• Dec 16th 2009 at 11:57AM
  • 68
2010 Lexus LS 460 Sport - Click above for high-res image gallery

When Lexus introduced the IS F, enthusiasts were suitably skeptical about the automaker's attempt to go head-to-head with the Germans. After all, Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz have specialized in creating autobahn-burning, Nordschleife-honed handlers for decades.

And then we drove it.

To everyone's surprise, Lexus pulled it off, but we figured it might be a one-time deal. We assumed the IS F was an outlier – just a distraction from the brand's cadre of well-built, less-than-sporty luxo-barges. We were wrong.

In the footsteps of the IS F was the introduction of the F-Sport accessories line, followed by rumors of a GS F and finally the LFA supercar. Lexus was becoming increasingly serious about making a mark in the luxury performance space, but on its own terms and at its own calculated pace.

Flash forward to October when a press release arrived touting a new Sport Package for the upcoming 2010 LS460. To be honest, our first thought was Lexus was overreaching. The LS is a fine sedan, with plenty of power and a reasonably good balance of ride and handling. But a sports sedan it's not. No matter. If Lexus was threatening to "F" up its LS with a "Sport" package, we needed to put it to the test. And we did just that.

Photos by Frank Filipponio / Copyright ©2009 Weblogs, Inc.

From the outside, there are a few details that set the Sport Package apart from a run-of-the-mill LS460. The most striking addition: those sporty, split ten-spoke, 19-inch wheels. They look oddly aggressive tucked into the LS' wheel arches and ape BMW's traditional cross-spokes. Each is wrapped in Dunlop summer tires measuring 245/45 R19, and on the road they do little to affect the smooth ride you expect from a Lexus. However, when pushed they dig in, providing a surprising amount of grip and no audible complaints until the limits of adhesion are tested.

The other big difference is the aero kit, which will be offered separately in the new Appearance Package. The kit includes tacked on front chin extenders at each corner, more vertical side skirts and a lower rear valance with a blacked-out section between the standard exhaust tips. The darkened plastic gives the illusion of a diffuser, lightens the overall look of the rear and provides Sport-spotters another cue that this particular LS460 stands apart.

The front grille is also unique to the Sport Package sedan, with black mesh and a unique "L" badge featuring a carbon fiber-like background. Standard models get a glossy, black-filled field behind the "L", while hybrids get the blue surround. Quite honestly, the aero kit differs very little from the shape of the standard bodywork, particularly at the front, and comes off as a bit contrived with its bolt-on application.

The interior receives a few tweaks as well, with a stylish black and saddle scheme that compliments the acres of dark wood lining the dash, doors and console. The sport seats are swathed in super-soft perforated leather and infinitely adjustable, supportive and comfortable. The biggest difference inside, however, is the pair of metallic paddles mounted behind the steering wheel. Coupled with the eight-speed automatic, they produce sharp shifts quickly and quietly, with a satisfying throttle blip on downshifts. But with eight ratios to choose from, leaving it in auto mode and letting the car swap cogs on its own is probably just as wise, if not more so.

On the road the 380-horsepower, 4.6-liter V8 is willing and able, but won't provide much aural satisfaction in the cabin until you bury the throttle. With a sub-six-second 0-60 sprint, the car is fast enough for most needs, but to justify the $6,000 projected bump in price, a bit more grunt would have been a nice inclusion. Still, we had no complaints driving it along the freeways or around the twisty B-roads of San Diego county. And that last part was where the extra bucks shown through.

Approaching the first tight turn along this curvy hillside ribbon of asphalt, we instinctively wanted to tap into the upgraded Brembos to scrub off some momentum. Expecting a fair amount of body roll, we planned our line accordingly, but amazingly, the LS – with its re-calibrated suspension, beefier stabilizer bars and uprated shocks – was well planted and barely bobbed to either side. We pushed a little harder into the next bend and the stately sedan just hunkered down and carved a perfect arc. This can't be right. Is it possible that this two-plus-ton Lexus is actually begging for more?

We continued to prod it, trying to provoke some kind of reaction, but only found ourselves bounding along in a middle-aged dog with a puppy's pep, eagerly wagging its tail, playfully taunting us to throw the Frisbee a little further each time. He assures us he'll catch it and bring it back before our arm drops back to our side. And before we know it, we're tearing along at an alarming rate, quickly gathering up the Cadillac ahead of us and forcing us to back off.

