REVIEW | The 2019 Lexus LS 500 F Sport remains an agreeable choice
Shaun Korsten delivers his verdict on the sporty-looking but soft-riding Lexus
Back in 1983, under the directive of Toyota's former chair, Eji Toyoda, a small ensemble of engineers and marketing boffs set out to build what they hoped to be the world’s greatest car.
The project was code-named F1, or Flagship One, and it sought to end the hegemony the German marques had over the luxury sedan market in the US. What they conjured up was the LS 400 – the first ever Lexus. In 1989, its first year of sales saw the market share of Mercedes-Benz and BMW drop significantly and the rise of The Relentless Pursuit of Perfection had begun.
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Fast forward to 2019 and the fifth generation of the Japanese brand's luxury sedan. Lexus now faces an entirely different set of challenges. The Germans have control of much of the affluents' purchasing power and, aside from a burgeoning Chinese market, which still finds favour in these larger limousines, the real cash cow lies within the SUV space. With the introduction of the BMW X7 and the new Mercedes-Benz GLS, vehicles that will inherently cannibalise the sales of its sedan siblings, is there still a case for the large luxury sedan?
In the eyes of Lexus, there always will be. We are, of course, talking about a conglomerate that has reinvigorated the Century nameplate and bathed the interior in wool rather than leather. No more questions asked.
The age of Lexus's being tarred in a thick layer of beige and boring is long gone and the F-Sport moniker adorning our unit is testament to this. Sure, their designs have been polarising, particularly thanks to the great chasm in the front end created by the infamous Spindle Grill, but the proportion of the LS lends itself well to the more assertive design cues. It looks suitably imperious and expensive.
The interior combines finely crafted panels of varying materials and textures, with a metallic dashboard of intricate lines that converge like a suspension bridge. It’s brilliant!
The touchpad infotainment system, on the other hand, isn't. It's difficult to command most of the time and particularly so while on the move. More annoyingly, every input makes a sound that is reminiscent of a Gran Turismo game from the early 2000s.
Its German counterparts pump perfumed scents through their vents and have key fobs with large touchscreens. The Lexus's cabin, in contrast, feels as if it's pandering to the customer base it already has and not the one it intends to attract.
Don't be fooled by the "Sport" badging either, even if Lexus claims their LFA engineers have fettled with the suspension, as it is still set up to transport captains of industry in absolute comfort rather than fill the void in their mid-life crisis. There's plenty of power on offer from 3.5-litre V6, but it’s geared more towards an effortless surge in momentum than to organ-rearranging acceleration. The supple ride quality remains the LS's greatest attribute and is the chief reason anyone would buy a large Lexus in the first place.
It's inevitable, then, that the SUV will continue the plight of the sedan, regardless of what the current crop of sedans has to offer. The Lexus LS 500 F Sport remains an agreeable choice within its segment, but whether it will cut it with the latest generation of well-to-do businessmen remains to be seen.
The Lexus LS 500 F Sport retails for R1,975,900.