Auto review: Lexus LS 460 Can?t Keep up with Segment

Lexus SedanThe 2013 Lexus LS 460 AWD F Sport is the best-looking and most responsive version of Lexus? flagship sedan yet. Surprisingly low power and fuel economy keep it from threatening the world?s best luxury sedans, however.

The sedan showcases Lexus? new design theme with a big trapezoidal grille, LED running lights and elegant lines. The attractive F-Sport package includes 19-inch, 10-spoke wheels; grille inserts; and a lowered suspension.

Prices for the 2013 Lexus LS 460 start at $71,990 for a rear-drive, short-wheelbase version. Non-hybrid versions of the LS have a 386-horsepower 4.6-liter V-8 engine. The engine is detuned to 360 horsepower for all-wheel drive models, which start at $74,935. All LS models but the hybrid use an eight-speed automatic transmission.

The LS 460 L long-wheelbase model is 5 inches longer than the 200-inch-long base car. Prices start at $78,290 for rear-drive and $81,775 for AWD.

The hybrid LS 600h L comes with AWD, the long wheelbase, continuously variable automatic transmission and a 5.0-liter V-8 and electric motor that produce a total of 438 horsepower. Prices start at $119,910.

I tested an LS 460 AWD that cost $87,134. It had the F Sport package, 19-speaker Mark Levinson audio system, navigation, voice recognition, Bluetooth compatibility and a big 12.3-inch screen. All prices exclude destination charges.

The LS 460 AWD competes with big luxury sedans like the Audi A8 4.0T Quattro, BMW 750i xDrive, Jaguar XJ AWD, Mercedes-Benz S550 4Matic and Porsche Panamera 4S.

It?s less expensive than comparably equipped models from BMW, Mercedes and Porsche. The Audi and Jag cost less, though the short-wheelbase Jag only comes with a 340-horsepower supercharged V6 engine that?s less powerful than the LS 460?s V-8.

That?s the only one of the competitive engines that trails the Lexus, however. Neither power nor fuel efficiency is the LS 460 AWD?s strong suit.

The 360-horsepower V-8 trails the German competitors by 40 to 85 horsepower, and the LS uses more fuel than all the competitors except the aged S550, which will be replaced by a new car this fall.

The LS 460 AWD?s EPA rating is an unimpressive 16 mpg city, 23 highway and 18 combined. The combined figure is 1-3 mpg lower than the Audi, BMW, Jag and Porsche. The LS 460 AWD?s 0-60 mph time trails the A8, 750i, Panamera and S550.

Lexus? eight-speed transmission has improved immensely from its early days, when it hunted restlessly from one gear to another. Shifts are now quick and nearly imperceptible. The gearbox selects the appropriate gearing and sticks with it.

The Lexus? handling is fine for a big, heavy car. The steering is direct and provides some feedback in the driver-selectable sport modes. The F Sport?s adaptive air suspension absorbs bumps for a comfortable ride.

The interior is handsome and restrained. Soft leather covers nearly every surface. Wood and aluminum trim attractively lightened the all-black interior of the car I tested. The center console and doors provide plenty of storage. The seats are supportive and comfortable. Luggage space trumps all competitors but the hatchback Panamera.

Lexus? Enform connectivity system uses your smartphone for access to Internet services like Bing, Pandora Internet radio, Facebook Places and other services.

It performs well, but you have to download an app and register with Lexus to use the system. That?s more than other automakers? systems require.

The LS? voice recognition works well for phone calls and to set destinations for the navigation system. It doesn?t respond to the command ?Cancel,? however. That?s an odd oversight.

A joystick near the shifter on the center console controls the navigation, climate, audio, systems and more. It?s difficult and distracting to use in a moving vehicle. Lexus would be better off using a touch screen with big icons. Only the presence of secondary controls for some functions saves the joystick from being a complete disaster.

Despite that, the 2013 LS 460 AWD F-Sport is a luxurious and accommodating sedan. While it lacks any technical or performance advantage over its European competitors, its looks, classy interior and reputation for service and quality should please its owners.


?Engine: 4.6-liter direct-injected DOHC variable-timing 32-valve V-8

?Power: 360 horsepower at 6,400 rpm; 347 pound-feet of torque at 4,100 rpm

?Transmission: Eight-speed automatic

?EPA fuel economy rating: 16 mpg city/23 highway/18 combined. Premium fuel.

?Base price: $71,990

?Price as tested: $87,134

?Rating: Three out of four stars

?Reasons to buy: Styling, interior materials, all-wheel drive, trunk size, reputation for quality and service

?Shortcomings: Fuel economy, power, balky controls, weight

All prices exclude destination charges.

Source: MCT Information Services