By on August 10, 2012

The LS and I have had a long relationship. Back in 1993 I was an impressionable teenager nearing that holy-grail of ages: 16. This meant I dreamt of driving constantly. My parents were Oldsmobile and Chrysler folks, so my choices were a 1980 Custom Cruiser, a 1985 Cutlass Ciera, or a 1988 Grand Voyager. The Oldsmobiles were diesel. Need I say more? One day my best friend’s dad pulled up in a brand-new 1993 Lexus LS 400 for the school run. I had no idea cars could be assembled with that kind of precision and my world was changed forever. Needless to say, when the Lexus invited me to the unveiling of the fifth-generation LS, my expectations were set high.

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Exterior

The first thing to know about the all-new fifth-generation LS is it’s not all-new. 2013 brings a major refresh to the “FX40″ LS sedan where some 3,000 parts were changed compared to the 2006-2012 model (which was face-lifted in 2009). Being a major refresh, there are sheetmetal changes and only the doors, roof and rear quarter panels remain the same. Lexus fitted a very aggressive interpretation of their new “spindle” finally giving the LS similar “rear-view mirror” presence as the German competition.

Interior

Lexus has a reputation for interior perfection. Even though we were in a pre-production car (which normally means there’s going to be something wrong), there wasn’t so much as a seam out of place. That’s not to say that the LS is class leading in interior parts. The LS 460 still uses a molded dash and pleather door panels while Mercedes and BMW have been doubling down on stitched leather goodness.

While the LS’ seats are among the most comfortable I’ve ever sat in, the GS’ 18-way seats offer a wider range of motion and customization. Should you be lucky enough to be buying an LS to be driven in rather than to drive, the 10-way power rear seats have no equal. Oh, and the right rear seat shiatsu massages. Like Mercedes and BMW, Lexus offers a short and long wheelbase version of the LS. Due to the age of the LS’s basic dimensions however, the LS 460L’s interior is noticeably shorter than BMW’s stretched 7 series.

Aside from the opulence of the rear seat in the stretched LS, the gadget list is a reminder of two things. One: the 2013 LS is a refresh. Two: historically Lexus has been a company that perfects rather re-invents. To that end you won’t find a snazzy LCD gauge cluster or any whiz-bang-I-gotta-have-it tech. Lexus has even quietly removed their complicated self-parking option. Instead, Lexus has doubled-down on what their target market has demanded: perfect leather, perfect seams, the quietest ride you have ever experienced and quantities of wood that would make Jaguar blush.

Infotainment/ Gadgets

In the center of the new dashboard is a standard 12.3-inch infotainment/navigation screen. This latest generation of Lexus “Enform” is essentially the same software as last year’s model, adjusted for a wider screen. The screen is bright and easily readable, unfortunately Lexus’s awkward joystick came along for the ride. If you think iDrive is a pain to use, Lexus’ pointer device may take you to an all-new level of frustration. As with the system in the current GS, the graphics and interface are step behind iDrive, MMI and Volvo’s Sensus.

The optional 19-speaker Mark Levinson audio system is as close to audiophile perfection as you will find in a factory-installed audio system. While the 450-watts on tap places this system behind the Bowers & Wilkins and Bang & Olufsen systems used in the competition, its unlikely to be a problem for most buyers. USB, iDevice and smartphone app integration are the same as in the rest of the Lexus line up delivering a solid and stable interface without voice commands ala Ford’s SYNC and even Toyota’s Entune.

Drivetrain

With all the changes inside and only 50% of the parts being new, it’s obvious what hasn’t changed; the drivetrain. The same 4.6L engine and 8-speed transmission that were ground-breaking in 2006 remain with only minor software tweaks that bump the engine by 6HP to 386HP total, or 360HP when equipped with the optional AWD system. Should you feel particularly spendy, Lexus will continue to offer the LS 600h L delivering 438HP and seemingly unlimited torque through all-four wheels (and consuming large amounts of gasoline in the process). The observant in the crowd will notice these numbers pale in comparison to the twin-turbo V8s from the Germans, but remember that the LS stickers for considerably less.

