It’s time for the flagship Lexus LS500 to take the scenic route home
“YOU’RE TAKING AN LS500 on that road. Why are you doing that?” Given the person offering this candid guidance was an esteemed colleague, I probably should have heeded the advice. Also, considering the years of road testing experience I’ve also gained in Victoria’s Yarra Valley, listening to my gut feeling would have been a good idea. But I didn’t. And I ended up on a narrow and twisty road.
However, it wasn’t quite akin to hustling the MS Symphony of the Seas down the Yarra River. In fact, it was good fun. Which is heartening given dynamic prowess is the reason you’d choose the F Sport over the $5k more expensive Sports Luxury. While the former doesn’t gain the latter’s interior gadgets, it does add rear-wheel steering, active anti-roll bars and variable-gear-ratio steering up front. The theory is that this isn’t the LS to be driven in, rather it’s the one you drive.
Okay, at 5235mm long, 1900mm wide and with a wheelbase of 3125mm it’s never going to be a twinkle-toed ballerina. However, the LS500 F Sport does display an impressive amount of agility. Roll is largely kept in check and on fast, flowing sections of tarmac it really finds its feet. While the rear-steer helps, its long wheelbase hampers rotation and on corner exit a lack of a limited-slip differential can see the inside rear spin – or it sends the traction control into a frenzy.
While the F Sport well and truly lives up to the cosseting crosscountry cruiser, the adaptive air suspension doesn’t deal with CBD imperfections quite as well. There are some potholes and sharp hits that can’t be ironed out – blame the rather large 20-inch wheels and lowprofile Bridgestones for that. It’s far, far from uncomfortable. But when relaxation is the name of the game,
you kind of expect to be guarded from all deficiencies in road surface.
I might have jumped the gun in the oomph department. I still think the twin-turbo V6 is adequate for the 2240kg heft rather than effortless and ample. However, the V35A-FTS unit is smooth and linear (with revised pistons to reduce noise) and pairs well with the 10-speed automatic. It doesn’t blip on downshifts like the harder-edged LC500, but it’s intuitive and has the 3.5-litre bent six lazing in lower revs at cruising speeds.
Not that fuel economy is a key concern for a $195k limo, but the non-hybrid drivetrain is thirsty, averaging 11.11L/100km in my possession. That’s slightly more than the 10L/100km claim. The bump in fuel economy over last month is due to a short stint of lockdown respite and spirited driving, where Sport and Sport+ were engaged. And then promptly returned to Comfort.
It’s refreshing to discover that the F Sport isn’t just to be driven in. However, buying into this realm also now affords other luxuries thanks to Lexus on Demand’s Encore Platinum membership. The program allows customers to experience either an RC F, LX, LC or LS for a booking of up to eight days at a time. Four of these opportunities are available over the three years and selecting a car can be done via the handy app. Then you head to a Lexus dealer (or Qantas valet in certain cities) and swap out your car for something new – which I tested out.
Sliding into an LC500 seems very feasible for an LS owner to shake things up. Both are head-turning cars, just in different ways. And given this is MOTOR, I thought it only right to experience the 5.0litre, Yamaha co-developed V8 one more time. It’d be wrong not to.
Surprisingly, it offered a reprieve from the nail-biting experience of parking the L.O.N.G LS500 in my garage every night. A first-world problem, I know.
Ultimately, the experience you glean from living with the big LS is a direct result of the type of road you take it down. And the way in which you drive. Despite the 2.2-tonne heft, it’s a dynamically surprising experience. And that’s a theme of the ownership, too.
As I stated from the outset, this isn’t a traditional MOTOR car. Yet, there’s plenty of enjoyment to be had. It’s an automotive experience that makes you feel special, as though you’re permanently in first class. For crushing highway miles in premium comfort, little else is as satisfying as the flagship Lexus.
If you have the means, Japan’s answer to the German limos offers class and character in spades. I already miss it. – TG