Previous generations of the LS were loved or hated for their somewhat stodgy aesthetic. Some would call them boring; others might say classy. All would, no doubt, agree that the early LS models seemed to echo a bit too closely the German style it wished to displace. No longer is that the case.
The 2013 Lexus LS 460 features a design that is proudly Japanese and notably its own. The L-Finesse design language that has slowly been filtering down from the automaker's concept cars and into production models is in full effect here. The sheet metal seemingly peeling back from the gaping spindle grille has become the automaker's trademark in a manner that Lexus tells us should imply motion, speed, and strength.
For as in-your-face as the spindle grille and LED headlamps with their L-shaped accent/daytime running lamps are, the rest of the LS' design is remarkably subdued. The vehicle features a flowing roofline and a wide stance that gives the large sedan a hunkered-down look that, particularly in photos, hides some of the vehicle's mass. The wide, horizontal tail lamps wrap around the rear end and feature L-shaped LED elements. Meanwhile, the dual exhaust tips integrate into the rear bumper. To use a luxury automotive cliche, the LS looks like it was machined from a solid ingot of metal. This is a very good thing.
If the 1989 LS was a crisply pressed suit and tie, then this new Lexus ditches the tie and opens its top shirt buttons in a cavalier, Richard Branson-esque fashion. Whether you agree with me that 2013 LS 460's aggressive design makes it one of the best-looking vehicles in its class (particularly when outfitted with the F-Sport package, which we'll come back to shortly) or if you think that its gaping maw is overdesigned and tacky is completely subjective. Either way, it's good to see an automaker taking chances with one of its most important nameplates.
There's an engine somewhere in there
Lift the LS' large hood and you'll be greeted by...well, a sea of black plastic shrouds and a silver engine cover. With the exception of the washer fluid filler and the oil cap and dipstick, Lexus has hidden all of the sedan's mechanical bits from the driver. Nothing to see here!
Somewhere beneath the plastic is a 4.6-liter V-8 gasoline engine. Using a combination of port and direct injection that is largely unique to Toyota/Lexus vehicles, this internal combustion engine turns its crank with 367 pound-feet of twisting force and 386 horsepower.
That power flows through an eight-speed automatic transmission on its way to the rear wheels where it is divvied up by an open differential. The LS is available with an optional all-wheel-drive system that can send a portion of that torque to the front axle when needed, but our vehicle was not so equipped -- not that San Francisco's typically mild climate necessitated the additional $2,945 expense.
The EPA estimates that the 2013 Lexus LS 460 will cruise for 16 miles in the city and 24 miles on the highway for every gallon of premium gasoline that its V-8 burns with a combined average of 19 miles per gallon.
The F-Sport package
Lexus' packaging is a bit confusing. There are no fewer than nine "Comfort Packages," six "Ultra Luxury Packages," and seven "LS F Sport Packages" ranging from $3,490 to $16,130. Our LS was equipped with one of the F-Sport Packages with Additional Options -- an all-inclusive deal that adds most of the go-faster and look-sharper options that the automaker offers for the LS in one $15,230 line option.
For about the price of a brand new 2013 Scion iQ, our F-Sport package adds aggressive F-Sport front and rear bumpers, dark inserts for the upper and lower grilles, and 19-inch BBS wheels with all-season tires. Summer or performance tires would be nice as part of this this sport package, but the LS doesn't seem to suffer for the use of all-seasons.
Performance upgrades include a sport-tuned, Adaptive Variable Air Suspension that has a static ride height 10mm lower than stock. The brakes are upgraded with Brembo stoppers while the Electronic Power Steering system gains Variable Gear Ratios. The open differential on the rear axle is replaced with a Torsen torque-sensing limited-slip differential and the automatic gearbox learns to rev-match on its downshifts.
All of these performance upgrades and the existing power-train systems come under the control of a five-setting Drive Mode selector with settings for Eco, Comfort, Normal, Sport, and Sport+.
On the road with five drive modes
Normal is the LS 460's baseline mode. The vehicle's computer attempts to offer a reasonable balance of power, economy, and comfort.
Select the Comfort mode and the suspension softens up for a smoother, more supple ride. Eco mode adjusts the engine's output for maximum efficiency and remaps your throttle inputs to reduce lead-footedness.
Twist the Drive Mode knob to the right and the Lexus transitions into its Sport mode, which adjusts the engine output, transmission shift points, and throttle mapping to maximize responsiveness and power at the expense of a few MPGs. Give the knob another clockwise twist to activate Sport+ mode, which builds on the Sport mode's settings by firming up the adaptive suspension system and adjusting the power steering ratio for better handling and feedback.