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Lexus ES 300h F Sport Review

Sometimes it takes money to save (gas) money

A side view of the Lexus ES 300h

The 2022 Lexus ES was given a light exterior refresh, new safety and performance features, and updates to the multimedia systems. (Toyota)

Table of Contents

2022 Lexus ES Updates
Pricing
Interior Function
Back Seats and Trunk
Performance and Fuel Economy
Ride and Handling
Safety and Driver-Assist Systems
Why Buy the Lexus ES 300h F Sport?
Specifications

BY MARK MAYNARD

TThe bold metallic blue Lexus ES 300h hybrid delivered to my driveway had a sport-sedan stance in black 19-inch alloy wheels and low-profile tires. The look called out a swaggering F Sport attitude. And this from a gasoline-electric hybrid? It surely was not an expected presentation by this elite luxury brand.

The midsize ES sedan, now in its seventh generation, has been the mature choice for luxurious style — and the more of its luxe, the better. Of the 11 nameplates in the Lexus lineup, the ES ranks fourth in sales, behind three SUVs, the midsize RX, large LX, and compact NX.

And seven of those 11 nameplates are available as a hybrid, including a new plug-in NX SUV hybrid.

The Lexus ES 300h hybrid is a sugar cube of civil obedience. It is elegant, efficient, and somewhat expected of polite company. But the new-for-2022 F Sport package rocks the teacup, which Lexus hopes will tempt younger buyers.

Once a platform partner with the Toyota Camry, the ES was moved to the Toyota Avalon architecture in 2012. That separation for the ES added a longer wheelbase (now at 113 inches) and 3.8 inches in length. The cabin is a bit wider and lower, both by 0.4 inch.

The Camry and Avalon also are available in hybrid powertrains, and both have liberally shared interior elements.

ES 300h front seats

The F Sport front seats are comfortably bolstered. (Mark Maynard)

2022 Lexus ES Updates

With a complete redesign expected for 2025, the 2022 Lexus ES was given a light exterior refresh with a few new exterior and interior colors. However, more significant updates were made to the multimedia system, touchscreen controls, and touchpad. In addition, safety and performance features were enhanced. And while Lexus has offered its F Sport package throughout the lineup, the ES 300h F Sport is new for 2022.

Among the exterior updates are a new mesh-pattern grille and redesigned bi-LED headlights. But the F Sport gets its own mesh grille treatment with a dark border. And the rear suspension was tightened with a new brace for torsional rigidity.

The ES brake system was tweaked on both gas and hybrid models. The brake pedal shape was enlarged for foot stability. On gas-engine models, the brake system master cylinder and booster were refined for more linear brake pedal feel and response. And the hybrid’s regenerative and hydraulic brake system was improved for pedal feel when the brake pedal is released.

optional 12.3-inch color multimedia in the ES 300h

Multimedia displays were moved forward 4.3-inches. (Mark Maynard)

Lexus ES Multimedia Updates

The standard 8.0-inch and optional 12.3-inch color multimedia displays were moved forward 4.3-inches and have touchscreen functionality. And the remote touchpad on the shift console was recalibrated for a less touchy response.

Additional interior updates for 2022 include a streamlined instrument panel design to make it easier for the front passenger to adjust cabin functions.

The wireless phone charger is tucked away in the front armrest console box. (Mark Maynard)

The improved interior technologies are so much easier to use now, though it might not seem so at first look. A lot of information is displayed on the two touchscreens, plus the upper and lower tiers of controls on the center console stack.

The presentation is almost information overload. But tiers of switches and buttons are very handy to make cabin adjustments without using the touchpad or the touchscreen.

Lexus ES Pricing and Warranties

The ES is available in eight trim levels with three powertrain choices:

  • 203-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine;
  • 302-hp 3.5 liter V-6;
  • 215-hp, 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder and lithium-ion battery pack.

All-wheel-drive is available in the entry ES 250 AWD. Gas-powered models have an eight-speed automatic transmission and the hybrid trims have a continuously variable automatic.

Starting prices range from $42,950 for the ES 250 AWD with the 2.5-liter engine and V-6npowered ES 350. The ES 300h starts at $44,050 or $47,600 for ES 300h F Sport. Pricing includes the freight charge from Georgetown, Ky.

The ES 300h F Sport tester was $52,260 with nine options, including $595 for the Ultrasonic Blue 2.0 paint. (View standard equipment and option details in the specs chart at the end of this story.)

Lexus ES starting prices are comparable to the BMW 330e and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. But the BMW is a plug-in hybrid and Mercedes doesn’t offer a C-Class hybrid.

Check current ES hybrid pricing and incentives here.

Basic vehicle warranty coverage is for 4-years/50,000-miles bumper to bumper and 6-years/70,000-miles for the powertrain. The hybrid components are covered for 8-years/100,000-miles, including the hybrid battery voltage sensor, power management control module, and inverter with converter. The Lexus hybrid battery warranty coverage is for 10-years/150,000-miles.

