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.