Refreshed LS is as dramatically new as its bold front grille suggests
by Richard Cazeau
Time flies. Lexus has been producing luxury vehicles for the global market since 1989, taking the fight to European auto magnates like Mercedes-Benz and BMW.
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.
IN A NEW LEXUS STATE OF MIND
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.