A front interior door panel of the ES 300h

The F Sport’s dramatic slash of white, leatherlike NuLuxe. (Mark Maynard)

Lexus ES Interior Function

While the ES is richly appointed in areas seen and touched, there are some Toyota-grade plastics with some rough edges in the lower areas.

Those initial observations will fade as the Lexus ES finds its high-fidelity groove in your daily life.

The styling stance of the ES is more sport sedan than family car. Front headroom of 37.5 inches with the moonroof could be limiting to some big-and-tall drivers. But the structure provides clear sightlines at the side mirrors and over the shoulder.

The F Sport front seats are bolstered but not so much as to complicate comfortable entry and exit. And their design has long road-trip support and comfort.

F-Sport Style

The F Sport influence is contemporary, with no wood trim anywhere. The headliner and roof pillars are black, and the three-spoke steering wheel has a solid fit in hand. Hadori-style satin-metallic trim wraps from the top of the doors across the span of the instrument panel. And the slash of white NuLuxe (leatherlike) in the door panels is unusual but attractive.

The sun visors seem oddly short and are not always effective, but they do slide. And another oddity is a single-disc CD player in the audio system.

There are a few small item storage areas, a small door panel stash space, and a locking glove box.

Cup holders on the shift console have two levels for tall or grande beverages. There is another cup holder and a phone slot just ahead of the shifter, with a module with two charging USBs and a 12-volt plug.

Trunk space is wide, low and open at 13.9 cubic feet.

Trunk space is wide and low with golf-bag space. (Mark Maynard)

Lexus ES Back Seat and Trunk

Maximum back-seat legroom of 39.3 inches is long unless Daddy Long Legs is in the driver’s seat. But the seats are quite comfortable if a little short on thigh support for tall adults. A wide, padded fold-down armrest has two deep cup holders. There is usable door-panel storage and a pair of charging USBs, and a 12-volt plug.

The back seat does not fold, but there is a ski pass-through.

Trunk space of 13.9 cubic feet is wide with a comfortable liftover for heavy luggage. The trunk has a kick-activated sensor and a power lid closer.

ES 300 h back seat

Maximum back-seat legroom is long at 39.3 inches. (Mark Maynard)

Lexus ES 300h Performance

The gasoline-electric powertrain integrates a 176-hp Atkinson-cycle 2.5-liter four-cylinder with an electric motor, and a 39-hp, 29.1 kW lithium-ion battery pack. With total system power of 215-hp, Lexus cites 0-60 mph acceleration in 8.1 seconds.

The eCVT helps give quick uptake of acceleration away from the light. But passing power is thin at highway speeds. However, the transmission has almost no lag as the CVT builds power.

Fuel Economy

Official fuel economy ratings are 43 mpg city, 44 highway, and 44 mpg combined, on 87 octane fuel. However, my week of driving did not come close to the official ratings. I averaged around 35 mpg in around-town driving and up to 37.3 mpg on a 129-mile highway run.

For comparison, the ES 250 AWD (2.5-liter) has mileage ratings of 25/34/28 mpg. The ES 350 V-6 is rated 22/32/26 mpg, followed by the ES 350 F Sport nonhybrid at 22/31/25 mpg.

The hybrid engine of the Lexus ES 300h

Lexus cites 0-60 mph acceleration in 8.1 seconds. (Mark Maynard)

ES 300h F Sport Ride and Handling

The F Sport-tuned suspension is taut, sometimes with a jolt, but never harsh. It is far different from the ultraluxe ride of the other ES models.

Four-wheel power-assisted disc brakes have generously sized 12-inch ventilated front rotors and 11.1-inch solid rear rotors. This year’s refinement to the regen braking system has taken away some of the on-off response to the pedal. But there is still that push-through point that can cause hesitation when nosing into a parking stall or the home garage.

The tester was upfitted with 19-inch Michelin Primacy MXM4 235/40 all-season tires. Other grades of the ES have 17- or 18-inch tires. A good feature of this tire design is how the outer lip of the tire extends about a half-inch beyond the alloy. That’s is a bit of protection from curb rash.

The grand-touring Michelins complement the ride with their smooth rolling and low tire noise.

19-inch F Sport all-season grand-touring Michelins complement the ride with smooth rolling and reduced tire noise.

F Sport suspension tuning and 19-inch black alloy wheels. (Mark Maynard)

Safety and Driver-Assist Features

Lexus has been a leader in providing advanced technology safety features, and it continues the evolution for 2022.

The pre-collision system’s camera and millimeter-wave radar elements have a broader response range. The system also integrates Frontal Collision Warning and Automatic Emergency Braking, Pedestrian Detection, and Bicyclist Detection.

