WHO ARE YOU?: The Lexus LS 460 looks aggressive but it’s really a cozy pussycat when it comes to driving and comfort.
WHO ARE YOU?: The Lexus LS 460 looks aggressive but it’s really a cozy pussycat when it comes to driving and comfort.
GEORGE KENNEDY

The automotive marketplace is a land of copycats. When a trend in design or engineering takes hold in a particular vehicle segment, you can count on competitors to follow suit. So when the likes of BMW and Mercedes-Benz established that a luxury car must be an aggressive, angry, performance-inspired machine, other players in the premium vehicle segment soon followed. Thus we see the latest offering of uber-aggressive styling from Lexus, which does well to evoke the brand’s performance nature. But the look does not match the true nature of their flagship sedan, the 2013 Lexus LS 460.

Now, we are not saying that the appearance of the LS 460 is anything less than stunning. The long straight beltline connects angular taillights to the sharply angled headlights and the pronounced “hourglass” shaped grille.The vehicle has clean lines that are quickly becoming a rarity in the modern car market.

Rather, the LS 460 is a pretty car with an identity problem. The performance-inspired styling, which has been grafted onto the entire lineup, lends itself well to the coupes and smaller sedans of the Lexus portfolio, but the LS is a different animal. Toyota originally embarked on reaching into the upscale market as early as August 1983, and the result was the 1990 Lexus LS 400. Toyota’s premium vehicle division has always been about combining Toyota’s reputation of reliability with creature comforts and an unrivaled dealership/service experience.

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EASY TO USE: The centerpiece of the spacious LS interior is the massive digital screen and remote touch system, one of the most intuitive user interfaces on the market.
EASY TO USE: The centerpiece of the spacious LS interior is the massive digital screen and remote touch system, one of the most intuitive user interfaces on the market.
GEORGE KENNEDY

That notion of traditional luxury sensibility is confused by a sports car-inspired front fascia, complete with pinched grille.

Though more attention should have been paid to model differentiation, the LS remains attractive, with optional 19-inch alloy wheels and chrome accents on the front fascia.

While Lexus has offered F Sport variants, including a new LS F Sport model, the standard LS 460 does not have the performance-inspired ride that the exterior suggests. The 4.6-liter V8 develops 360 horsepower (386 horsepower in RWD models), which is enough motivation, but certainly does not match the visual portrayal of the vehicle. Power is sent through an 8-speed automatic transmission to full-time all-wheel-drive with a limited slip center differential.

The transmission can be shifted into a Sport/Manual mode. In Sport mode, throttle response is hastened and shift points elevate. Point A to point B becomes a very quick affair, especially in contrast to the understated acceleration while the vehicle is in standard drive.

A drive mode selector dial also tailors the vehicle’s suspension and drivetrain to the driver’s taste. Located in the center console, this is one way to raise the throttle response, but it can also be altered for economical driving. This is how the LS 460 is able to achieve 16 miles per gallon city, 23 miles per gallon highway. We achieved 17.5 miles per gallon in mixed driving conditions. Regardless of all the fuel-saving efforts through engine and transmission settings, a V8 is still a V8.

Still, if you are ponying up the $75,935 base price for the 2013 Lexus LS 460, filling up the pump may not be on your short list of concerns, but creature comforts will be, which the LS has in spades. Standard features include full-interior leather upholstery, wood and leather steering wheel, a massive power sunroof, and the available Mark Levinson 19-speaker stereo.

All these features are secondary to a massive 12.3-inch high-resolution screen with Lexus RemoteTouch Interface. The controlling device is located to the right of the gearshift and is a combination of a joystick and a trackball that operates a cursor on the large screen. It features force feedback and is incredibly intuitive, operating navigation, audio, and climate controls, as well as a host of other vehicle functions. Many of these systems can be operated via voice control, which is also very highly adaptive. Where some voice control systems require multiple layers and prompts, this version is able to interpret complex sentences and voice controls.

All of these features, along with the upgraded stereo, heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, upgraded leather seating, and Blind Spot Monitoring System, add up to a sticker price of $82,010 for our test model, including destination and handling.

Regardless of all the standard and available features, perhaps the most outstanding feature of this car is the most understated. Open and close any door to this Lexus, and one is left wondering if it is made of steel, velvet, or an artful combination of the two. It is simply stunning how soft yet secure this vehicle feels; once inside the LS, the silence is deafening. Forget about how many speakers your car carries; creating a mobile bunker from the world is really what a full-size luxury sedan is all about.

The Lexus LS 460 is, to reverse an old adage, a sheep in wolf’s clothing, and in all the best ways. Do not be fooled by the aggressive outward appearance; the LS is still all of the things that have made it a worthy Lexus flagship.Though the design may change, the exemplary level of comfort outweighs any attempts at high performance, and for Lexus’s longest-running vehicle line, that is just fine.

THE BASICS

Price, base: $74,935; as tested: $82,010. Fuel economy, EPA estimated: 16/23. Fuel economy, Globe observed: 17.5 mpg. Drivetrain: 4.5LV8, 8AT, full-time allwheel drive. Body: 5-passenger, 4-door full-size sedan.

THE SPECIFICS

Horsepower: 360 (386 in RWD).Torque: 347 lb.-ft. (367 in RWD). Overall length: 200 in.Wheelbase: 116.9 in. Height: 58.1 in. (including roof rails).Width: 73.2 in. Curb weight: 5,652 lbs. (4,233 lbs. for RWD).

THE GOOD

Cavernous interior, space age navigation user interface, fit-and-finish worthy of a royal stagecoach.

THE BAD

Angry face defies soft interior; thirsty V8, lackluster acceleration.

THE BOTTOM LINE

It’s the LS you know and love, now with snarly maw.

ALSO CONSIDER

Audi A8, Mercedes-Benz S-Class, BMW 7 Series, Cadillac XTS.