As the road straightened out we were scratching our head trying to figure out what just happened. Is this Lexus actually fun to drive? Did these seemingly minor suspension changes really transform the LS from a perfectly wonderful boulevard cruiser to a genuine back road bomber? Well, there is one more piece to this puzzle that explains the LS' newfound agility. The driver-selectable air suspension was set to "Sport."

When selected, the steering firms up and gives the sedan a more sporting demeanor. True, this same feature comes on lesser LS460s, but combined with the Sport Package it makes the LS move like a BMW. Maybe not an M, but certainly a 750i at the very least.

Although for some, the idea of cross-shopping a 7 Series and a Lexus would be too much to stomach. For those looking for a luxury vehicle of this size, the Sport Package LS460 is worth a look. For its part, Lexus sees most of the sales coming from people already in the Lexus fold. It will certainly appeal to those who are moving up from an IS F, or those who want the sportiest driving experience in their next LS.

There's also the possibility that Lexus could grab a few sales from Audi, BMW and Mercedes owners who are looking for something different, along with every gadget under the sun, a killer Mark Levinson sound system and a sat nav that doesn't require a PhD to operate. They might be surprised to find – as we were – that European road manners aren't exclusive to the Bavarians. But as we've learned before, underestimate Lexus at your own peril.

Photos by Frank Filipponio / Copyright ©2009 Weblogs, Inc.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      As a previous owner of a 7 series I can assure you that any vehicle that approaches BMW dynamics, engineered with Lexus like reliability, and superlative customer service has my immediate attention. BMW failed me on the last two counts.
        • 5 Years Ago
        That's the CTS - although it's more of a 5-series competitor rather than this 7 series one.

        And please, before drumming down the resale value of the Cadillac, contact a shrink. I haven't been able to find a good deal on a less than 2 year old AWD CTS in well, a year now ...
      • 5 Years Ago
      "Audi, BMW and Mercedes owners who are looking for something different, along with every gadget under the sun, a killer Mark Levinson sound system and a sat nav that doesn't require a PhD to operate."

      Don't forget rock-solid reliability and not having to worry about $10,000 repair bills. Well, at least the second owner.
      • 5 Years Ago
      wel, it's not a bad car if you can't afford a equal based benz, bmw, audi.
      but it's stil a toyota.

      the dash looks, pretty nice, but the buttons still look cheap.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Just a toyota? You mean just the world's largest automaker in sales?
        • 5 Years Ago
        You said you would never look at a Lexus, so how can you comment about its cheap interior just by looking at a picture? If you actually get inside, you'll know the LS interior is way better than the E-class.

        Yea, Lexus has ways to go before its interior is par with Audi and BMW, but its alot better than MB for sure.

        Your opinion is biased anyways, since you stated you will never buy a "jap" car again. FYI, Toyota is not the only japanese car manufacturer. And not buying another "jap" car just because of one bad experience seems downright stupid and close-minded.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Annual technical inspection? Toyota Avensis? A6 2.7/3.0tdi? Terrible spelling? You've got to be European/or otherwise not from the US.

        Parts availability wherever you are is obviously very different than for the US. My GTi was out for weeks waiting for parts. This has never been an issue for Lexus or Toyota for me - they have so many shared parts between vehicles, parts are plentiful for the most part. Obviously if you haven't seen any IS or GS or LS models recently, you are nowhere near the coasts of the US, nor any big city anywhere in the US.

        "if yo visit a scrapyard and i like to. it's pretty much 90% european cars." (sic)
        Your statement fails to advance any argument you make about the quality of European brands. If all you care about is "nice interior and rock solid suspention" (sic), why are you even bothering commenting about a Lexus? Their core competency is soft, absorbent suspensions and nice, functional interiors, there's nothing here for you.

