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BBC Autos

Joyride

Lexus LS 460L, splendid isolation

About the author

Editor of BBC Autos, Matthew is a former editor at Automobile Magazine and the creator of the digital-only Roadtrip Magazine. His automotive and travel writing has appeared in such magazines as Wired, Popular Science, The Robb Report and Caribbean Travel + Life. He lives in Los Angeles with his wonderful wife and four-year-old daughter.

 

HIDE CAPTION

What superlatives remain, 24 years after the debut of the Lexus LS, to describe the finer features of this famously fine sedan?

“Creamy” and “silken” are played out, as are references to bank vaults, magic carpets and sensory deprivation tanks. Truth told, when it comes to refinement and build quality, the LS name has become superlative in its own right. That said, if supreme isolation from noise, vibration and harshness is not your top road-going priority, the revised-for-2013 LS is bound to anesthetise. The flagship Lexus sedan has never been a particularly engaging drive on more technical roads, and the new model is unlikely to alter that perception.

The tested long-wheelbase LS 460L belied its enormity with brisk acceleration (5.4 seconds to 60mph, claims Lexus). Matched to an eight-speed automatic transmission, the car’s 4.6-litre V8 delivers 386 horsepower and 367 pound-feet of torque (with rear-wheel drive; 360hp and 347lb-ft with the optional all-wheel-drive system – a drop that Lexus attributes to a re-routed exhaust system in AWD models). Braking is quick, confident and fade-free. And handling... Well, the LS doesn’t handle, per se. It changes direction, yes, but it does so with a sort of regal languor. Approach a tight corner too quickly and the big sedan will simply roll its eyes and invite its fastidious stability control system to step in and complete the turning process. Silly driver. The car lopes along twisty roads in a way that feels entirely safe, if not exactly titillating. It is confident, but never hurried.

In fairness, new this year is a more athletically inclined LS, the LS 460 F Sport, which boasts a host of racier exterior and interior trimmings, a lowered suspension, Brembo brakes and 19in forged alloy wheels. The car brings some edginess to the LS’s otherwise downy ride, albeit no additional power.

Back to that regal languor, however: what can be a buzzkill on serpentine back roads is, in fact, the very essence of the LS’s greatness on city streets and open interstates. Particularly in the long-wheelbase model, which is stretched five inches beyond the already ample standard-length LS, pavement imperfections simply cease to exist. You see the pothole coming, and then… nothing. Ditto noise. Calling the LS quiet seems completely insufficient. The LS is not merely quiet, it is six-feet-under quiet; it is deep-space quiet; it is, well, LS quiet. Some cars invite the driver to shut off the stereo to listen to the yowl of the engine or the squealing of the tires. The LS invites its driver to shut off the stereo to listen to nothing. Silence is the novelty, and it is addictive.

Lexus has given the new LS a healthy application of advanced technology — including the 12.3in split-screen, high-definition display that dominates the dashboard – to keep pace with the car’s gadget-laden German rivals. Unlike the Germans, however, whose infotainment systems require intimacy with a labyrinth of menus and sub-menus, the LS setup’s user-friendliness remains above reproach. Of course, the truly tech-inept are welcome to refer to the car’s 1,200-page, multi-volume owner’s manual, a leather-bound bundle so large it is forced to reside in the trunk.

For 2013, the LS lineup has grown to seven models, including the standard- and long-wheelbase LS 460 and LS 460L, and the LS 460 F Sport, all available with rear- or all-wheel drive; and the all-wheel-drive LS 600hL hybrid. Long-wheelbase models offer a four-passenger seating configuration with rear-seat audio- and climate-control hub and a La-Z-Boy-style reclining right-rear seat with built-in Shiatsu massage function. Norma Desmond would approve.

So as it wafts toward its next quarter century, the premier sedan from Toyota’s premier division remains true to its raison d’etre. It is the perfect conveyance for buyers (those who drive and those who are driven) who believe an automobile’s highest calling is to protect its occupants from life’s little imperfections.

Vital stats: 2013 Lexus LS 460L 

  • Base price: $79,185, inclusive of $895 destination fee
  • As tested: $97,585
  • EPA fuel economy: 16mpg city, 24mpg highway
  • Powertrain: 386hp 4.6-litre V8 engine, eight-speed automatic transmission, rear-wheel drive
  • Standard equipment: Full leather interior with wood trim, GPS navigation system, high-intensity discharge headlamps, stability control, power glass moonroof, rear-view camera
  • Major options: Ultra Luxury Package (climate-comfort front and outboard rear seats, four-zone climate control including rear overhead ducts, power rear sunshade, power rear-door sunshades, power-adjustable outboard rear seats with memory, two-way power lumbar support and lumbar massage, power-adjustable outboard rear butterfly headrests, wood-trimmed climate and audio controls in rear-center armrest, rear-seat audio controls, rear-seat air-purification system, rear-seat cool box, power trunk open/close, rear seat-mounted side airbags ($6,870); Mark-Levinson 19-speaker, 450-watt audio system ($1,650); Pre-Collision System & Dynamic Radar Cruise Control ($1,500); blind-spot monitor with cross-traffic alert ($500); Adaptive Variable Suspension with Variable Gear Ratio Steering ($2,120)
Some cars invite the driver to shut off the stereo to listen to the yowl of the engine or the squealing of the tires. The LS invites its driver to shut off the stereo to listen to nothing. Silence is the novelty, and it is addictive.

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