Pampering Lexus LS is a fuss-free sedan

| Friday, Feb. 8, 2013, 8:57 p.m.

After decades of top reliability ratings, the Lexus LS 460 remains the quintessential serene, no-fuss, pampering, large, luxury sedan.

The most recent J.D. Power and Associates Dependability Study noted the LS had the fewest owner-reported problems in the industry and ranked above vehicles from Mercedes-Benz, Audi and BMW.

Now, for 2013, the LS 460 is available in new F Sport trim with a bolder face, crisper steering and a suspension that allows a more dynamic ride.

Among the F Sport-only features: Bolstered, yet luxurious, leather front seats, Brembo performance brakes, paddle shifters for manually changing gears, aluminum trim inside in place of some wood trim and standard black Alcantara ceiling material.

Starting manufacturer's suggested retail price, including destination charge, is $72,840 for a base, rear-wheel drive, 2013 LS 460 with 386-horsepower V-8 and eight-speed automatic transmission.

The lowest-priced 2013 LS with all-wheel drive is $75,785, and the F-Sport has a starting retail price of $82,840 with rear-wheel drive and $85,735 with all-wheel drive.

Note that even F-Sport models have the same 386-horsepower, naturally aspirated, gasoline V-8 as the base model, and long-wheelbase LS sedans and a hybrid also are available at higher price points.

Competitors include the well-known, large luxury sedans from Europe.

For example, the rear-wheel drive 2013 Mercedes S550 with 429-horsepower bi-turbo V-8 and seven-speed automatic transmission starts at $95,905, while a 2013 Audi A8 with all-wheel drive, 420-horsepower, twin-turbocharged V-8 and eight-speed automatic transmissions starts at $81,795.

Both the S-Class and A8 are available with more fuel-efficient V-6s, too.

The LS is Lexus' flagship sedan, but U.S. sales fell 13 percent last year to 8,345.

The reason, obviously, isn't the car's quality, which is well known — from its precise, small gaps between outer sheet metal to the 38-day, 67-step process just to make perfect Shimamoku layers of striped wood as an optional steering wheel design.

Indeed, the details and craftsmanship are impressive.

As an example, the analog clock on the dashboard has two types of contrasting aluminum and uses GPS to maintain accurate time, no matter the time zone.

Foglamps aren't the typical round shape. They're subtle and vertical so as to better harmonize with the new Lexus spindle grille shape. And, these fog lights are energy-efficient and high-tech light-emitting diode lamps.

It's true the 4.6-liter, double overhead cam V-8 in the LS has fewer horses than do the competing V-8s.

But the LS doesn't feel underpowered, even during hard acceleration, where strong engine sounds accompany the smooth rush of 347 or 367 foot-pounds of peak torque coming on.

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