Pre Production Review: 2013 Lexus LS 460 and LS 600hL

Alex L. Dykes
by Alex L. Dykes
pre production review 2013 lexus ls 460 and ls 600hl

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.

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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  • Waftable Torque Waftable Torque on Aug 16, 2012

    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.

  • Fli317 Fli317 on Aug 20, 2012

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

  • Tassos I hope y'all had a happy Thanksgiving. To answer the question, my present car is almost Ideal for such road trips, but I can think of an even better one, which has the same awesome engine in a bigger, far more luxurious vehicle.OK, let's THINK, what kind of car is best for such a trip? NOT a 911 or a Corvette, not a Body-on-frame pickup truck or SUV. It has to be a LONG vehicle, and most importantly, with a LONG WHEELBASE. It should be quite heavy so it is comfortable (in addition to the always nice to have passive safety). It should be powerful but frugal, with today's ridiculous gas prices. It should be LUXURIOUS so when you get out of it after 12 hours of driving, to feel as rested and relaxed as when you started the trip. So naturally the best candidates are FLAGSHIP LUXURY SEDANS with the above attributes. What are the best ones to choose? A 2007-2012 Lexus 460 LS would be hard to refuse, and is very reliable to boot. (in 2012 they ruined its grille), but is poor in other chores (handling, poor steering feel etc). A BMW 7 series, like the MAGNIFICENT 1998 740iL with its adequate 4.4 lt V8 and its 282 HP and 300+ LBFT torque was also an excellent cruiser AS WELL as a great (as if on rails!) Handling car, with plenty of features and luxury fit for a king inside (plus they had facrtory GPS as early as 1998, which Merc Did not then!), but it is not as reliable as you would like. I owned one from 2005 to 2017, almost 20 years old and 150k miles at the end, when I donated it. My current car is just perfect for this job, being a GLORIOUS DIESEL Merc E 320 Bluetec 2007 (I also have a 2008 twin!), it gets 35-37 MPG on long trips, which offsets the ridiculous current Diesel prices, AND its 21 Gallon tank gives you 700-800 MILES OF RANGE, so you can fill up at the lowest cost stations at your convenience. COmpared with the BMW 7 V8, its V6 actually gives you about the3 same performance at half the MPG!! Because the HP may be less (208 vs 282) BUT the TOrque can only be matched by AMG gas versions, the E55 AMG, at over 400 LBFT.If you want a little better than the above AWESOME choice, try the S350 Bluetec Diesel, 2010-2013 models. THere are very few Diesels sold in the US, so you may have to drive 4 hours to buy yours (as I had to do with both of mine), BUT it is REALLY WORTH IT.BTW, the extra benefit of the diesel MErcs, they are THE MOST RELIABLE VEHICLES I EVER DROVE, and I had plenty of Hondas and other alleged reliable cars in the past. TWO diesels, owned from 2016 and 2017, and NOTHING went wrong with them except ROUTINE Maintenance, brake pad replacement, new set of tires, NO FAILURES OF ANY KIND!If you have experienced these outstanding cruisers, tell us what you think. If NOT, try them!
  • Nrd515 I bought an '88 S10 Blazer with the 4.3. We had it 4 years and put just about 48K on it with a bunch of trips to Nebraska and S. Dakota to see relatives. It had a couple of minor issues when new, a piece of trim fell off the first day, and it had a seriously big oil leak soon after we got it. The amazinly tiny starter failed at about 40K, it was fixed under some sort of secret warranty and we got a new Silverado as a loaner. Other than that, and a couple of tires that blew when I ran over some junk on the road, it was a rock. I hated the dash instrumentation, and being built like a gorilla, it was about an inch and a half too narrow for my giant shoulders, but it drove fine, and was my second most trouble free vehicle ever, only beaten by my '82 K5 Blazer, which had zero issues for nearly 50K miles. We sold the S10 to a friend, who had it over 20 years and over 400,000 miles on the original short block! It had a couple of transmissions, a couple of valve jobs, a rear end rebuild at 300K, was stolen and vandalized twice, cut open like a tin can when a diabetic truck driver passed out(We were all impressed at the lack of rust inside the rear quarters at almost 10 years old, and it just went on and on. Ziebart did a good job on that Blazer. All three of his sons learned to drive in it, and it was only sent to the boneyard when the area above the windshield had rusted to the point it was like taking a shower when it rained. He now has a Jeep that he's put a ton of money into. He says he misses the S10's reliablity a lot these days, the Jeep is in the shop a lot.
  • Jeff S Most densely populated areas have emission testing and removing catalytic converters and altering pollution devices will cause your vehicle to fail emission testing which could effect renewing license plates. In less populated areas where emission testing is not done there would probably not be any legal consequences and the converter could either be removed or gutted both without having to buy specific parts for bypassing emissions. Tampering with emission systems would make it harder to resell a vehicle but if you plan on keeping the vehicle and literally running it till the wheels fall off there is not much that can be done if there is no emission testing. I did have a cat removed on a car long before mandatory emission testing and it did get better mpgs and it ran better. Also had a cat gutted on my S-10 which was close to 20 years old which increased performance and efficiency but that was in a state that did not require emission testing just that reformulated gas be sold during the Summer months. I would probably not do it again because after market converters are not that expensive on older S-10s compared to many of the newer vehicles. On newer vehicles it can effect other systems that are related to the operating and the running of the vehicle. A little harder to defeat pollution devices on newer vehicles with all the systems run by microprocessors but if someone wants to do it they can. This law could be addressing the modified diesels that are made into coal rollers just as much as the gasoline powered vehicles with cats. You probably will still be able to buy equipment that would modify the performance of a vehicles as long as the emission equipment is not altered.
  • ToolGuy I wonder if Vin Diesel requires DEF.(Does he have issues with Sulfur in concentrations above 15ppm?)
  • ToolGuy Presented for discussion: https://xroads.virginia.edu/~Hyper2/thoreau/civil.html
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