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  • William Maley
    William Maley

    First Steer: 2013 Lexus LS

    William Maley

    Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com

    October 10, 2012

    1989 was a pivotal year in the automotive world. That would be the year when Toyota would introduce the Lexus brand and its first vehicle, the LS400. The LS shattered expectations of what a luxury car and quality should be. This startled the old luxury guard and caused many buyers to take a look at this newcomer. Twenty-three years later, the LS still carries the flag of what a luxury sedan should be to many.

    But Lexus hasn’t been one to rest on its laurels. The competition has learned and implemented many ideas from the LS, and Lexus tries its best to stay one step ahead. The LS has grown from single model to a range of short and long-wheelbase models packing either a gas or hybrid powertrain and a load of new technologies. The new 2013 LS hopes to continue that trend.

    Lexus invited me to down to The Townsend Hotel in Birmingham, Michigan to drive the LS 460 F-Sport and 600h L. This happens to be a big deal because an automaker outside of the big three has invited Cheers & Gears; a site was started as a place for GM fans to gather in 2001. Since that time, we’ve expanded the focus and coverage of the site to all automotive brands. Having an automaker that’s not based in the Detroit area, reach out and invite you to a drive event is a big deal.

    Previously known for its conservative outward appearance, Lexus chose a more audacious look on the 2013 LS. Up front, the new LS drops the Plain Jane front end styling of the last-generation model. The new model falls in line with other redesigned Lexus models by sporting the new spindle grille with chrome running along the length of it and a set of HID or optional LED headlights. The hood features a slight bulge running along the middle. In the back, Lexus designers took the current LS rear end and tapered it to match the aggressive look of the front.



    The interior has also been given a dramatic change, featuring a design similar to new GS and ES. Materials used throughout the interior include leather seats and dash, five different choices of trim including a new Shimamoku ("striped") wood trim, and soft touch materials. There’s a new instrument cluster with a 5.8-inch full-color TFT multi-function display sitting in the middle. The centerstack has a new 12.3-inch multimedia display sitting on top. The screen is controlled by Lexus’ Remote Touch, a Joystick controller. Using the remote touch system for the short time left me frustrated since it would take me longer to perform a function than using a touchscreen. Some people who have used the system a bit longer say it’s very easy to use once you get the hang of it.


    Safety-wise, the new LS comes with a new version of the Pre-Collision Safety (A-PCS) system with Collision Avoidance Assist. The system uses cameras and radar mounted on the front end to monitor the road. If the system detects an obstruction on road, whether it is another vehicle or a person, the system will intervene, provide an audible alert to driver, and begin to slow the vehicle down. If the vehicle is traveling under 24 MPH, the system will actually bring the car to a stop. I didn’t get the chance to try the system out for the fear of it not working and having to explain to Lexus why one of their priceless prototypes is sitting on a flatbed tow truck.

    Next: Shall we take a drive?

    Lexus will offer the LS in the following seven configurations:

    • LS 460
    • LS 460 AWD
    • LS 460 L
    • LS 460 L AWD
    • LS 460 F-Sport
    • LS 460 F-Sport AWD
    • LS 600h L (AWD)

    First up was the new for this generation LS 460 F-Sport. The LS 460 F-Sport is much like the GS 350 F-Sport that I drove back in May at the MAMA Spring Rally; appearance and suspension changes. The F-Sport gains a mesh grille, nineteen-inch alloy wheels, Torsen limited-slip differential on RWD models (AWD models have a Torsen center differential), sport tuned air suspension with drive mode select, Brembo brakes, bucket seats, aluminum trim, and paddle shifters.


    Under the hood lies a 4.6L V8 that carries over from the last-generation LS. Power is up from 380 to 386 HP (@ 6400 RPM) while torque remains unchanged at 367 lb-ft (@ 4100 RPM). For the AWD models, the power and torque numbers are 360 HP (@ 6400 RPM) and 347 lb-ft (@ 4100 RPM), respectively, an uptick of 3 HP and 3 lb-ft from previous generation. A smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission seamlessly channels the power to the drive wheels.

    Driving in the LS F-Sport was a bit of surprise because of how sporty it felt. Turn the drive mode select to the Sport+ function and the personality of the car changes. The air-suspension firms up and keeps the car planted while the steering is weighted and provides a good response for each input. Even the engine has a bit of growl, thanks to an intake sound generator. When you decide to stop having fun, just turn the knob back to comfort and it’s almost like driving a normal Lexus. The ride is mostly comfortable, with a few bumps making their way into the cabin. I would put the nineteen-inch wheels and the vehicle being a pre-production model as to why those bumps made it in. Wind and Road noise were kept to a minimum.

    After returning the F-Sport, it was time to jump into the LS 600h L. The 600h L has been the flagship of the LS lineup since it was first introduced back in 2006. The 600h uses a hybrid system comprised of 5.0L V8 producing 389 HP (@ 6400 RPM) and 385 lb-ft (@ 4000 RPM), a 165 kW electric motor, and a nickel-hydride battery pack. Total output is 438 HP that goes through a CVT down to all four wheels.


