Update: 2013 Lexus LS460 F-Sport AWD

By Brandon Turkus

February 21, 2013

Lexus has a difficult path in establishing the F-Sport badge as a reputable performance option. It’s done well with cars like the LF-A, IS-F, and most recently, the GS. But the last F-Sport we tested, the RX, was a lackluster offering.
Now, we’ve tested the LS F-Sport, and the lack of sportiness afforded by the F-Sport badge is even more evident in this full-size offering. Simply put, if you desire a sporty, executive luxury sedan, buy a BMW 7-Series or an Audi A8. Allow us to explain.
On paper, the LS F-Sport is an intriguing read. Larger, sportier wheels and a Sport + mode for the Drive Mode Select system were headliners that promised a more engaging driving experience. Other F-Sport specific items, like the F-Sport branded seats and steering wheel were meant to get the driver in the zone. In the end, though, it all falls flat.
Those sportier wheels are 19-inch alloys courtesy of BBS. Sadly, they’re wrapped in Michelin Energy MXV4 S8 tires, a low-rolling-resistance all-season tire found on such sporting rides as the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, and now-discontinued Volvo S40. Just because Toyota has gotten away with selling the brilliant Scion FR-S on low-rolling-resistance tires, doesn’t mean it should be getting away with it on the LS. These tires lack grip and sidewall stiffness, giving the car a tippy, disheveled feeling in cornering.
The Sport + mode, meanwhile, doesn’t go far enough in firming up the ride. There’s still too much roll, and vertical motion over bumps. It just doesn’t feel particularly pinned down or confidence-inspiring.
As for the F-Sport seats, they’re actually quite comfortable and supportive. The range of adjustment is sadly lacking, though, particularly in terms of vertical adjustments. Your six-foot, one-inch author had to resort to an annoying “gangster lean” to avoid brushing the top of his head along the roofline.
The steering wheel is quite a nice piece, with soft, smooth leather wrapping. It sports a pair of paddle shifters on the back, which are meant to handle the manual mode for the eight-speed auto. Unfortunately, much like the honey badger, the transmission doesn’t care. It doesn’t outright ignore inputs from the paddles, but instead seems to ask after each click, “Are you sure you want to do that? Okay, fine.”

In all honesty, we really, really like the Lexus LS as a luxury sedan. It’s one of the best on the market at delivering comfort, luxury, and blessed isolation, but it simply does not translate in any way to driving fun. We really like what Lexus has done with its F-Sport badge, but if it keeps on pumping out F-Sports like the LS, that badge is going to end up meaning nothing fast.