Lexus LS 460 — A new beginning

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Just when you thought the Lexus flagship LS 460 had become irrelevant in the world of eye-popping sheetmetal the revitalized 2013 model arrives on the scene. Lexus has breathed new life into its flagship sedan that turned the industry on its ear when it entered the market in 1989, but has recently fallen on difficult times. U.S. sales slipped to their lowest point in two decades in 2012 when just over 8,000 units were sold. By comparison, more than 35,000 LS models were sold in 2007.

On the flip side the LS has never lost its reputation for impeccable build quality, extraordinary dependability and top resale value. The blame for slumping sales was its staid conservatism while the competition surged ahead with bolder designs, superior performance and more emotional appeal.

Today the newly redesigned 2013 Lexus LS has clearly been taken up a notch with a bolder face highlighted by the familial spindle-style grille and more aggressive sheetmetal. It gives the big sedan a more athletic, European appearance. Opt for the new F-Sport package and you get standard 19-inch wheels, aggressive front and rear bumpers and a lower ride height.

A restyled dashboard is highlighted by a new wide-screen LCD display, a host of new infotainment and driving technologies, and more engaging driving dynamics without losing its floating-on-air luxury ride. Without a doubt this could be the year the LS will become competitive again.

One of the hallmarks of the LS from day one has been its library-quiet interior, and it remains a leader in wondrous isolation offering peace and quiet while traversing harsh and noisy roads, smoothing out imperfections like a sponge soaking up water. At the same time Lexus has developed enhancements for those drivers who seek a greater measure of control. Adjustable suspension settings — Eco, Comfort, Normal, Sport S and Sport+ — give the driver a more involved feeling thanks to enhanced throttle and steering response and a firmer, more controlled ride.

The F-Sport package at $8,350 brings faster up shifts; downshifts that get a rev-matching throttle blip; a tuned Adaptive Variable Air Suspension; larger Brembo brakes; plus those19-inch wheels and aggressive exterior styling tweaks.

While we had no concerns with the LS 460's straight-ahead performance, we wonder why Lexus in its otherwise commendable effort to upgrade the flagship decided to retain the same V-8 engine and eight-speed automatic transmission found in the last iteration. All of its rivals have considerably bigger engines with more than 400 horsepower available. Lexus retains its 4.6-liter making 386 horsepower (six more than 2012) and 360 pound-feet of torque. If you decide on the available all-wheel drive model, horsepower drops to 360. For comparison purposes, Lexus rates the LS 460 at 5.4 seconds from 0-to-60.

If Lexus had re-worked the existing engine to get better fuel economy, we would have applauded its decision to stick with the status quo. But the 2013 V-8 is EPA-rated the same as last year at 16 mpg city, 24 highway and 19 overall on premium gas. The all-wheel drive model comes in at 16/23/18.

Lexus has done a superb job with the interior using soft leather or leather-look vinyl covering on most surfaces. Real wood trim adds a luxury touch. The 12.3-inch high-resolution touchscreen displaying navigation and the sedan's many features is something to behold. The Remote Touch electronics interface is operated with a mouse-like device that allows the driver to navigate a myriad of icons on the big screen. It does a good job sorting out the system, but since its introduction a few years ago we have found the mouse device extremely difficult to use while hurtling down the highway. It simply draws too much attention from the most important chore — driving safely.

We found the front seats wonderfully comfortable. Rear-seat leg room is exemplary even in the regular-wheelbase edition, and rear-seat passengers can be pampered not only with comfortable seats, but available options including the Executive Class seating package available with the long-wheelbase Lexus.

The standard-wheelbase LS 460 starts at $72,885 and the LS 460 L (long wheelbase) begins at $79,185. The LS also comes in hybrid form, the LS 600h L, starting at $120,885 with a combined 438 horsepower. But don't expect too much better gas mileage for the extra monetary outlay — it's rated at 19/23/20.

Our LS 460 test car with the F Sport package and several other options including the excellent Mark Levinson audio system carried a bottom line of $88,784.

Base price: $79,185; as driven, $88,784
Engine: 4.6-liter V-8
Horsepower: 386 @ 6,400 rpm
Torque: 367 foot-pounds @ 4,100 rpm
Drive: rear wheel
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 116.9 inches
Length: 200 inches
Curb weight: 4,233 pounds
Turning circle: 35.4 feet
Luggage capacity: 18 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 22.2 gallons (premium)
EPA rating: 24 highway, 16 city
0-60: 5.4 seconds (manufacturer)
Also consider: Mercedes S-Class, BMW 7-Series, Audi A8

The good
• Incredibly quiet interior
• Outstanding reliability
• Comfortable seating
• Impressive interior quality

The bad
• Remote Touch interface distracting

The Ugly
• Fuel economy unimpressive