Sunday Drive: A trip through the Colorado Rockies in the new Lexus LS 500 F-Sport
Craig Conover, Daily Herald
A trip to Denver in mid-August provided a perfect opportunity for us to drive back to Utah surrounded in luxury within the Lexus flagship LS 500 F-Sport. The LS in the name stands for luxury sedan and, trust us, the folks at Lexus have injected as much Luxury into this new design as we could have possibly imagined.
Twenty-eight years ago, the Lexus brand was launched with the first LS model. At the time, it put the entire segment on notice that there was a new player in town, and there would soon also be a new sheriff. The LS can be looked at as the original disruptor in luxury automobiles, and over the last nearly three decades it has certainly become a standard for craftsmanship, attention to detail and smoothness of ride.
The LS is a very large vehicle, one that many would classify as something their dad or grandpa might have driven. However, with the new design introduced in 2018, there is an aggressive outside look that says anything but “grandpa’s car”!
“The LS is the flagship of the Lexus brand,” said Chief Designer Koichi Suga. “More than any other model, it embodies the history and image of Lexus and serves as a symbol for everything the brand stands for.”
Our travels took us through the Colorado mountains on I-70 from Colorado Springs up to Idaho Springs, where we stopped to visit some shops we like in this old mining town. It has a quaint Main Street that has been closed off to allow for pedestrian travel, making it an even more unique destination.
Craig Conover, Daily Herald
There were some changes made with the redesign of the LS, not the least of which is an all-new power plant. The vehicle’s former naturally aspirated V-8 4.6-liter engine that produced 386 horsepower and 367 foot-pounds of torque has been swapped for an all-new V-6 twin turbo-charged engine. The new, smaller engine produces a whopping 416 horsepower and 442 foot-pounds of torque. Moving to turbo chargers represents a significant change for the flagship Lexus.
We were very impressed while driving the LS as there was power to spare no matter when we needed it, especially on the many mountain grades we encountered on our way home. The LS took it all in stride, never becoming overwhelmed with the grade. Even with the smaller engine and a very large sedan, we averaged 23 mpg during the ride home over 500 miles of mostly two-lane highway travel.
This new engine will rocket the full-sized sedan to 60 in just 4.6 seconds – not bad for something that folks might have classified as a grandpa car. The engine is coupled with a new 10-speed transmission, a first on a premium passenger car. We drove this transmission about a year ago on the LC 500, and it was a smooth as silk. It continued to impress us on the LS.
Inside, we could not have asked for a more luxurious space in which to enjoy our ride. As the LS is the flagship for Lexus, the company could not simply add a few new features to the cabin and hope that would do. Instead, they were inspired by the Omotenashi principal, or, in other words, they sought to infuse the cabin with luxury that not only welcomes but envelopes passengers while at the same time treating the driver like a partner.
The seats, made of fine leather, were soft with just the right amount of bolster, and they were heated and cooled, of course. Each front seat had a 28-way adjustment, making it virtually impossible not to find a comfortable position. We had the opportunity to use the heated seats a couple of times as the weather turned cooler on our way home.
The Lexus came with a heads-up display that was definitely the largest one we have had. It stayed low in the driver’s view and stretched halfway across the front window. Speed, navigation, tachometer and gears were all part of the display and, of course, it was projected in full color.
The huge screen making up the infotainment center is extraordinary and very functional. We will say it is difficult to use with the Lexus touchpad mouse-like setup. It is hard to manage and takes an inordinate amount of time to get through menus.
This interface method requires the driver to take his eyes off the road for way too long. This has been a problem in Lexus models over the years, and we wish they could find a new way to use the infotainment functions. We found it much easier to just use the touchscreen function to navigate the menus.
The LS 500 comes with every safety feature offered from the brand. There is a what they call a CoDrive system that, when engaged, keeps the Lexus centered in the lane and uses the adaptive cruise control to keep the Lexus a predetermined distance behind the vehicle in front of it. We used this feature for almost the entire drive home from Colorado.
There is precollision warning with emergency braking and pedestrian detection as well as rear cross path detection with emergency braking, which worked great one day when we were backing out in a grocery store parking lot and someone walked behind us. The Lexus immediately applied the brakes, working just as advertised.
Our time with the Lexus was as luxurious and comfortable as we could have ever imagined; the car was engaging and had a spirit within that kept us wanting to go further and further.
Base price: $82,850
Destination charge: $1,025
Price as driven: $88,885