First Look: 2013 Lexus LS Gets New Style, New Features, Same Engines
Recession, schmesession. Product cycles know no boundaries, and international competition is the toughest it has ever been, so luxury manufacturers are rolling out their wares as fast as they can. We've already gotten a look at the updated 2013 BMW 7 Series, and it's getting harder and harder to keep the wraps on the 2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Class. But not all the action is out of Munich and Stuttgart. Japan is in the game, and today we finally got our first official look and information on the new 2013 Lexus LS. What's New The 2013 Lexus LS boasts new styling inside and out, bringing it in line with the newly redesigned 2013 Lexus GS sport sedan. The changes are most obvious from the front, which sports the new Lexus "spindle" grille. It dominates the front end, appearing more menacing than it does on other Lexus vehicles that sport the look, if for no other reason than it's so BIG. The rear end is more subtle by far, and in fact borrows more than a little from the BMW 7 Series. Still, neat details abound. For example, there's the cool LED strip that underscores the new headlights, and follows the same contour as the "L" of the Lexus logo. Lexus stylists tend to hide the logo all over the vehicle; we're sure there are more. But, like the GS, the rest of the car's styling is surprisingly conventional. The profile, in particular, bears a close resemblance to the current-generation LS. That's for good reason. For all the "all-new" rhetoric you're about to hear about the new LS, this is in fact not an all-new car, but a significant update to the current vehicle. In other words, many of the "hard points" that make up a vehicle are the same—most dimensions between the two are nearly identical—but Lexus has made significant revisions and updates to the underlying chassis, and what attaches to those hard points, to make a significantly different vehicle. The 2013 Lexus LS model that will make the most of the improved and stiffer structure will be the LS 460 F Sport. This overtly sporty model will offer up all the luxury Lexus can muster, plus an added dash of sport. The new model promises to go beyond the Sport package that the current and previous LS models have been available with, offering adjustable air suspension for different combinations of ride and handling prowess, bigger brakes, a lowered suspension, and other performance tricks. If it mimics the system that's in the new GS, the LS F Sport could have some serious moves up its sleeve. Inside is an all-new interior that promises to up the luxury and technology of the Lexus flagship to the same levels as its German competitors. LED accent lighting is used throughout, the interior is of course swaddled in leather, and there's a huge array of new technological tricks. A huge 12.3-inch screen dominates the upper portion of the dash, and is controlled by a second-generation version of the Lexus Remote Touch Interface (RTI), a mouse-like device used to operate the various functions. The 2013 Lexus LS also gets the latest Enform application technology, which integrates with the owner's smartphone for functions such as Pandora, iHeartRadio, Yelp and even Facebook. Engines and Drivetrains Surprisingly, the engines available in the 2013 Lexus LS are all-too familiar. The LS 460 and LS 460 L—the "L" model offers more rear seat room—both sport what is essentially the same 4.6-liter V-8 engine as the current-generation car. Now putting out 386 horsespower, it boasts a 6 hp improvement over last year; all-wheel drive models get a version that puts out 360 hp. The all-wheel-drive only Lexus LS 600h L hybrid also returns for the 2013 model year. While never a big seller (or fuel sipper for that matter), the high-horsepower hybrid is the flagship to the flagship. However, it too makes do with a very familiar-sounding drivetrain: a 5.0-liter V-8 and dual electric motors that combine for a total of 438 hp, exactly the same as the current model. While it's possible the engines could have been revised significantly for better torque delivery, for example, or better fuel economy, the fact that very little about the engines gets mentioned in the materials Lexus provided tells us that there's a lot of carryover going on here. However, it should be noted that both the standard V-8 and the hybrid are only slightly down on power and overall still competitive within their respective segments. Safety and Technology One area where the current-generation LS feels notably behind its competitors is in the area of safety technology. The new LS remedies that with a slew of new and updated systems that not only keep up with the German Jonses, but enhance the new LS's safety in the process. Active cruise control is nothing new for the LS; it's been an option on the car for years. But the 2013 Lexus LS advances the art by operating at any speed, bringing the car to a complete halt in traffic, and starting again when traffic breaks. The blind spot monitoring system adds rear cross-traffic alert to let you know when a vehicle may cross your path as you reverse out of a parking spot. A new pre-collision safety system not only monitors for vehicles, but can also detect pedestrians; if you're going less than 24 mph the LS will even stop for you. Inside, Lexus advances its long-held reputation for quiet cruising with a number of sound deadening advances, not the least of which are wheels specially designed to help quell road noise. The seats have been redesigned for greater comfort, and with improved cooling and heating functions. An available feature called Climate Concierge takes automatic climate control to the next level. Lexus says it uses multiple sensors to automatically regulate the cabin climate control, the seats, and even the heated steering wheel to get each passenger (including rear seat riders) to their desired temperature as soon as possible. Like its GS cousin, the 2013 Lexus LS will feature a Drive Mode Select knob that allows the driver to choose between three settings—Eco, Normal and Sport—for different driving conditions; if your LS has the optional air suspension, you can add Comfort and Sport+ settings to the mix. Our Thoughts When we drove the current-generation 2012 Lexus LS 460 earlier this year, we thought it was still a solid and comfortable luxury sedan, but one that fell short of the new standard set by competitors such as BMW and Audi. Clearly, with its technological upgrades, expressive styling, and sumptuous new interior, Lexus has been watching the competition. Our biggest concern with the 2013 Lexus LS is the carryover engines, which offer virtually no power benefit over the current generation. But we'll know soon enough if it makes a difference out on the road, when we drive the LS for the first time in the coming weeks. Stay tuned.
"For Audi, Copenhagen was the logical choice," Audi's spokesperson tells me.