July 24, 2014

2013 Lexus LS 460: Improved handling, great interior

2013 Lexus LS 460

The rap on Japanese luxury cars is that they aren’t nearly as fun to drive as their European counterparts. If you want a dose of athleticism with your luxury, check out BMW, Jaguar and Mercedes-Benz. If a velvety ride, tomb-like silence and bulletproof reliability are your thing, test-drive a big Lexus or Infiniti.

How about a full-sized Lexus that evokes all those test-drive words – nimble, agile, athletic? Corners like it’s on rails? Has an adjustable suspension that can deliver comfort, normal or sporty performance? Yes it’s here, in the form of the redesigned 2013 LS 460.

Competitively priced against the Audi A8, BMW 7 Series, Jaguar XJ, Lexus’ flagship sedan is less sticker-shocking than the class of this category, the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. Lexus reveals its confidence in this model by enabling owners to select features like all-wheel drive, extended body length and hybrid drive system.

Our test car was a base LS 460 four-door, all-wheel-drive sedan with about $6,000 worth of safety, comfort and style options that brought the sticker price to $82,010.

The exterior styling is attractive, but other than the boldly shaped grille, it’s fairly conventional. In the cabin, however, designers were given wide latitude. Meticulous stitching keeps the leather trim and upholstery in place. The multi-function screen is enormous. And would you believe a suede ceiling? We did. Don’t worry; it’s a very convincing synthetic material called Alcantara.

The LS 460 is not one of those luxury cars that intimidates drivers and passengers with endless arrays of buttons and switches. The climate-control system is a model of simplicity, and many major systems, including climate, audio and video, can be operated by use of a mouse mounted on the center console. We got the hang of the mouse fairly quickly but thought it was too touchy. The dial-controlled system in many of the European luxury cars has more discernible clicks between functions.

The LS 460’s seats are among the most comfortable we’ve ever experienced. Even the back seat is accommodating. Knee and head room are ample for adult passengers,

Powering this 2.7-ton sedan is a 360-horsepower V-8 engine with a responsive 8-speed automatic transmission. Rear-drive LS 460s are endowed with 386 horsepower. In addition to the extended-length L, which costs $6,300 more than the base LS 460, Lexus offers the 600h, whose 5.0-liter V-8 and electric motors add up to 438 horsepower. But fuel economy is about the same, and the 600h starts at about $120,000.

Our all-wheel drive LS 460 was rated at 16 mpg city, 23 highway. The rear-drive model adds just 1 highway mpg, making all-wheel drive an attractive option, especially in the snow belt.

Not surprisingly, the LS 460 is safe and reliable, with the top rating of “Good” across the board in Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash tests.

Like all LS models before it, the LS 460 pampers its driver and passengers, but thanks to its improved handling, it can be playful, too.

 

Steven Macoy (semacoy@gmail.com) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.

 

Price: $82,010

Engine: 4.6-liter V-8, 360 horsepower, 347 lb.-ft. torque

Transmission: 8-speed shiftable automatic

Drive: all-wheel

Weight: 4,652 lb.

Suspension: Multi-link front and rear

Wheels: 19×8-in. alloy split 7-spoke

Tires: 245/45VR19 all-season

Seating capacity: 5

Luggage capacity: 18 cu. ft.

Fuel capacity: 22.2 gallons

Fuel economy: 16 mpg city, 23 mpg highway

Fuel type: premium unleaded