Let’s be clear here: Most of you aren’t in the market for a flagship luxury sedan. But the few who are (or perhaps whose parents are) should give the all-new ’13 Lexus LS F-Sport a close and hard look because forget what you remember about the old Lexus brand—the new one is bolder, stronger, and with F-Sport brings the word fun back to Lexus.
Yes, this is a large sedan with ample rear legroom, massaging seats, a 12-inch wide-screen display, a rich leather interior, and all the other creature comforts blended with leading-edge technology that come with a premium luxury sedan.
Let’s step away from all the amenities for a moment and look at the driving dynamics and powertrain of the LS F-Sport, because no matter how pampered you feel inside a luxury car, to truly stand out from the rest, it has to deliver in the actual driving department, especially with an F-Sport badge.
The powerplant, a 4.6L V8, delivers 386 hp and 367 lb-ft of torque (an available F-Sport all-wheel-drive model makes slightly less at 359 hp) and is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission that has had its programming tweaked for faster upshifts (0.3 second upshifts, 0.2-second downshifts) and rev-matching throttle blips on downshifts.
Despite its being a large sedan, it doesn’t feel like it behind the wheel.
This combo provides the LS F-Sport with surprisingly peppy acceleration both in a straight line and in the corners. Considering generations past—LSes were best described as uninspiring and dull—this is a rather large leap forward for Lexus. However, it’s still a far cry from some of the BMW M-powered and Mercedes Benz AMG performance numbers. F-Sport is a much more tame animal than its German counterparts; it’s not as raw and vicious, but for some that’s what makes it so appealing. You can have plenty of fun driving it spiritedly while still retaining all the luxury that comes with owning an LS.
The ride quality is a great example of a blend of luxury and performance; it’s adjustable through five different modes thanks to an air suspension setup. Personal preference was to keep the vehicle in Sport S+ that provided it with the firmest suspension possible, however, for the sake of our own interest, we tested all the settings, and the differences in ride quality are noticeable and real-world functional.
Rolling gear for the F-Sport consists of 19-inch forged BBS wheels shod with high-performance Michelin rubber, while the brakes feature large Brembo calipers with 14.8-inch vented discs up front. Add an active stabilizer suspension system that suppresses vehicle roll and maintains stability during cornering, and the LS F-Sport exhibits the handling characteristics of a much smaller, more agile vehicle.
This is where the LS F-Sport wins us over: Despite its being a large sedan, it doesn’t feel like it behind the wheel. Other features such as the intake noise generator, variable gear ratio steering system, well bolstered seats, and aggressive-looking exterior all contribute to the sporty feel the LS F-Sport exudes. However, it still misses the mark as being a true sports sedan, and while we realize Lexus is taking baby steps with its F-Sport brand, the sooner more hard-core performance-oriented vehicles hit the market, the better credibility the F-Sport badge will have.
Specs & Details
’13 Lexus LS F-Sport
Engine 4.6L naturally aspirated V8
Horsepower 386 hp (359 hp on AWD model)
Torque 367 lb-ft
Transmission eight-speed automatic
Price $67,000 base (est.)