2013 Lexus LS460, LS460 F-Sport and LS600h: Motoramic Drives

August 13, 2012

I have a heavy right foot, and my fair share of speeding tickets to prove it. A number of my acquaintances' have even had to do the online driving course by way of punishment for their lead legs. If you fit in this category, fear not, because during a recent trip through the redwoods of California, I developed a solution: Buy a Lexus LS.

This is not to say the new 2013 Lexus LS lineup is slow. Rather the entire model range has a way of gently suggesting you drive like the gentleman that you are. If you attempt to depress the accelerator too aggressively, the car responds by insinuating, "Are you sure you want to do that?" It proposes you rethink the decision, by reinforcing that going 45 mph will get you there in plenty of time and comfortably so. And it becomes impossible to resist the car's suggestive charm.

The LS Series is Lexus' flagship lineup, but needed a full refresh to stay competitive. Lexus cars' have always been luxurious, precise and sleep-inducing, as sporting as your grandfather's rocking chair, which is why the average LS buyer is 62 years old. Lexus has vowed that the new LS Series shall not be your grandpa's Lexus, by offering a driving experience powerful enough to correspond with its notorious attention to detail.

While not a clean-sheet update, Lexus says 3,000 of the 6,000 parts in the LS series -- regular and long wheelbase, F-Sport edition and hybrid -- have been redone. The exterior makeover is prominent and provides all models with a more modern and aggressive pose - most noticeably with the new spindle grille. The rear end is more muscular and the interior has been refined with a cleaner, more efficient center console - equipped with a 12.3-inch multimedia display and haptic joystick controller knob. A beautiful new wood finish joins the collection, named Shimamoku. It's a work of art created over 38 days with 67 different processes. In general, I'm not a fan of wood in cars, but this level of craftsmanship is truly stunning.

Let's start at the top with the LS600h, where the 5-liter V8 paired with a hybrid system advertises 438 hp and 385 ft.-lbs of torque. The 600h L boasts massaging rear seats and about every toy one could dream up. But what's most impressive is that with this car Lexus have inadvertently invented the world's first time travel machine. Sit behind the wheel of the preposterously large sedan for too long and you are immediately teleported forward in time to the age of 70. I dawdled along fighting the urge to plot a route for Florida and eat dinner at 5 p.m.

But before things went too far, and I began searching the Pandora app on the multimedia system for Pat Boone, I switched to the LS 460 F-Sport. This machine has paddle shifts meshed to its 8-speed automatic transmission and even a Torsen limited-slip differential, good for a 0-to-60 mph time of 5.4 seconds. I soon realized this Lexus was good only for putting the "sport" in "sport coat."

The cabin was intentionally less luxurious, but it didn't evoke feelings of speed and performance. The gearshifts were slow and it still drove in the same "easy does it" manner. And with the same powertrain as the other LS460's, I couldn't figure out why Lexus had bothered with the F Sport.

So I pulled up at the clinically sophisticated Four Seasons hotel to try my hand at the standard LS460. And it was here that things began to fall in to place.

The 460L AWD I drove produced all of the luxuries one would expect from a Lexus, but felt a touch more in line with a younger demographic -- someone about a decade younger than the typical LS customer. It still feels soft and squishy, like a water mattress and, despite solid numbers, it doesn't feel that quick. But I didn't care. I felt affluent, with a sense of class that I most certainly don't deserve (and didn't feel in the F Sport, or even 600h L).

Lexus haven't quite achieved what they set out to do with the new LS Series. The 600h L makes you feel ancient and the F Sport just leaves you confused. But the 460 worked in a way Lexus hadn't necessarily intend. Pricing won't be released for about 60 days, but with the LS Series' more striking exterior and technologically advanced level of luxury, it now attracts the right demographic. But it does so without needing to boast about performance figures, and lateral G loads.

I never once felt the desire to plant my right foot, or create hooligan-quality tire squeal when dashing around the curvy Palo Alto mountain roads. A Lexus driver is a gentleman who would never dream of such a thing. If I drove a Lexus LS, the cops would never bother me again.