Lexus hasn't exactly been known for white-knuckle driving performance over the years, but the expanding line of Lexus F SPORT vehicles looks set to spice up the company's staid image. Every rear-wheel-drive sedan in the Lexus lineup -- IS, GS and LS -- now features an optional F SPORT treatment, including sport-tuned suspension components and racy styling cues inside and out. The IS C convertible, CT hybrid hatchback and RX crossover have gone under the F SPORT knife, as well.
Lexus hopes to lure fresh demographics to its showrooms with the F SPORT line, particularly younger male drivers who might otherwise go for something like a BMW. But is Lexus legit with these new packages? We've been wondering ourselves, so we attended a recent F SPORT driving event at Las Vegas Motor Speedway to find out. Here are some quick driving impressions of the four vehicles we drove on the track.
Lexus CT F SPORT
The CT is probably the mildest of the F SPORT vehicles, and that's largely a function of its modest Prius-derived powerplant. The point of this car remains its 42-miles-per-gallon fuel economy, not its corner-carving ability. Still, the firmer F SPORT suspension does noticeably enhance the CT's already nimble handling, and the exclusive 17-inch Dark Graphite alloy wheels give this CT a rather muscular look. It's nice that CT shoppers get an F SPORT option, too. Just because they're looking for a hybrid doesn't mean they don't want something cool.
IS 350 F SPORT
Lexus says more IS 350 buyers than expected have been opting for the F SPORT package, but we're not surprised. There are some meaningful upgrades here, starting with the cool mesh grille and continuing inside, where the thickly bolstered front seats are an F SPORT exclusive -- and the LFA supercar-inspired gauges are, too. Underneath, there's a more aggressive suspension with adaptive dampers for superior control. We were already fans of the regular IS 350, but the F SPORT treatment definitely helps the IS model's cause.
GS F SPORT
Like the others, the GS receives unique styling and a sportier suspension tune that keeps the car flatter in corners, but the headline F SPORT feature in this case is Dynamic Rear Steering (DRS). What's cool about DRS is that it can turn the rear wheels in the opposite direction to the front wheels at lower speeds for enhanced agility, and then turn them in the same direction at higher speeds for better path control. You can't get it on any other GS, and it gives the car a decidedly sharper feel on the track.
LS F SPORT
The LS receives a gentler F SPORT overhaul, but there are still some notable performance goodies here, including Brembo front brakes, a limited-slip rear differential and paddle shifters with rev-matched downshifts. Styling tweaks are also part of the deal, of course. But if there's one lasting impression we have of the LS on the track in Vegas, it's our respect for the 4.6-liter, 386-horsepower V8 under the hood. This is a glorious motor that sounds great and really pours on the power when you're thundering down the back stretch.
What it means to you: A new kind of Lexus is in town, and we think the Lexus F SPORT lineup will genuinely broaden the company's appeal to a sportier crowd.