The 2014 Lexus LS is a reminder of just how far this iconic Lexus sedan has come. Way back in 1989, the LS debuted as the flagship of the brand-new Lexus line, and the luxury world would never be the same again. Cheaper and easier to maintain than the big German sedans of its day, the LS brought surprising value to a segment better known for wretched excess.
But until its redesign last year, the LS had always been more about comfort and durability than driver engagement. That's what Lexus set out to change with the current LS. Particularly in the F Sport trim, the 2014 LS knows its way around a corner, and we even put an LS 460 through its paces at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with surprisingly rewarding results.
Of course, the LS remains a supremely comfortable and insulated highway cruiser when you want it to be. But there's a sporty new dimension to the big Lexus this time around, and that makes it a real contender in this highly competitive class.
What's New for 2014?
The LS is essentially unchanged.
What We Like
More fun to drive than any LS before it; classy yet modern interior; quiet at speed; ultra-comfortable ride; generous standard features
What We Don't
Controversial spindle grille; V8 engine lacks low-end torque; hybrid model is overpriced and underwhelming
The LS 460 models are powered by a 4.6-liter V8 rated at 386 horsepower and 367 lb-ft of torque (360 hp and 347 lb-ft with all-wheel drive). The transmission is an 8-speed automatic. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the rear-wheel-drive (RWD) LS 460 returns 16 miles per gallon city/24 mpg highway, while the all-wheel-drive model drops a hair to 16 mpg city/23 mpg hwy.
The hybrid-powered LS 600h L utilizes a 5.0-liter V8, a pair of electric motors and a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). Its total system output is a formidable 438 hp. Disappointingly, its fuel economy isn't that much better than a regular LS, as it checks in at 19 mpg city/23 mpg hwy.
Standard Features & Options
The 2014 Lexus LS is available with either a standard V8 engine (the LS 460) or a V8-based hybrid power system (the LS 600h L). The LS 460 is offered in regular- or long-wheelbase form (denoted by a trailing "L"), while the hybrid LS comes only with the long wheelbase.
The LS 460 ($73,050) is comprehensively equipped with 18-inch wheels, adjustable drive calibrations, xenon headlights, LED running lights and fog lights, heated power-folding mirrors with integrated LED turn signals and puddle lamps, dual exhaust tips, rain-sensing wipers, power-closing doors, a sunroof, keyless entry/ignition, dual-zone automatic climate control, wood and aluminum interior trim, a 16-way power driver seat and 12-way power front passenger seat with 3-position memory, a power tilt/telescoping steering wheel with wood and leather trim, a 12.3-in central display screen linked to the Remote Touch mouselike controller, a rearview camera, a hard-drive-based navigation system, Bluetooth phone and audio, Lexus Enform mobile-app connectivity, and a 10-speaker audio system with HD radio, satellite radio and iPod/USB integration.
LS 460 options include 19-in wheels, a heated steering wheel, a 5-mode air suspension with variable-ratio steering, a 19-speaker Mark Levinson audio system, adaptive cruise control, upgraded leather and a power trunk lid. The Ultra Luxury package tacks on 4-zone climate control, power rear seats with lumbar massage, rear audio controls and rear-seat side airbags. The F Sport package adds special 19-in wheels, aluminum pedals, Brembo front brake calipers, a limited-slip differential (RWD only), paddle shifters (with rev-matched downshifts on RWD models), a sport-tuned air suspension, sport seats and unique interior trim.
The LS 460 L ($79,350) is similarly equipped but offers an exclusive Executive-Class Seating package that includes extended leather trim, a rear-seat Blu-ray entertainment system, and a passenger-side power reclining rear seat with an ottoman and shiatsu massage functions.
The LS 600h L ($120,970) receives the hybrid powertrain and basically all the above features as standard except for the F Sport package (unavailable), the Executive-Class Seating package (optional) and adaptive cruise control (optional).
The 2014 LS features active front headrests, 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, stability control and eight standard airbags (front, front side, front knee and full-length side curtain). Strangely, rear-seat side airbags cost extra on all LS models except the hybrid LS 600h L.
The numerous high-tech safety features include an optional advanced adaptive cruise control system that utilizes automatic braking to mitigate or prevent forward collisions.
High-end luxury cars are generally not subjected to crash tests, and the LS has thus far been no exception.
Behind the Wheel
As ever, the Lexus LS is a haven for those seeking a cushy escape from the rigors of the road. The seats are gloriously supportive and highly adjustable to suit individual physiques, while the ride is creamy smooth, especially if you opt for the air suspension. Interior materials have improved noticeably in the current LS, and there's now a distinctly modern vibe thanks to elements such as the high-resolution 12.3-in display screen. Rear passengers have it almost as good as those in front, and maybe better when the Executive-Class Seating package is specified.
Under the hood, the LS 460's 4.6-liter V8 is a sweet-tempered motor, but it lacks the immediacy of the latest forced-induction engines from Audi, BMW, Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz and others. On its own merits, it's awesome; driven back-to-back with any of those foes, its limited low-end torque becomes apparent. The LS 600h L solves the torque problem, but it also weighs more than 5,000 pounds, so its acceleration is ultimately weaker than in the LS 460. That's particularly unimpressive given that the hybrid costs an extra $40,000.
Driven with spirit, the current LS feels significantly less floaty than its predecessor, while engaging the driver like never before. That's particularly true in the F Sport trim, which makes the LS an intriguingly affordable substitute for performance-oriented German rivals. You'll never mistake this softly sprung car for a sport sedan, but you'll also be pleasantly surprised by how it hunkers down through the bends.
Other Cars to Consider
Audi A8 -- The A8 is surprisingly affordable, starting at roughly the same price as the LS. It offers a wide variety of engine options, including a turbodiesel V6 and a scintillating twin-turbo V8.
Jaguar XJ -- If power's your thing, make sure you sample Jag's finest. There's not a more responsive engine in this class than the XJ's supercharged V8.
Mercedes-Benz S-Class -- The redesigned S-Class takes luxury to a new level. If you don't mind paying a premium, it's tough to top for sheer opulence.
The LS 460 with the F Sport package is a great all-around car. It's the sweet spot if you like to drive.