        Speaking of interiors, "quality" is entirely subjective and what is "high quality" to one person is not necessarily that to another. To decry perceived quality is inherently a subjective viewpoint and you thus cannot deny another person's point of view of it. In essence quality is what you make if it, if you find it high quality great, good for you and move on. If you don't, STFU and move on.
        • 5 Years Ago
        that's the reason, the brand didn't make it, like the wanted to.

        i haven't seen a GS or IS model in ages.
        those aren't even the upper class in price ranking.


        does it need to be metal?
        if you ruin the chrome, just buy a new piece.
        the metal ones rust., tiny litle stones hit that piece.
        (we had a cab company with 3 x w123 and 1 x ford consul)
        prefer to buy a metal or plastic replacement?
        i think the metal ones cost a ton.
        it also has to do with safety.
        each car sold in europe has plastic headlights aswel.

        then why do i see much more e-class and not gs-xxx?

        people aren't stupid here, lexus doesn't have reached the same interior styling.
        the engines are good, but the interiors, apparently not!.
        than parts for bmw, mb, audi, are pretty easy sourceable.
        for a lexus, would that be....

        i wouldn't look @ a lexus, even if it was cheap to get.
        i have owned a toyota, many years back, hahahaha.
        they had a trizillians of tubes and hoses on/around the carbutator.
        the only good thing they had, they had 5 gears, while others still had 4 gears.
        it was the only car, from who the engine died, a valve problem.
        the seats where very soft and you could feel the metal inside them.

        i would prefer a normal base A6 2.7/3.0tdi quatro with standart rims anyday befor any lexus.
        oh, i like the Toyota Avensis, but i never would buy a japs again.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @venom -
        "The interior on the LS is quite nice and luxurious and Lexus has the best looking wood by far."

        when compared to the S class or all cars in this field. I've been in the LS in person, not the new A8 yet, but A8's past (and bentleys which if EVO/CAR are to be believed the A8 rivals in interior quality) and am having a hard time understanding where you're coming from if your comment is class focused and not S class specific.
        • 5 Years Ago
        +1. To me, the entire dash looks cheap.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I always get amazed at the number of people who have experience with W220 S-Classes and act like that somehow defines MB. The W220 was NOT a Mercedes, it was a damn Chrysler made to look fancy. It was all style and absolutely no substance made at a time when the company's CEO was more concerned with selling units than building luxury cars. Until you spend significant time in a W221 you can't understand just how good Mercedes are and how vastly improved they have become over the last 3 years. The W221 has by far the best interior in its class with the best fit and finish and highest quality of materials.

        This isn't to the say the LS isn't stunning, in fact it was a great car for the time I owned one, but the S (and A8) are both a step above. It is impossible to verbalize why, but you can feel it.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I agree that dashboards should all be covered in leather, but it's really not a second-choice to the MB or BMW. If you've ever owned a MB you'd know why so many people jumped ship in the 90s and switched to Lexus.

        You think that interior looks cheap on the LS? Go sit in an MB and see if the plastic everywhere doesn't make you want to vomit.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I won't buy the 750Li even if I'm in the market for a full size luxury sedan. Either the S or this, maybe the A8. Won't want to deal with BMW's notoriously complex electronics once warranty runs out...

        • 5 Years Ago
        Bay area mech. If you can't explain it, maybe you're just full of **** and don't know anything about cars.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I remember when I first got my S my father tapped on the grill and was less than impressed that it was plastic painted to look like chrome.
        He made the comment that he assumed that it would be chrome and he remembered when Mercedes grilles were real metal and chrome.
        The interior on the LS is quite nice and luxurious and Lexus has the best looking wood by far.
        And for the record the interior on my A6 was far superior to my S class.
        • 5 Years Ago
        what i really dislike about MB's interiors are the number pads. i know they're there for convenience, but to me it just seems tacky, and the tackiness outweighs the convenience.
        • 5 Years Ago

        "i haven't seen a GS or IS model in ages."

        you must not get out much. I see at least 5 IS's every single day. They're everywhere.

        • 5 Years Ago

        it's not close minded.

        i can source any part for any european car, original, but not original boxed, yet made by the same producer.
        if yo visit a scrapyard and i like to.
        it's pretty much 90% european cars.

        like for example: i need a cyl head for x bmw/VAG, because i wanna play with it.
        i can't do that with a lexus.
        i'm tim the toolman, i don't wanna live if i can't fix my own cars.
        sometimes, i buy parts to modifiy them and keep the orginal for the anual technical inspection.

        i have previously stated in a other thread, that i like the original gs300 and ls400.

        and still don't like their interiors, be it suzuki, toyota or whatever.
        it has nothing to do with japan, a country i actually would like to visit.
        neither would i buy a american car, they **** even worse.
        i don't care about 0-60 or topspeed, it needs to have a nice interior and rock solid suspention.
      • 5 Years Ago
      For those that say this is still a Toyota... I read this as a compliment because Toyotas are very well built, reliable, and those that buy love it. Same can't be said for a lot of MB and BMW vehicles.