    First climbing into the back seat of the LS 600h L, I was amazed at how much head and legroom there was. Compared to the short-wheelbase LS, the LS600h L’s wheelbase are about five inches longer. This allows Lexus to fill the back seat with many luxuries, including optional rear seats that recline and give you a massage. This is where you want to be sitting if you get the chance to ride in a LS 600h L.

    Leaving the back seat to sit in the front, I found the 600h L to be a big, soft luxury car. Lexus’ hybrid system provided enough power and was surprisingly quiet. Transition from electric power to hybrid was very seemless as was the CVT. Steering was what you expected from a big luxury car; light and not that much feel. The 600h L’s ride was very comfortable and quiet.

    Pricing for the 2013 LS lineup hasn’t been announced, but most likely the LS lineup would be structured as the base LS models being on the bottom, the F-Sport models in the middle, and the LS 600h L taking the top spot. The new LS will be arriving at dealers beginning sometime in November.

    Has Lexus raise the bar of what a luxury car should be with the new LS? Yes, but it is not the game changer as the original LS. Despite this, I predict this new LS will keep the other high end luxury sedan makers on their toes.

    Author's Note: Special thanks to Lexus and Toyota’s Midwest PR office for inviting Cheers & Gears out to breakfast and lunch at The Townsend Hotel in Birmingham, Michigan for this event. -WM

    William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at [email protected] or you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster.

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    Great Read, nice write up on the auto line. I have to say I think the interior is very bland and weird and the exterior front end scream Predator ugly.

    Their car line is just pathetic.I do not see what is so appealing about the Lexus lineup. Considering that most people I know who drive Lexus is very religous and conservative, is it that mind set that keeps this line going even when it is so blah?

    I just do not get it, why is Toyota building such a blah product?

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    One thing I just noticed in reviewing the pictures again, the interior of what I assume is the 600H seems to isolate the 4 individuals from each other. There is no way for people to snuggle in the back or have the spouse slide over to sit next to their mate.

    This is one of the sad losses with the Government over site of telling you what you have to have on an auto and all belted up for safety, we have lost that ability to be close to others in our auto's.

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    One thing I just noticed in reviewing the pictures again, the interior of what I assume is the 600H seems to isolate the 4 individuals from each other. There is no way for people to snuggle in the back or have the spouse slide over to sit next to their mate.

    This is one of the sad losses with the Government over site of telling you what you have to have on an auto and all belted up for safety, we have lost that ability to be close to others in our auto's.

    That happens to be option package on the long-wheelbase models called the Executive package. From the press release

    Executive Package

    • 4-zone climate control with air purifier and rear infrared temperature sensor
    • Leather door trim
    • Leather glove box
    • Leather Instrument Panel
    • Power ottoman seat with massage and ottoman knee airbag
    • Rear air conditioning with cool box
    • Rear audio control
    • Rear seat audio controls
    • Rear seat side airbags
    • Rear Seat Entertainment System with rear Blu-ray DVD player, power nine-inch screen and wireless headphones

    So you don't have to get it at all.

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    I don't think the government told Lexus do to that. There is no law against bench seats.

    Nope, just very little market demand. I like the look and colors of the interior....that new front end, though...

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    i sort of like the LS now aside from the weird grille. I do think the LS ES and GS have improved and i sort of really enjoy the new horizontal interiors actually. Would I buy one? No, but at the same time, the LS almost seems nicer to me than a 7 series. The A7 has a bitchen exterior but a predictable interior. I really do think the Lexus cars have improved and while still dull they are not complete snores like they were a few short years ago.

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    Ugly grille, and all they did in the back was flip the tail lights upside down. Underpowered as well, I think this car is about to get left in the dust by the European big sedans. The Europeans have more fuel economy and more power to offer.

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    I'd take this over a BMW or a MB. I drove the last generation model. My only real complaint was the overboosted steering, which could be considered appropriate for this class of car. I still haven't warmed up to the spindle grille, though this one appears to be a little more better integrated than some of the others. I like the aggressive treatment of the L-Sport.

    I took my IS300 to the dealer this week for service, and it cost less to service than my Silverado, plus the Lexus dealer gives a carwash and a $50,000 loaner Lexus to drive.

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    This is a very nice luxury car, as intended by Lexus for its audience. I have no issues with this car from a features standpoint and the interior looks very nice. The grill is a chrome version of the Predator. That's not good and too undignified for a Lexus. B+, maybe.

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    Looks like the same ol same ol styling with a bizarre grille thrown in. it's funny how companies like Lexus and Toyota an keep 85-90% of there styling the same for 10 years and barely any complaints but when GM comes out with a new Malibu or Silverado that are different the critics pan them for being too similar to the outgoing models.

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