The Lexus Safety System+2.5 has added Intersection Turning Assist and Emergency Steering Assist to the Pre-Collision System. Under certain conditions, the system can recognize an oncoming vehicle or a pedestrian when making turns. The system also will activate PCS functions if needed. In addition, the new Emergency Steering Assist is designed to help prevent lane departure during an evasive steering maneuver.

All-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control can be activated above 30 mph. It is designed for vehicle-to-vehicle distance controls down to 0 mph and can resume from a stop.

Also new is Curve Speed Reduction, which can automatically reduce vehicle speed, if needed, through certain types of curves.

Those advanced technologies with dynamic cruise control create a reliable Level 2 semi-autonomous driver-assist mode. Lane centering is well calibrated and I experienced no drifting across the white lines or Botts dots, which can be common in other such systems. This system is like a 360-degree view to help the driver avoid an unintended meeting with another driver in heavy commuting traffic.

A sunset view of the ES 300h rear end.

The 2022 Lexus ES F Sport is more sport sedan than family car.

Why Buy the Lexus ES 300h F Sport?

The styling stance of the ES is more sport sedan than family car. But the F Sport package adds no horsepower, only cosmetic upgrades. Depending on the model, the package can add $3,550 to $4,650 to the ES MSRP. But visually engaging elements in the package are strong separators from the luxury image of the ES line.

There are no fatal flaws in the design and engineering of the Lexus ES. It is a welcoming car that conforms to the hustle of the owner’s lifestyle.

Life is complicated; cars shouldn’t be. And the Lexus ES 300h F Sport is easy to live with.

Lexus ES 300h F Sport Specifications

Body style: midsize, 5-seat, front-wheel-drive sedan

Engine: 176-hp, direct and port injection 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle 4-cylinder w/auto stop-start at idle; 163 lb.-ft. torque from 3,600-5,200 rpm

Hybrid system: Permanent magnet electric motor with 39-hp, 29.1 kW lithium-ion battery pack; 244.8 volts, 204 cells

Total system power: 215-hp

Transmission: CVT

0-60 mph acceleration: 8.1 seconds

Fuel economy: 43/44/44 city/hwy/combined; 87 octane

BY THE NUMBERS

Fuel tank: 13.2 gallons

Cargo space: 13.9 cubic feet

Front head/leg room: 37.5*/42.4 inches *w/moonroof

Rear head/leg room: 37.8/39.2 inches

Length/wheelbase: 195.9/113 inches

Curb weight: 3,682 pounds

Turning circle: 38.8 feet

FEATURES

Standard equipment includes: smart-key locking and push-button ignition (SmartAccess), perforated NuLuxe upholstery and trim, navigation system with all-speed radar cruise control,12.3-inch touchscreen with Amazon Alexa and Android Auto compatibility, Lexus Enform Wi-Fi with free 4GM 3-month trial, 10-way power front seats, 8-inch color multi-information gauge display, 10-inch color head-up display, single-disc CD player, wireless phone charging, dual-zone automatic climate control with interior air filters and smog sensor, voice command with Bluetooth and USB smartphone connectivity, power rear sunshade, intuitive parking assist, power trunk lid with kick sensor, triple-beam LED headlights

F Sport equipment: bolstered heated and ventilated front seats, Hadori aluminum trim and pedals, heated and leather-trimmed steering wheel with windshield de-icer and fast-response interior heater, black headliner, suspension tuning with performance dampers front and rear,19-inch gloss-black alloy wheels and 235/40 all-season tires, unique front bumper and grille

Safety features include: 10 air bags, pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane-departure alert with steering assist, lane-tracing assist, intelligent high beams, road-sign assist

PRICING

Base price: $46,525, including $1,075 freight charge; price as tested $52,260

Options on test vehicle: Intuitive Parking Assist $565

  • Head-Up Display $500
  • Triple Beam Headlamps $1,215
  • Power Rear Sunshade $210
  • Navigation Package $1,820
  • Power Trunk $550
  • Heated F SPORT Steering Wheel + Deicer $180
  • Key Card $100
  • Premium Ultrasonic Blue 2.0 metallic paint $595

Where assembled: Georgetown, Ky.

Warranty: 4-years/50,000-miles basic bumper to bumper; 6-years/70,000-miles powertrain; 8-years/100,000-miles hybrid components (including hybrid battery voltage sensor, power management control module, and inverter with converter; the Lexus hybrid battery warranty coverage is for 10-years/150,000-miles)

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2021 Lexus IS 350 F Sport review

Coupe charisma in a born sport sedan

The Lexus IS 350 F Sport in bold blue.

With its 2021 mild redesign, Lexus appears to have positioned the compact-midsize IS sedan as a style-conscious choice. (Lexus)

 

BY MARK MAYNARD

Don’t expect to drive anywhere incognito in an Ultrasonic Blue Mica 2.0  2021 Lexus IS 350 F Sport. The mild refresh of this sport sedan has gone all-in to turn heads with coupe-charisma styling.

