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2018 Lexus LS 500 F Sport Drivers' Notes Review | Pretty but imperfect

An LC sedan this is not, but boy does it look good.

  • Image Credit: Lexus
  • Image Credit: Lexus
  • Image Credit: Lexus
  • Image Credit: Lexus
  • Image Credit: Lexus
  • Image Credit: Lexus
  • Image Credit: Lexus
  • Image Credit: Lexus
  • Image Credit: Lexus
  • Image Credit: Lexus
  • Image Credit: Lexus
  • Image Credit: Lexus
  • Trim
    F Sport
  • Engine
    3.5L Twin-Turbo V6
  • Power
    416 HP / 442 LB-FT
  • Transmission
    10-Speed Automatic
  • Drivetrain
  • Curb Weight
    4,900 LBS (approx.)
  • Cargo
    17 CU FT
  • MPG
    18 CITY / 27 HWY
  • Base Price
  • As Tested Price
The ultimate Lexus, and the one that launched the brand, the LS was completely redesigned for the 2018 model year. It introduced an aggressive version of the famous (infamous?) "spindle" grille, a swoopy interior, and went to a completely V6-powered lineup, the fully gas-powered model featuring a twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter engine. Not only that, but it adopted the platform of the stunning Lexus LC 500.

With all that in mind, the LS 500 sounds like it's got the potential to not only be a first-class luxury cruiser, but may have even gained some of the LC 500's sporting expertise. To find out, we spent some time in an all-wheel-drive model with the F Sport package, which adds a meaner-looking grille, sporty seats and the trick sliding gauge ring to remind us of the LFA supercar that first used such a cluster. The only thing it lacks is the handling upgrades exclusive to the rear-drive gas-only LS.

Associate Editor Joel Stocksdale: I love the Lexus LC 500, like, a lot. It was my favorite car I drove last year because it has the perfect combination of style, comfort and performance. So knowing that the LS has LC roots, I was excited to drive it, hoping it would basically be a four-door version of that car.

It certainly looks the part. Though not the gorgeous beast the LC is, it's still a looker. It's aggressive and intimidating, particularly with the black F Sport grille. And when you get in, you're greeted by hip-hugging leather seats and a flashy instrument cluster. Everything around you is leather, suede or metal in really interesting, unique shapes that make this Lexus feel like something different and special to most luxury cars. I particularly like the floating arm rest/grab handles in the doors.

But things fall apart with the driving experience. The twin-turbo V6, although plenty powerful, doesn't sound nearly as lovely as the growling V8 monster in the LC. It also has really sluggish throttle response, and the gearbox doesn't shift as quickly and crisply as in the LC, even in Sport+ mode. The steering refuses to tell you anything either, feels too light, and what weight exists feels very artificial. The ride quality also doesn't quite seem to know if it wants to be La-Z-Boy cushy or sports sedan firm. It's a shame, too, because there are brief moments in quick corners when the car starts to feel more confident — it's just let down most other places by other bits and pieces. But hey, at least it looks great.

Senior Editor, Green, John Beltz Snyder: My, this is a beautiful car, especially on the inside. The design is bold, and unlike anything other brands are doing. It might not be everyone's cup of tea (just like that grille), but I find it to be excellently and elegantly executed. The floating armrests that Joel mentions are eye-catching and modern. The way the door trim panels look layered, almost as though they're being peeled away one by one, is something that seems straight out of an auto-show concept car, but it works here in this production model. I also love the lines that swoop all the way across the dash and appear mirrored in the stitching of the door trim.

The way the controls are incorporated into the design is interesting, as well. They're different than a lot of cars — especially the haptic touchpad infotainment interface — but they're worth getting used to for the unique look they afford. I dig the twist/push controls for drive modes and traction control located up on the sides of the instrument cluster. The tiny metal dots below the HVAC controls are useful, attractive and out of the way. I'd have never thought up a design like this in a million years, but I'm glad someone did.

While I agree with Joel's assessment of the drive experience (if you want a great twin-turbo V6, check out the Cadillac XTS V-Sport we drove recently), I honestly don't care that it's not an exciting car to drive, despite the engine under the hood. It creates a comfortable space that'll cruise comfortably and quickly to your destination. In style, no less. I just plopped it in Eco Mode, fired up the cruise control, and enjoyed my surroundings.

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