2013 Lexus LS 460 F SportPosted on July 30th, 2013
The big luxury sedan gets a dose of sportiness
By Bob Golfen
With the European luxury-car makers tuning their opulent, full-size sedans for top performance and handling, Lexus follows suit with the F Sport version of its big flagship, the LS 460.
The F Sport option is Lexus’s way of injecting a dose of driving edge to its stable of smooth, reliable but ultimately bland vehicles. We’ve sampled the package in the sport-compact IS, the midsize GS and even the RX crossover, with varying degrees of persuasion; it adds plenty of spark to the IS and GS, but it’s pretty much wasted on the cushy RX.
This is F Sport’s first availability for the LS, now in its fifth generation, with the goal of turning the plush luxury liner into something akin to a sporting machine. But it’s up to the driver whether to enjoy the firmed-up ride and sharpened response or float along in the LS’s customary ultra-soft cocoon of splendid isolation.
The key ingredient here is the standard dial mounted in the console that allows the driver to select from various driving modes: Eco, Normal or Sport. The F Sport version with its adjustable air suspension adds two more modes: Comfort and Sport+. The modes adjust the suspension firmness, steering response and the electronic mapping of the throttle and eight-speed transmission.
Here’s the drill: Eco, Comfort and Normal deliver the same old LS ride, with just minor variations. Sport tightens things up, raising the level of handling and response for what Lexus calls a ‘more engaging driver experience.’ The transmission shifts more aggressively, and the steering feels quicker and firmer. Sport+ further raises the ante by firming up the steering and suspension even more.
The effect is not nearly as dramatic as, say, that of an AMG-enhanced Mercedes or an M-performance BMW. Significantly, engine power for the Lexus stays the same with the silky 386-horsepower V8 of the standard model, or 360 horsepower with all-wheel drive, for whatever reason. The test car was rear-wheel drive, and doubtless had more acceleration than the lower-powered and marginally heavier AWD model.
But the LS 460 F Sport is not as pricey as the performance-enhanced Europeans, either, with the test car starting off at about $72,000 and, with the addition of some desirable options, hitting a bottom line of $78,584, including shipping. Certainly not affordable for most people, but in line with the luxury crowd.
So no, F Sport does not turn the LS 460 into a snarling beast. But it does dial in some desirable drivability features. Besides the air suspension, which lowers the ride height by about a half inch, the F Sport model adds a Torsen limited-slip rear differential for the two-wheel-drive cars, very powerful Brembo six-piston caliper brakes, and 19-inch forged wheels with performance tires.
The handling is considerably improved in the Sport+ mode, although the big sedan’s mighty heft limits its tossability as well as its acceleration. The Sport setting works well for regular driving, with less float than in the non-sport modes. None of it is as much fun as it could be, though the combination of Lexus sturdiness and the sportier flavor has its appeal.
Something that’s missed in the equation, however, is the ability to dial in the handling performance of the Sport modes with the less-aggressive shifting and throttle response of the Eco or Normal mode. It would be nice to drive a firm-riding car with responsive steering while still saving gas.
The F Sport model gets some exclusive styling tweaks inside and outside. Lexus’s new signature feature, the spindle grille, gets a special mesh treatment and a black surround. There are also larger cooling openings and LED fog lights. The front end look is suitably aggressive, but the rest of the car looks fairly mundane in comparison. Lexus has gone with the spindle-grille treatment across its lineup of car models, which has prompted some aesthetic criticism.
There’s a major difference in the F Sport interior design. Gone are the rich wood accents in Japanese style, replaced by stark-looking aluminum. This also has received its share of criticism, although others see a sportier and more-modern style.
The seats are wonderfully comfortable and supportive, and the entire feeling inside the LS is one of solid durability and fine craftsmanship. Especially impressive is the gigantic 12.3-inch video screen with split screen for audio, climate, navigation, communication and various computer functions, which is best accessed via a joystick in the center console that is exceptionally responsive and easy to use. It’s an impressive piece of technology.
Other plusses are the physical dials for adjusting the climate and audio systems instead of having to fiddle with the video screen. The test car was equipped with the optional Mark Levison 19-speaker audio system that was just superb.
With Lexus’s rich reputation for reliability as well as its prestige factor, the LS in all its forms continues to be a great-selling car. The F Sport makes it better, especially for those among us who like to drive a car with a decent level of response.
Likes: Added handling response, exclusive interior, Lexus quality.
Dislikes: Still fairly soft, hit-and-miss styling, inflexible performance settings.
Model: LS 460 F Sport
Base price: $71,990
As tested: $78,584
Engine: 4.6-liter V8
Horsepower: 386 horsepower at 6,400 rpm
Torque: 367 pound-feet at 4,100 rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Zero to 60: 5.4 seconds (Lexus testing)
Wheelbase: 116.9 inches
Curb weight: 4,365 pounds
Bicycle friendly: No
EPA Fuel economy: 16 city, 24 highway, 19 combined
Bob Golfen is a veteran automotive writer and editor, formerly with The Arizona Republic and SPEED.com. Reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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