Maybe it was the searing blue paint or the slashing, swept-back body lines, but young men along street corners turned to give it an approving jaw-jut nod.

It’s a tough design job these days to lure drivers from their SUVs. Many of those high-riding vehicles have credible performance attributes concealed in a glorified family vehicle.

2021 Lexus IS 350 F Sport driver area

The driver area is hands-on, compact but orderly.

With its 2021 redesign, Lexus has positioned the compact-midsize IS sedan as a style-conscious choice. It’s a born sport sedan. If the Lexus loyalist wants a more traditional sedan, there is the midsize ES and it is one of the top-selling sedans in the luxury segment and the brand’s top-selling four-door.

The midsize luxury segment is dominated by the Audi A4, BMW 3-series, and Mercedes-Benz C-Class, with which the IS is most commonly compared. Those slightly larger competitors have taken the more formal styling direction for family function. And while those competitors also have fearsome performance models they also have fearsome pricing to create the badass family car.

2021 Lexus IS 350 F Sport infotainment screen.

An expansive new 10.3-inch touch screen is part of the Mark Levinson navigation package.

The IS is more of an alternate ego sedan — right-sized and contemporary.

For 2021, the lineup doesn’t rise to the peak performance levels of some competitors, but neither does its pricing. However, a more wicked variant is set to debut a new line of performance models this fall. The upcoming IS 500 F Performance will be gratuitously powered by a naturally aspirated 472-horsepower, 5.0-liter V-8 engine. With peak torque of 395 foot-pounds at 4,800 rpm, Lexus claims 0-60 acceleration in 4.5 seconds.

Lexus IS pricing

A side view of the Lexus IS 350 F Sport

Seemingly insignificant design elements for the 2021 Lexus IS 350 F Sport reinforce long-term ownership.

The current IS has three model choices, in rear- or all-wheel drive, with three power choices.

The entry rear-wheel-drive IS 300 has a 241-hp, 2.0-liter, turbocharged and intercooled four-cylinder engine and eight-speed automatic transmission. Its pricing starts at $41,525, including the $1,025 freight charge from Kyushu, Japan. The 2.0-liter engine was updated for 2021 with an adaptive transmission control that helps determine the most appropriate gear for each driving situation based on driver input.

The IS 300 AWD, powered by a 260-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 and six-speed automatic transmission, starts at $42,500.

The IS 350 F Sport is powered by a 311-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 and eight-speed automatic. Pricing starts at $43,975 for rear-drive or $45,974 for AWD.

Today’s tester, the 2021 Lexus IS 350 F Sport, was $55,220. Among its options were the Ultrasonic Blue Mica 2.0 paint ($595) and Dynamic Handling Package ($4,200).

Other options added up quickly, such as the power moonroof ($1,100), triple beam LED headlights with automatic dimming ($1,250) and navigation system with Mark Levinson audio ($2,750). And intuitive parking assist with auto braking, rear pedestrian detection, and panoramic view monitor added $1,400.

How does the F Sport drive?

2021 Lexus IS 350 F Sport engine

The 311-hp, 3.5-liter V-6.

The force of the V-6 just feels right in this car. The engine is not rabid in its bite, but it digs in with satisfying force. With 280 foot-pounds of peak torque at 4,800 rpm, there is quick uptake of launch power. Lexus cites acceleration to 60 mph in 5.6 seconds, which is competitive with the standard-model competitors.

The eight-speed automatic with paddle shifters provides timely shift points, but punch up Sport-plus and let the V-6 do the talking. There is a satisfying sense of tightness between steering input, braking, and absolute roll-on of throttle.

Close quarters 

2021 Lexus IS 350 F Sport red interior

2021 Lexus IS 350 F Sport red interior is only available with the F Sport dynamic handling package, $4,200.

The IS cabin has the close-quarters feel of a performance coupe. The front seat area is accommodating for the tall driver with 38.2 inches of headroom and a very long 44.8 inches of legroom.

It’s a hands-on experience for accessing switches and other controls — meaning that the area is compact and orderly. But there is not a lot of storage space for small items. The shift console, for example, is packed with the shifter, a touchpad to access the upper touch screen and a controller dial for performance modes, and a pair of cup holders. Oddly, there is no wireless phone charging.

Sightlines are open across the fenders at the front windshield corners and side mirrors, which are offset from the body. Over-the-shoulder views are more complicated with the fastback wrap of the rear glass, but it’s workable for lane changes.

The rearview camera, with its 360-degree view, is an asset in tight parking situations. And the turning circle of 34.2 feet is unbelievably tight for any four-door car.

With a trim curb weight of 3,748 pounds, the fuel economy ratings are competitive at 20/28/23 mpg city, highway and combined, using the required premium fuel. In a week of driving, my average fuel economy ranged from 23.4 to 25.7 mpg, with more highway driving. Its large, 17.4-gallon fuel tank helps extend the cruising range.

