Lexus takes the LS sedan very seriously. For Japanese automotive workers, a position on the dedicated LS production line at Toyota’s Tahara factory is considered an extraordinary privilege. Splendid, supremely quiet, and legendarily dependable, the car is the halo vehicle not only for Toyota’s 23-year-old luxury brand, but for Toyota itself. So it’s no surprise that Lexus approaches updates to the LS with the care of a surgeon and the eye of an artist.
For 2013, Lexus has comprehensively revised its flagship sedan, giving the car a bumper-to-bumper makeover (notably a dramatic spindle grille opening) and a host of under-the-skin upgrades designed to amplify its traditional virtues and introduce a few new ones. Dominated by a bright new 12.3-inch central display for the navigation, audio, and vehicle systems, the interior has been elegantly revised—made more “driver focused,” says Lexus.
The standard LS 460 and the extended-wheelbase LS 460 L, with rear- or all-wheel drive, employ the marque’s familiar normally aspirated 4.6-liter V-8 engine. Subtle revisions have unbridled an additional six horsepower, bringing the total to 386 hp (359 with all-wheel drive) and 367 ft lbs of torque. Lexus claims the car will waft from 0 to 60 mph in a brisk 5.4 seconds, on its way to an electronically limited 130 mph top speed.
The gasoline-electric hybrid LS 600h L makes use of a normally aspirated 5.0-liter V-8 producing 389 hp and 385 ft lbs of torque. Abetted by a pair of electric motors powered by nickel–metal hydride battery packs, the power train delivers a healthy 438 total combined horsepower, sufficient to deliver the all-wheel-drive LS 600h L to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds, yet return an admirable 20 mpg overall (1 mpg better than the standard LS 460).
The 2013 model year marks the debut of the athletically inclined LS 460 F Sport, also offered in rear- and all-wheel drive. Lowered by close to half an inch, the hunkered-down F Sport benefits from a sportier state of tune for its air suspension and 19-inch forged alloy wheels that reveal Brembo brake calipers. Although the engine is unchanged from the standard LS 460, the F Sport rear-wheel-drive model gets a Torsen limited-slip differential to make a bit better use of its 386 horses. The driver’s environment presents thickly bolstered bucket seats, steering-wheel-mounted transmission paddles, and aluminum trim in place of wood veneer.
Lexus hasn’t released pricing for the seven-model 2013 LS lineup, which goes on sale next spring, but expect the new models to modestly top the 2012 cars’ starting figures, which range from $68,525 for the LS 460 to $113,645 for the LS 600h L. (www.lexus.com)