By JIM PARKER
The Post and Courier
From the earliest days, Lexus kid-glovingly marketed its highest-end luxury model to well-heeled baby boomers.
The carmaker’s four-door LS sedan wound up in many a driveway as these financially fit motorists grew up, raised families, built careers and then settled down.
Now, many boomers are retired. And while not planning to abandon its core — if aging — market, the carmaker is definitely poised to shower the latest LS version on a more youthful audience.
“This is our flagship vehicle,” said Mike Warren, general sales manager of Lexus of Charleston on Savannah Highway.
The 2013 LS460 starts in price at about $77,300, Warren said (although Edmunds.com puts the manufacturer’s suggested retail price at $71,990) and with special packages can wind up $500 shy of six figures.
“We are going for the younger (motorist), Generation X,” he said. “You’re looking at the 40 to 45, 50 year-old.”
The baby boomers, Warren said, were successful. “These are their children,” he said.
Lexus has built the LS for many years. The fifth generation arrived in 2007 and received a refreshening three years ago. The 2013 model marks the sixth edition.
“If you see the commercials on television, you can see the whole emphasis on style, fashion, culinary and travel,” he said. Ads focus on “people in their prime earning years,” Warren said.
Consider: Lexus of Charleston’s 2013 LS460 debuted last month at a charitable gala at the Lowcountry Children’s Museum in downtown Charleston. “That was the (targeted) customer,” Warren said. “Families with smaller kids, the professional, attorneys, doctors.”
Lexus is rolling out its repositioned luxury heavyweight in a gradual way. The official launch nationwide was Monday. Lexus of Charleston as of now has only the demonstration LS460, which with extras is priced at $81,725.
Sale models of the LS460 will be appearing this fall. They will be followed by the F Sport, a first-time sporty version of the LS. “Hopefully, we will have it by December,” Warren said. Also on the way is the LS 600h L hybrid, which can only be ordered and is priced as high as $135,000 or so.
The sales manager said Lexus intends to champion the LS460 for the next few weeks, again during the carmaker’s “December to Remember” sales blitz and then reintroduce the LS early next year.
In its redesign, Lexus tweaked the looks of the LS460. The sedan’s front includes the carmaker’s new “spindle” grille, sculpted hood and LED fog lamps and daytime running lights — which, incidentally, have bulbs lined up to form an “L” shape.
Elsewhere, 19-inch wheels rims are designed to sit flush with the fenders while rear side “body lines narrow and angle outward for a wider, lower appearance,” the company said.
Posh, high-tech accoutrements are a staple of the generation-jumping LS. The four-door is available with Climate Concierge, which the carmaker touts as a “sophisticated system (that) integrates the heating and cooling functions of the seats, climate control and heated steering wheel to achieve each occupant’s desired temperature.” Meanwhile, a new dust and pollen filter in the 2013 LS is considered 91 percent efficient in removing dust, up from 85 percent in last year’s model.
Space age safety features include advanced pre-collision assist and pedestrian detection system where sensors alert the driver if a crash is imminent or if someone darts in front.
Moving the LS down the road is a 4.6-liter V-8 engine churning out 360 horsepower in the all-wheel-drive version and 386 hp in the more common rear wheel drive model. A center console knob can be switched between eco mode for fuel-efficient driving and sport mode for a high performance ride.
Still, Lexus is keeping the LS as a drive-to-the-theater type model rather than a street racer.
“The effort there is comfort, luxury and upgraded lifestyle,” Warren said. “You are stepping out.”
And then some, at least based on a moderate time behind the wheel one afternoon.
The demo LS460 sported a platinum silver exterior; dark interior accented by exotic Shimamoku Expresso ebony wood; and leather, perforated seats that seem to envelop the driver in comfort.
Ease-of-use features abound, such as seat climate buttons that automatically adjust hot or cold depending on the temperature, doors that automatically pull shut if they’re ajar; technology that permits the motorist to lift his foot from the brake without the car moving, such as in a traffic jam; and a screen in the rear window that lifts electronically.
The center console and steering wheel buttons are relatively easy for driver and passenger to figure out, from adjusting the map on the center screen to switching radio stations. A control handle on the center console acts like a joystick to effortlessly switch between commands.
For a fairly large, roomy vehicle, Lexus properly configured the V-8 engine, which is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. The LS460 accelerates well, and the brakes grab hold on quick stops. Handling is slightly on the loose side but not excessively.
Where the LS460 really excels is its smooth, quiet ride: You barely feel bumps on the road, and wind noise is muted.
Other convenient features are side mirrors that automatically fold toward the body when the car, with push button start and stop and a smart key fob, is turned off. The driver information display shows fuel statistics and the pressure for each tire.
There are a few quibbles, such as somewhat limited visibility through the rear view mirror and slightly halting pick-up, which is even more pronounced in eco mode. The fuel mileage rating of 16 mpg city and 23 mpg highway is a little disappointing.
But in large part, the LS460 serves up pretty much everything you’d want in a top-end luxury sedan heading for a night on the town, accelerating into interstate traffic or taking a vacation trip.
The result? Imagine sitting in your favorite comfy chair, headphones on or talking to a friend with no collateral noise, reassuringly prepared for a relaxing journey yet eagerly anticipating a periodic burst of speed to keep things interesting.
To learn more about the 2013 Lexus LS, visit your local Lexus dealer.
Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The new style spindle grille of the new Lexus LS460 is bigger and bolder (Leroy Burnell/postandcourier.com/10/30/2012).×
Seat settings are on the driver’s and passenger’s side doors (Leroy Burnell/postandcourier.com/10/30/2012).×
The 2013 Lexus LS460 has exotic wood grain that matches the dark interior (Leroy Burnell/postandcourier.com/10/30/2012).×
Gear shift, a knob to adjust the performance and buttons for heated and cooled seats are on the center console (Leroy Burnell/postandcourier.com/10/30/2012).×
The LS460, which is Lexus’ flagship sedan, has a communications and navigation system that can be controlled by way of a mouse-like handle. ( Leroy Burnell/postandcourier.com/10/30/2012 )×
LED brake lights are L shaped on the new high-end Lexus (Leroy Burnell/postandcourier.com/10/30/2012).×
The new LS460 is available in all wheel drive (Leroy Burnell/postandcourier.com/10/30/2012).×
Standard on the 2013 LS460 are 19 inch wheels. This model at Lexus of Charleston topped out at $81,000 plus (Leroy Burnell/postandcourier.com/10/30/2012).×