Drive

When the rubber hits the road, you don’t hear much if you’re piloting an LS. Lexus always been known for  serene rides, but the LS takes things to an all-new level. Even at triple digit speeds, it’s still possible to carry on whispered conversations with rear-seat passengers. The LS is so quiet the new LS F-Sport LS uses a sound tube to duct engine noise from the engine’s intake into the cabin. Aside from this duct, the F-Sport receives no engine modifications making it a suspension and appearance package. Despite this, the F-Sort is more engaging on the winding roads in Northern California than the Mercedes S-Class thanks to low-profile summer tires, but the BMW feels more poised.

Back in the “regular” LS 460, the ride is tuned to the softer side of luxury , especially when the LS is equipped with the air suspension system. It’s not the LS’ spring rates that define the handling however, the curb weight of 4,277-4,794lbs has the biggest impact on what the LS does when you enter a corner. Before you’re ready to dismiss the LS as a land-yacht, keep in mind the V8 S-Class and 7-Series are several hundred pounds heavier than the LS and have a very similar weight balance. The result is a very precise, albeit numb, vehicle.

Our short time with the LS included a hands-on demonstration of Lexus’ new driver assistance systems. First up is Lexus’ first all-speed radar cruise control which, like Volvo and Mercedes’ systems (the best on the market right now) will finally handle stop-and-go traffic. During a 20 mile trip in heavy Bay Area traffic, the system proved itself to be an equal of the benchmark systems.

2013 also brings Lexus’ interpretation of Volvo’s City Safety system. Instead of a single camera and laser scanner, as Volvo’s standard system uses, Lexus uses a stereo camera with IR illumination setup. The Lexus system is active to 24MPH vs 19MPH on the 2010-2012 Volvos and 31MPH on the 2013 Volvo models. In 2011, the IIHS released their first study on City Safety in which they reported the XC60 (the first model with the tech standard) had 27% fewer liability claims, 51% fewer injury liability claims, and 22% fewer collision claims compared to other midsize luxury SUVs. A logical person would conclude that LS models with this tech would reap similar statistics.

My personal history with the LS had set my expectations high and I was honestly somewhat disappointed. But should I have been? After all, Lexus as a brand is steeped in perfection, not necessarily innovation. This fifth generation improves significantly upon the previous generation LS. Compared to the German competition, Lexus has done little to correct the LS’ infotainment deficiencies despite the new wide-screen interface, but the precision with which it is assembled is unequaled. The LS is not without its charm, Lexus continues to deliver the most serene ride on the road this side of a Rolls Royce with large, cushy seats that will coddle your bottom for cross-country road trips. Lexus’ impeccable reliability reputation, coupled with a price that is likely to undercut the competition makes the LS a vehicle that has a place on your short list.

 

 The Lexus event was held locally so no flight was required. Dinner, a hotel room, and all-you-can-drink Coke were provided.

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50 Comments on “Pre Production Review: 2013 Lexus LS 460 and LS 600hL...”


  • avatar
    dave504

    Open up the hood and there’s another hood under it. It’s hoods all the way down!

    • 0 avatar
      BMWnut

      Yup – no user servicable parts inside. To be opened only by factory trained technicians, yada yada.

      I’m surprised that they even fitted a dipstick. Surely an oil level sensor that triggers a message on the infotainment/navigation/hyperdrive screen is where it’s at in the 21st century. Does the average Lexus LS owner even know how (or care) to open hood, never mind check the oil?

  • avatar
    juicy sushi

    Thanks for this Alex. So, not a lot done, just making it quietly better than it was. Inside Line noted that the “Assistant Chief Engineer” for the LS, Satoru Ohsaku said “In the future, we are thinking radical change might be necessary to be competitive in the luxury market.”

