2020 Lexus LS 500 F Sport review
Review of the 2020 Lexus LS 500 F Sport in Australia, including price, specs, interior, ride and handling, safety and score.
REMEMBER THE old Lexus LS? It looked a bit stuffy but carried the reputation of Toyota and Japanese build quality to the luxury car market. Today, it’s a much more vibrant car to look at. As the flagship limo model in the brand’s lineup, we’re testing the sportiest variant available, the F Sport, and along with cars like the LC coupe, it’s another athletic luxury contender.
IN A NUTSHELL: Sharp styling inside and out that doesn’t compromise build quality is met by a solid driveline and good ride and handling. It’s no rocketship but does blend performance and luxury in equal proportions well.
THE GOOD: Spacious cabin and luxury feel, strong performance, relaxed ride comfort with a sporty edge when wanted.
THE BAD: Infotainment lacks control and panache to be better than rivals, we miss the rumble of a V8 up front, the boot space is a bit small.
What is the Lexus LS 500 F Sport?
Lexus’ LS model lineup is over 30-years old, spanning five generations from 1989 to this flagship luxury vehicle released in 2018. This latest XF50 series LS 500 is based on the new GA-L (Global Architecture for Luxury) platform which itself is an underpinning on Toyota’s new TNGA (Toyota New Global Architecture), supporting every new model wearing either a Toyota or Lexus badge. For Lexus, the GA-L underpins LS and LC models.
The layout allows for a front-mounted longitudinal engine and rear or all-wheel driveline. In the case of the LS 500 F Sport, it has a 3.5-litre twin-turbo V6 petrol engine driving the rear wheels.
What does the Lexus LS 500 F Sport cost and what do you get?
Pricing is $190,395 plus on-road costs and there are options you can tick onto that. But for sub-$200k the Lexus limo is fair value for money when compared to European rivals.
Standard equipment includes staggered 20-inch alloys with 245/45 front and 275/40 rear tyres, air suspension, automatic LED headlights with adaptive highbeam and cornering function, keyless entry and start, partial leather trim interior with suede and Alcantara, 28-way adjustable front seats with heating and ventilation function, dual-zone climate control, 12.3-inch infotainment screen with Bluetooth connectivity, CD/DVD/DAB+ radio and satellite navigation, 23-speaker Mark Levinson sound system, 360-degree birdseye-view parking cameras (and a normal reversing camera with sensors), a colour head up display, and a suite of safety driving assists.
It also comes with Lexus’ four-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, with 10-year complimentary roadside assistance and capped-price servicing.
What’s the Lexus LS 500 F Sport interior like?
Daring design is what marks the latest LS, maintaining a semblance of the LS model’s luxurious past yet moving the Japanese brand’s ‘Takumi’ craftsmanship into the 21st century. Looking at the cabin there is movement and interesting design details dotted all around. Not so much as to be distracting, but much more intriguing than the usual, sometimes reserved design of European counterparts.
That sweeping big grille on the nose is a tell-tale of what’s inside, with waveform design cues inspiring the door trims and dash. A variety of contrasting interior colour combinations extenuate this, like white or red on black. The colour highlights are also used for elements such as stitching and floor mats.
The theme is matched in the rear of the cabin where the central air vents add a good blast of ventilation. The automatic climate control includes a pollen filter and thermal body temperature sensor to improve the air.
That all said the F Sport’s seats, despite incredible 23-way electric adjustment, are a touch firm compared to normal LS 500 pews, which is the trade-off for a sportier model with a properly sporty seating position. It also brings with it metal trim elements, though there are many different materials that can be individualised to match the Alcantara on the door panels and suede headlining. And it’s all very well put together.
Mounted into the dash is a large 12.3-inch infotainment screen, which is a step forward in many ways for Lexus. It’s big, bright, and the graphics crisp compared to previous systems. Controlling the unit is via a trackpad that hasn’t been seamless to use in any Lexus yet and feels mostly the same in the LS. It’s not terrible, but a simple rotary dial would do wonders for useability, particularly when driving.
