When you think of Lexus, chances are the words V8 and performance don’t top your list. Luxury, refinement, reliability have always been words synonymous with the brand. Good words, certainly. But for petrolheads, those are not words that are likely to evoke much enthusiasm. Now, however, with Lexus’ new line of F-badged models the words luxury and performance now go hand in hand. And what an excellent pairing it is!
The F line of models is Lexus’ new approach to the luxury performance segment and is meant to rival the mid-level performance models from the likes of Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz. This means models like the BMW 550 M Sport.
We tested the RC F Coupe last year and loved what we saw – a naturally aspirated 5.0-liter V8. It was Lexus’ famed reliability and comfort all in a package that was less expensive than comparable German models.
But now Lexus has come out with a model that should make petrolheads very happy indeed. That model is the brand-new GS F. While the normal, bog standard GS range may be more focused on transporting you to important business meetings, the GS F is focused on transporting you to those business meetings sideways with smoke billowing off the back tires.
As you have undoubtedly surmised, the GS F is the performance variant of the GS line. This means a 5.0-liter V8 (the same as in the RC F) producing a substantial 467 horsepower and 389 lb-ft of torque. This means a 0-60 mph time of 4.5 seconds and a top speed of 168 mph.
The starting price of the GS F is competitive at $84,440. And with only two available options aside from paint colors, you should be able to pick up a GS F for relatively close to sticker. Our car was optioned with both of the 2 options – the Mark Levinson Audio system and orange brake calipers. Out the door, the full price of our test GS F was just a hair over $87,000 at a retail price of $87,070 including a delivery, processing and handling fee of $950.
Considering we had previously tested the RC F, we wanted to try something a bit different than the normal standard road test. So what do you do with a four-door performance sedan that is bright orange, really fast and luxurious to boot?
The route we chose was to take a trip up the California Coast from Orange County to Sonoma Raceway just north of San Francisco where I would be taking part in the Simraceway Formula 3 Driving School (you can read that article here). Taking the scenic route, the trip was a little under 700 miles one way.
Plenty of time to get accustomed to the GS F’s throaty, naturally-aspirated V8.
Our first stop was Buttonwillow Raceway Park where we took the opportunity for a quick impromptu photoshoot of the car. By the way, Buttonwillow is well and truly in the middle of nowhere. The directions were to go 150 miles on the 5 freeway and turn left when you get to the barren patch of nothing. Oh and then drive some more until it is even more barren. And then there will be a racetrack. Maybe.
Ok, a bit of an exaggeration but you get the idea.
It should be noted that we had zero issues with the in-car GPS the entire trip.
Despite the fact that there was a track day going on, the Lexus received a lot of attention from fellow track goers. Responses were generally positive, especially from those who were tracking GT-Rs. Unfortunately, we were on too tight of a schedule to get in any track time!
The rain was intermittent the following day as we continued our drive up to Sonoma along some of the most beautiful stretches of coastline in the world. A breathtaking backdrop for a breathtaking car.
The inclement weather meant the roads were all but empty, allowing me to explore the performance of the GS F on the twistier parts of Highway 1. Before we get to handling though, let’s talk about that engine. Oh man, what an engine.
The V8 engine in the GS F is one of the last naturally aspirated engines available in a performance sedan on the market today. While turbocharging may have its advantages there is simply no replacing the grunt and sound of a big, naturally aspirated V8 engine and rear wheel drive. The drive through Big Sur was punctuated a bellow of V8 noise that felt like it shook the trees for miles around.
The roar of the GS F is helped by Lexus’s Active Sound Control system which amplifies engine sound through the front and rear speakers. It’s a similar system to what BMW first introduced a few years ago in their performance models. The Lexus interpretation of this system works wonderfully to amplify the good engine noises and cancel out the bad ones.
As we got closer to Sonoma and the weather cleared up (thankfully!) we did a few hard accelerations with the windows down and with my passenger standing outside the car. We can confirm that the car sounds just as good outside as it does inside. The Active Sound Control is truly just augmenting, not replacing. Or so our ears told us.
Handling wise, the GS F doesn’t feel like a 4,000 lb sedan (the official curb weight is 4,034 lbs). The engineers at Lexus did an excellent job tuning the suspension on the car to be both sporty and comfortable over long distances.
Compared to the standard GS, the GS F’s suspension includes tuned shock absorbers, suspension bushing as well as adjusted spring rates and suspension geometry. All of these changes put together help to make the GS F feel compliant and secure when pushed hard – good traits when you are doing spirited driving in damp conditions.
Only for a brief period of time on the windy roads on the way to Laguna Seca did we adjust the Torque Vectoring Differential (TVD) away from its Normal setting.
The TVD comes with three settings – Normal, Slalom and Track. We did a makeshift slalom in the parking lot of Laguna Seca to test the Slalom mode and it performed admirably. There was a noticeable increase in turn-in when Slalom was selected.
We didn’t test out the Track option as we did not have the opportunity to do any laps with the car. But the Track mode is designed to provide the most amount of grip for the maximum amount of time.
Leaving Laguna Seca we took a relaxing drive through San Francisco (it had to be relaxed, the torrential rain was back again with a vengeance!).
Putting the car in the Normal drive mode with the gearbox in automatic the GS F handled San Francisco like any other big Lexus – with comfort and poise. Visibility was excellent even in the pouring rain and the heads up display did an excellent job of displaying navigation information for the trickier sections of San Francisco.
The ride quality was excellent for the pock marked and bumpy San Francisco streets. Although you could definitely tell you were in a sportier car. The bumps were slightly bumpier than expected and the seats were beginning to be a bit uncomfortable after endless hours of driving. Although that probably has more to do with the kinds of driving we were doing more so than the seats themselves (very few people drive 5 hours straight regularly!).
In sportier driving situations the seats did a good job holding us in place and providing adequate lateral support to keep us from sliding around the cabin.
Arriving at the hotel in Sonoma we averaged a total of 20.3 MPG over 2 days of highway and backroads driving. A respectable MPG figure for a big, thirsty V8. Total for the trip we averaged 20.1 MPG.
As a road trip car, the GS F performed admirably. As a performance car with four doors, the GS F is excellent. After spending a cumulative total of nearly 15 hours driving behind the wheel over the course of the trip would I buy one? Absolutely.
Over the nearly 1,500 miles we put on the car in 5 days, we didn’t have one fault. No faulty tire pressure monitors, no performance hiccups and even in torrential rain the car performed admirably on its 255/35 R19 front and 275/35 R19 rear Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires.