- Excellent Mark Levinson sound option
- Limousine-like rear seat (L models)
- A smooth cabin to go with a smooth ride
- A strong, silent type
- The spindle grille looks good
- Transmission doesn't always behave
- Hybrid gives up a lot of trunk space
- F Sport isn't as tuned as we'd hoped
- Hybrid is big, heavy, super-expensive
The Lexus LS is all about build quality and comfort for the long-haul, though its F Sport trim dials up the fun factor slightly.
The 2014 Lexus LS 460 and the LS 600h L hybrid remain the flagship models of the Lexus lineup. They offer some of the richest finishes and most advanced technology you can get from within the Toyota portfolio--all with typically better resale value and reliability over the long term than some other luxury nameplates.
Following a full redesign just last year, the Lexus LS glides forward into the 2014 model year with its solid build quality and hushed cabin, but with a more aggressive stance than past models. That's especially true with the F Sport trim, which adds a small dose of driver engagement to the equation, too.
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. The 2014 model now offers "Siri Eyes Free Mode," which integrates Apple's Siri voice command system with the car's infotainment system.
The LS' best-executed change last year, 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.
2014 Lexus LS
The revamped Lexus LS cockpit and front end work in harmony with its shape.
Redesigned last year, the 2014 Lexus LS showcases the brand's unquestionable progress in the realm of uber-luxury sedans. In this case, you can see all of that progress up front, and inside.
Lexus's signature 'spindle' grille has found its way to each Lexus model that has been redesigned in the past few years. It's a piece of a design language that works well on all shapes and sizes, ranging from the RX crossover to the ultra-luxe LS sedan. Thanks to its hourglass grille, the LS looks significantly less anonymous than past models, though the brand's old 'L-finesse' design language is still present through the sedan's profile and rear. The old and new designs work well together, but we're still looking forward to seeing how the new theme will look as it creeps across the rest of the sedan's sheetmetal over the next few years.
Dramatic is a good word for the reinvented cockpit. It's another iteration of the horizontally themed cabin that works so well in the GS, retrimmed in a higher grade of wood and metallic finishes and surrounded by leather. A larger, 12.3-inch-wide LCD screen dominates the center of the dash, and Lexus' vividly bright gauges get their own information display, an almost six-inch screen implanted in their midst. Aluminum is used for some of the controls, and on the F Sport, it makes up the pedals and other interior trim. Standard versions wear walnut, maple, or a "shimamoku" processed wood stained a very dark grey; Hybrids have attractive bamboo trim we wish could be ordered elsewhere. All versions offer a choice of handsome leather trim, with a new saddle color; F Sports have their own leather selection and a black Alcantara headliner.
2014 Lexus LS
Though the F Sport doesn't quite live up to the letter, the Lexus LS remains a remarkably smooth, quiet car.
Following last year's redesign, the 2014 Lexus LS is a little more responsive, a little more eager than it has been in the past. It's available in two models: the LS 460 luxury sedan and the up-market LS 600h L hybrid. The LS 460 model is available in both rear- or all-wheel drive and regular- or long-wheelbase versions, while the hybrid is only offered with all-wheel drive with the extended rear seating area. To better compete with the full-size German sedans, there's also an F Sport model, intended to deliver additional handling precision through the magic of electronic controls.
The F Sport model doesn't manage to be quite as assertive as so many of its European alternatives–it's softer-sprung than those–but it's more composed than it ever has been before.
The LS 460 seems more intensive change, though its drivetrain is largely carried over from previous years. A 4.6-liter V-8 doles out an effortlessly smooth, usually silent 386 horsepower and 367 pound-feet of torque. With a curb weight of between 4,200 and 4,900 pounds, the LS' 0-60 mph times are estimated at between 5.4 seconds to 5.9 seconds, and its top speed is posted at a regulated 130 mph. It's coupled to an eight-speed automatic transmission, in rear-drive form or fitted with optional all-wheel drive (in which case the engine makes 357 hp and slightly less torque, but gets a limited-slip differential with a torque bias of 40:60 that can vary from 30:70 to 50:50 depending on road conditions).