      Continue driving your German vehicles and have fun sitting at the dealership reading magazines and sipping on coffee (or maybe you bring your own cognac).
        • 5 Years Ago
        ah stereotypes, and what of us who own german cars and toyota products and who have been to dealerships equal times for both, oh noez!
        • 5 Years Ago
        Except that these days a lot of Toyotas appear to be going to the dealerships too. Though i'm not sure if you guys get magazines and coffee lol!
      • 5 Years Ago
      Did Toyota leave the open differential unchanged? Toyota likes the Torsen
      Rear tires should be 275/40 19
      Was the axle ratio shortened from 2.937 to 3.133?

      Then it would be a sport.
        • 5 Years Ago
        'Was the axle ratio shortened from 2.937 to 3.133?'


        it's a touring car, not a drag trip racer.
        so who cares.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Wider rubber wouldn't impress nearly as much as larger wheels, IMO.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Looks quite nice and is more reliable than the Germans.
      • 5 Years Ago
      This car deserve respect in his category, I know we always compare everything with everything but since i know the LS model, I have never heard anything bad about this car.

      Is good to see that they are finally getting open mind it with the LS460, bring the Long wheel base and now the Sport pk.

      For the hater out there, the fact you dont like the car, it doesn't mean that the car is a bad car. is one of the best car out there, since it came out
      • 5 Years Ago
      I've driven the LS before and it's otherworldly to drive.This is a nice alternative for people wanting a sporty cruising car.

      There is, however, something that REALLY pisses me off about Lexus...

      They get THIS and all we get is a brown and black interior? Thanks a ****ing lot! I've got two IS's and the old one is in Absolutely Red. They need to have more fun colors and trims for US consumption instead of fifty shades of gray, silver and white! Come on, I want bright red leather in my next Lexus!



      And the LS shouldn't have smiling fog lamps. I liked the old front end much better.

      • 5 Years Ago
      Strangely I find myself liking this car. Interior's a bit on the drab side, but overall it seems like a nice, clean execution. Interior-wise, nothing beats an Audi though.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Those wheels look F-ing disgusting on it.

      but, you can tell its sporty by the orange leather.

      When is Lexus/Toyota going to run out of the cheesy 7 segment digital clocks? they must have bought 8 zillion of them, and the parts bin must be running a bit low after all these years...
        • 5 Years Ago
        I think it's a long-running inside joke by the engineers, figure out how to fit their 1980s clock into the dash every of car they make.
      • 5 Years Ago
      in terms of interiors i think toyota's have been moving upmarket while lexus has stayed the same or even downgraded with the less usage of wood trim ie the new GX and RX

      in terms of exterior styling its obvious that toyota's been taking cues from lexus, which is good for toyota, bad for lexus.

      if toyota doesn't make the upcoming new gen lexus's more distinct there really won't be any reason to look at a lexus over a toyota.

      i'm hoping to be wowed by the new GS, otherwise F10 5 series here i come
      • 5 Years Ago
      One has to admit that 3 years after its debut the interior seems to be lacking compared to BMW/AUDI but I have to say the materials are on par with the E class Mercedes.

      Lower costs of ownership, better reliability is why the LS Lexus holds its value better than its German Rivals after 5 years.

      When this car came out a lot of BMW/Mercedes/Audi owners admitted it was the more handsome of the large sedans

      BTW the larger wheels make the rear deck-lid look lower. A good thing
        • 5 Years Ago
        Actually, the LS has the worst resale value of its class. The W221 S-Class has the best, followed by the 7-Series, followed by the A8.

        Also, the interior of the LS is far superior to anything BMW makes, just a step off the A8 and S-Class, and on par with the new E-Class (which makes sense because they are similarily priced). The level of fit and finish is outstanding in the LS, it is led down only by switchgear that is also found in the Camry.
        • 5 Years Ago
        The basic LS body shape isn't bad, but it's let down by the bumpers and wheels.
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