Lexus’ F SPORT trim has been a runaway success, with a sizable percentage of the company’s sales in the US being the sportier models, and the 2018 LS 500 F SPORT should be no different. Unveiled at the New York International Auto Show 2017 this week, it’s an opportunity for the Japanese automaker to demonstrate how it can take on the BMW 7 Series, Mercedes-Benz S Class, and Audi A8’s in the parking lot. With no horsepower improvements, however, the F SPORT badge means handling tweaks and, more noticeably, styling changes. Read on for some of the highlights.
The exclusive Ultra White paint sparkles
The trend for white cars has stuck around for longer than many expected, and sure enough there’s an Ultra White paint option for the LS 500 F SPORT. It’s an exclusive finish to the F SPORT variant, too, but it’s no ordinary plain white. While it doesn’t show up especially well in photos, there’s a slight iridescent element to the paint that leaves the big sedan sparkling as the light catches it.
Lexus’ F SPORT wheels are like fearsome weapons
Wheels can make or break a car, but Lexus has picked some 20-inch scorchers on the 2018 LS 500 F SPORT. For a start, the metallic grey finish is the perfect counterpoint to the Ultra White body, but it also does interesting things with the play of light across the twisted spokes. They look a little like a cluster of katana blades.
Importantly, though the spokes are big enough to make an impact, they also reveal enough of one of the LS 500 F SPORT’s big hardware changes: the brakes. At the front, there are six-piston calipers as standard; the rear gets four-piston calipers. While there may be no increase in power from the 415 HP of the 3.5-liter V6, they’ll be useful for shedding speed once you flick into Sport+ mode.
Cabin quality takes a big step up
Lexus promised back at the big unveil of the LC 500 grand tourer that cabin quality and design were going to be a renewed priority moving forward. The 2018 LS 500 F SPORT shows that wasn’t just talk. While dashboard design is obviously subjective, Lexus’ choice of plastics and metal-effect trim in the old LS wasn’t up to the standards of its German rivals.
That all changes now. For a start, the cabin materials are a lot more authentic: the illuminated metal strakes that run across the dashboard are real metal, for instance. The speaker grilles resemble some sort of space-age coral, and when you run your fingers across them you find it’s laser-etched metal not plastic.
It’s the switchgear that really appeals, though. Certainly there’s still some plastic to be found, but it feels better than has featured in Lexus’ parts bin before. Key controls and touch-points go a lot more upscale, however. The volume knob for the radio is a beautifully knurled chunk of conical aluminum, split into two tiers so the dial can also manage tuning.
We’ll have to wait and see whether Lexus can bring this attention to detail into its more affordable models, but it definitely looks good in the LS 500.