2013 Lexus LS: Evolution over revolution

2013 Lexus LS 460 F Sport front three-quarter viewLexus unveiled the 2013 LS, the newest incarnation of its flagship sedan, amid a photo exhibit in San Francisco. The photos were supposed to comment on the nature of attraction, but that was all public relations hype. If buyers choose the 2013 LS over a Mercedes-Benz S-Class or Audi A8, the choice will be purely rational. The new LS, unveiled in sporty 460 F Sport trim, appears more evolutionary than revolutionary.

Lexus says the car over 3,000 new parts, but not many of those are on the outside. The 2013 LS blends the new “spindle grille” and taillights from the GS and ES with the 2012 model’s stately flanks. Most of the changes may be at the front of the car, but they do give the LS an aggressive look that it did not have before.

For 2013, the LS lineup includes the same models as 2012: short-wheelbase LS 460, long-wheelbase LS 460L, and hybrid LS600hL. The non-hybrid LS models are available in rear- or all-wheel drive; the LS600hL is all-wheel drive only.

The LS 460 F Sport is the only new model, providing a touch of sportiness for the big Lexus. The F Sport nets “sport tuned” suspension, which is 0.4 inches lower than stock, a Torsen limited-slip differential (on rear-wheel drive models), and six-piston Brembo brake calipers. Drivers get heavily bolstered seats and paddle shifters.

All models retain the 4.6-liter V8 from the 2012 LS. In LS 460 models, the V8 puts out 386 horsepower (360 with all-wheel drive) and 367 pound-feet of torque (347 with all-wheel drive). The LS600hL hybrid gets a boost from a 221 hp electric motor and 288V nickel-metal hydride battery pack.

Two transmissions are offered: an eight-speed automatic for non-hybrid models, and a continuously variable unit for the LS600hL.2013 Lexus LS interior

This being a Lexus, the emphasis is really on technology, not performance. In the safety department, Lexus’ Advanced Pre-Collision Safety can stop the LS from speeds up to 24 mph if it detects an obstacle.It also comes with the now-obligatory suite of driver aids: adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, and blind spot monitoring with a Rear Cross Traffic Alert feature that assists drivers while backing up.

Lexus owners can control many of the car’s functions through the 12.3-inch touch screen on the center console. The Remote Touch system combines buttons, a controller, and one-touch confirmation commands to operate the LS’ climate control, audio, and navigation systems.

The 2013 LS also comes with its own App Suite. Lexus’ Enform system puts Pandora, iHeartRadio, Bing, and other apps at the LS driver’s fingertips.

The LS has everything a modern luxury sedan buyer could want, but that may not be enough. When Toyota launched Lexus with the original LS in 1989, it stunned the world with its quality, attention to detail, and relatively low price. In the process, Lexus poached sales from old money brands like Mercedes.

The 2013 LS is almost identical to the German competition, not to mention the 2012 LS it so closely resembles, but it doesn’t offer more. That will probably keep the Lexus faithful happy, but it won’t inspire the emotion the brand needs to attract anyone else.