is carrying.
We’d still like to see a little more dynamism under the hood, but for now we’re willing to settle for what the LS has to offer: a buttery smooth ride with a competent, if not a tiny bit underwhelming drivetrain.