Lexus LS 500 F Sport — Classy, comfortable, but showing its age

By Jim Prueter

(January 1, 2024) While marching to the beat of its own drummer since it debuted some 30 years ago, Lexus still marches forward taking on the German luxury giants of Mercedes, Audi and BMW with its core values of luxury, quality and style at a better price.

Zoom ahead to 2024 and while Lexus is still here doing battle with the same values albeit not as affordable with our LS 500 F Sport starting at $87,275, and with added competitors like Genesis, Tesla, Lucid, and others, Lexus engineers have been diligent with continued refinement to the embodiment of a nearly perfect luxury sedan in its current, fifth-generation 2024 tested here.

Still, while nearly perfect, it isn't quite there especially with the car's interior. Superb materials abound from supple leather hides, impeccable build quality and finely crafted timbers for accent trim, fully kitted the LS's longtime competitors simply falls short when compared to the elegant and quintessential luxury interiors of the S-class Mercedes. Even other luxury sedans like the BMW 7-series, Audi A8 and Genesis G90 haven't matched the cutting edge of Mercedes.

By no means offensive in any regard, the LS simply feels dated and past its freshness date and what's needed to conquest customers from the pinnacle of this pricey luxury sedan segment. The LS was last redesigned for the 2018 with few if not slight updates to the brand's flagship since. Perhaps the most significant decision regarding the LS since that time was the decision by Lexus to eschew its traditional V-8 power in favor of a new twin-turbocharged 3.4-liter V-6 with 416 hp. Lexus also added a a hybrid setup that uses a V-6 and two electric motors in the LS 500h good for 354 horsepower paired with an electronically controlled continuously variable automatic transmission.

We tested that vehicle for 2020 and found it to be decidedly unrefined, coarse and far inferior to the twin-turbocharged V-6 engine. We were also disappointed with the continuously variable transmission (CVT); pre-set gear ratios felt imprecise and vague leaving us questioning why Lexus engineers felt the need to abandon the excellent conventional 10-speed automatic transmission found on the non-hybrid LS model.

During our testing of the LS 500 F Sport here we found the V-6 and its 416 turbocharged horsepower returned exceptionally quick and smooth acceleration yet absent of most intrinsic value or benefit and again, rendering it an outlier in its competitive set with the German luxury flagships. That's not to say the V-6 didn't generally perform acceptably with needing just 5.8 seconds to reach 60 mph from a stop, but there's a noticeable level of turbo lag, a hesitation between the V-6 and the transmission.

There are several drive modes the driver can select (Normal, Sport S, and Sport S+) to enhance performance, but we miss the smooth immediate power delivery of a V-8. But if you're looking for "Sport" in the LS because of its nomenclature, it isn't part of the deal. What you get with the F Sport package is some nice looking add-ons including a more aggressive looking front valance and grille, so exterior badging and specific F Sport wheels, limited-slip differential, adaptive variable suspension, the addition of SportS+ drive mode, tuned power steering, and specific F-Sport gauge cluster.

While these F Sport features are a welcome addition don't confuse it with upgrades that change anything to the engine and transmission that makes it a quicker luxury sedan. That isn't to deny the capability of its 416 hp and 442-ft of torque to move its 5,000 pounds of mass, there's little to complain about in that regard but the primary purpose of the vehicle is luxurious comfort while the F Sport is added for appearance and a bit more composure of the vehicle.

It would be a mistake to misclassify the Lexus LS as anything other than one of the most refined luxury sedans on the south side of $100k but the F Sport suspension virtually eliminates up to the worst road imperfections with confident rebound that's pleasantly unnoticed. The suspension serendipitously delivers a sense of engineering knowhow with the state of automotive excellence with a vehicle of this mass.

Inside, aside from its aging art deco aesthetics there's little to fault. The matrix design door panel designs are bit excessive, the gearshift lever is nub of protuberance and getting your selection into the right gear isn't the easiest, but certainly annoying requiring the driver to visually acknowledge the vehicle is in D or R. We're pleased the outdated trackpad behind the gearshift is gone giving way to a much preferred touch screen infotainment operation that's with9in easy reach with quick responses to inputs. Thankfully the Lexus has kept the HVAC controls outside the infotainment screen and now located just below the central air vents for quick access.

As expected for a full-sized luxury sedan the cabin is commodious especially up front, and this reviewer's 6'6" length surprisingly didn't necessitate the all the way back seat adjustment allowing unusual and rare legroom for passengers punished by having to try and sit behind the driver.

Outside, the exterior's basic styling and shape takes on strong cues of the now departed Toyota Avalon albeit tarted up with additional premium accoutrements, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. And yes, the polarizing spindle grille is maintained as the leading identifying image of the brand even if it easily misidentifies the LS as its smaller sibling, the ES. Not picking on Lexus since it isn't unique to the Japanese automaker, Audi, Infiniti Mercedes and BMW suffer from the same misguided affliction.

Overall, the LS is definitely a worthy and generally classy alternative to its Germanic competitors as a capable performer in a full-sized luxury salon at an attractive price. And while reasonable people can disagree on styling and often do, the interior, while flush with high-quality materials and build quality falls short of state-of-the-art standard set by German rivals missing a general feeling and milieu or character that wows the senses.

Vital Stats

Base Price: $87,275Price as Tested: $90,810
Engine/Transmission: 3.4-L twin turbocharged 416-hp V6 and a 10-speed automatic transmission.
EPA Fuel Economy: 17/27/21 - mpg City/Highway/Combined
Crash Test Safety Ratings: The 2024 Lexus LS F Sport has not been crash test rated by either the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as of this writing.

Where Built: Tahara, Japan

Competes With:
Audi A8
BMW 7-Series
Genesis G90
Mercedes-Benz S Class
Porsche Panamera

Superb materials and build quality
Upgraded infotainment system
Classy, comfortable

Missing "Wow" factors found in competing rivals
Past its freshness date
Little "Sport" in the F Sport package