Performance of the 2021 Lexus IS 350 F Sport

2021 Lexus IS 350 F Sport tire and wheel.

The rear-drive F Sport has 19-inch staggered-width alloy wheels with summer tires; AWD models get all-season rubber.

As a sport sedan, the cabin is well soundproofed but the staggered-size,19-inch Bridgestone Potenza RE050A tires (235/40 front, 265/35 rear) are ultra-high performance. At highway speeds, the tires will spin up noise and even wander a bit on rain-grooved concrete interstate highways. The super-sticky treadwear rating (UTQG) of 140 is among the lowest I’ve tested on any performance car. Do not expect high mileage — and as Bridgestone advises, these tires are not intended to be driven in near-freezing temperatures, through snow or on ice.

The electronic adaptive variable suspension can get very busy on some stretches of concrete highway that feels like bobbling. But on blacktop and most other non-concrete roads, the F-Sport-tuned ride is a honed carving knife.

Safety

The stars shine brightly for the IS in NHTSA’s crash-test ratings. It earned the government agency’s top five-star overall rating with four stars for driver and front passenger; five stars in the side barrier and pole test for front and rear seats; and five stars for low rollover risk.

A-D-A-S

The Lexus Safety System+ 2.5 allows Level 2 semi-autonomous driving while keeping both hands on the wheel. The system integrates enhanced all-speed dynamic radar cruise control and lane change assist, front cross-traffic alert, and pedestrian alert.

The taillights in the 2021 IS 350 F Sport

The F Sport styling treatment includes unique front and rear bumpers, grille surround, rear spoiler and exhaust tips.

The driver-assist system capably keeps the car centered in the lane, but like most systems, it will randomly shut off. Sometimes the system gets confused by light-colored road-surface conditions and highway lines that are broken up and uneven. The safety system will be beneficial for those drivers who have daily commutes in heavy traffic. It is an extra six eyes on the road to watch for less-attentive drivers.

The safety system includes a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane tracing assist, lane departure alert with steering assist, road sign assist and all-speed dynamic radar cruise control.

Back seat

The back seats in the 2021 Lexus IS 350 F Sport

As a five-seater, the back-seat legroom is tight at 32.2 inches, with a tall exhaust-AWD tunnel that compromises center-position footroom.

The smaller size of the IS is felt in the back seat. The area is quite compact with just 32.2 inches of a knees-up and butt-down legroom, divided by a tall exhaust-AWD tunnel.

At 10.8 cubic feet, trunk space is a couple of cubic feet smaller than the competition. But space is still very usable for travel getaways, and the back seat folds 60/40.

Why buy the Lexus IS 350 F Sport?

For those not needing to wedge a family into the back seats, the IS 350 F Sport is a flag of don’t-tread-on-me independent thinking.

And here is my review of the Lexus LS 500 F Sport

SPECIFICATIONS

2021 Lexus IS 350 F Sport RWD

Body style: compact, 5-seat, 4-door sedan with rear- or AWD

Engine: 311 hp, direct-injected 24-valve 3.5-liter V-6; 280 lb.-ft. torque at 4,800 rpm

Transmission: 8-speed automatic with paddle shifters

0-60 mph: 5.6 seconds

Fuel economy: 20/28/23 mpg city/hwy/combined; premium fuel required

SPECIFICATIONS

Fuel tank: 17.4 gal.

Trunk space: 10.8 cu. ft.

Front head/leg room: 38.2/44.8 in.

Rear head/leg room: 36.9/32.2 in.

Length/wheelbase: 185.4/110.2 in.

Curb weight: 3,748 lbs.

Turning circle: 34.2 ft.

Safety features include: 10 air bags, traction and stability controls, brake-force distribution, blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert

Lexus Safety System+ 2.5 includes pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane tracing assist, lane departure alert with steering assist, road sign assist, all-speed dynamic radar cruise control  and intelligent high beams

PRICING
Base price: $43,925, including $1,025 freight charge; price as tested $55,220

Options on test vehicle: Power moonroof $1,100; triple beam LED headlight with automatic dimming $1,250; navigation with Mark Levinson audio $2,750; intuitive parking assist with auto braking, rear pedestrian detection and panoramic view monitor $1,400; Ultrasonic Blue Mica 2.0 paint $595; Dynamic Handling Package, $4,200

Where assembled: Kyushu, Japan

Warranty: 4-years/50,000-miles basic with roadside assistance with free 1st and 2nd scheduled maintenance services and lodging for emergency breakdowns 100 miles from home; and 6-years/70,000-miles powertrain

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2021 Lexus LS 500 F Sport Review

The updated Lexus LS 500 F Sport is almost worth its weight in carats, but in reality it is among the less-expensive choices

The 2021 Lexus LS 500 F Sport exterior.

