2013 LS 600h New Car Test Drive
The Lexus LS lineup has been completely redesigned for the 2013 model year. The all-new 2013 Lexus LS uses the same powertrain that it's been using since 2006, a sweet and silky all-aluminum 4.6-liter V8 now making 386 horsepower, mated to the world's first (in 2007) 8-speed automatic transmission. Lexus calls it VVT-iE, for Variable Valve Timing with intelligence and Electronically controlled intake. The LS 460 gets an EPA-estimated 16/24 mpg City/Highway.
Also redesigned is the 2013 Lexus LS 600hL hybrid, a long-wheelbase model that uses a 5.0-liter V8 mated to a pair of electric motors and an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission. We found it incredibly smooth and, with its huge electric torque, it will accelerate nearly as fast as the new 2013 LS 460, even though the hybrid is a lot heavier. The hybrid is considerably more expensive, however, and it gets an EPA-estimated 19 mpg City, so don't buy it for the gas mileage. The hybrid is very clean, though, earning a ULEVII emissions rating from the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
Lexus claims 15 technology firsts for the 2013 LS, with 50 percent of its parts being totally changed from the previous model. Styling-wise, the new spindle grille is striking, like stacked trapezoids, and with the F Sport model the grille looks hot with black mesh. The hood carries a bold narrow bulge, and the front lights are available with LED bulbs that change the car's character at night. Air intakes in the low front fascia are aggressive on the F Sport.
LS 460 buyers who want a serious luxury car will need to pay extra for the optional air suspension with variable gear ratio steering. The LS 460 didn't feel like a serious luxury car to us without this option.
The LS 460 is 7.2 inches longer than the BMW 640i, on a wheelbase that's 4.5 inches longer, but doesn't look it or feel it; the BMW looks longer because it has a longer hood and sleeker roofline that's about 6 inches lower. The Lexus does have a shapely roofline, sweeping to the rear deck, under which there are twin trapezoidal pipes that suggest power. The trim on all models of the LS 460 is chrome, from rockers to door handles and beyond, and we wish it weren't so, we wish body color trim was available.
The LS 460L is five inches longer than the standard LS 460, although you can scarcely tell, until you look closely at the rear doors. We found the back seat of the LS 460L much roomier than that of the standard model, much more so than the specifications suggest.
The seats are substantially improved over those in the previous version, and the climate control is more sophisticated to a fault. A broad selection of wood interior trim or aluminum trim is available. The steering wheel is nice and thick and the instruments are clean and beautiful. A super-wide display screen is mounted high on the dash near eye level for controlling navigation, audio, phone, entertainment and it's easy to read, even in bright sunlight. The Remote Touch Interface, like a computer mouse, controls things quickly and intuitively. The aluminum knobs are clean, simple, easy to reach and easy to operate. The ambient interior lighting is totally adjustable. There are great soft spots for both elbows for the driver. The knees also contact soft places, by careful design.
The LS460 F Sport model has the best comfort, speed, handling, looks and fun. Besides more seat bolstering and a black spindle grille, it comes with more powerful six-piston Brembo brakes, but engine power is the same.
The LS 460 AWD all-wheel-drive model is slower, being 418 pounds heavier and having 26 less horsepower thanks to a different exhaust system. Its all-season tires don't grip in the summer like the summer tires on the LS 460 or F Sport do.
We found the LS delivered a superb ride and impeccable silence. Advancements in sound isolation minimize wind noise while other innovations reduce road noise.
Five dynamic modes are available to adjust ride and handling and other dynamics. The 8-speed automatic doesn't perform as sharply as the transmission in the German cars do, however.
Dazzling electronic features, some of them optional, include Night Vision that can spot a pedestrian (but not a deer) beyond the range of the headlights, and apply the brakes automatically and stop the car in time if the speed is 25 mph or below.
The 2013 Lexus LS line-up includes seven models: the LS 460 with rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, the long-wheelbase LS 460L, the sportier LS 460 F Sport, and the LS 600hL hybrid. The non-hybrids all use the 4.6-liter V8 and 8-speed automatic transmission. The V8 makes 386 horsepower with rear-wheel drive, 360 hp with all-wheel drive. The hybrid is a 5.0-liter V8 mated to a pair of electric motors and an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission. Standard equipment is everything you would expect from a Lexus. Pricing was not available when tested.
The LS 460 and LS 460 AWD come standard with a coil spring rear suspension with electric power steering and three driving modes. The F Sport adds the air suspension with variable gear ratio steering, which is available as a package for the standard LS 460, and five modes. The F Sport gets a distinctive grille, bolstered seats, bigger brakes, and sharper shifting.