But the winds of change are finally swirling around Lexus HQ. Tired of being branded soul-less, or creators of four-wheel tofu, or chewing gum for the senses, they’re fighting back.
Welcome to Lexus F Sport.
I guess it started with the bad-boy Lexus IS-F, a 5.0-liter V8-engined blunt instrument packing 416 horses that was created back in 2008 to lock horns with BMW’s M3. Now it’s the turn of the full-bodied, execu-class LS 460 to get some long overdue sportification. So put your hands together and give a warm welcome to the 2013 LS460 F Sport!
OK, so that ‘Sport’ moniker maybe stretching things just a bit. Let’s say you won’t be seeing this new F Sport on the track at Daytona or Sebring any time soon. But it’s a terrific package
of sports equipment that definitely changes the character of the big LS and increases
its already considerable appeal.
For starters it now looks the part of automotive athlete. It comes with a set of great-looking 19-inch German BBS forged alloy wheels skinned with low profile, rubber-band-thin tires.
And the ride height of the standard air suspension is dropped by around half an inch
to help give a more hunkered-down stance.
Lexus changed the look of the entire LS range last year, adding that controversial,
in-your-face ‘spindle’ front design. The F Sport builds on that semi-aggressiveness with
a glossy black surround and more distinctive mesh pattern for the grille, bigger
air-gulping cooling openings and driving lamps.
Yet there’s also plenty of substance behind all this style. A limited-slip diff sharpens the car’s handling, while big Italian Brembo brakes with black six-piston calipers clamping pizza-sized rotors stop you with the immediacy of hurling a ship’s anchor out the back!
If there’s a mild disappointment, it’s that the F Sport sticks with the standard 4.6-liter V8 that motivates every LS model. No teeny boost in power or torque, no mild tweaking to lower
the zero-to-60 time. No nothing.
Not that 386 horsepower is to be sneezed at. This is still a fabulous engine that’s oh-so-creamy-smooth in its power delivery, and wonderfully responsive especially when it’s coupled to the new ZF eight-speed automatic transmission. But a 564-horsepower Mercedes AMG twin-turbo 5.5-liter V8 that lurks in every S63 Benz, it’s not!
What the F Sport delivers is great day-to-day driving agility and zest. No longer is the entire focus on softness and comfort. Toggle through the Drive Mode Select settings, taking your pick from Eco, Comfort, Normal, Sport and Sport+ and each one progressively dials up the car’s throttle response, steering weight, transmission shift points and suspension firmness.
Opt for ‘Sport’ and the steering becomes firmer, weightier and nicely precise, while the suspension firms up just enough to really sharpen the handling without sacrificing ride comfort. And even without any extra ponies, the F Sport is still a lively performer, sprinting from standstill to 60 mph in around 5.4 seconds.
Inside, there’s more black leather than Ozzie Osbourne’s wardrobe, unique seats with beefier side bolstering and a rocking 19-speaker Mark Levinson surround sound audio. Plus, as with all new LS models, a quite-amazing 12.3-inch big-screen nav system display.
Prices for this new LS 460 F Sport start at $81,990 for the rear-drive version, which is just $10,000 more than the standard LS. All-wheel drive is also on offer.
So I guess Lexus can finally put away those comfy slippers!
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