LS is smooth, firm: Lexus flagship takes a sporty twist with F SPORT package

2014-05-09T15:26:00Z LS is smooth, firm: Lexus flagship takes a sporty twist with F SPORT packageBy Derek Price Greenshoot Media
May 09, 2014 3:26 pm  • 

Would a driving enthusiast buy the Lexus LS 460? That’s the question I’m asking myself after spending a week in the sporty version of this full-size, flagship luxury sedan.

The LS has long been one of the softest, butteriest, smoothest-riding cars you can buy, setting the tone for the whole soft-riding Lexus brand. And with a starting price over $72,000, I’ve always thought of the LS as a doctor’s or attorney’s car — the kind of super-comfy vehicle you buy after you pay off your med school debt or make partner at a law firm.

Calling the LS fancy is an understatement. Everything about it screams sophistication and class, from the tastefully styled body to the elegant, tech-filled cabin.

Yet, for all the wizardry that turns heads on the showroom floor — the power-opening trunk lid, the giant digital screen in the center of the dash, the climate-controlled seats — this is a car that carefully avoids being too flashy.

It’s a restrained luxury car, and I like that about it.

The version of the LS I’ve been testing, though, isn’t the smoothest riding one. It’s the F SPORT version, which means it adds some flash and tones down some of the things I like best about this car.

With the F SPORT package, the LS rides about a half-inch lower on a slightly firmer suspension, with huge Brembo brakes that can bring its massive chassis to a halt in no time flat.

If you love to drive, this is the version you’ll want.

Personally, though, while I understand the appeal of a sporty luxury car, I still prefer the regular version of the LS over the F SPORT model. The normal suspension plays to this car’s strength as a gigantic, 200-inch-long comfort machine, as opposed to turning it into a sports sedan — something it’s not.

Another way to look at it: If I can afford a new Lexus of this caliber, I can certainly afford a zippy sports car for the weekends, too. I could drive the comfy, smooth-riding LS to depositions or surgeries and drive a sportier car when I want more fun. I’d rather have two cars to perform the two distinct, diametrically opposed missions.

That said, there are two things I absolutely love on the F SPORT package.

One is the way it looks. The styling on this sportier version seems more youthful and vibrant to me, both inside and out. The front grille is noticeably more aggressive, and the stuffy, old-school wood trim that you usually find in cars like this has been replaced with beautiful machined aluminum in the F SPORT models.

The other strength is its quietness, even with the firmer suspension.

When car makers use giant wheels, low-profile tires and tighter springs and shock absorbers, you usually see a drastic increase in road noise. That’s not the case in this big Lexus, though. I’m surprised at just how quiet the cabin remains at highway speeds, despite all the sporty changes.

In the end, that’s the key to understanding this car. It’s sporty but not harsh. It’s younger looking but still not juvenile in the slightest.

It’s a car that can feel lively on winding roads yet remain supremely comfortable for long trips on the highway, which is a rare combination in any price class.

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