- The spindle grille works
- A strong, silent type
- A smooth cabin to go with a smooth ride
- F Sport isn't as tuned-in as we'd hoped
- Hybrid is big, heavy, super-expensive
- Transmission doesn't always behave
The new F Sport turns up the heat just a little bit, but you'll still savor the 2013 Lexus LS more for its interior appointments and luxurious long-distance comfort than for its performance.
The LS sedans are the ne plus ultra members in an already luxurious Lexus lineup. With the 2013 Lexus LS 460 and its hybrid version, the LS 600h L, Lexus packs some of the most advanced technology found anywhere in its lineup, plus some of the richest finishes.
This year, the LS gets a restyled exterior and interior, and the addition of a new F Sport model brings a promise of a more aggressive stance from a brand known more for tight build quality and utterly silent cabins. And there's progress, though not as much as the italicized, brushed-metal badging of the F Sport might promise.
The LS' best-executed change, we think, is the adoption of the new "spindle" grille treatment that's worked its way into other Lexus vehicles, one by one, as they've been revamped. It's distinguished, finally, by its own distinctive styling notes, not graced by elegant echoes of others. There's still plenty of been-there in its silhouette, but Lexus designers are on to something--even more so, inside its lavishly trimmed cabin. There, the horizontal theme that's wrapped itself around the cockpit in the GS and ES sedans is warmly interpreted, capped by a 12.3-inch LCD screen and framed by a selection of wood or metal trims that ping a slightly alternative chord, whether they're shimamoku wood stained a dark grey, or the lighter shades of the Hybrid's bamboo.
Smooth ride quality and a serene, limo-like ultra-luxury interior remains the priority of the Lexus LS, with driving dynamics more muted than those of some other large luxury sedans, even with the addition of the F Sport. The pièce de résistance is the LS 600h L: it eschews the V-12 or twin-turbo V-8s of other luxury sedans in favor of a gas and electric duo that delivers a net of 438 horsepower and 20 mpg combined on the EPA cycle. Were it more composed and less jittery in ride, and more direct in its steering, it'd be worth considering despite its huge price tag of more than $100,000.
In a slightly more realistic realm, the LS 460, the extended-wheelbase LS 460 L, and their all-wheel-drive counterparts all display a similar set of road manners. There's brisk acceleration from the 386-hp V-8, and almost imperceptible shifts from the eight-speed automatic, but handling is no strength. Zero to 60 mph runs take as few as 5.4 seconds, but a real hustle through a canyon road will take longer than any of its competition, due to dull responses from the steering and boundy, plush ride motions.
On the F Sport, a sport-tuned air suspension, variable-ratio steering, Brembo brakes, and special 19-inch forged wheels with summer tires can change the feel, but not so much as to make the Lexus LS unrecognizable. It's still a more softly sprung vehicle than any of its German counterparts, or even the Infiniti M or Jaguar XJ. Body control is better, and there's somewhat crisper response from the steering, but it's still very light and unenthusiastic. All LS sedans offer some measure of driver-adjustable attitude; the base car's Eco, Normal, and Sport modes are augmented on air-suspension cars with a Sport + and Comfort modes that subdivide its personality into more discrete, still obviously comfort-oriented, tunings.
The extended-wheelbase LS 460 L and LS 600h are about five inches longer than the standard-length LS 460, and most of that stretch goes to rear legroom. Even short-wheelbase models come with enough space for taller, lankier passengers, though, and across the line, large, comfortable front seats, well contoured backseats, and a large trunk make these sedans great choices for those with important guests to transport—or just impressive long-haul comfort. The front seats have been revamped and have excellent support and power adjustments in just about every direction; F Sport versions have somewhat more bolstering, but they're great for long trips.
In extended versions, there's a standout ottoman-style seating option with built-in massage features, both of the backseat positions, in top-of-the-line models, get power adjustability. Trims remain impressive even when matched up with those in top Mercedes and BMW flagships, and the top-notch aniline leather is supple and delicate compared to what you get in other Lexus models. If you're more often chauffeured, add the Executive Class Seating Package, and you'll practically have a Rolls-Royce-caliber space back there.
A navigation system is now standard in the LS 460, as are heated and cooled front seats; and a rearview camera. Bluetooth and iPod connectivity are standard on all LS models, along with Bluetooth audio streaming. Lexus' Remote Touch, a mouse-style controller, drives the infotainment functions, while Entune links the audio system to your smartphone for mobile-app usage, including audio streaming and Facebook updating. A Mark Levinson entertainment system is available on the LS 460 and standard on the LS 600h L, offering 19 speakers, 19 audio channels, 450 watts of power, and 8GB of hard-drive space for music. Major options also include climate-controlled, massaging rear seats; a Blu-Ray DVD entertainment system; and the ottoman-style backseat, fold-down wooden trays, and rear cooler box.