The letters ‘LS’ still mean a lot to a company that has more recently moved into the SUV space, and the 2021 Lexus LS500 F Sport is the sporting option in the premium large sedan range.
It’s had a midlife update, too, which is why we’re testing it again here. You’ll find the full details in our pricing and specification guide.
The F Sport grade in LS trim is an interesting take on the sporting large sedan. Not so much because it exists, but more because it’s loosely a sports sedan, albeit a big one. And large it is. There’s no hiding that this is a big sedan, both in terms of the way it sits on the road, and the feeling from behind the wheel. Even punters who don’t love Lexus styling, however, commented that it cuts a stylish figure on the road.
The LS500 in F Sport guise starts from $195,593 before on-road costs, and is in fact the same price as the hybrid version of the same model grade. There’s a 3.5-litre, twin-turbo V6 that generates 310kW at 6000rpm and 600Nm between 1600–4800rpm. The potent V6 engine is mated to an exceptional and smooth 10-speed automatic.
A sharpish 0–100km/h claim of 5.0 seconds would indicate that the LS500 should feel fast, and it does – sometimes. More on that in a minute. The difference between the F Sport as tested here, and Sports Luxury, is the extra comfort and convenience you get with the Sports Luxury model. To be honest, that feels more in keeping with the expectation of an LS, despite the fact that sporty intent doesn’t exactly seem out of order either.
Everything about the LS500, regardless of engine or trim level, feels special, premium, and carved from stone. The quality of the fit and finish, the touch surfaces, the insulation and refinement, and the occupant experience is second to none. It’s a beautiful cabin for either driver or passenger, and the swathes of standard kit ensure that there’s no need to justify the steep asking price.
|2021 Lexus LS500|
|Engine||3.5-litre, six-cylinder twin-turbo petrol|
|Power and torque||310kW @ 6000rpm, 600Nm @ 1600–4800rpm|
|Drive type||Rear-wheel drive|
|Fuel claim (combined)||10.0L/100km|
|Fuel use on test||14.1L/100km|
|Turning circle||11.4m in Sports Luxury, 11.2m in F Sport|
|ANCAP safety rating||Unrated|
|Main competitors||Audi A8, BMW 7 Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class|
|Price||$195,953 before on-road costs for F Sport variants, $201,078 before on-road costs for Sports Luxury variants|
|Servicing costs||$595 per visit (every 12 months or 15,000km) for three years|
Buyers get soft-close doors, keyless entry and start, 28-way powered seats, front seat heating and cooling, a heated steering wheel, electric rear sunshade, sunroof, DVD player, 12.3-inch infotainment screen with Apple CarPlay, an 8.0-inch TFT driver display, DAB+, a colour head-up display, and proprietary satellite navigation. Thankfully, the infotainment screen now responds to touch commands, meaning you can sidestep the silly trackpad. There’s also the full Lexus suite of safety inclusions.
You’ve read our thoughts on Lexus infotainment and the control system previously, but there’s a crucial point to make here too. While the system that Lexus uses does feel aged and isn’t as up to date as the best in the segment, what is there, works. It’s rare that a Lexus system ever glitches or does anything silly.
It’s just difficult to navigate using the trackpad. And as many of you tell us in the comments section, owners will apparently get used to it. I’m not so sure that’s an argument you can defend, but it is a fact that the Lexus system is reliable.
The ADR fuel claim on the combined cycle is 10.0L/100km, and on test we used an indicated 14.1L/100km, which is demonstrably more than you could expect from the hybrid LS500, as expected. It’s not light either, the LS500, tipping the scales at 2215kg. In that sense, the real-world fuel use is more than decent, though, and with all this luxury a certain amount of heft is to be expected.
Inside the cabin, it’s all comfort and luxury. The screen works really nicely and is the best that Lexus has offered in recent times. Touch functionality works well too. The second row is significant in terms of comfort and leg space, and you’ll be able to tour four-up in proper luxury. The LS offers up second-row space that even large SUVs can’t match, with acres of leg room and heated outboard seats in the second row, adding to the luxury. A 480L boot delivers more than enough storage for the aforementioned touring capability.
The drive experience is, like the interior amenities, premium in just about every sense. There’s a feeling of calm, insulation and comfort that accompanies any drive, no matter how long or the quality of the road surface. The LS has a reasonable turn of speed for a vehicle so hefty that you might think it would require a few more cylinders to really punch hard on the road.
In Eco mode, despite the on-paper punch of the engine, it doesn’t feel rapid off the line and could be described as a little sluggish. That would be a bit unfair, though, because Eco mode delivers the most efficient driving experience, and there are sports modes to use if you feel inclined to get moving with more speed. Switch into one of the sports modes and things start to happen with commensurate, um, sportiness.
The transmission is smooth and works neatly with the engine, devoid of any lurching or lack of precision. That’s especially the case in traffic, where it is almost imperceptible. One of the hard to define elements of a luxury drive experience is that ability to waft along in near silence, especially in traffic at crawling speed.
The slow-speed drive then is spot on. Exactly what the luxury buyer would want. The steering is so light, it really does hide the exterior size of the LS500, feeling like a much smaller, lighter vehicle to manoeuvre around at low speed. It is long, and you do need to get used to the wheelbase initially, but the way that you can thread it through traffic means that it does shrink around you. Dynamic rear-wheel steering plays its part here too.
A cosseting ride is par for the Lexus course, and there’s nothing to detract from that experience inside the confines of the LS cabin. It’s supple but not waffly, and while it does indeed float over nearly all road surfaces, it doesn’t feel like it’s not properly tied down or assured. While you won’t be taken by the desire to drive the LS500 like a bona fide sports sedan, its suspension ability is well beyond the average day behind the wheel in town too. Lexus has definitely struck a neat balance here.
The LS is covered by Lexus’s four-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty and it asks for services every 12 months/15,000km. Those services are capped at $595 each, and Lexus offers a loan car for owners while their LS is being serviced as well.
The updated LS is, as expected, a quality execution of Lexus’s long understood luxury sedan offering. While plenty of Australian buyers worship at the altar of European badge preference, the smart buyers know that Lexus offers everything you need, with rock-solid reliability and quality. Hard to argue with that.