    In light of Bertel’s great articles on the LFA and the future of Toyota/Lexus products, I wonder if this means the new LS is actually more of a placeholder, with something very radical just over the horizon. That would explain to me the lack of powertrain changes. There’s enough new to keep the LS in place in the market, while Toyota finish work on what they think the market is going to be demanding.

  • avatar
    threeer

    So they “doubled down” on the hoods? LOL…

  • avatar
    oboylepr

    “Lexus continues to deliver the most serene ride on the road this side of a Rolls Royce with large, cushy seats that will coddle your bottom for cross-country road trips. Lexus’ impeccable reliability reputation, coupled with a price that is likely to undercut the competition makes the LS a vehicle that has a place on your short list.”

    Are you listening Cadilac(k)? This is what you are supposed to be!

  • avatar
    icemilkcoffee

    No more self parking? That was the one gotta-have feature Lexus offers.

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      The LS self parking feature was too complicated to use. The Ford system is easy and fast, the convoluted BMW system is even easier to use. I hope they go back to the drawing board and use a system similar to Ford’s.

    • 0 avatar
      sitting@home

      I’m guessing Lexus owners use valet parking more often than automated self parking; it’s considerably less expensive and only slightly more error prone.

    • 0 avatar
      Maymar

      I’ve had the chance to play around with the LS’s self-parking a couple times. Honestly, I can park in trickier spots than it can, in much less time. Anyone who needs that has no right to be driving a car that big.

      • 0 avatar
        Dan

        Telling geriatrics that they have no right to be driving is no way to sell them a car.

      • 0 avatar
        SuperCoupe400

        Amen to that, Maymar!

        Personally, I am getting ever more disgusted with the new heights of overall ineptitude being reached by the general public relative to driving. Too few of us can parallel park ourselves, navigate a rear-wheel drive car in the snow, know how to counter-steer to avoid fish-tailing, etc., etc., etc.

  • avatar
    Tosh

    “In the center of the new dashboard is a standard 12.3-inch infotainment/navigation screen.”
    That is plainly incorrect: In the center of the new dashboard is an alarm clock from my auntie’s attic.

  • avatar
    sightline

    Alex, where did the event take place? Looks like the Four Seasons Palo Alto.

  • avatar
    Tosh

    You say “spindle,” I say “kinky.” Already sick of this kinky Predator grill (and along comes that Infiniti thing with the D-pillar kink. Oh, my poor eyes!)

  • avatar

    There’s the: LS460, LS460 AWD, LS460-L, LS460-L, AWD and then the sport models brining the count to 6 different LS models!!!

    Such a wide model range for an underwhelming car destined to be outsold by the Mercedes E350 (which is America’s top selling luxury car), S-class (and it’s replacement) and just about anything Audi and BMW makes.

    I jumped to test drive the original LS460 because I wanted to see the rear seat. But, this car was so boring and interior so bland in my taste that I went and bought from the Germans instead. If I had it to do all over right now, I’d probably end up in an A7.

    I passed Lexus 2 days ago and considered going in to check out the LS460 but I just didn’t feel like it. What really has changed besides that ridiculous grill?

    “It drives sportier”???

    I see nothing but elderly people in these things and even if you were a younger owner of one, it’s so expensive you’d be afraid to damage it and never put it to it’s limits. I bet less than 0.0001% of these will ever see a track.

    The mere fact the E350 is the best selling luxury car already lets you know that the majority of buyers aren’t looking for sport handling or even massive acceleration. Those are enthusiasts. The rest are looking for good gas mileage and brand name equity.

    And for that price?

  • avatar
    MBsam

    How does a reviewer talk about interior quality and not bring up Audi at all?

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    Never my cup of tea. $60-100K for a car with all the ambiance of a Corolla with leather. Perfection is deathly boring. The Germans may not be “perfect” but at least they have character.

  • avatar
    jmo

    I recall when my family went from a ’89 Cutlas Ciera to a ’93 Camry the gap between the two was stupendous.

