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2013 Lexus LS Flagship First Look By Steve Purdy

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2013 Lexus LS Sport

The New Lexus Flagship
By Steve Purdy
Michigan Bureau

Rounding out a promise of nine new or significantly redesigned products this year Lexus gave us a preview of the new line of LS large, rear-wheel drive luxury sedans last week in suburban Detroit’s most tony suburb of Birmingham. To be available in hybrid, high-performance, long wheelbase and regular flavors the LS is the flagship for the brand.

Introduced in 1989, this new LS constitutes the fifth generation of the car that is credited with the successful launch of Toyota’s luxury division. It has led quality, dependability and customer service rankings as well as being the best selling full-size luxury car in the U.S. It is an amazing story of a new brand rushing to the top of the heap and staying there.

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This is one of the last Lexus products to get the full-zoot design update characterized by the “spindle” grille treatment and evolutionary advances in just about all other styling elements around the car – sharper character lines, more exaggerated headlight and taillight designs, lots of LED applications, chrome dual exhaust outlets integrated into the lower rear fascia and a slightly more aggressive stance and profile. Anyone who pays even a little attention to cars will not mistake it for any other brand.

Powering all versions of the front- or all-wheel drive LS, except the hybrid, is the carryover 4.6-liter, DOHC V8, modestly upgraded to 386 horsepower and 367 pound-feet of torque, mated to the same 8-speed automatic transmission from the current generation car. The LS 600h (hybrid) makes a combined 438 horsepower with perhaps the most sophisticated CVT on the market.

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Inside we find a whole new design emphasizing a horizontal theme with dramatic ambient and “animated” lighting. One element of the latter is a soft linear light across the right side of the dash that greets the owner as soon as it senses the presence of the smart key. It dances again as the owner leaves – sort of a friendly, active greeting, says the Lexus team. Improved seating surfaces, 4-zone climate controls, a massage function in the rear seats and a Blu-Ray player are among the myriad options. We can select from different wood grains to go with the leather and aluminum trim inside including way-cool bamboo trim on the hybrid model. A lovely, high-resolution 12.3-inch navigation and information screen is managed with the Remote Touch controller we’ve raved about in previous reviews. Lexus is not the only one with this system but certainly one of the best.

More and more driver assist technology finds it way into these cars as well. We can have lane departure control, blind spot monitor, rear cross traffic alert, pre-collision system a step beyond the usual, infrared illumination, dynamic radar cruise control that will bring the car to a full stop when needed and plenty more. All the usual iPod, USB and other connections are included but are way back behind the driver’s elbow where they are difficult to access.

The body structure gets a bit more rigid with more bracing and welds including laser screw welding. More sound deadening makes the already quiet LS even more quiet. Another level of aerodynamic sophistication brings the coefficient of drag down to an amazing 0.26, approaching race car numbers. The efficiency of air movement, of course, makes for better fuel mileage as well as less extraneous noise.

Available air suspension for active damping adjustment can replace the standard coil spring suspension and is standard on some of the LS models. All are equipped with a three-mode adjustment for the car’s parameters (shift points, throttle response, shock damping, etc.) to maximize mileage or performance or best balance. Most dramatic is the throttle response on the “Sport” setting.

Our short drives around the suburbs and lakes of Oakland County gave us a good sense of the car, but a full review will have to wait until we have a chance to spend some serious time and miles with it – probably early next year. Initial impressions, though, are of a car that is among the smoothest, quietest, most sophisticated we’ve driven. While physically large it is surprisingly agile, a bit more gentile than the German luxo-sedans and less sporty than the Jaguar sedans.

Pricing has not been announced but we expect it will be close to that of the outgoing cars.

Watch this space as your TACH reviewers get some serious seat time with the LS range early next year.

Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved