Lexus LS500 F Sport

Generational leap transforms Japanís flagship

BARRY PARK

THEREíS something going on at Lexus. Known for its staid, conservative cars that trade on value for cashed-up buyers, Toyotaís luxury arm is now injecting a welcome dose of design and dynamic flair to its range.

Standard behaviour

As youíd expect from a Lexus, let alone the brandís flagship, the LSís equipment list is long and smacks of value compared with the expensive options lists of rivals. Thereís a sunroof, a 23-speaker Mark Levinson audio system, heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats, heated steering wheel, DVD player, DAB radio, active LED headlights, a rear sunblind, and a shallow boot that will swallow 480 litres of luggage. Thereís a suite of active safety equipment, naturally, and one of the largest head-up displays weíve seen.

Model Lexus LS500 F Sport

Engine 3444cc V6 (60į), dohc, 24v, twin-turbo

Max power 310kW @ 6000rpm

Max torque 600Nm @ 1600-4800rpm

Transmission 10-speed automatic

Weight 2440kg 0-100km/h 5.0sec (claimed)

Economy 9.5L/100km

Price $190,500

On sale Now

FIRST AUSSIE DRIVE

Spectacular interior; well equipped; decent handling for its size

PLUS & MINUS

Rear-seat headroom; artificial engine noise; high thirst

The latest model to embody this transformation is the brandís flagship, the LS sedan. Now into its fifth generation, this version doesnít just shake off the stuffy conservatism of its lardy predecessor, but slams the door behind it.

Gone is the old carís 4.6-litre V8 for a pair of all-new V6 engines that split between twin-turbo performance (the LS500), and battery-hybrid frugality (the LS500h). It moves onto Lexusís fresh GA-L rear-drive platform, and the brandís polarising design language is used to full effect, complete with huge spindle grille.

Inside, youíre presented with a space thatís more work of art than traditional car interior. Stunning Naguri-style aluminium panels sit on doors that feature arm rests that appear to be floating. Strips of metal inlay cascade along a dash that wraps around a high-resolution 12.3-inch central screen, and most of the buttons are metal, including a beautiful lathe-turned volume knob.

It all smacks of stunning form, but not at the cost of function, providing you discount the large console-mounted trackpad that remains a source of ergonomic and functional frustration.

In Comfort mode, the LS500 lopes along on air suspension with an ease and grace that make long hauls a relaxed, soothing experience. The cabin is mostly well hushed, although some tyre roar from the F sportís staggered Bridgestones (245/45R20 up front, 275/40R20 out back) is noticeable from the roomy rear seats.

The muscular 310kW/600Nm V35A-FTS V6 (a very different animal to the Hybridís atmo 3.5-litre unit coded as 8GR-FXS) is refined and delivers decent performance paired with a 10-speed automatic, though lacks the aural character of the old V8.

Activating Sport or Sport+ modes tightens up the ride and sharpens throttle and gearbox response, and while the LS still isnít a dynamic match for an S-Class or 7 Series, its new platform and four-wheel steering give it a litheness that belies its sizeable 2440kg heft and 5.23-metre length.

In the rear, headroom is compromised by coupe-esque styling, but the seats are comfortable, thereís ample storage and touches of luxury, like RollsRoyce-style vanity mirrors.

Itís a classy overall package, that not only looks different to the Teutonic establishment, but boasts a vastly improved dynamic package.

BARRY PARK