If you know anything about Lexus, you already know the LS460.
This is the whole enchilada, the übersedan (not to be confused with Uber-sedan), the division’s luxury flagship, providing all aboard uncompromised wafting comfort.
Oh wait, this is the F-Sport version. Whaaaa?
Yes F-Sport. In the Lexicon of Lexii, you have your regular models, your AMG-baiting F division RC-F and GS-F, and in between, F-Sport. Kind of like BMW’s M-sport. Sporty, but not designed to remove fillings at the first speed bump.
And we’ve tested various F Sport trims, including everything from the IS350 F Sport, which we loved dearly, the GS350 F Sport that we were kind of lukewarm about, and even various NX and RX F Sport models that were surprisingly good drives.
But an LS460 F Sport?
Tasteful and serious.
It makes a strong first impression.
The basic LS is a low-key, low-pulse big sedan that blends into traffic and goes about its business in a dignified manner. The F Sport adds some visual muscle with an exclusive mesh spindle grille, larger intake opening and round fog lamps. Special 19-inch forged alloy wheels and a lowered suspension give it a more serious, grounded look.
The interior makes a similar impression, greeting you with a chunky, 3-spoke F Sport leather steering wheel with paddle shifters, F Sport shift knob, nubby aluminum sport pedals, real aluminum trim and a swanky Alcantara headliner. Contrasting white stitching really pops against the somber dark interior.
The bolstered front sport seats are supremely comfortable, without being too restrictive, and it adds up to a handsome interior that’s great for getting down to the business of driving or just relaxing on a longer trip.
The goods continue with a multimedia system working through a massive 12.3-inch screen, connected to Lexus’ mouse-like controller, which we still find fidgety to control. Thankfully, most of the audio, climate and performance settings have back up manual controls that are quick and easy to use.
For those riding in back, you still get the wonderfully spacious rear seat – although the limo-like 460L long wheelbase model with recliner chair rear seat Executive Package isn’t offered in F Sport trim.
This is one LS that wants to be driven.
Under the hood is a standard 4.6-liter V8 that pumps out an impressive 386 hp. (If you opt for the all-wheel-drive version, that drops to 359 hp – enough reason to stick with rear wheel drive!) Torque is also a nice, fat, 367 lb. ft. It’s hooked up to an 8-speed automatic, that does its best work when in manual mode, and it’s fun to flip through the gears via the paddle shifters, and enjoy rev-matching downshifts
Fun is a relative term here – at heart, this is the running gear of a big, powerful luxo-sedan, and you trade away aggressiveness for smoothness, raucousness for silkiness. It is quick though, and the big sedan gets with the program – it just maintains a Lexus-like demeanor at all times.
The suspension is a different story, and all for the good.
The combination of a retuned air-suspension, 0.4-inch ride-height drop, Torsen limited slip differential (not available on AWD models) and 19-inch wheels make this the most enjoyable LS we’ve ever driven.
Part of the transformation goes to the Lexus Drive Select, which along with Normal, Eco or Sport S settings found on other LS trims, adds Comfort and Sport S+ on F-Sport. Both of which got a good workout in our time with our tester.
Even in Sport S+, it’s not a sports car – and we weren’t expecting it to be – but it feels eminently wieldy, responding quickly to the wheel with nice feedback thanks to variable gear ratio steering. All the while, serving up a supple ride that’s controlled, but never harsh. Grip is very good, and you can lean on the big sedan hard in the turns, and it hunkers down and gobbles up the road.
It bears the hallmark of well-designed chassis – the car seems to shrink around you, and connects you to the driving experience.
When you do get to hustling the F Sport about, it’s good to know you’ve got massive Brembo 6-piston caliper brakes up front helping to haul you down.
We’ll spare you the list of standard features – hey, it’s a Lexus! The whole review could be just listing features. While your garden-variety LS460 starts at $72,520, the LS460 F Sport rings in at $80,870. If you want all-wheel drive, it ratchets up to $83,325.
Our tester featured the Comfort Package ($1,650), with concierge front seats (automatically monitors climate control, seats and heated wheel to give you perfect comfort) heated rear seats, power trunk, power rear sunshade and climate-comfort front seats.
We also enjoyed the 19-speaker Mark Levinson surround sound system ($1,580) and Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert ($500) for a grand total of $85,095.
For reference, a BMW 7-series starts at $83,100, a Mercedes S Class starts at $96,600. Figure an additional $7-10,000 to be similarly equipped to our Lexus.
So, is this the Iron fist in a ventilated leather glove to smash the Europeans?
The LS460 F Sport strikes us as the way the base LS should have always been – at least through enthusiast’s eyes. A wonderfully balanced premium sedan, that gives great luxury and an extremely satisfying driving experience. And even at $85,000, attractively priced.
For those who want a sharper, pointier Lexus super sedan, there’s more good news. An all-new 2018 Lexus LS 500 recently made the rounds on the auto show circuit. You’ll lose the V8, but get a 415 hp, twin-turbo V6. A new 10-speed automatic will help keep things on the boil.
Based on the chassis shared with the new, gorgeous LC Coupe, the 2018 LS looks much more aggressive, and will sit on massive 20-inch rims. An available F Sport Handling package should make good use of those big meats.
Lexus is definitely bringing the fight to the high-end Europeans – and we can’t wait to drive it.