The Lexus GS-F is a ‘hoot’ to drive

By Greg Rubenstein

Stuffing a high-output V8 engine into an otherwise vanilla sedan has been a recipe for success since the Rocket 88, created in 1949 when Oldsmobile shoehorned the model 98’s 5.0-liter V8 into the smaller, lighter model 78. Seven decades later, just about every manufacturer offers at least one super-sedan, and anyone who’s piloted a mid-size four-door with high-output engine knows why it’s a winning combination: they’re a hoot to drive.

At the pinnacle of this concept are the ultra-high-performance sedans turned out by the luxury manufacturers in-house tuning divisions, including Audi Sport, BMW M, Cadillac V, Jaguar SVO, Lexus F, and Mercedes-Benz AMG. While it’d be inaccurate to label any of Lexus’ three GS variants as “vanilla”—especially when equipped with the performance- and aesthetic-enhancing F Sport package—the GS F is an altogether different beast of a model, an amalgamated apex of luxury and performance in executive-class sedan.

The GS F is a rear-wheel-drive, four-door sedan equipped with the luxury, infotainment/tech, and safety equipment expected in a modern luxury vehicle. While many features and systems are shared with its turbo-four equipped GS 300 and V6-powered GS 350 siblings, it is the free-revving, sweet-singing high-output V8 which is the heart and soul of the GS F. Rated for 467 horsepower and 389 pound-feet of torque, the 5.0-liter V8 engine is capable of propelling the 4,034-pound GS F from 0 to 60 mph in less than 5 seconds—4.5 seconds per the manufacturer—which also means this Lexus should cover the quarter mile in less than 13 seconds.

From the outside, the GS F has a muscular design accented by wide fender flares, carbon fiber rear spoiler and carbon fiber reinforced plastic front chin spoiler. Lexus’ trademark spindle grille gets the F-series design blackout treatment, and is flanked by giant air ducts located below the triple-beam headlamps and LED daytime running lights. The inlets feed cooling air to the front six-piston aluminum monoblock Brembo calipers, which sit inside forged 19-inch BBS wheels fitted with meaty 255/35 front and 275/35 rear tires. Side projector lamps with “F” logo and signature quad-stacked exhaust tips complete the GS F’s unique exterior treatments.

The GS F interior is a study in design and ergonomic excellence, featuring contrast-stitched leather throughout, plus Alcantara and carbon fiber trim in the center console, doors and dash. Switchgear is perfectly weighted and falls readily to hand, while the center-console-mounted mouse controller is intuitive, comfortable, and much easier to use than the haptic-feedback touchpad found in other Lexus models.

On the safety front, there’s a precollision system with pedestrian detection, blind spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, radar cruise control, automatic high beam control, lane departure alert with steering assist, plus integrated stability control, traction control, brake assist and 10 air bags.

Heading the GS’ tech is a central dash-mounted 12.3-inch high-resolution split-screen multimedia display, which serves up voice-command navigation, plus control for the CD/DVD infotainment system, climate control, and Lexus’ Enform app suite. The Enform suite integrates with compatible smartphones and smartwatches to provide remote engine start, climate control, and door lock, plus fuel, window and vehicle location status.

Optitron speedometer and tachometer gauges are the primary instruments, supplemented by fuel and coolant temperature gauges, and model-specific digital oil temperature and volt gauges. Located center of the gauge cluster is multi-information, driver-configurable color LCD display which provides readouts for lap timer, torque distribution, G-force, tire pressure, audio or nav information, external temperature, cruise range, average or instant fuel consumption, average or instant speed, and gear selection.

Overall fit, finish, and NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) are exemplary, with a nice balance of road feel and feedback provided through the electric power-assisted rack and pinion steering. Driving dynamics are driver-selectable, with three standard modes plus a custom mode, which can transform the GS F from smooth commuter to freeway fighter to track-day monster.

Compared to Normal mode, the Sport and Sport + modes progressively increase suspension damping, tighten steering assist and quicken the variable steering gear ratio for sharper response. Throttle response is similarly increased, as is shifting of the eight-speed automatic transmission

In addition to the drive mode control options, the Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM) system and rear differential also have driver-selectable modes to further enhancing dynamic performance. The VDIM can be put in either Sport or Expert, and the differential has Slalom and Track settings. Choosing any of these settings won’t deliver a significant benefit for the typical daily commute, however, and driving a high-horsepower car without traction control enabled—one feature of the VDIM Expert mode—is a sure recipe for excessive (and potentially dangerous) wheelspin.

Pricing for the GS starts at $47,885 (GS 300), while the GS 350 starts at $52,475, and the GS F base is $85,625. With options of HUD, premium sound and trunk mat/cargo net, the sampled GS F costs $88,325. There are a lot of choices for buyers willing to spend nearly $90,000 on a four-door sedan, but for the enthusiast driver wanting Japanese reliability with the unique aural song that can only be had from a naturally aspirated V8 near 7,300 rpm redline, the GS F is the perfect choice.

 

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