The base versions without air suspension offer electronic control of transmission, revised electric power steering, and throttle in Eco, Normal, and Sport modes. Eco slows out the throttle for better mileage, while Sport speeds it up along with steering response for a nonlinear boost across the board. Cars with the base suspension ride well but are a bit too soft for crisp handling response, and numb, light steering don't encourage enthusiasm. We've also found the transmission can seem indecisive at times, since it has so many gears from which to choose, but it doesn't demand anything from the driver.
All-wheel drive is an option, and air suspension comes with long-wheelbase models. Even on these models, the same effortlessness pervades the LS driving experience. There's a plushness that plays through the steering, which remains a light-touch affair even when Sport mode is engaged. The ride is exceptionally controlled and smooth, even in the air suspension's stiffest mode, probably because the air suspension now shares information between wheels to control ride motions as a whole, not as individual wheels. Eighteen-inch wheels and tires are standard, by the way, with 19-inchers an option.
In the very expensive LS 600h L, Lexus teams a 5.0-liter V-8 engine and a hybrid drive system for V-12-like power. The gasoline V-8 makes 389 horsepower on its own, but altogether the system achieves 438 horsepower. The hybrid system dispatches its power through a full-time all-wheel-drive system and a "shiftless" continuously variable transmission (CVT). For more control during sporty driving, the CVT can simulate eight manually shifted gears. The full-hybrid system can operate for short distances, almost silently, on electric power alone. There's even an EV button-a feature never before used on a Toyota hybrid in the U.S. market-that forces the system to use only electric power for several minutes. It recharges its nickel-metal-hydride battery packs either via the engine or through a regenerative braking system.
The LS 600h L moves very quickly, and with almost uncanny quietness. The only time you hear the gasoline engine is when accelerating hard. Acceleration is quick; Lexus claims a 0-60 mph run of 5.5 seconds. But the LS 600h L doesn't feel very sporty. Its variable-ratio steering responds mostly with lightness and distance. And though cornering is surprisingly flat, thanks to the the adaptive air suspension that affords different settings for those driving systems, the hybrid also rides a little stiffly in most modes, a consequence of its heavier curb weight. Fuel economy is rated at up to 20 mpg combined, not bad for a 5200-pound sedan, but not absolutely breathtaking.Expectations are higher for the F Sport, since Lexus has done a good job revamping its GS sport sedan under the same initials. The F Sport teases with a faint hint of the visceral snap that dominates the Jaguar XJ, BMW 7er or the Benz S-Class. The driving experience is no longer exactly effortless, now that the electronics of the air suspension, transmission, steering, and throttle allow some custom tailoring.
The carryover drivetrain adapts new controls to tackle that mission. The automatic offers paddle controls and a manual mode, but on prototypes we drove, it didn't respond as swiftly as promised. The gear indicator held firm at the top of its range, despite clicking and tapping to trigger downshifts that should have been legal, given the place on the tach. Downshift blipping are exclusive to the F Sport's flavor of this gearbox. The low gears are staged and groomed still for luxury, and though upshifts are quicker, the LS' gearbox still feels like it deliberates more than the six-speed in an XJ. There's still a measure of control lacking for the driver, a missed connection.
The LS' redesigned suspension, steering and braking systems get tauter for more road feel and tighter control in the F Sport. Its air suspension comes with additional Comfort and Sport+ modes, the latter of which tightens the air shocks to something we'd still call only mildly firm, despite the F Sport's 19-inch tires (summer or all-weather). The F Sport gets the variable-ratio steering system too, but no rear-steer setup like the smaller GS, because of its place at the top of the Lexus the lineup. It's just a bit more assertive, with light feel and just a suggestion of feedback. It's just not as composed as it could be, when dodging shadows on the Skyline above Palo Alto, and grabby brakes and a high-set pedal make it conversely difficult to drive smoothly in town.
