It’s one thing to test drive new high-performance luxury automobiles on a racecourse or an abandoned airfield, but to try out the new 2013 Lexus LS models in the proper environment of future owners such as the affluent communities of Torrey Pines, Del Mar and Rancho Santa Fe was a real treat.
The fabulous Torrey Pines Lodge seemed like the perfect location for staging the ride-and-drive-event to introduce the press and the local residents to the exciting new Lexus LS flagship. In an area littered with Bentleys, BMWs, Audis, and Mercedes, the new 2013 Lexus LS certainly was a head-turner for the locals.
During one of the test drives, I noticed cars speeding around me to catch a second look at the very aggressive style of the new Lexus next-generation spindle grille theme, which is the most recognizable feature of the 2013 LS line. The upper and lower grill sections have been lowered to visually emphasize a low center of gravity and a sense of stability. The angular lines of the front grill and fascia produce a visual effect that the car is low, wide, and built for performance. Perhaps if you will squint your eyes a little, you might even visualize the front of a NASCAR competitor.
A highlight of the 2013 Lexus LS models is the LS600hL, while it almost seems to be a contradiction, this model features a hybrid drive system coupled to a high output 5.0 liter V-8 engine that produces 438 total combined horsepower (includes hybrid power) and 385 lb.-ft. of torque.
Delivering the power to the ground is the world’s first all-wheel drive electronically controlled Continuously Variable Transmission. To recharge the hybrid batteries there are two motor generators producing electricity not only for charging, but to produce power when the car is in electric drive mode.
Located at the driver’s fingertips on the center console is the drive mode select knob that allows the driver to select powertrain, suspension and steering characteristics through settings labeled "Normal," "ECO," "Sport," "Comfort," "Sport S," and "Sport S+" mode. While the Sport S and Sport S+ modes tend to take away from the smooth ride comfort settings, they definitely enhance the car’s throttle response, steering, transmission shift points, and suspension firmness, and make performance driving more fun.
The interior of the new LS features amazing craftsmanship in leather, wood veneers, and aluminum trims that suggests this car has been custom designed and built for each Lexus owner. Most amazing is the Shimamoku Espresso steering wheel and matching trim that combines the organic feel of natural wood with a layered look that evokes modern art. Presented to the press was a short video demonstrating how the stunning steering wheel design is handcrafted during 67 processes over a 38 day period. The results are breathtaking. Equally impressive was the bamboo veneer that was featured in our test car.
To help make the most of the long wheelbase on the LS 600h L, the Executive Class Seating package replaces the rear bench with two individual seats. The right rear seat has power-reclining capability, a built-in ottoman-style leg rest, and an indulgent shiatsu massager. The only drawback is trying to get your spouse to wear the chauffeurs cap while you’re enjoying limo luxury.
Interior climate control of the new Lexus LS has reached a new level of technology and comfort. At the push of the start button, the available Climate Concierge automatically monitors the temperature of four separate climate zones and adjusts not just the fans, but also the temperature of the seats and steering wheel individually so that each zone achieves its preset level of comfort as quickly as possible.
At the center of all the electronic controls is the dash-mounted 12.3-inch split screen monitor. While navigating with the GPS system, the split screen allows the driver to monitor the climate, 24-hour navigation assistance with Lexus Enform and Safety Connect, or control the Mark Levinson surround sound system featuring 19 speakers and 450 watts of stereo power.
New safety innovations include blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, adaptive front lighting system, and an advance pre-collision system, all designed to spot three-dimensional objects that enter into the vehicle’s path. These systems not only alert the driver with alarms, lights, video images, but can also bring the car to a complete stop.
The flagships of the Lexus lineup come with a hefty price tag – the top of the line LS’s can reach $120,000. But in the neighborhoods around Torrey Pines, Del Mar, Rancho Santa Fe or even in the local country club gated communities of Brookside or Del Rio, you might even find his and her Lexus models in the driveway.