    It’s interesting to the degree that the gap has narrowed. I’d venture to guess that gap between a Cruze (is that the closest we have in terms of marketing position to the Ciera?) and the LS is less than half that between the ’93 Camry and the 89 Ciera.

  • avatar
    crtfour

    That front end alone would be a deal breaker for me. I guess I’m just not feeling the fish mouth design trend these days.

  • avatar
    Polar Bear

    The catfish front is fugly. But I still want an LS. 2nd hand of course, when it is down to 1/5 of the price. That doesn’t take long with these luxo barges. OK, so 7-series and S-class has more flair and personality, but who can afford to maintain those Germans once out of warranty? So an LS it must be.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Anyone who can afford to buy a $100K car new can afford to maintain and repair it once the warranty is up. If you can’t afford to buy one new you have no business owning one at all, a $100K car is a still a $100K car to fix once it has depreciated to $25K.

      As I have said previously, even my relatively poverty-spec 328i wagon is more than $650/mo to buy at a stupid-low interest rate over 5 years, with a decent down payment. $650 a month is a TON of repairs, even for a German car. You could get the transmission rebuilt every couple months, or a new engine a year. So whining about the cost of repairs and maintenance out of warranty is just plain stupid. If you can’t afford to fix it, you can’t afford to own it.

      • 0 avatar

        I don’t know about that, I was dealing with a fellow over the winter who was considering selling his out of warranty 2009 Audi A8L, he said it had seen multiple 2k plus repairs in the 6 months since the warranty exprired the latest being 2200 for a new heater core and control valave. He said it was just to expensive to be paying those kind of repair bills out of pocket.

      • 0 avatar
        Polar Bear

        The point of buying 2nd hand is lower ownership costs. Decently made cars have a sweet spot out of warranty, but before they are worn out, when they are affordable to run sice depreciation is low and the need for repairs not yet excessive.

        If repairs on a used car are so frequent that ownership cost is equal to owning a new car, buying used would be pointless. Having to spend 10,000 $ a year to repair a half-old car just means it was poorly made. 7-series and S-class, I am looking at you.

  • avatar
    ravenchris

    Giant Oceanic Manta Ray…

  • avatar

    ” This fifth generation improves significantly upon the fifth generation LS.” Do you mean fifth generation improves upon the fourth?

    I love the LS. It’s easily my favorite Lexus. I reviewed a 2010 LS 460 Sport, which had much more buttoned-down suspension than the standard LS. I just like how the car represents the pinnacle of what Toyota can offer to the car world. It’s comfortable, refined, and fast. I’d consider a used LS over several new cars.

  • avatar
    Polar Bear

    A 2013 Corolla or a 2004 LS430. Same money. The Corolla is new. But the LS is barely broken in.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    A fancy Camry for rich old guys. Hold the hate for a second, I see a lot of old guys in Toyotas and Lexiis. Yes, I respect Toyotas engineering excellence. They just wouldn’t pass the Tony Soprano test.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Camry’s are blandmobiles, the LS 400/430 are RWD, V8, and have character.

    • 0 avatar
      Polar Bear

      Camry on steroids. Boring. So what if all that is true. The LS doesn’t have the road presence of an S-class or the driving excitement of the 7-series. The quality of the LS is discreet. Those cars are darn well made, but with that light Japanese touch that makes you underestimate them at first. You have to own a Toyota/Lexus product for a while to appreciate the care that went into it. (Not having sleepless nights over repair bills helps.)

  • avatar
    seanx37

    “One day my best friend’s dad pulled up in a brand-new 1993 Lexus LS 400 for the school run.”

    I bet that ’93 is still on the road too. I am amazed how many 1st generation LS I still see on the road. And how good they still look and run. I think that might be the best built car of all time.

    I have driven, and been driven in a few LS models. So comfortable, solid, quiet. Except for the killer stereos.

    But, damn are they boring.

