By on April 8, 2013

While BMW has been turning the 7-Series into a luxuriously silent highway cruiser, Lexus has been busy injecting sport into their isolated lineup. In 2006 we got the 417HP IS-F, in 2011 came the insane LF-A super car, and in 2012 we were introduced to Lexus’ styling and suspension tweak brand F-Sport with the GS350 F-Sport. It was only a matter of time until the spindle grille and the looks-fast F package appeared on Lexus’s flagship LS. Can a “looks-fast” and “handles-better” package help the LS regain the sales crown? Or does Lexus need to go back to the drawing board for some go-fast love?

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Exterior

Lexus’s new styling direction has been somewhat controversial, which is probably a first for Lexus having subscribed to the “simple is elegant” mantra since 1989. While I wasn’t sure about the new “spindle” grille on the 2011 GS and I need to see the 2014 IS to figure out if I like it, the spindle on the LS suits me just fine. The problem in my mind is the proportions. The LS’ blunt nose, wide stance and long hood just work while the shorter snout and more pronounced spindle on the IS seem a bit too “try hard” to me at the moment. In addition to the blacked out grill you see above, F-Sport models get a lowered stance, Brembo brakes, revised suspension tuning and unique wheels. The cost for the added kit? $12,080 over the base LS 460′s starting price of $71,990. Out the door at $84,965 the LS 460 F-Sport undercuts a similarly equipped BMW 740i M-Sport by nearly $2,000. Mercedes? The 295HP V6 S400 starts at $92,350. If you thought the LS sells on reliability and value, you’re right.

Interior

Most manufacturers spend the cash on the outside of the “sport” model leaving less of the budget for interior tweaks and so it is with the F-Sport. We get some tweaked seats, aluminum pedals, a black Alcantara headliner and Lexus’ hallmark wood trim has been swapped for aluminum. The rest of the standard LS’ split-level dash remains, dominated by a large 12.3-inch LCD. Befitting a vehicle this expensive, the interior in our tester screamed “attention to detail” with perfect seams, high quality materials and perfect color matching.

That price tag is important to keep in mind. While the LS F-Sport ranges from $84,965 to $88,115, even the “lowly” 740i can be optioned up to $111,295 if you’re not careful. As a result you won’t find some of the expensive options on the BMW like a full-leather dashboard, heads-up display, night vision, or fancy ceramic knobs. Of course, few 7-Series shoppers check those option boxes and the more you add the more there is to go wrong. Lexus’ mantra has long been to keep things as simple as possible by offering high levels of standard equipment, bundling options in packages and steering clear of any gadget or gizmo that could go wrong within a warranty period. Few BMW shoppers load their 7-series to the gills anyway, so 90% of shoppers will find all they seek in the F-Sport’s black-only interior.

 

The F-Sport’s 16-way power driver’s seat and 12-way passenger’s seat have beefed-up bolstering and embossed logos on the headrests.  While I found the seats to be very comfortable for my 6-foot frame, the GS’ 18-way seats offer a wider range of motion and customization. Thanks to the thicker bolstering on the seat back and bottom the F-Sport will hold you in your seat should you decide to drift on your way to the financial district. All F-Sport models come with an F-Sport specific steering wheel based heavily on the standard LS tiller. An electric tilt/telescoping steering column with memory is standard.

Lexus’s flagship sedan is as much about the rear occupants as the front. To that end the F-Sport still has a three-position rear throne with outboard “buckets” and a high-mounted center seat. Thanks to the typical RWD “hump” and the bucket-like design of the outboard seats, the center spot should be left to homunculi. Ditching that 5th person will make the rear more comfortable anyway and four full-sized American adults will have no headroom or legroom issues in even the short wheelbase LS. Befitting the “adult” tastes the LS is designed to appeal to, the rear seat cushions aren’t sitting on the floor providing more thigh support than your average sedan. As you would expect with any vehicle this size, the LS sports a large 18 cubic foot trunk.

Infotainment & Gadgets

Widescreen infotainment systems are all the rage and 2013 the LS up to date with a large 12-inch LCD in the dash. Positioned in its own “pod”, the screen is higher and closer to the normal sight lines of a driver than before. The system ditches the intuitive touchscreen interface Lexus has used for the better part of a decade for the Lexus joystick (it’s officially called Lexus Remote Touch.) I won’t beat around the bush, I hate it. I am however open to suggestion, so please post your thoughts and experiences with Remote Touch in the comment section below.

