Not every luxury sedan must mimic BMW. No doubt that’s the rationale behind the 2013 Lexus LS460. The LS460 could equally have been named “the un-Bimmer” because it is designed to appeal to a very different audience. The German carmaker, despite its advanced technology and well-appointed if not cushy interiors, still has a persona honed on the autobahn, while the Lexus focuses more heavily on what was once called a “boulevard ride.”
That’s to say that the 2013 has a very soft and compliant ride, part of an overall decompression chamber role of the base $74,935 Lexus LS, not a way of cranking up to another level. The result, however, is a noticeable floatiness that even passengers commented on. Pushed into a corner, the Lexus didn’t quite know what to do with itself. Steering is soft, the seats are soft, the leather is soft (semi-aniline leather, $550 option), and interior noise is, well, perhaps it could be called soft as well because the Lexus LS460 maintains the—to use the cliché always applied to Lexus LS models—bank vault interior noise level for which the LS model is famous.
An exception to the silent treatment is the LX460 at full throttle. The Lexus’ V-8 comes with an “intake sound generator” that directs a deep throaty sound into the cabin to emphasize the performance of the 360 horsepower luxury car. Our LX460 was equipped with all-wheel drive, however, so didn’t have the 386 horsepower of the rear-wheel drive LX. What difference does it make, as the Secretary of State might say? The rear-drive LS460 does 0-60 mph in 5.4 seconds, the all-wheel drive version takes a half second longer. Decisions, decisions. You know where you drive.
The Lexus LS460, naturally, shares its basic configuration with the other Lexus LS models, though the Lexus LS460 F Sport has a non-floaty suspension with variable settings for throttle and suspension settings, and the LS600 f is a hybrid with a long wheelbase and primo limo-like rear seat accommodations. Our tester was the standard model, optioned up to $82,000 model. Some people just have to make do. There is, by the way, a 460 L model, the suffix meaning it’s five inches longer with five inches more wheelbase, with all the added inches going into back seat leg room, for those who want to pretend to be limousine driver, or who actually are.
The back seat of the standard length model isn’t what one would consider cramped, however, and there are buttons on the side of the front passenger-side that can tilt the seatback and slide the seat forward to add backseat room, and the back seat armrest folds down for buttons that control the rear seat bun warmers and raise and lower the rear window screen, the latter items part of a $2,090 package that also includes heated/cooled front seats and power trunk lid.
An anomaly, we think, is a button on the steering wheel to engage the hill holder function of the Lexus LS460. It works automatically in every other vehicle we driven that has this feature.
Our test LS460 included optional 19-inch alloy wheels, at $1,100 per the four, and a $1,580 Mark Levinson 18-speaker audio system. Cue old-timer’s remarks about needing nine cars to have that many speakers back-in-my-day, and then only if the cars had the expensive radio with a rear speaker too. Woohoo!
That said, the heated steering wheel is a bargain at only $110, and your fingers will thank you every January morning if you indulge them with it.
We were quite surprised by the LS460’s fuel economy. The official EPA estimate is 16/23 mpg city/highway, but in two consecutive tanks, we recorded 19.1 mpg and 21.6 mpg. That was for highway-biased driving, but still, the LS is no lightweight. Credit a concept car-like .26 drag coefficient.
There was a time when very few cars wanted to be a BMW. Now it seems most do. But not everyone wanting a luxury car wants the sport that’s BMW’s middle name. Well, actually “Motor” is BMW’s middle name, but never mind. For anyone who wants the classic non-Bimmer luxury car might we recommend the 2013 Lexus LS460?