However, on the infotainment side of the things, Lexus can rightly claim that its audio partner Mark Levinson is absolutely one of the best in the business when it comes to tuning high-end car audio systems. The 16-speaker system is brilliant, with deep bass low down and clarity through mid and high range frequencies. There are plenty of equalisation options and preset configurations, including surround sound and 3D modelling which all work wonderfully. Audiophiles will appreciate the level of calibration involved during production to get the speaker positioning and staging correct in such a difficult environment as a car.
How much space is in the Lexus LS 500 F Sport?
It’s super roomy front and back, though particularly spacious in the rear thanks to that long 3125mm wheelbase. The boot actually takes a bit of a hit – 440-litres large – and doesn’t stack up compared to even the Toyota Camry, but it’s enough space for a few bags of luggage on an airport run and is only compromised because of gear such as a rear cooled storage box for beverages and food. The back seats are also heated, and side and rear window blinds increase privacy. It certainly lives up to the luxury limo image.
What engine is in the Lexus LS 500 F Sport?
Upfront in the LS 500 F Sport we see the first implementation of Toyota/Lexus’ new Dynamic Force V35A-FTS long stroke V6 engine. The spec sheet says it’s a 3.5-litre bent six even though displacement measures 3444cc across all six-cylinders combined.
It uses twin parallel turbos (one on each bank) to help produce a peak power output of 310kW at 6000rpm and 600Nm from 1600-4800rpm.
It’s not the burbling V8 of the old LS but it’s a smooth and powerful engine that helps move the 2240kg F Sport from 0-100km/h in five seconds flat. The exhaust note is actually pretty deep and picks up intensity high up the rev range. Throttle response is rapid at any legal speed, more so with Sport mode engaged, and the ten-speed automatic is quick to shift down one or two cogs for sudden takeoff yet also delivering tall gears for cruising along at highway speeds with efficiency.
The official claimed combined cycle rating is 9.5L/100km and we managed 10.8L/100km on the highway and 12.0L/100km with some city and sporty driving.
Is the Lexus LS 500 F Sport good to drive?
Air suspension underpins all four points and raises 30mm when hopping in which eases ingress and egress. On the road, it helps soften the blow through the 20-inch alloys when driving on rotten city bitumen and the like. Constantly adaptive, it automatically levels the body with on-the-fly adjustments according to the computer’s parameters. It’s usually pretty spot on.
Once you turn the wheel into a corner and begin to hit the throttle on corner exit – or engage Sport mode – it minimises body roll and pitch, applying positive pressure to the outside wheels which improve grip and communication from the front end. As a big and long luxury car, it was never going to be nimble like a sports coupe, but it does a good job of keeping up with some quick, enthusiastic driving on fun roads. The active stabiliser bars help here too, stiffening the chassis response and overall providing an engaging drive.
Braking is commendable too and like in most Lexus sports cars it goes under the radar because there are no big-name brakes rolling along. Instead, you get big 400mm front and 395mm rear Lexus discs with six-piston front and four-piston rear callipers that don’t sweat under pressure.
How safe is the Lexus LS 500 F Sport?
The Lexus LS has not been tested by ANCAP. It comes equipped with knee, curtain and side airbags and plenty of driving assistant aids such as adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and tyre pressure monitoring.
What are the Lexus LS 500 F Sport alternatives?
The Mercedes-Benz S-Class, BMW 7 Series and Audi A8 are all good competitors.
2020 Lexus LS 500 F Sport pricing and spec
Price $190,395+ORC Warranty 4 years, unlimited kilometres Service Intervals 12 months, 15,000km Safety Not rated Engine 3.5-litre V6 twin-turbo Power 310kW at 6000rpm Torque 600Nm at 1600-4800rpm Transmission 10-speed auto Drive Rear-wheel drive Dimensions 5235mm(L), 1900mm (W), 1450mm (H), 3125mm (WB) Kerb Weight 2240kg Boot Space 440L Spare Space saver Fuel Tank 82L Thirst 9.5L/100km