My issues with LRT are: it occupies a great deal of room on the center console,and it takes far more hand-eye-brain coordination than a touchscreen. Every time I am in a Lexus I find myself glancing at the screen and fiddling with the little control pad far more than when I’m in a competitor’s luxury sedan. This increased distraction hasn’t gone unnoticed by my better half who constantly nags me about keeping my eyes on the road. Want to enter an address using the on-screen QWERTY keyboard? It’s obvious why Lexus won’t let you do that in motion.

To soften the blow Lexus throws in the same media device voice command interface as the other Lexus and premium Toyota products receive. The system is snappy, managed to figure out every command I threw at and has a more natural sounding voice than MyLincoln Touch. Helping counter the nagging Lexus Remote Touch caused (see how that’s not my fault now), the available Mark Levinson sound system can drown out even the most shrill mother-in-laws.

Perhaps reinforcing that Lexus focuses on the “meat” of the luxury segment and not the one-percent, you won’t find the same level of gee-wizardry in the F-Sport as some of the Euro competitors. You won’t find night vision, a full-leather dashboard, expensive ceramic knobs, massaging front seats, heads-up displays or full-LCD instrument clusters in the Lexus showroom. Instead, Lexus doubles down on perfect seams, quiet cabins, a high level of standard equipment and quantities of wood that would make Jaguar blush. New for 2013 is an optional collision prevention system that augments the collision warning system from last year’s model with the ability to fully stop the car while traveling at low speeds to prevent an accident. Much like the system Volvo has been stuffing in their cars since 2009, the system is active from about 5-24 MPH. Lexus has also tweaked their radar-based dynamic cruise control to now take the LS to a complete stop and take off again in stop-and-go traffic.

Drivetrain

The naturally aspirated luxury car V8 is an endangered species now that BMW, Audi and Mercedes are embracing turbo love. Lexus is the lone holdout using the same 4.6L naturally aspirated V8 engine the LS 460 debuted with in 2006.The direct-injection mill produces 386 ponies at 6,400 RPM (dropping to 360 in the AWD model) and 367lb-ft of twist at 4,100. Power delivery is typical of a medium-displacement DOHC V8; there is enough grunt at the low end to chirp the wheels, torque builds in a linear fashion and most of the “go” happens near red-line. The observant will note the F-Sport is down on power when pitted against the latest in German twin-turbo V8s putting the F-sport at a serious disadvantage when stoplight racing. In terms of power, the LS 460 compares most directly to the 740i with BMW’s turbocharged six-cylinder engine. On the bright side, the F-Sport’s engine is incredibly smooth and has one of the best engine sounds on this segment (you can thank the turbos for messing up the German symphony.) Why didn’t Lexus drop the 5.0L V8 from the IS-F into the F-Sport? The world may never now.

For F-Sport duty the LS gets a few software tweaks and performance-themed upgrades. The 8-speed automatic has been reprogrammed to rev-match downshifts, there are some snazzy shift paddles on the steering wheel, and there’s a Torsen limited slip differential out back. F-Sport tuning adds variable gear ratio steering to the electro-mechanical power steering unit and an additional “Sport+”  driving mode for the engine, transmission, steering and suspension systems

Drive

The naturally aspirated V8 defines the way the F-Sport at the dragstrip. Because the engine needs to rev to 4,100 RPM for torque to peak, it lacks the immediacy and urgency you feel from the twin-turbo Merc and Bimmer. The 8-speed automatic uses closely spaced low gears to help improve off-the-line performance allowing the F-Sport to hit 60 in 5.47 seconds. That’s a hair slower than the BMW 740i and half a second slower than the 750 or S550. However, if a great soundtrack is more important to you than shove, consider that turbos interfere with classic V8 sounds due to their location in the intake and exhaust plumbing. Further boosting the high-revving V8 howl, Lexus dropped a sound tube into the intake to pipe more “V8″ into the cabin.

The mission of sport packages is primarily to improve looks, and secondarily improve handling. That makes Lexus’ decision to put an air-suspension in the F-Sport a bit unusual. You see, there are three basic types of adaptive suspension systems. The first uses a strut filled with a ferromagnetic fluid whose viscosity changed when electricity is applied (GM and Audi like that one). The second is a more typical gas-filled strut with an electronically controlled valve to alter damping characteristics (Volvo, Ford and Chrysler use this one). Last is the air-suspension. Unlike the other two, air systems don’t just alter the damping, they are also involved in maintaining (or altering) the ride height. This means they both damp and keep your car off the ground. By altering the pressure in the internal air bags, ride firmness and height can be adjusted. While air suspensions have a pedigree (everyone from Rolls Royce to Jaguar uses one) having a vehicle ride on four small “Aero Beds” leads to an unusual feel when the road starts to curve. I’m no stranger to this technology, my own Jaguar Super V8 uses a similar system, and it delivers a similar feel. There’s a reason  Jaguar ditched the system for their new breed of corner-clawing kitties.