The Lexus LS 500 F Sport is largely about added performance features without added horsepower. Pricing starts at $80,625. (Photos courtesy of Lexus)

BY MARK MAYNARD

The Lexus LS 500 F Sport is the diamond-class among full-size luxury sedans. There is brilliance in its engineering that has been its benchmark since the first generation debuted as a 1990.

Since then, trendier diamond hues have debuted, but most of these are laboratory creations and they lack the credibility and value of a natural stone. While there are true colored diamonds, the best have exotic pricing.

The driver area in the LS F Sport.

I like the cabin architecture that provides unobstructed sightlines at the windshield-pillar corners and over the shoulder. (Lexus)

Lexus LS 500 F Sport Pricing

The updated Lexus LS 500 F Sport is almost worth its weight in carats, but in reality it is among the less-expensive choices in this high-end class.

Sold in rear- or all-wheel drive with one powertrain, there are three trim choices for the 2021 Lexus LS 500 F Sport. Pricing starts at $77,025 for the entry LS. The rear-drive F-Sport, today’s tester, starts at $80,625 (add $3,250 for AWD) and the LS 500h Hybrid, the quickest LS model, at $91,525. All MSRPs include the $1,025 freight charge from Tahara, Japan.

An updated 2022 LS 500h Hybrid will go on sale this fall with a showcase of advanced technologies. All-wheel drive models will debut the new Lexus Teammate systems for Advanced Drive and Advanced Park. Pricing will be announced later.

The front seats in the F Sport.

With the optional panoramic roof, headroom is 36.8 inches, which is far more accommodating to tall drivers than would appear by the dimensions. (Lexus)

Lexus LS 500 F Sport Comparos

For pricing comparisons among the LS competitors, the entry Mercedes-Benz S-Class (with 3.0-liter biturbo V-6) starts at $95,245, including the $995 freight charge. Upgrading to the AMG-line of styling features and driver assistance systems will push the price to more than $107,000.

BMW’s 740i (with its biturbo incline six-cylinder) would cost more than $103,000 when equipped comparably to the F-Sport tester. But the BMW does include free scheduled maintenance for the duration of the warranty.

And there are option groups to further personalize or elevate, including the $12,710 Luxury package, the Executive at $17,630 or the Executive with handcrafted Kiriko glass trim elements, $23,630.

Find pricing offers here.

The F Sport steering wheel.

The heated, three-spoke F Sport wheel with red stitching. (Lexus)

 

 

F Sport Features

The Lexus LS 500 F Sport is largely about added performance features without added horsepower.

The package includes unique trim on the bumper, grille, lower door trims, and rear diffuser. 20-inch five-spoke alloy wheels have a Dark Vapor Chrome finish. Inside there is a performance-themed instrument cluster with sliding gauge bezel, F Sport perforated leather upholstery, a heated steering wheel, Ultrasuede headliner, 28-way adjustable sport seats, passenger seat power cushion adjuster and aluminum pedals.

Performance hardware upgrades include:
• 6-piston front brake calipers with 15.7-inch ventilated discs, 4-piston rear brake calipers with 14.1-inch ventilated discs;
• F Sport adaptive variable suspension;
• Dynamic Handling Package ($7,800 RWD only) adds variable gear ratio steering, active rear steering and active stabilizer bars.

The tire and wheel package for the LS 500 F Sport

Bridgestone Turanza runflat summer performance tires have staggered, 20-inch sizes.  (Lexus)

2021 LS Updates

Subtle updates for 2021 emphasize interior quietness and comfort with a smoother, more comfortable ride. There were technological refinements with the Lexus Driving Signature to set a new standard for vehicle development and refinement.

The F Sport's ultra-compact LED headlights.

Triple-projector ultra-compact LED headlamps with cornering lamps. (Lexus)

LS F Sport Suspension

The standard steel suspension has revised spring and damper rates for improved damping performance.  And the front and rear anti-roll bars were “optimized” to better control body roll in turns. Larger front and rear liquid-filled bushings help create an even plusher ride, Lexus says.

The vehicle engineers modified the Adaptive Variable Suspension ($1,400) for “suppleness” and handling while the ride-height-adjustable air suspension is quicker to respond.

F Sport Powertrain 

Revisions to the 3.5-liter, twin-turbo V-6 include a lip shape on the piston top for quicker activation to curb emissions and quiet operation when the engine is cold.

The 416-horsepower, direct-injected engine has 442 foot-pounds of torque, starting from a 1,600 rpm and rising steady to 4,800 rpm.

The 416-horsepower, V-6 engine in the LS 500 F Sport

The 416-horsepower, direct-injected V-6 is capable of 0-60 mph in 4.6 seconds.

The shift logic of the 10-speed automatic transmission was recalibrated to help keep the engine in a more responsive area of its power band.

The acceleration has V-8 thrust off the line and in Sport-plus mode is capable of 0-60 mph in 4.6 seconds.

