Driven

Luxurious Compromise: 2020 Lexus LS500 F Sport

If you have perused Limited Slip Blog, it is very possible to have stumbled upon one or both of our two earlier meetings with the Lexus LS500, the most recent being our newlywed colleagues’ honeymoon vehicle of choice. If Lexus offered you an LS500 for a week, would you say no? Neither would we.

2020 Lexus LS500 FSport 5

This time around, a different flavor of LS500 would join the LSB fleet; the F Sport trim level. If you’re not overly familiar with Lexus as a brand, you may not recognize what F Sport means. For Lexus, “F Sport” bridges the gap between the standard trim levels, which primarily focus on luxury first, and the all-out, sport-first “F” models. Translated into other brands, this means MSport instead of M, S instead of RS, and so-on. How, exactly, does “F Sport” apply to Lexus’ flagship luxo-barge, the LS500? Read on to find out.

2020 Lexus LS500 FSport 12

The F Sport trim level brings a different grille and front bumper to the LS500. This unique rendition of the Lexus spindle grille is adorned in black-chrome; no super-shiny bright trim to be found on the F Sport, and trend that is repeated over most of the exterior. Unique 20 inch wheels are standard on the F Sport, which are, in the rear, wrapped in 275/40 series rubber, vs. 245/45 on other trims. Up front, larger rotors with 6-piston monoblock calipers bite harder than the standard brakes. Black chrome adorns the lower side trim of the F Sport, but, strangely, not the trim on the door handles, mirrors, or trims wrapping around the windows. Lexus could have gone a bit further with the black-chrome accents.

2020 Lexus LS500 FSport 7

Stepping inside the F Sport, and you may be shocked at what you find. Unlike the traditional beige Lexus leather interior, our F Sport had red leather seats. The bright red of the leather certainly livens up the large interior. Red leather trim is exclusive option to the F Sport LS500. The gauge cluster is also altered for the F-Sport trim: the speedometer/tachometer display moves within the cluster, depending on the drive mode, glowing red in Sport+, the most aggressive setting. Instead of glossy wood veneer, the doors are adorned with gorgeous turned-aluminum trim, unavailable on any trim aside from the F Sport. The interior is beautifully appointed with not detail spared, every surface feels luxurious and soft to the touch; it’s still a Lexus, and is still built to relax the driver into a good mood, but now with sporty touches for a little bit of added excitement.

The infotainment is largely unchanged from our last experience, meaning that it is frustrating to use, especially while moving. A touchscreen would make interacting with the infotainment system much easier, as the laptop-esque mousepad controller makes adjusting settings while driving a near-dangerous task. The interaction between the driver and infotainment meant that, for me, I got my settings where I wanted them before I started driving, and mostly did not alter them while driving.

2020 Lexus LS500 FSport 9

Our F Sport packed some interior enhancing goodies: the optional 24″ Heads-Up Display, and the optional 23 speaker Mark Levinson surround sound system. Although these two features added a total of $3,160 to the bottom-line of our tester, a week of thorough testing has us convinced these are must-have features. The heads-up display is one of the best of its kind, extremely clear while displaying speed, direction traveled, revs, and even changing to show your volume or radio station if you change the settings. The 2400 watt, 23 speaker Mark Levinson system will have you reaching for your favorite music to re-listen to it all. Although this system offers both “2d” and “3d” surround, I found myself most happy with the surround mode off. The auditory experience of the system needs to be experienced in person to truly be appreciated. The sound pouring out of the speakers exuded clear and lifelike treble, a midrange seemingly without distortion, bass with thunderous depth and an acoustic space for music that seemingly brought songs to life. With 2400 watts of power, this system can play loud enough for your to have your own personal concert venue on wheels. Unfortunately, the driver’s side armrest vibrated at high volumes, adding some rattle to the experience that is unacceptable in a car you just spent $89,885 on.

2020 Lexus LS500 FSport 1

The F Sport comes standard with a re-tuned version of of Lexus’ Adaptive Variable Suspension, featuring Comfort, Normal, Sport, and our favorite, Sport+ modes. Combine Sport+ mode with the larger brakes and wider rear tires, and this big Lexus has a surprising level of grip. However, the suspension seems to be at odds with itself: In any mode, Comfort through Sport+, hitting a deep pothole sends a noticeable impact into the cabin, with more noise than you’d expect. Comfort mode has a floaty, loose feeling to the suspension that is eradicated in Sport+ mode. Sport+ combines the best body control and damping, along with a very smooth and comfortable ride, only upset by a pothole or an aggressively terrible road surface. Sport+, however, does not fix the ultimate tendency of the LS, which is to understeer. The front end just doesn’t want to turn after you’ve crossed a certain threshold, which is fine, anyway. The LS is happiest at cruising or at 7/10ths energetic driving-push too much further, and the LS almost seems to say “SLOW DOWN!” Acceleration is smooth and quick at full throttle, but initial throttle response is noticeably lethargic in all drive modes. Nothing seems to happen when you first put your foot into it, whether from at a dead stop or when passing. Once the twin turbos spool, however, the Lexus feels every bit as quick as its 416hp says it should.

2020 Lexus LS500 FSport 11

Our 2020 Lexus LS500 F Sport left us enamored with it’s incredible attention to detail, luxurious cabin, and amazing sound system. The F Sport trim may not give you an all out sports-machine, but the LS was never intended to be so. Instead, the F-Sport injects some extra excitement into the styling and driving personality of the LS, without sacrificing much in comfort or anything in drivability. If you are in the market for a big luxury flagship, but want something that breaks away from luxury norms, and adds a bit more spice to the mix, then look no further than the LS500 Sport.

-Ken Wilson

2020 Lexus LS500 F Sport AWD
$85,695
24″ Heads-Up Display (HUD)$1,220
Mark Levinson Audio System w/ 23 Speakers$1,940
Panorama Glass Roof$1,000
Destination Charges$1,025
As Tested MSRP$89,885

Related: Perfect Honeymoon: 2019 Lexus LS500

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