Despite the F-Sport having a lowered ride height over the regular LS and the air suspension being tweaked for a firmer ride, the system is firm but floaty. Sort of like over-inflating that air mattress you pull out for overnight guests. (My Jaguar feels exactly the same and so does the Mercedes S-Class.) That doesn’t mean the F-Sport is a land barge, it just means the feeling is unusual. Feelings aside, the F-Sport handles extremely well thanks to grippy low-profile rubber and Lexus’ variable gear ratio steering system.

VGRS (as Lexus calls it) has a more natural and direct feel than BMW’s active steering system, especially on close-quarter mountain switchbacks where you’re sea-sawing the wheel as you alternate mashing the stop and go pedals. The system fools you into thinking the F-Sport is lighter and more balanced than the BMW when in reality they very similar. At 53:47 (front:rear), the F-Sport is a bit heavier in the nose than the near-prefect 50:50 BMW 740i (but not far off the heavier 750i), but the Lexus hides it well, only giving up the secret when you’ve hit the limit and the nose begins to plow. Compared to the heavier 750i or S550, the LS feels lighter on its feet. Surprised? You shouldn’t be, after all, BMW is the new Meercedes. While I would take the more neutral vehicle, I know a majority of real-world owners prefer a car that leans toward understeer. (Fear not, if your foot is mashing the go pedal, the F-Sport will get all kinds of tail-happy  on you.)

Out on the highway or driving through pot-holed downtown streets, the air suspension makes more sense because it soaks up pavement imperfections like a Cadillac Fleetwood, which is after all the raison d’être of the Lexus brand. While I think I would have demanded the engineers swap the airbags for some steel coils, I don’t think that would make the F-Sport sell any better. Without more shove, the F-Sport will never be direct competition for the new breed of German luxury sedan. Instead the F-Sport is quite simply the best looking Lexus to date and the most dynamic large sedan the Japanese have ever built.  Is that enough to regain the sales crown? Only time will tell, but the bold grille, F-Sport model and low sticker price sure can’t hurt.

 

Hit it

  • Well priced luxury car without a discount brand cachet.
  • Impeccable reliability reputation.
  • The F-Sport isn’t as demure as a modern 7-series but not as flashy as a Maserati, etc.

Quit it

  • The Lexus joystick device is my least favorite infotainment input device.
  • Fewer gadgets and gizmos are available compared to the BMW 7-Series and Audi A8.

 

 Lexus provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.215 Seconds

0-60: 5.47 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 14.09 Seconds @ 100.4 MPH

Average Fuel Economy: xx MPG over 585 Miles

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46 Comments on “Review: 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport (Video)...”


  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    “Instead, Lexus doubles down on perfect seams, quiet cabins, a high level of standard equipment and quantities of wood that would make Jaguar blush.”

    I’ve seen this exact quote from a different Lexus review on here. But it doesn’t apply to this car, which as previously mentioned has aluminum in place of wood.

    • 0 avatar
      toplessFC3Sman

      Yea, you’ll see the same thing in different reviews of cars that share infotainment/nav systems too, like MyFordTouch in the escape vs focus, CUE, etc. In general I don’t mind, except when there’s a bit of a stretched simile or metaphor in one that just gets repeated over a number of reviews. There was one for MFT (i think) that started to bug me, but I don’t want it stuck in my head again, so forgive me for not looking it up.

  • avatar
    fincar1

    Great writeup on a car that would be very interesting to me if there were some way I could afford it.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    “Instead the F-Sport is quite simply the best looking Lexus to date…” And that is a VERY hefty claim for anything with a spindle grille on it.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    I’ll look forward to driving one of these off lease in a few years. 4 yr old Lexus LS’ seem to go for the mid 30k’s.

    I wonder how much that air suspension would cost to fix once it breaks.

    • 0 avatar
      WaftableTorque

      My LS430 is 12 years old, and the air suspension is fine (so far). Last month I briefly had the noisiest UCF30 in the world after hitting a series of Edmonton potholes, but it was fixed after a $600 replacement hub bearing.

      I distinctly remember various old 1970′s detroit land barges as having better low speed ride comfort, but that was probably due to the 75-series tires and the quivering body-on-frame construction to absorb those big potholes.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    The blandness of the interior screams old Dodge Stratus to me, at least in that photo. I’m sure it looks much nicer in person.

    A friend has a habit of buying used Lexus’ whenever he needs a “new” car. His most recent purchase is a 2008 LS350. A very nice car, and with 80K on the clock when he bought it, still has more life left in it than many new cars, I’m afraid.

    This sport model should be no different, unless it’s driven to death.

  • avatar
    lon888

    If I only had one reason to buy this car over a German make it would be that at leasr it still has a dipstick. The over pretentious uber-dumbkopf’s at the German boys are deleting this little piece of mechanical necessity. They think their uber-smart onboard diagnositics can handle that chore for you. However, when one of those little kraut komputer’s goes kaput, you could be in a lot of hurt.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Sorry, not feeling this. I don’t miss the dipstick one bit in my BMW. Much more convenient to twiddle the lever and have it displayed on the dash. The sensor is there for oil life calculations anyway, and if it fails, you are going to have to empty the oil to change it anyway. Not losing any sleep about it. I have replaced a lot more dipsticks in my time than oil sensors.

      As for the Lexus. Meh. Bland and ugly, as usual. The predator grill needs to go back to Hollywood.

      • 0 avatar
        lon888

        Ah, but this leads to a little bit more German cleverness. The Germans are getting rid of drain plugs from VW’s on up. To change the oil they have some sort of vacu-sucky device to PULL it out from the top of the motor. I guess they haven’t figured out schiessen runs down hill. Or rather, in typical German form, they over-engineered their poop to run uphill.

        • 0 avatar
          jkross22

          I roll the dice a bit with cars buying used BMW’s, but so far, they all seem to do relatively fine until the 100k mark. That’s when window regulators, electronics and electrical switches start doing weird things.

          You’d think that buying an over engineered car would mean those things wouldn’t happen until much later. I guess they put their over engineering team on the important stuff like getting rid of the dipstick and using those super comfy run flats.

        • 0 avatar
          rentonben

          Once you “vacu-sucky” you’ll never go back.

          On my Buick Regal (made in Germany) you can change the oil using the pump, and change the filter that sits on the top of the engine. You’ll only get your hands dirty. I’ve done it in my business cloths.

          • 0 avatar
            bumpy ii

            I did. My experience with the top-drain pumps is that they leave a quart or so in the oil pan, since the tube tends to curl up and can’t get all the way to the bottom of the pan.

          • 0 avatar
            jefmad

            This is why I’m pissed BMW got rid of the dipstick. Changing oil was a 10 minute no mess operation. Not anymore.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Why on earth have you replaced dipsticks? I’ve never heard of this before. BMW sensor failures? They happen.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          Dipsticks break. Just had to replace the one on my Jeep – plastic head gets old and brittle and breaks. Have also done so on Volvos and VWs. If the oil sensor craps out on the BMW I will replace it. Not something to get worked up about, and on the e90s it seems to be very rare, at least based on the distinct lack of complaints about it on the forums. I’m sure it happens occasionally, random crap does.

      • 0 avatar
        Ion

        A common misconception, there is no ” oil quality” sensor. Your oil life is a timed dummy light. In some cars it uses a stop and go algorithm to calculate and adjust your percentage, but in most its set to a certain amount of mileage.

        The oil level sensor is pure lunacy becuase it requires the car to be running to check the level. Overfill the motor and the car goes into limp mode, underfill it and rusk engine damage or another emergency limp mode.

        Oh and there are drain plugs on german cars. most shops these days vacuum the oil out because with a top side catridge filter its easier and less time consuming than removing the skidplate to access the plug.

        • 0 avatar
          jmo

          “The CBS system also considers input from an oil quality sensor in the bottom of the oil pan. The oil quality sensor measures the electrical conductivity of the oil. As the additives in the oil wear out, the ­resistance of the fluid changes.”

          • 0 avatar
            Ion

            Theres quite a few articles that debate bmws electricity claim and furthermore if it was the case and not hocus pocas the oil light wouldn’t have to be manually reset.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          BMW most definitely uses an oil quality sensor as well as an algorithm that takes into account how the car is driven.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    Can you get the F-Sport package on the hybrid?

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    It’s a shame that they replaced the wood veneers with aluminum; I am quite fond of those lovely Shimamoku veneers available on other trims…

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Aluminum inside a car is nasty anyway. The warmth and luxurious nature of wood is not easily trumped. Maybe quartz/stone like in that Maybach Landaulet.

    • 0 avatar
      4LiterLexus

      High-quality wood trim is one of Lexus’ hallmarks. I know the brand is trying to cultivate a sportier image with the F-sport models and that wood might be counterproductive to that goal, but an LS or GS without wood just doesn’t feel right. With the GS, it’s impossible to order four-wheel steering and wood trim on the same car; it’s a shame.

  • avatar
    BMWnut

    386 horses, 0-60 in 5.47 seconds, 14 second quarter mile. In a great big five seater luxury car. Meh.

