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First drive video: Updated 2013 Lexus LS 460 luxury sedan

Consumer Reports News

Since its 1989 introduction, the Lexus LS has steadfastly followed one mission statement: serve as a loyal, plush, isolating, and pampering cruiser for its affluent clientele. Updates for 2013 move the compass needle a bit, but otherwise it stays the course.

Most of the updates bring the LS in line with other Lexus products. The update made it more stylish and modern-looking, inside and out. The "spindle" grille furthers the brand's new design language. It might be polarizing, but unlike previous Lexus designs, it might also miss the curse of being called boring. The LS interior material quality is top-notch, distinguishing the flagship from some less expensive Lexus products, like the CT and ES.

But the 2013 LS can't escape the addition of a mouse-like console controller, very similar to the "Remote Touch" controller on some other Lexus products. You work the device with your fingertips, moving the cursor over selections on a giant—but somewhat cluttered—center dashboard screen. Getting the screen to show you what you want is a challenge. (It helps to find the menu selection that keeps the map screen from automatically reappearing, whether you want it or not.)

Many conventional buttons and knobs remain, but they often require a reach across the wide dashboard. Overall, it's more complicated than it needs to be. Worse, it's a major downgrade from the super-simple pre-facelift controls with a big touch screen.

Other tweaks are much more minor. Handling is a bit more responsive, and the steering is no longer super-light, but most customers are not buying the LS for its handling prowess. The ride remains cosseting with superb isolation. No changes were needed for the super-slick V8 and the first-ever eight-speed automatic. That drivetrain was wonderful when it was introduced for 2007, and it remains impressive today—quite a feat.

So the LS remains a luxury liner that eats up highway miles in blissful peace, but don't expect it to pluck any emotional strings. That's what an Audi A8, Jaguar XJ, and Porsche Panamera are for.

Updated: 2/1/13

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