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      You’re right, it is still on the road. Original owner, 320,000 miles and it’s still running. Plenty is broken, but the engine and transmission keep on chugging.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      I can’t find the article, but there’s a guy in La Jolla, California, who has 500,000+ miles on an LS400 with the original motor (no rebuild) and transmission. I think he’s replaced a few shocks and struts, along with some hoses and belts (and tires, obviously).

      I doubt the new Lexus LS460 will be as durable as either the LS400 or LS430.

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    You say you went to the launch. Was it as pathetic in person as it was on the Lexus web-cast?
    We won’t see this car until next spring, but I did drive a new GS a few weeks ago. I know it’s a bit apples and oranges, but I will say the GS interior is vastly improved and far more LS-like in quality. The screen is very bright, but I find any of this widgetry to be beyond me in my old age (50!).
    I think Lexus cars are getting character and while the big ‘Benz and BMWs will most likely be faster/sportier, Lexus does a good job recognizing that their values appeal to a lot of people.

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    the “unique ” front end / grill treatment reminds me of a modern -day update of that seen on a 1961 Plymouth Fury / Belvedere .

    • 0 avatar
      rudiger

      The laziest way for today’s auto stylists to give a vehicle any ‘character’ is to use the scowling, furrowed-brow front-end styling. Dodge and Pontiac have been (well, in the case of Pontiac, were) doing it for years.

  • avatar
    MeaCulpa

    It’s nice to see that Lexus has kept the bog standard, not at all fitting for a luxury vehicle, ugly and cheap toyota interior switches that we have all learned to love and enjoy. In high school I worked at a toyota dealership, I was quite surprised when I found the same ass ugly switches and buttons in the 100k Lexus as in the 20k Corolla, not all of them but some, seeing these pics makes me feel young, or Lexus cheap.

  • avatar
    jimmyy

    Overpriced nice cars.

  • avatar
    richmca

    We’ve got a wonderful, repair-free 2001 LS, ready to buy again and, I’m sorry, but I just can’t stand that grill. It’s a show-stopper, a deal-breaker, a brown shoe with a tuxedo. What are they thinking? It’s a style moniker that just doesn’t belong on that car. I’m not buying it.

  • avatar

    This car is absolutely gorgeous to experience interior and ride quality wise. And far better to enjoy the ride than drive it, but a stupendous ride it will be, far better than nearly any of Mercede’s so-called luxury ride quality.

    But as previous commentors already voiced; my god, why do auto-manufacturers continue to beat their beasts with the ugly stick? That front grill is not befitting of a luxobarge such as this!

  • avatar
    WaftableTorque

    As an LS430 owner, this is my perspective on the 2013 LS.

    The redesign is a disappointment. I was expecting a complete change after 7 years, not a continuation of the hard points and engines. The interior of the current generation seems nicer. Why get rid of the superb touchscreen? Why such an aggressive grill on the non-F Sport model? Where is the V6 and V6 hybrid option? When will the chassis move to aluminum or composites? In other words, it doesn’t appeal to me, the conservative luxury buyer looking for a low ecological footprint. (Neither do the RWD S400 nor ActiveHybrid 7, but the FWD ES300h really toots my horns).

    My recommendation to Lexus marketing is to get owners to talk. I’ve decided to keep my car for 15-20 years to minimize my ecological impact and automotive expenses without feeling like I’m sacrificing. Mine is still going strong at 233,000km, long after the air suspension of an S-Class, the Valvetronic of a 7 series, the engine gaskets of an STS, or the electronics of an A8/XJ have given up. Even the semi-aniline leather has aged better compared to cars only 2 years old.

    I discount the arguments against the LS or Lexus about not being fun to drive, lacking soul, or lacking pedigree. If you value refinement, silky smooth operation, and superior NVH, this car is an enjoyable piece of machinery. The pedigree comes from a 22 year track record of reliability. Every gizmo on my car still works. Reliability is the ultimate in engineering.

    Buy good stuff, keep it for a long time. Rinse and repeat.

  • avatar
    fli317

    Another quite large home plate. Why do we even open the hood. Only let the dealers open it. Go Lexus!


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