    Never thought I’d say that. What is the world coming to?

    • 0 avatar
      Chocolatedeath

      The world is coming to a place where an mid-level A8 goes from 0-60 in 3.9 secs. and has only about 1 mpg less mpg than the LS in real world driving.

  • avatar
    genuineleather

    Unfortunately, I think this car is going to lose marketshare for Lexus instead of gain it.

    My grandfather has owned six LS cars since 1995. The problem with the 2013 is that he’s already bought it twice: for 2007, and again for the 2010 refresh. A new dash, front and rear clips, and six extra ponies doesn’t cut it anymore.

    This year, he bought a 750Li, his first ever. He was won over by the immediate thrust of the twin-turbo, the heads-up display, and the battery of cameras the Lexus doesn’t offer. Add in BMW’s aggressive lease rates and a $10k discount, and the 750 ended up costing a few hundred LESS per month despite a $20k higher MSRP. To top it off, BMW’s free maintenance makes the $400 glorified oil changes at the Lexus dealer a thing of the past.

    In the past, a Lexus customer was someone who didn’t want to pay the Mercedes premium and wouldn’t buy a too-sporty BMW at any price, but as the segment has converged in both price and intent, Lexus is going to have to offer up something greater than reliability and (a sometimes negligible) value proposition.

    • 0 avatar
      romanjetfighter

      BMW doesn’t share switch gear with cheaper, either. And I’ll bet the trunk in the BMW is lined with closed loop carpeting instead of fuzz in the Lexus. And butterfly headrests and contoured seats instead of shapeless thrones that resemble those found in a Highlander.

      Toyota made a big mistake cutting R&D for Lexus during the financial crunch. They just lost their sales crown a few years ago and have yet to regained it since. I’m afraid once people like your grandfather move away from Lexus just once and into the arms of its competitors, they’ll realize how awesome a Mercedes/BMW feels, not just one the road, but mechanically speaking. If those German cars aren’t too unreliable and don’t turn off these people, there will be no hope for Lexus.

      It’s sad but a 2007 C350′s doors shutting feels more solid than the new ES and LS, and that car debuted in 2001. I hope Lexus tries to make their cars more distinctive not by gluing a new grille on an aging, staid car (a la Acura) but by out-engineering their competition.

      Maybe they spent all their R&D money on the LFA and had none left over for their bread-and-butter flagship?

      • 0 avatar
        WaftableTorque

        I pity my colleague who leased a 2010 S550. He’s had more issues and flatbed tows in 3 years than my LS has in 12. All under warranty, but he’s paying for that privilege with a $60k residual on what used to be a $135k car. Ouch!

        • 0 avatar
          rickyc

          That’s an isolated incident i bet, German car quality is usually exaggerated when always comparing a Lexus against a BMW or Benz. I have owned several BMWs for years and never had one on a flatbed. Lexus drivers like to talk about quality but what good is a reliable car if it’s not fun to drive??

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            What’s a fun to drive car that causes you to miss an important work meeting? Or strands you for several hours at your favorite posh restaurant.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    F-for Freight Train.

    I can’t wait to read a comparo of this car vs. the Genesis sedan R-spec.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Luke, look into my grille and know it to be true – I am your father.

  • avatar
    N8iveVA

    “in the F-Sport’s black-only interior.”

    Must be something wrong with my eyes, because it looks gray in the pics

  • avatar
    bludragon

    “At 53:47 (front:rear), the F-Sport is a bit heavier in the nose than the near-prefect 50:50 BMW 740i”

    So I know BMW keep claiming 50:50 is near-perfect in their ads, but is it really? If I’m on a track, I think I want more weight over the rear so I can accelerate out of corners earlier. On the street, in a fwd car, more weight over the front axle actually works better. I’m not really sure what the “perfect” weight distribution is for a rwd street car. Perhaps it is also more rear biased for better traction over the driven wheels? Anyway, since you are now quoting BMW marketing I think you owe us a detailed article on the subject with appropriate research including driving in snow, rain, on a track, across a muddy field with and without a body in the trunk, talking to a passenger whilst texting with a phone in your lap.

  • avatar
    Alex L. Dykes

    A car with a 50:50 weight balance is very neutral. Think on it this way: if the car is going 50MPH and you’re not braking or accelerating the car’s manners tend to be “neutral” showing neither pronounced understeer or oversteer, you know, unless you want either of those two which you cab create with braking, power or steering. While the nose heavier cars tend to understeer a bit more predictably which many people find easier to handle. It’s a preference thing. I prefer the more neutral car but I’d rather my spouse or kids were in the car with more of an understeer characteristic.


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