By David Colman
Hypes: Even Match for Best German Hot Rods
Gripes: F SPORT Should Have Even More HP Than LS; Why Limit Top Speed to 130 MPH?
When Toyota introduced the LS model line in September, 1989, the large sedan was a hit with buyers who were overjoyed to own a Mercedes Benz S Class clone for half the cost of the Benz. Although the styling of that first LS was clearly Benz derivative, the Lexus packed a 4 liter, 250hp V8 wallop under the hood that Mercedes could not ignore. On top of that, Toyota tailored the Lexus division to afford its new clients concierge level treatment, from the buying experience to the service appointment. That level of customer concern has insured that Lexus has remained at or near the top of the JDPower owner survey rankings for the past 23 years. Our recent test drive of the LS 460 F SPORT, latest addition to the LS model line, not only validates the company’s long standing commitment to engineering excellence, but also affords a whole new aspect of LS enjoyment: sport driving.
Over the past 4 generations of LS sedan, the company’s focus has been on developing creature comforts to 5 star levels, while enhancing straight line performance with a 380hp V8 propelling the 2012 LS. But never before has this conservative company paid serious attention to the joys of sport LS operation. Yes, they did offer a 2012 “Sport Authentic Special” version of the 4th generation LS, but the addition of paddle shifts, Brembo brakes and 19 inch wheels were overly cautious moves in a marketplace full of ultra-sporty BMW 7s, AMG Benzes, and Audi S8s. Now that Lexus has finally gotten the memo from the market, its LS F Sport is ready to play bumper tag with the big boys from Germany.
The new F Sport is available in 2 versions, with the rear-wheel-drive model carrying a base price of $81,990 and the all-wheel-drive F SPORT base-priced at $84,885. While we didn’t get a chance to sample the AWD model, we spent several hours behind the wheel of the rear drive version in an 80 mile test loop through the canyon country East of San Diego. What distinguishes this model from the basic LS 460? From the outside, the F stands apart thanks to exclusive front and rear bumpers, LED fog lamps, and 19 inch forged alloys finished in dark gray. The redesigned front bumper incorporates a larger opening for better cooling, while the rear lower valance includes a diffuser for improved underside air flow. Inside the cockpit, the F’s front seats feature added side and thigh bolstering, an exclusive steering wheel covered with dimpled leather, and aluminum trim on the dash and pedals. F SPORT logos adorn the sides of the fenders, as well as the steering wheel and front headrests.
Mechanically, the F Sport’s 4.6 liter V8 is identical in output to other models in the LS range, with 386hp (up 6hp over last year) and 367 lb.-ft. of torque. While more horsepower would have given the F Sport better bragging rights vis a vis BMW, Mercedes and Audi, the big sedan is no slouch in the straight line department, cutting a 0-60mph run of 5.4 seconds with a quarter-mile time of 13.8 seconds. Lexus has recalibrated the F SPORT’s shift control for improved performance in Manual Mode. You can now select and hold a specific gear without having the car upshift automatically as you approach redline. When you do order an upchange, the 8-speed transmission takes an imperceptible 0.3 second. Downchanges now use rev blipping to match engine speed to road speed and take just 0.2 second.
The big performance jump in the F Sport comes not so much from the drivetrain, but from its sport tuned air suspension, which is exclusive to the F. This system encourages hard driving by lowering the ride height of the car 10mm, and maintaining a stable platform during sustained cornering maneuvers. The air suspension increases the spring rates of the standard LS at all corners. Front rebound is also stiffened on the F. In addition, the F’s brakes are substantially improved over baseline, with front discs jumping from 13.1 inch diameter to 14.8, and rears from 12.3 to 13.1 inch. Brembo manufactures these brakes to Lexus specification, supplying 6 piston front calipers and 2 piston rears. Brake specific air ducts lead through the front valance to cool the front calipers.
Our brief mountain road test of the F SPORT LS lead us to the inescapable conclusion that this premium sedan will stay with the best 7 Series BMW, S Class Benz or S Line Audi through any switchbacks you care to throw at it. It may have taken a tardy Lexus 23 years to reach this point of driving satisfaction, but now that it’s accomplished the task, all the other booming sedans will be looking in their mirror for the new sheriff in town.
2013 Lexus LS 460 F Sport
- Engine: 4.6 liter DOHC, 32 Valve V8
- Horsepower: 386hp @ 6,400rpm
- Torque: 367 lb.-ft. @ 4,100rpm
- Fuel Consumption: 16 MPG City/24 MPG Highway
- Price as Tested: $81,990
- Star Rating: 9 out of 10 Stars