While most LS drivers will rein in the force and feel comfortable in Normal, Comfort or Sport drive modes, there is a direct horse-and-rider communication in Sport-plus that gives almost intuitive upshifts and downshifts.

And when using Sport-plus the main gauge bezel slides right for a red-themed performance mode.

Fuel economy ratings are 18 mpg city, 29 highway and 22 mpg combined, on the required premium fuel. In my week of more than 200 miles the best combined average I achieved was 17 mpg. But with the 21.7-gallon tank, even that mileage would allow more than 368 miles of cruising range.

Interior Upgrades

The LS cabin is a statement of impeccable Takumi craftsmanship, which is all about meticulous attention to detail and hospitality, Lexus says. Among the interior upgrades is a new Palomino Leather interior with new trim materials, including Black Laser Special and Open Pore Black.

The LS 500 infotainment touch screen.

The wide touch screen is simple to use, but there also are actual buttons to make adjustments for fan speed, temperature and vents.

On Executive models, the available Kiriko Glass ornamentation and hand-folded pleats on the door trim illustrate the Japanese craftsmanship of Kiriko glassware, and unique in a production vehicle. The hand-cut glass is polished to a soft glow.

Credit the cabin air-filter recirculation for a stink-free environment. While on a long highway descent, the semi-truck next to me was sending billows of brake smoke as the lanes of traffic slowed for road construction. Usually, it is difficult to filter out that type of acrid pollutant, but I felt quite smug among the lingering aroma of Lexus leather.

The Kiriki glass interior upgrade.

An example of handcrafted Kiriko glass in the top Executive package, $23,630.

The new 12.3-inch multimedia touch screen integrates Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility with iPhone or Android interface. And the new Amazon Alexa allows users to control smart home devices such as lighting, thermostat and security systems — or sync to the navigation system for on-the-go recommendations.

The wide touch screen is simple to use, but there also are actual buttons to make finger-reach adjustments for fan speed, temperature, vents.

I like the cabin architecture that provides unobstructed sightlines at the corners of the windshield pillars and over the shoulder.

The digital rearview mirror, $200, features a larger high-resolution display for improved visibility of the area behind the vehicle. It can be handy when chauffeuring passengers and heads get in the way of rearward views. But because I wear glasses, my eyes struggle to focus quicky enough, so I just flip it to manual mode.

With the optional panoramic roof, headroom is 36.8 inches, which is far more accommodating to tall drivers than would appear by the dimensions. However, the lower roofline will make the cabin seem smaller than it is, however, compensates in width, with 58.8 inches of shoulder room.

Missing from the tech features was wireless charging. And I wished for space on the shift console to lay a phone, though there are USBs and secure space in the armrest console.

Back seat space has the limo stretch of legroom, 38.9 inches, but the tall center tunnel for AWD and exhaust, makes the LS a better four-seater. And a simple jacket or coat hook on the back seat B-pillar or overhead hand grip would be considerate.

Trunk space is wide and low with nearly 17 cubic feet of space, but the entry opening is a little short for loading big-box items.

Ride and Handling

The ride is quite smooth and free of harshness transferred from varying road surfaces. And the LS includes such soundproofing enhancements as active sound control and active noise cancellation.

The back seats in the F Sport.

 Back seat space has the limo stretch of legroom, 38.9 inches, but the tall center tunnel for AWD and exhaust, makes the LS a better four-seater.

The optional air suspension ($1,400) has a new rapid rise system that also gives rapid adjustment in cornering to transfer weight without unsettling responses, though there can be an occasional jolt that gets past the system.

I expect I was also enjoying the F Sport dynamic package ($7,800), which added variable gear-ratio steering, active rear steering and active stabilizer bars. The turning circle is trimmer than most midsize sedans at 36.8 feet.

Because this generation LS has a lower roofline for aerodynamics (benefitting corporate average fuel economy) the air suspension automatically raises the vehicle to make it easier to step into or get out when the doors are unlocked.

The 20-inch Bridgestone Turanza runflats on the tester were almost surprising in their supple ride quality when Bridgestones often can feel hard and somewhat noisy.

LS Safety Features

Lexus has long been a pioneer of safety technologies and the LS has such advanced features as the Lexus Safety System+ 2.0. It is comprised of a pre-collision system with low-light pedestrian detection and daytime bicyclist detection, lane departure alert with steering assist, automatic high-beam dimming, all-speed adaptive cruise control with road-sign assist and lane tracing assist.

The optional Lexus safety system, $3,000, allows Level 2 semi-autonomous driving, while keeping both hands on the wheel. The system integrates enhanced all-speed dynamic radar cruise control and lane change assist, front cross-traffic alert and pedestrian alert.

The driver-assist system capably keeps the car centered in the lane, but like most systems it will randomly shut off. Sometimes the system gets confused by light colored road-surface conditions and highway lines that are broken up and uneven.

For those drivers who have daily commutes in heavy traffic, this safety-assist system could be a lifesaver. It is an extra six eyes on the road to watch for less-attentive drivers.

