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.