2013 Lexus LS 460L
– Superb ride comfort
– Cabin space and trim
– Build quality
– Very pricey with options
– Handling could be tighter
– Unfriendly gadgetry
The Lexus LS 460 has been completely redesigned for the 2013 model-year. Or rather, that’s what they want you to believe. One look at the new model, and it becomes obvious that it’s just a facelift of the previous version that’s been around since 2007. So experiencing the new LS simply became a game of “spot the differences”.
Externally, the LS gets the new “spindle” corporate grille that is sure to divide opinions among conservative Lexus clientele. Beyond that, there are new headlights, tail lamps and bumpers with enough integrated LEDs to light up a city. Even if its size is daunting, we like the way it looks, although judging by how many times we got cut off by taxi drivers on the road, we think it looks a little too similar to the ES 250 fleet-special now, at least from a distance.
One thing that really has changed completely is the interior. The new cabin consists of suave shapes and expensive trim all over, with supple leather-upholstered seats, every possible surface padded with leatherette, and smatterings of real wood cutting across the dash, doors and centre console.
This tester being the LS 460 L “long-wheelbase” model, space inside is immense, especially in the back, although headroom can become an issue for the tallest of people. The power-adjustable front seats offer moderate bolstering, but a minor unexpected issue is with elbow-room, as there is a big bulge between the front seats that rises up to form a housing for the rear DVD-player screen.
The rear can realistically seat only two, as the central hump on the floor is huge. The two outer seats in the back are big and beefy, with a pull-down a/c control panel between the two. That same cluttered panel houses several massage controls as well, but only the right-side seat has the actual massage functionality as well as the extending footrests and reclining features. The left-side open can only be set to vibrate, whatever good that does. All that machinery means the boot can hold less cargo than even a Toyota Camry. All seats in the car have heating/cooling functions, which can even be set on “auto” in conjunction with the climate-control a/c to maintain a certain temperature. Apparently.
Aside from an over-engineered a/c, other technology includes a joystick-like mouse-controlled multimedia screen that integrates navigation, Bluetooth phone, strong Mark Levinson stereo and some other settings. It’s overly fussy to use while driving, but thankfully, the stereo and a/c have separate buttons below the screen. Further features include a blind-spot monitor, sunroof, HID headlights and foglamps with turning function, smart key, lots of airbags, stability control, adaptive cruise control, and little roof-mounted vanity mirrors for the rear passengers. A rear DVD screen is controlled using a remote control.
Adding to the convoluted list of tech, the rear camera makes you click on “agree” on a legal message before it turns on in reverse gear. And you can’t unlock the doors with the remote key from the outside if the engine is on, in case you want to take something out while waiting on the side of the road. It doesn’t even have a heads-up display like the cheaper GS 350 does.
The engine has changed little from the previous model, powering on with a direct-injection 4.6-litre V8 that makes 389 hp at 6400 rpm and 493 Nm of torque at 4100 rpm. It still has that ground-breaking 8-speed automatic from five years ago, but otherwise, there isn’t much to talk about here, at a time when both Mercedes-Benz and BMW have moved on to turbocharged motors. Acceleration is adequate, as we got 7.3 seconds in our 0-100 kph test in cool December weather, while managing a reasonable 15.4 litres/100 km fuel consumption.
The big Lexus still does what it was meant to do, which is transport people in the utmost comfort. Outside noises are kept to a minimum, dead-silent up to 100 kph, with some wind rush noticeable as highway speeds creep up to 120 kph. With 19-inch alloys wrapped in 245/45 rubbers, it rides as smooth as the modern low-profile tyres will allow, which is to say the occasional jitter may make it through, but it matches a Bentley Mulsanne easily.
The version we drove came with height-adjustable air suspension, and therefore the rear never sits low if loaded with passengers and cargo. However, benefits to the handling are only partial.
Body roll is very noticeable on sharper turns, and switching to any of the “sport” modes does little to tighten up the soft handling. We do feel the electronic suspension artificially cancelling out any rebound once the turn ends and the steering is straightened out, so the car never feels like it will bounce off the road like the original 1990 Lexus LS used to. The light steering offers little feedback and there is a minor delay in responding to tiptronic gear inputs, so the LS isn’t the best car to hustle in anyway. The brakes are pretty good at hauling down its 1,944-kilo weight.
The Lexus LS is a traditional luxury car in a new suit. Strip away some of the ill-conceived gadgetry, and what you get is a Bentley-grade cruiser that will get you from the mansion to the business meeting in the utmost comfort. We actually quite enjoyed wafting around town in peace, completely ignoring the annoying technology that dotted the beautiful new interior. As such, if you want a big Lexus, we’d recommend you save your money and just buy the base LS model, because you won’t miss the gadgets.
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