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  • Writer's pictureMitchell Weitzman

2023 Lexus LS 500 F Sport review: Effortlessly pointless

The LS 500 is a luxurious flagship that has fallen behind and the F Sport only makes it worse.

2023 Lexus LS 500 F Sport

2023 Lexus LS 500 F Sport review with The Road Beat

Words and pictures by Mitchell Weitzman


What is it?


Before my time, the LS 400 sedan debuted to worldwide fanfare, bringing bona fide luxury at a cheaper price that was every bit as special as the BMW 7-Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class German benchmarks. Up until then, if you wanted an executive, full-size flagship sedan made to impress that wasn’t a Bentley or Rolls-Royce, you chose Deutsche. Lexus changed the world and was the first Japanese car to show the world that they too could craft a luxury product and even beat them. Besides judged on price, there’s nothing to uphold that notion here over 30 years later, with the current incumbent LS 500 falling mightily behind the Germans (and even the Koreans) when it comes to this game. Adding an F Sport package, as tested here, only worsens its case. However, remember that this is relative, and in this realm of automobile-lifestyle, even the worse one is still quite good; It’s just far from exceptional, which is what you hope for when spending 100 bands.


Highs


Whereas BMW and Genesis’ offerings have gone for look-at-me approaches with heavy-handed styling (in this case, the BMW way further than the Genesis G90 since the G90 actually looks good), the Lexus comes in with an understated and elegant design. For some, it won’t be enough and considered borderline boring, and it’s for that reason that BMW has to have chosen their direction as means for those with money to be noticed. Vulgar, yes, but it’s the same reason people choose to pay substantial money for those garish Louis Vuitton bags with LV written as many times as possible. Many want and need others to know they’re in something expensive, and the LS looks the least expensive of them all. However, it’s for that reason it’s a positive because of that low-key, stealth style that refrains from the obscene, which there will be an appreciate audience. Mercedes also deserves props for keeping the S-Class mostly clean from exterior vulgarity.


2023 Lexus LS 500 F Sport review

The interior is a design triumph from an aesthetic standpoint, with an overall restrained style that matches the subtle swoops and language of the exterior. True standouts are the floating arm rests on the doors which have a sculptural waterfall effect and look like modern art. The bordering suede has flowing lines like a topographic map, adding to the element for a smart and exaggerated execution. Comfort from all seats and legroom are both great when highway cruising, as is the isolation from the outside world with a cabin that can easily be whispered in. Rear seat passengers will easily enjoy accommodations and serves a reminder of why I prefer the smaller footprint of luxury sedans to huge luxury SUVs during everyday operation.


Lexus has also implemented the new infotainment system from other Toyota group models that marks a vast improvement from the past mousepad virus that infected all Lexus. Why that ever made it off the drawing board is one of the world’s great mysteries, so it’s nice to see something with clean, if stark, graphics and an interface that is easier to use. Also of note is the $89,465 asking price for this model that undercuts a Mercedes-Benz and BMW by over ten thousand dollars.


Lows

Well, there’s going to be a number of lows that make the car seem worse than it is, but they’re all areas where Lexus needs to improve to be able to compete on merit, most of which rest on the facet that the LS is an aging platform from 2017 and widely overdue for a complete reincarnation. For one, there’s the F Sport package, which makes this thing land yacht neither sporty nor as comfortable. The ride quality smooths out and relaxes at speed, but at slower velocities, the ride quality is too harsh and unbecoming for a big luxury barge. My roads aren’t the best, but there’s no way I should have felt bumps the way I did in an LS 500. Larger impacts on the highway were even harsh, but it’s the low speed, even slamming over speed bumps that bely the luxury mission of this cruise ship.


2023 Lexus LS 500 F Sport interior

The handling isn’t there either, with early moaning and groaning from even slightly enthusiastic cornering and lots of body roll. This doesn’t really matter in a luxury product, but I would have hoped for increased control and capability given the ride quality concerns and the number of F Sport badges adorned throughout, not to mention those sporty blood red interior highlights. By missing the mark on both the sport and comfort aspect, the LS 500 F Sport lives in a no man's land that makes it largely irrelevant and a waste.


Infotainment might be improved, but there’s no physical home button, and as a result, it can be hard to get out of some menus, especially when in Apple CarPlay. I ended up using the hard keys for radio or for the seats to get out of it quickly and then backtrack from there. And on that same note, there’s no physical A/C switch despite several other physical keys for the climate. So, you have to dig into the screen and the climate settings for A/C on or off, and also to manually change which vents the air is flowing from. Partially burying certain controls in digital menus makes little sense.


The shifter gave me several problems, either not shifting into gear even with my foot on the brake (the warning would say to press the brake…) and pressing P for park often resulted in a jolt forward. I would even wait a full two seconds for the red PARK to illuminate, signifying the automatically-applied electronic emergency brake, and still the car would jolt, most notably when stopped on a hill. I displayed this behavior for a friend who was even shocked at that behavior. Further, I could feel and hear clunks when going from reverse and into drive.


Lexus LS 500 F Sport interior rear seats

The brake pedal feel itself is maybe among the worst in any new car initially, as the first time pressing the brakes for my freeway exit, I had a split-second of fearing the brakes had gone out. Simply put, there is too much pedal travel and dead zone before any braking force applies or you receive any feedback that they’re there. You get used to it, but that first time was bizarre.


I also could not believe how thirsty the 3.4L twin-turbo V6 is, averaging a dismal 18.5 MPG during my week in mixed driving and hardly ever accelerating remotely quickly. Often, I drove it quite leisurely, yet I couldn’t crack 19 on the digital display. That’s significantly behind a BMW 740i from my own experience and several back of the last Genesis G90 I drove with their own new mild-hybrid V6. Performance is enough, but you’re not winning any stoplight drag races against its competitors either for those that care. Still, 429 horsepower is more than satisfactory in the real world.


Because Lexus eradicated the mousepad controller, there’s now a piano black cupholder cover that is way too prone to scratches and fingerprints. This is made worse by the fact the only way to actually close it is to press directly on the black material itself. On the subject of the interior, the craftsmanship is good, but not the perfection I wanted in an expensive Lexus, typically known for their bank-vault robustness; Transitioning slowly up even slightly angled driveways, I could hear creaks inside the car from obvious flexing of the long chassis. And apart from those armrests, the rest of the cabin doesn’t wow like the latest releases from the Germans and especially Genesis, too. Those are cars where you open the door and go, “Holy moly.” Here, you just don’t get that same degree of fascination, further signifying its relative age. In isolation it's great, but once you experience others back-to-back, the Lexus is just a bit boring and old. I also found the entry/standard stereo in this too weak and with not enough depth, so an upgrade to the optional Mark Levinson unit is surely a must.


Lexus LS 500 F Sport

Verdict


You might be left thinking that I hate this car, but I don’t. Rather, it’s just a disappointment coming from Lexus' flagship product. There’s denying here that the LS 500 has fallen considerably behind its rivals as a luxury car, and being in its seventh year already of production, it’s in desperate need of a total revamp inside and out. Unless you’re just in a recurring lease cycle and due for a new one, there’s really no reason to bother with a new LS 500 at this point, because if you can spend $90K on one, what’s another 10 to bag a Genesis G90 Ultimate that will dazzle you (and your friends, too) each day and night. A good car, this, but one that's too old and pointless with the F Sport package equipped. You might be mistaken into thinking its good value, but it's currently too behind the established luxury pack.


2023 Lexus LS 500 F Sport

Price as-tested: $89,465

Pros: Undercuts rivals on price

Cons: Undercuts rivals on price for a reason




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