There's yet more to set the F Sport apart on paper, less to draw direct comparisons with the German benchmarks. It rides 0.4 inches lower, has Brembo six-piston caliper brakes, and a suspension brace for better rigidity. On rear-drive models, there's even torque vectoring--a Torsen differential between the rear wheels, one that distributes torque to the outside wheel to boost cornering. It's still just mildly more assertive than the base LS, and still less responsive and less crisp than an S-Class or an Audi A8.
The real heresy comes with a sound generator that amplifies some intake noises to enrich the driving experience. Lexus? Adding noise into the equation? From a brand that's championed an effortless driving experience, it's an ironic twist. For all of the past 22 years, Lexus has been about removing those disturbances. Noises have been quelled, vibrations have been damped out. Their re-introduction, and the first pass at pulling the LS into tauter shape, shows the pressure put on the LS by vehicles like the Hyundai Equus, which replicates the silent, unemotional driving experience well enough for substantially less.
2014 Lexus LS
Comfort & Quality
Limo-sized rear-seat space on long-wheelbase models makes the Lexus LS truly an executive-luxury car--but the hybrid robs trunk space.
The interior of the LS isn't filled with exotic wood trims or kangaroo leather. It's more traditional than that, but it's materials have exceptional fit and finish, and its sleek new interior is very spacious.
Few vehicles at any price point are assembled with the Lexus LS' tight panel gaps, though other luxury four-doors offer far richer-looking materials. Some of the LS switchgear mimics that used in much cheaper Lexus models, but the same can be true of vehicles from Mercedes, BMW, Jaguar, and Audi, too. The glovebox lid that used to be damped with effortless feel now feels light and insubstantial.
The cabin isn't extravagant with over the top materials, but it's dazzling in its obvious attention to finish and fit and detail. On top of it all, 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. We're not in love with Lexus' printed aluminum F Sport trim, though, and we'd love to see the Hybrid's bamboo trim offered on the non-hybrid sedan.
The cabin of the LS models, no matter which one you get, is tight and hushed from wind and road noise more than nearly any other model. You only slightly hear the engine when accelerating. Lexus has gone to extra lengths this year to mute the cabin even more than in the past--and then added some ambient exhaust noise back into the cabin on F Sport models.
It's somewhat narrower inside the LS than in those premium German luxury sedans, and the center console's fairly wide, which gives an impression of less elbow room. Nonetheless, knee and head room in front are still good.
With a 116.9-inch wheelbase on standard versions, seating room is in ample supply in the Lexus LS, and downright regal in the long-wheelbase versions, which ride on 121.7 inches of wheelbase. The spacious cabin is immediately noticeable in front, where Lexus' redesigned seats also distance themselves from the flatter, less shapely chairs of last year's version. The redesigned seats are really great, with lots of bolstering where needed, and heating and ventilation standard. Multi-adjustable 16 ways for the driver and 12 ways for the passenger, the seats have lumbar support and three-position memory and a firmer feel that's still more plush than the stiffer cushions of a big BMW or Mercedes-Benz. They also have the longest bottom cushions in recent memory, extendable with power assistance. Even the seatbelts have power height adjusters.
In the back, the big Lexus does its best impression of the top-drawer German megabuck four-doors, especially in the L long-wheelbase models. Both body styles give tall passengers plenty of head room, and the more tidy proportions of the standard car don't cramp the style. Passengers won't have any issues with space or comfort. That said, the long-wheelbase cars truly are impressive: their five extra inches of wheelbase give them limousine-like leg room, and available seating options that omit the middle seat and include massaging functions and ottoman-style footrests, as well as power adjustment for the backrest, up the decadence a few notches. The back seats can be heated and cooled, and fitted with lumbar adjustment; the rear glass can be covered with sunshades.
2014 Lexus LS
Like many luxury cars, the Lexus LS hasn't been crash-tested -- but it's stocked with plenty of safety features.
There's more safety equipment available in the LS than is necessary. The usual suspects are all there–stability and traction control, front and curtain airbags–but there are also active headrests and front side and knee bags standard. There are also rear side airbags available.
The Lexus LS also features a self-parking system that steers the vehicle into a parallel or row parking spot as the driver backs up; some will find it helpful and a safety aid, but to others it's a gimmick.