An exterior rear view of the Lexus LS.

The updated 2021 LS is almost worth its weight in carats, but it also is among the less-expensive choices in this high-end class. (Lexus)

Why Buy the Lexus LS 500 F Sport?

This big sedan is for the risk-averse buyer. It is a trusted nameplate with exemplary dealer treatment during the sale and then for service. The F Sport is the alter ego, with the grip-and-grin attitude of a charged grand tourer.

The LS raises the satisfaction level with the Lexus-Toyota business plan: Do it right the first time. And then make subtle updates for clarity and shine.

Here is my review of the 2021 Lexus IS 350 F Sport.

SPECIFICATIONS

2021 Lexus LS 500 F Sport

Body style: large, 5-seat, 4-door RWD sedan

Engine: 416-hp, twin-turbo, with electrical and D-4ST direct injected. 3.5-liter V-6; 442 lb.-ft. from 1,600-4,800 rpm

Transmission: 10-speed direct-shift automatic with paddle shifters; w/ Drive Mode Select with Sport S+ and Custom modes

Fuel economy: 18/29/22 mpg city/hwy/combined; premium fuel required

0-60 mph acceleration: 4.6 seconds

Coefficient of drag: 0.28; (*0.30 AWD)

BY THE NUMBERS

Fuel tank: 21.7 gal.

Trunk space: 16.9 cu. ft.

Front head/leg room: 36.8*/42 in. (37.3 in. w/o pane roof)

Rear head/leg room: 36.4*/38.9 in. (*37.4 in. (w/o pano roof)

Length/wheelbase: 206.1/123 in.

Curb weight: 4,740 lbs.* (4,696 lbs. with standard coil springs)

Turning circle: 36.8 ft.

FEATURES

Standard equipment includes: Smart key entry/locking with push-button ignition, rearview camera, power moonroof, quilted-stitch perforated semi-aniline leather interior trim, 16-way power-adjustable heated and ventilated front seats, 28-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with multifunction massage, power-adjustable front headrests, heated leather-trimmed steering wheel, Ultrasuede headliner and sun visors, wood- and semi-aniline leather-trimmed center console, semi-aniline leather-trimmed door armrests, heated rear seats, power rear sunshade, navigation system with 12.3-inch touchscreen and 3 years of free Lexus Enform Dynamic Navigation, Lexus 12-speaker premium audio system, Apple CarPlay or Android Auto with Alexa+Lexus compatibility, intuitive parking assist with auto-braking, active sound control and active noise cancellation, remote touch pad, triple-projector ultra-compact LED headlamps with cornering lamps, LED taillamps and turn signals, electrochromic (auto-dimming) inside and outside mirrors with puddle lamps, hands-free power open-close trunk, auto door closers, 19-inch alloy wheels

F Sport Package, includes: Unique exterior trim on the bumper, grille, lower door trims, rear diffuser; 20-inch split five-spoke alloy wheels with Dark Vapor Chrome finish;  6-piston front brake calipers with 15.7-inch ventilated discs and 4-piston rear brake calipers with 14.1-inch ventilated discs; adaptive variable suspension; performance-themed instrument with sliding bezel;; perforated leather interior (with heated steering wheel and shifter knob) with Ultrasuede headliner; 28-way adjustable sport seats; passenger seat power cushion adjuster; aluminum pedals and interior trim elements; Dynamic Handling Package (RWD only, includes F Sport Package features plus variable gear ratio steering, active rear steering, active stabilizer bars

Safety features, include: 10 air bags, Lexus Safety System+ 2.0 standard, includes Pre-Collision System with low-light pedestrian detection and daytime bicyclist detection; Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist; Intelligent High Beam; all-speed adaptive cruise control; road sign assist, lane tracing assist

PRICING

Lexus LS 500 F Sport: $80,625, including $1,025 freight charge; price as tested $98,990
Options on test vehicle: Lexus safety system, $3,000, includes enhanced all-speed dynamic radar cruise control and lane change assist, front cross-traffic alert, pedestrian alert;
• Adaptive variable air suspension with rapid height function $1,400;
• Mark Levinson 23-speaker, 2,400-watt surround sound audio $1,940;
• Panorama glass roof $1,000;
• 24-inch head-up display $1,220;
• Panoramic view monitor $800;
• Rear bumper appliqué $95;
• Door-edge guards $155;
• Trunk mat package $305, includes key glove, cargo mat and wheel locks;
• F Sport Dynamic Handling Package, $7,800, includes variable gear ratio steering, active rear steering and active stabilizers

Where assembled: Tahara, Aichi, Japan
Warranty: 4-years/50,000 miles basic with roadside assistance, free 1st and 2nd scheduled maintenance services and lodging for emergency breakdowns 100 miles from home; 6-years/70,000-miles powertrain

MarkMaynard@cox.net

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