LEXUS LS500 F SPORT

Ja­pan’s luxe limo gains V6 boost

Motor (Australia) - - FRONT END. JUST LAUNCHED -

BUY­ING INTO THE LIMO class is like go­ing to your high-school reunion. Ex­cept, the for­mer is a pur­chase that suc­cess in life af­fords you, while the lat­ter seems to be an event to show­case what you can now af­ford. It’s all about mak­ing a bold state­ment. The fifth-gen­er­a­tion Lexus LS cer­tainly does that. Toy­ota’s lux­ury off­shoot has been a pi­o­neer of bold de­sign for some time now, and the $190,500 LS500 F Sport lives up to the billing. Yet, be­hind the over­sized spin­dle grille is a first for Lexus and its sedan range – a turbo-petrol V6. The unit is the V35A-FTS 3.5-litre twin-turbo six with 310kW and 600Nm, which is kept cool via two in­ter­cool­ers. Gone is the hy­brid 5.0-litre V8, yet the new un­der­square, 60-de­gree V6 has enough grunt to get the 2245kg limo to 100km/h in five sec­onds. How­ever, it never re­ally feels as fast as the badge al­ludes and the muted V6 sound­track gives off, ahem, Camry vibes... Peak power is de­vel­oped at 6000rpm, so it needs some revs to re­ally get up and go. Al­though, there is a swell of torque down low (16004800rpm) and the boosted six has a tractable, lin­ear de­meanour. It’s all about staid mo­tor­ing; 600Nm cer­tainly fa­cil­i­tates that. So does the 10-speed torque-con­verter auto (shared with the LC500). You can shift with the pad­dles, but it’s gen­er­ally best left to its own de­vices. Built on the new GA-L rear-drive plat­form, the F Sport gains rear-wheel steer­ing and adap­tive air sus­pen­sion. The LS man­ages fore and aft pitch un­be­liev­ably well, so much so that you might not no­tice you’ve driven over a speed bump. It set­tles im­pec­ca­bly and man­ages body roll im­pres­sively. Sharp im­per­fec­tions can catch the sus­pen­sion out, though. The run-flat tyres and 20-inch wheels don’t help. The F Sport can never re­ally es­cape its size, even with rear steer­ing, and the trac­tion/sta­bil­ity con­trols are overzeal­ous. The Sport modes ramp things up, but it never feels per­for­mance ori­en­tated. It’s a cruiser. De­spite er­gonomic flaws, tight rear head­room and ‘that’ track­pad, the cabin is an ut­terly op­u­lent af­fair. It’s a de­sign de­light with plush ma­te­ri­als and a sym­phonic 23-speaker Mark Levin­son sur­round sound sys­tem. Opt for the Sports Lux­ury vari­ant and you get 22-way ad­justable power rear seats with seven mas­sage pro­grams. Bril­liant. A per­for­mance car the LS500 is not. The F Sport des­ig­na­tion is re­ally just a de­sign-driven spec level that of­fers sport­ing pre­tence to a pack­age that suc­ceeds in style and lux­ury. It’s also an in­ter­est­ing al­ter­na­tive to the Ger­mans. Oh, and there are cer­tainly worse ways to make an en­trance.

BE­LOW Driver-ori­en­tated dash fea­tures a 12.3-inch in­fo­tain­ment screen and the most ex­quis­ite vol­ume dial in any car

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