Cigar Aficionado

Passionate performance are two words not typically associated with Lexus, especially not its big flagship, the LS. But Toyota’s luxury brand has a history of delivering some surprises—as it did at its launch two decades ago, proving that the Japanese really could go toe-to-toe with high-line German makers like BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

Year after year, Lexus has topped the charts as far as quality and customer service is concerned. But Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda doesn’t think that’s enough, and he’s right. The typical Lexus product has been aimed at those who want reliable appliances rather than exciting automobiles. The marque began to change course with last year’s launch of an all-new mid-range GS and now, it’s time for the new flagship.

The 2013 LS 460 is a decidedly more attractive vehicle, with its sportier, sculpted haunches anchored by the distinctive “spindle grille” that first debuted on the GS. The overall look balances refinement tension and power. And that’s backed up by the big sedan’s 386-horsepower, 4.6-liter V-8. New to the lineup this year is the LS 460 F Sport with its mesh grille, revised bumpers and headlamps, oversized brakes and a lower, sport-tuned suspension.

Ironically, while the F Sport churns out the same power as the base 460, for maximum muscle you should opt for the LS model also billed as the greenest, the LS 600h L, a hybrid, which pumps out an impressive 438 horsepower from a pairing of a 5.0-liter V-8 and two electric motors.

Offered in both standard and long wheelbase, the hybrid lets you slam the throttle when you want to leave rubber at the stoplight, but also gives you bragging rights at both the country club and Sierra Club meetings.

For 2013, the long wheelbase body is now available in all the LS models, and those who prefer being chauffeured can opt for business-jet-style luxury, complete with redundant rear infotainment and climate controls and fold-down, massaging seats.
Even the “base” LS is lavishly outfitted in leather and wood and the maker has added a new interior package for 2013 featuring the rare Shimamoku wood—which requires a 67-step, 38-day process to prepare it. As one can always assume of a Lexus, the new LS features a high-tech wonderland including an oversized touch-screen display that would make an iPad owner envious. On the safety front, the updated Pre-Collision System includes the new Pedestrian Detection technology—which can sense a person darting across your path and automatically bring the vehicle to a stop from speeds up to 25 mph.

From the performance front, new Frequency Adaptive Damping Shocks complement the muscle under the hood, helping smooth the road during cruising but unleashing a more aggressive beast when you want to push things—as we did during a drive along California’s Central Coast.

For those who want serious performance, the 2013 Lexus LS line still doesn’t quite match the BMW 7-Series or Audi A8, but it gives chase to the current Mercedes S-Class. And it proves that pairing “passionate performance” and Lexus is no longer a contradiction in terms.