The Lexus LS 500 sedan is the automaker’s flagship model and goes its own way instead of being a rival to top European luxury sports sedans from Mercedes, BMW, Jaguar and Audi, although you might not suspect that by looking at its sleek shape.
The 2018 version of the LS 500 lost the bland styling of previous models and was given a coupe-like silhouette. However, Lexus does offer the LS 500 with an “F Sport” package that adds handling prowess and sporty, upscale cosmetic touches. However, owners should be careful with its alarmingly low front end.
The LS 500 is big, roomy and generally impressive with a very low drag coefficient of only .028 for virtually no wind noise and better fuel economy. It comes in a variety of trim levels starting at $75,300 and includes a hybrid gas-electric model. The F Sport all-wheel drive gas engine version I drove had an $84,420 list price.
Despite weighing approximately 5,000 pounds, Lexus says the LS 500 will do 0-60 m.ph in 4.9 seconds. In fact, it says even the gas-electric hybrid will do 0-60 in a quick 5.1 seconds. while delivering 33 miles per gallon on the highway and 25 in the city. with its 22.2-gallon fuel tank.
But don’t look for extra power. The F Sport has the same engine as all LS 500 models. It’s a twin turbocharged 3.5-liter V-6 with 416 horsepower and 442 lb-ft of torque. A V8 option is no longer available. Not that more power is needed from the smooth V-6, which works with a responsive 10-speed automatic transmission with alert steering wheel paddle controls.
The LS 500 with the F Sport Package delivers an estimated 18 miles per gallon in the city and 27 on highways with all-wheel drive and 19 and 29 with rear-drive. Premium fuel is called for, and the fuel tanks holds 21.7 gallons.
A driver can easily select via a dashboard control Economy, Comfort, Sport and Sport+ driving modes. They control such things as the engine, transmission and steering feel. I found Comfort mode is best for normal driving, although “Eco” mode might help you get a little better fuel economy. Save Sport+ for, as Lexus puts it, “sportier driving.” Actually, the LS 500 suspension provides a smooth ride (best in Comfort mode) even without an available air suspension, although sharper bumps send a shock to occupants through the large wheels.
Comfort and Convenience
The LS 500 F Sport comes with all the comfort and safety features one would expect from a extremely solidly built, church-quiet Lexus flagship, including a pushbutton start, voice command, power seats, leather-trimmed interior, power tilt-and-slide moonroof and a power open/close feature for the roomy trunk, which has a low, wide opening for, say, fast airport departure luggage action.
The interior is spacious, despite a large front console, and the rear-seat area allows tall-legged occupants to stretch out. The backlit gauges are easy to read in sunlight, but the console’s fussy touch pad used for many controls is finicky and distracting to use.
There also are 28-way electric/pneumatic seats with cushion length extenders to brace occupants when driving through curves, heated steering wheel, 24-inch heads-up display and a Mark Levinson Audio system with 23 speakers.
Front doors open very widely, but there are no interior door grab handles or straps to help close them—you must stretch and grab one of the large door storage pockets to help close them.
Special F Sport rocker moldings help accentuate the LS profile and meshed grille inserts. The cabin has the perforated-grille pattern on seating surfaces, ultra suede headliner, perforated leather-trimmed interior and aluminum trim elements. Discreet “F Sport” badges are on various body parts and one is even on the thick leather-covered steering wheel.
The F Sport package contains large (45-series) tires on exclusive 20-inch five-spoke alloy wheels with a dark graphite finish, larger front and rear brakes, variable gear ratio steering, adaptive variable suspension that continually adjusts damping control in response to driving operations and road surface conditions, active rear steering and an active stabilizer.
The car’s numerous safety features include pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane tracking assist, lane departure alert with steering assist and a blind spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert.
Pros: Stylish. Luxurious. Fast. Roomy. Smooth ride. Good handling. Safety items. Rear or all-wheel drive.
Cons: Finicky touch pad. Low front end. Premium fuel required. Doors lack inside grab handles or straps.
Bottom Line: Alternative to European luxury sports sedans.
My test car’s steering had a rather firm but comforting feel and was quick and precise. However, switching to Sport+ mode made road feel vanish. Handling was enhanced by all the F Sport goodies, including vehicle stability control. Braking is strong and progressive.