By Keith Griffin
It’s a beautiful day outside of Tucson, Ariz., and luxury abounds at The Ritz Carlton Dove Mountain. A bevy of Lexus LS models sit in a parking lot just waiting to be driven and evaluated.
For 2013, the line-up includes the LS 460, LS 460L, LS 600hL hybrid, and the first-ever LS 460 F SPORT. LS 460 and LS 460L are available in rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive. The LS Hybrid is available with a full-time all-wheel drive system.
They range in price from $71,990 for the base model (and it seems almost insulting to call it that) all the way up to $119,910 for the LS 600hL hybrid, which is rightly called (at least by me) the Mack Daddy of the Go Green movement.
Theoretically, the LS 460 F Sport, which is offered for the first time, should have been the car that wowed me the most among this stable. It has a more aggressive exterior with a unique sport interior featuring F Sport seats with larger bolsters, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with paddle shifters and genuine aluminum trim, a sport-tuned air suspension that’s been lowered and six-piston caliper brakes.
The opulence of the LS 600hL hybrid also should have wowed me the most if for nothing more than its executive option package in the rear seat. It provides the best massage I’ve received since, well, never. The reclining seat is really not practical for anybody over 5’6″ but the rest of the options, including rear screens and audio controls, have just the right level of opulence.
But it all comes down to the old Rolls-Royce vs. Bentley debate. Rolls-Royce owners like to be driven and Bentley owners like to drive. Consider the LS Hybrid the Rolls-Royce of the family and the LS 460 the Bentley.
OK, maybe the LS doesn’t drive exactly like a Bentley but it comes pretty darn close. Its advanced suspension system simply swallows up bumps and dips. My driving partner and I intentionally hit a couple hard to see how the touted suspension would respond. The car landed, went down and just stopped after going up. There was no jounce in the suspension. As Lexus explained, “Pitch and bounce control have been enhanced by adopting new frequency dependent shock absorbers, resulting in an even flatter, road-hugging ride.” It’s just hard to beat.
Safety enhancements include an advanced Pre-Collision Safety (A-PCS) system with collision avoidance assist. This system, available as an option, is designed to assist the driver in avoiding or reducing collision impacts with vehicles and pedestrians under a wide range of city and highway speeds. At speeds lower than 24 miles per hour, this technology helps the LS to avoid accidents by automatically bringing the LS to a full stop.
Fortunately it’s not a system I need to use during driving around rural Tucson. However, such systems are already available on Volvo models and, for the most part, are working well. (There have been some tests where the system has failed.) Don’t consider the A-PCS a license to ignore your surroundings while driving. You still need to pay attention. Stop texting and drive, especially because it only works up to 24 mph. Over that and you’re going to hit what’s in front of you – just not as hard as normal.
New to LS, the Blind Spot Monitor uses rear millimeter-wave radar to monitor the vehicle rear side blind spots at 10 miles per hour or more. This feature includes Rear Cross Traffic Alert, which automatically operates when the vehicle is in reverse, alerting drivers to the approach of other vehicles when backing out of a parking place. The traffic alert is one of the single best uses of technology I’ve seen on a car in a long time. Don’t leave home without it, especially if you spend lots of time in mall parking lots.
The Lexus LS family has been derided in the past for being a soft-riding luxury vehicle lacking in sportiness. The LS 460 F Sport is the response to that. However, it’s still the base LS 460 that I enjoyed driving most around the outskirts of Tucson. It handled the best of the models I drove and had just the right amount of acceleration to it. The LS 460 drives like a much more compact sedan than its 200-inch length would suggest.
Opt for it and you won’t be disappointed. Sure, you may not feel as environmentally correct, but you’ll also have a lot more money in your pocket.
(For the latest new car news, follow me on Twitter at aboutusedcars. You can also learn about buying and selling a used car at UsedCars.About.com.)
- Wheelbase: 116.9 inches (LS 600hL 121.9 inches)
- Length: 200.0 inches (LS 600hL 205.0 inches)
- Width: 73.8 inches
- Height: 58.1 (F Sport 57.3 inches)
- Curb weight: 4233-4894
- Engine: 4.6-liter, V8
- Horsepower: 386 hp @ 6,400 rpm
- Torque: 367 lb.-ft. @ 4,100 rpm
- EPA estimated mpg city/highway: 16/24
- Base price: $71,990
- As-tested price: $119,910
- Also consider: (a comparative vehicle) Mercedes-Benz S Class, Audi A8, Hyundai Equus