Lexus now offers an Enform and Safety Connect system on subscription basis; the telematic systems notify Lexus if the vehicle is involved in an accident and summon emergency personnel automatically.
Adaptive cruise control and automatic high-beam headlamps are available once more. Among the new safety options this year are blind-spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alerts, a lane-keeping assist that nudges the car back into its lane when it senses a drift off course; and a new Pre-Collision Safety system with stereo cameras that can detect obstacles in the road ahead, with the assistance of infrared vision. With the optional system, the Lexus LS can bring itself to a complete stop if it detects trouble at speeds of up to 24 mph.
At this point, neither of the agencies that crash test cars have fully assessed the LS' safety in accidents. Thanks to its long list of active safety technologies and its excellent past test results, we've given it a high score for 2014.
2014 Lexus LS
Snack trays? Widescreen DVD entertainment systems? If you're not placated by the Lexus LS, you just won't be pleased.
The Lexus LS provides effortlessly smooth performance and an excellent ownership experience–it's a flagship vehicle is the clearest sense of the term–but it also offers the latest technologies available in any car today. Even the base LS 460 comes equipped with some of the plushest standard features on the market today, and stepping into the F Sport, long-wheelbase or Hybrid models takes that list upward in the direction of legitimate opulence.
There are four trims available on the LS–LS 460, LS 460L, LS 460 F Sport, and LS 600h L–with all-wheel drive optional on most models. Power mirrors, locks, windows and seats are standard across the board, as are keyless entry and start, auto climate control, leather and sunroof. You also get Bluetooth and USB connectivity, an AM/FM/CD/DVD player, satellite and HD radio, heated and ventilated front seats, navigation, and a 12.3-inch wide center-mounted display.On all-wheel-drive models, Lexus adds a standard heated steering wheel and a heating system that warms the front passenger area more quickly; a windshield de-icer and headlight washers also are standard.
Also standard is Lexus' Remote Touch system, a new addition to the sedan. It uses a mouse-style controller to operate audio, climate, navigation, and phone functions, and to tie into Entune, which is also standard. Entune links smartphones to the LS' infotainment system, so that drivers can operate its functions, including a handful of apps, via Remote Touch. Those apps now include streaming audio from Pandora; Yelp!; Facebook; MovieTickets.com; OpenTable; even Bing for local searches.
On the options list are features like power rear seats with climate control; an ottoman for rear seats that includes massaging functions for the seats, a control panel for the seats and entertainment system, a retractable table, and a refrigerated cooler box; a rear-seat entertainment system with a Blu-Ray DVD player, an SD card slot, and a nine-inch LCD screen; and a 19-speaker Mark Levinson sound system with 450 watts of power and an 8GB hard drive for music storage. An Executive Class seating package on long-wheelbase cars turns the five-seat LS into a truly regal four-seater.
2014 Lexus LS
Some big crossover SUVs earn better gas mileage than the five-passenger Lexus LS--even with the hybrid drivetrain.
The LS only earns big SUV-like fuel economy, despite its eight-speed automatic transmission and optional hybrid model. The car's ECO mode does encourage drivers to behave more responsibly behind the wheel, though. It meters fuel usage, and blinks rapidly when acceleration pushes the sedan into lower-economy modes.
According to the EPA's most recent figures, the LS 600h L hybrid earns a rating of 19 mpg city, 23 mpg highway, and 20 mpg combined—solid ratings for the class, but in our experience, somewhat difficult to replicate. It does attempt to coach drivers to economize with a more detailed display that shows hybrid-driving modes in the place of the tachometer, except when Sport mode is selected.
In base form, the Lexus LS 460 with rear-wheel drive is rated by the EPA at 16 miles per gallon city, 24 miles per gallon highway, for a combined rating of 19 mpg. That's for either the standard- or long-wheelbase edition, and they're figures close to those you'd earn in Toyota's Highlander. Adding all-wheel drive drops by one mile per gallon the highway gas mileage number and the combined rating.