When the pre-production 2013 Lexus LS 460 rolled up to my door one thing was immediately apparent, in joining the rest of Toyota’s luxury division the car has really taken the spindle grille to heart. But it’s going to take more than a new face to the revitalize the LS, a car that once single-handedly reshaped the luxury industry has since faded.
The exterior of the LS 460 has seen a major refresh with new lines throughout — only the doors, roof and rear quarter panels carried over from 2012. The biggest difference is the very aggressive interpretation of the new spindle grill which gives the LS more of an awe-inducing presence similar to its German competition.
Lexus has built a strong reputation for building fantastic interiors. Though I was in a pre-production car, which usually means something is going to be stitched weird or a button will be missing, everything seemed to have great fit and finish. I do wish the molded dash would get an upgrade and for this price point I expect leather instead of pleather on the door panels. The LS’s seats are outstandingly comfortable, even in comparison to already great GS’ 18-way seats the 10-way power LS seats are unmatched. If you are so lucky to be a passenger in the rear right seat you can even get a massage.
Atop the dashboard is a standard 12.3-inch infotainment screen. The Lexus Enform system is largely unchanged besides being stretched for the wider screen and the system is controlled with Lexus’ Remote Touch system, a system I’ve come to love. The system’s graphics and interface do seem a bit out of date compared to the competition, but the optional 19-speaker Mark Levinson audio system is absolutely fantastic and outshines higher wattage Bowers & Wilkins and Bang & Olufsen systems available in the competition.
Aside from the massage seat you won’t find a lot of extraneous new-fangled tech in the LS, even the self-parking option has quietly been axed. What you do get is tons of wood, perfect leather with perfect seams and stitching and an incredibly quiet ride.
Unlike most of the competition that has moved to lower displacement turbocharged engines, the LS 460 is powered by a direct injection 4.6-liter V8 engine that makes 386 horsepower at 6,400 rpm and 367 lb-ft of torque at 4,100 rpm. This is the same 4.6L engine and 8-speed transmission that were ground-breaking in 2006.
The LS’ standard coil springs hold together the traditional front and rear multilink setup and an available air suspension adjusts on the fly, dropping the overall height and ground clearance considerably. The center console’s Drive Mode Select dial offers three settings: ECO, Normal and Sport modes. With the air suspension option you also get Comfort and Sport S+, which vary the firmness of the suspension.
Power from the 4.6-liter V8 is impressive despite the LS 460’s strong need to go on a diet — a 4,233 lbs. curb weight. Lexus claims 0-60 times of 5.4-5.9 seconds, I saw just above 6 in Colorado’s thin air. When rubber hits tarmac you don’t hear much. In fact the LS is so quiet that the F-Sport LS uses a sound tube to duct engine noise into the cabin.
The LS 460’s ride is tuned toward the softer side of luxury rather than sport, especially with the air suspension option on board. The Sport+ setting certainly tightens things up, but not to the extent necessary to earn the title sport luxury sedan. The ride is confident and precise but decidedly numb and rather unoffensive. EPA estimates 16/24 mpg for the rear-drive and 16/23 for the AWD. I managed a 17 mpg average during my week with the LS 460.
Lexus is a brand steeped in perfection, innovation is not necessarily a strong point. This fifth generation LS improves significantly upon the previous generation car. The infotainment system needs work, despite the new wide-screen, but everything else in the interior is impeccable. When I step into a sporty looking sedan with nearly 400 horsepower on board I expect a bit more oomph. It just isn’t there. Lexus needs to decide if the LS is a serene luxury sedan as it’s comfortable cushy seats, quiet ride and spongy suspension suggest. Or if it is intended to be a sports sedan as it’s agressive front end styling would. Now into the seventh year of this particular design, I think this latest refresh managed to keep up with competition but I don’t think Lexus exceeded it.