Mountain Wheels: Lexus’ flagship LS460 sets its sights even higher
October 20, 2012
Way back in 1989, the Lexus experience began with the flagship LS model – Toyota’s first attempt at an upscale product designed to beat the Europeans at the luxury game.
In the years that have followed, Lexus became a euphemism for high-class motoring, inspiring the other Japanese (and Korean) automaker to shoot for the stars.
And the LS remains at the top of the heap, doing stuff that the Audi A8, Mercedes S-class and BMW 7-series autos can (and cannot) do – and beating the pants off its Far Eastern competition.
For 2013, the LS flagship – available in variations of regular 4.6-liter V8 engines and a further-improved 5.0-liter V8 hybrid – seeks to regain some of that past splendor, as the Lexus allure has waned a bit in recent years.
To that end, the LS now incorporates the considerably more aggressive nose and body styling that’s been introduced across the line, including a spindle grille and a widened rear stance.
The electronics, as one might expect, continue to shoot for the moon, with available systems ranging from a 19-speaker Mark Levinson audiophile system to a rear-seat Blu-Ray video display.
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The car no longer parks itself – even Ford has gotten into that gimmick – though the new LSes feature the company’s own variation on the advanced crash prevention systems debuting throughout the industry. Lexus’ stereo camera and infrared sensors scan the road for pedestrians and traffic, even in the dark, and will fully engage the brakes in an emergency, up to about 24 miles per hour.
Through and through, LS is aimed at a tony audience who are seeking the best you can get in a powerful, luxurious and both front- and especially-rear passenger-comfortable fashion. They’re also available, universally, with full-time AWD.
Despite some considerable weight (the fully loaded hybrid clocks in at about 5,200 pounds), all variations of the LS are juiced up with lots and lots of horsepower – and there’s even an F-Sport model, with 19-inch wheels, a stylized grille and a lower stance, plus highly bolstered seats and even Brembo brakes. Though, in LS’s typical showy-but-not-showy style, they aren’t marked with red Brembo signs.
The F-Sport, like all of the other Lexus F-Sports, doesn’t actually get any extra power, though the 386 horsepower generated by the regular gas engine system is pretty impressive for a big car like this. The hybrid’s even more powerful, making 438 combined HP through an engine, battery and two-electric-motor system.
And it is indeed a big car, which you’ll never forget. We were turned loose on the roads around Tucson’s Saguaro National Park and while the machine is indeed as deadly silent and massively comfortable as possible (an optional five-mode air suspension system cushioning things even further), when you stick it more than a little aggressively into a corner or over a dip in the road, you notice the largesse.
Lexus is not ashamed to admit that the executive cruiser – actually, executive transport – role is at the forefront with the LS. Overseas, the car is kind of positioned like the ultimate version of the Lincoln Town Car, with a back seat that can be outfitted more like a Lear Jet than an automobile.
We discovered part of the apparent target market – those Russian bazillionaires – with the Russian instructions on the real-wood table that pops out of the top of the James Bond-worthy rear audio/video/shiatsu massage control panel (yes, really, shiatsu massage controls). Those rear seats also recline and feature powered lower-leg ottoman controls, making it the ultimate four-wheel La-Z-Boy, for two very special rear passengers.
Of course the rest of the car is replete with fine detail, as well, from the wood laminate on the wheel and cabin trim that requires 67 processes over 37 days to craft to Lexus standards.
The two-level dash system, first seen on the GS and ES, reappears in the LS, with a gigantic 12.3-inch video screen mid-dash. That much screen is a lot to take in, but it can now be split into three segments, offering simultaneous navigation, audio and information controls, controlled by a second-generation version of the Lexus joystick control.
And even the climate system is fully automatic – I mean, really automatic, so much so that it will adjust the temperatures of all four seats to match the ambient conditions. The analog-styled digital readouts, which roll over like the numbers at an old gas pump, are a cool added detail.