As I’m flying over Dubai and Sharjah towards Ras Al Khaimah in a Bell 412 crammed in with 13 other people, I am thinking that helicopter travel isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. The flight is noisy, tight and industrial, completely at odds with the “luxury” experience we were supposed to be having. But damn is it quick. We reached our destination in only 20 minutes, landing at the Banyan Tree resort at the northern tip of the Emirates, having enjoyed a great view and not feeling fatigued at all for the 2013 Lexus LS launch event.
The 2013 Lexus LS 460 looks very much like the outgoing model, but with redesigned front/rear fascias and a completely new interior. There’s two wheelbase sizes, one with longer rear doors than the other. There’s also a new LS 460 F-Sport model with a darker nose and supposedly-sportier suspension tuning, while the LS 600h hybrid flagship returns, more expensive than ever. That’s about it in terms of changes, in a nutshell.
But the changes are actually more extensive than that, even if the engines and other hard bits are essentially the same. That new interior is excellent, covered in acres of leathery surfaces and premium trimmings, very spacious in terms of legroom, and full of new tech that compares favourably against its competitors. For example, Lexus brags of a new “welcome” system where you get a fancy light show as you enter the car, none of which we saw since it was daylight. And a huge BluRay-compatible screen can optionally be had for rear passengers, awkwardly protruding between the two front seats. Also in long-wheelbase models, only the right-side rear seat has full massage and reclining features, leaving other passengers out of luck.
Lexus also particularly highlighted two new features, one that uses sensors to feel each individual passenger’s body temperature and automatically adjusts the four-zone a/c and vented seats accordingly for each, while the other feature is a pre-collision system that brakes to a stop for you if there is an obstacle but only if you’re driving under 40 kph without touching the pedals! Yeah, we’re still trying to figure that one out too.
Finally hitting the road back to Dubai after an upscale lunch, we spent a fair bit of time on straight back-roads, where the LS 460 proved that it is still among the most comfortable luxury sedans on the market, on par with a Bentley Mulsanne, and better than a BMW 7-Series, at least when it comes to a smooth and quiet ride.
Power from the 389 hp 4.6-litre V8 was adequate in our LS 460L, but it does not feel particularly quick, even with an 8-speed to move it. Those looking for a harder kick will have to pony up the money for an LS 600h, though then the F-Sport package is off the table. We never did try the F-Sport though.
We can’t say much about the handling because the roads were largely straight. But while the steering is light and the some body-roll is evident on medium-speed corners, we’re pretty sure it’s a bit harder to induce “Saudi” drifts with the new model than it was with the 2007 model we tested half-a-decade ago.
So is the 2013 Lexus LS just a facelift or a new car? We’d say they’ve done enough to call it a new car, especially with that great new cabin, although we certainly would’ve liked more power after all these years. Still, it’s a very nice car for aging people like me who don’t need to be constantly “challenged” to keep going any more, but rather just prefer to get there in peace.
For prices and specs, visit the Lexus LS buyer guide.