published Saturday, February 2nd, 2013

Test Drive: New Lexus flagship LS sedan is ready to sail

The new Lexus LS 460 is the brand's flagship sedan and includes the new spindle grille, the signature of the line.
Staff photo by Mark Kennedy
The new Lexus LS 460 is the brand's flagship sedan and includes the new spindle grille, the signature of the line. Staff photo by Mark Kennedy

FAST FACTS

Model: Lexus LS 460L

Exterior color: Obsidian

Interior color: Black

Engine: 4.6 liter V-8

Horsepower: 386

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

Fuel economy: 16 mpg city, 24 mpg highway

Dealer: Lexus of Chattanooga

Price (as tested): $99,410

Put an electric razor under a down pillow.

That's approximately the sound of the powerful V-8 engine under the hood of the new Lexus LS 460L luxury sedan.

Press a memory preset on the driver's-side door and an Expresso Ebony wood steering wheel lowers to meet your hands, while sumptuous leather seats whir into motion to tilt your hips into a perfect driving position.

Annoyed by the winter sun that always seems to hang on the horizon in February? Flip a switch on the dash and opaque sunshades glide into place on the rear windows to shield the cabin from glare.

This, friends, is luxury.

Ever since the Lexus brand was introduced in 1989, the big LS sedan has been the showcase for the best of the best from the Japanese car manufacturer.

For 2013, the LS 460L is a significant upgrade from the previous model. It has more adventurous styling, updated electronics and enough safety options to qualify it as a traveling fortress.

If all this sounds good to you, grab your checkbook and get in line. Lexus of Chattanooga sales manager Joe Prebul said the dealership has sold its monthly allotment of 2013s LSs, and customers are placing orders for cars in the pipeline.

By special arrangement, I got to drive the Lexus of Chattanooga company president's LS 460L -- a shimmering Obsidian (black) model that would look right at home at a presidential inauguration parade.

STYLING AND FEATURES

The list of features on the LS 460L is three pages long. Still, the car is more than the sum of its parts.

The pin-drop cabin isolation in the LS 460L is the result of a thousand small decisions by Lexus engineers, such as wind-resistant sheathing on every exposed nut and bolt and hollowed out wheel spokes that don't groan or vibrate when they hit a pothole, explained Larry Holder, Lexus of Chattanooga sales consultant.

Outside, the 2013 LS 460L has the new spindle grille design that is slowly being incorporated into all Lexus models.

To my eye, it spices up the LS, giving it a much more distinctive nose and chin. A new power bulge in the hood also contributes to the 2013 LS's sportier profile, as do the seven-spoke chrome wheels.

Inside, black-on-black surfaces create a stealthy look that should appeal to younger buyers.

A 12.3-inch, high-resolution screen in the middle of the dash is the widest I've ever seen in a production car. It consolidates all the navigation, stereo and heat and air functions into a set of apps, and it's controlled by a computer mouse-like toggle in the middle of the center stack. Other whiz-bang features that flow through the screen include real-time weather radar and road closing news.

The big Lexus has four interior climate zones, two in the front and two in the back. Rear-seat adjustments and temperatures can be controlled from push-buttons on a fold-down arm rest.

DRIVING IMPRESSIONS

A 4.6-liter, 386 horsepower V-8 engine pours out power like liquid velvet. Meanwhile, an 8-speed automatic transmission is so smooth that shifts are literally imperceptible.

On a test drive on Highway 127, driving the LS 460L felt like piloting a cloud. Power delivery is instantaneous -- but almost silent -- and the electronic power steering is perfectly weighted.

There are three driving modes -- eco, normal and sport -- which can dial in more or less throttle response and steering weight, depending on your mood.

Our test car came equipped with a $6,500 safety package that includes a lane-keep assist which lets you know when you cross a line, and even an alarm that sounds if you nod off.

BOTTOM LINE

The LS 460L has a base sticker price of $78,290, and our optioned-out test car carried a list price of $99,410. Fuel economy is rated at 16 mpg city and 24 mpg highway.

If initial sales are any indication of what's to come for the new LS 460L, it appears we might have a new king of the hill.

about Mark Kennedy...

Mark Kennedy is a Times Free Press columnist and editor. He writes the "LIfe Stories" human interest column for the City section and the "Family Life" column for the Life section. He also writes an automotive column, “Test Drive,” for the Business section. For 13 years, Kennedy was features editor of the newspaper, and before that he was the newspaper’s first Sunday editor. The Times Free Press Life section won the state press award for ...

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