We give the Lexus GS F a day-to-day evaluation.
A year ago, Lexus invited us out to Palm Springs, California, to take the new GS F sedan for a spin at Chuckwalla Valley Raceway. While we had the opportunity to drive the GS F on the road for a brief stint on the way from the track back to our accommodations, we didn't get much of a chance to drive the GS F in the "real world."
Fortunately, Lexus was kind enough to let us do just that earlier this fall. Is this sport sedan as impressive off the track as it was on one? Read on to find out.
What is it?
The Lexus GS F is a midsize luxury sport sedan featuring a 5.0L V8--an engine offered only in the "F" line of high-performance Lexus sedans and coupes. This engine debuted in the Lexus IS F for 2008, but it has been upgraded for the latest generation of Lexus performance cars, now boasting 467 horsepower and 389 lb-ft of torque.
While this may not be an impressive number when compared to the output of competing sedans, the GS F is not the bank-vault-on-wheels that many alternatives in the segment tend to be, weighing in at a svelte 4,034lbs. Lightweight or not, though, the power deficit is difficult to ignore.
Fortunately, the GS F comes standard with a mechanical torque-vectoring differential. While it is electronically controlled, it's not a brake-based system. The same eight-speed automatic transmission that debuted in the IS F is found here too.
It's a traditional torque-converter automatic at heart, but employs very aggressive lock-up tuning to make it feel (and perform) a lot like a sequential manual unit, in some cases even delivering quicker shifts than some of the dual-clutch transmissions on the market.
The chassis is fairly conventional for the midsize luxury segment. Up front is a double-wishbone suspension; out back you'll find a multi-link setup. The GS F employs Brembo brakes all around, with six-piston calipers up front and four-piston units in the rear.
What's it up against?
A quick glance at the competition shows just how seriously other manufacturers take the super-sedan segment.
There's the Cadillac CTS-V, which sports 640hp; BMW has its M5 (560hp--more, if you get the optional competition package); Mercedes-AMG offers the E63 S (603hp); and finally, Audi has twin entries in the RS6 and RS7 (up to 605hp).
This is a segment utterly dominated by forced induction monsters.
What does it look like?
While Lexus may have introduced a somewhat polarizing design strategy with its latest offerings, we have to say that the GS F is one of its better efforts. While it sports the same "spindle" grille design found on the rest of the lineup, its execution here is less... overwhelming?
The larger sedan absorbs it a bit more effectively, making the whole package seem a bit more mature.
And the inside?
That elegance extends to the GS F's interior too, where you'll find high-quality materials and sturdy-feeling components everywhere you look. We didn't really care for the color scheme of our tester's interior. Don't get us wrong, there's a place for a red leather interior. We're just not sure this is it.
We also weren't terribly fond of the stitching pattern on the GS F's sport seats. It just seemed a bit... pointless? Again, a matter of individual taste.
But does it go?
The beauty of the modern luxury sport sedan lies in its ability to deliver comfort and performance in equal measure, while offering the versatility to turn the dial toward either extreme if the situation calls for it.
We already know the GS F doesn't offer performance on the level of the sedans offered by other luxury makes and it's no cheaper than, say, a 640-horsepower Cadillac CTS-V. Where, then, does its value factor in?
Well, that's a tough question to answer. First off, let's talk about the good stuff. The engine is a gem. It offers linear power and torque everywhere.
That's a good thing, because if you don't tick the GS F's drive mode selector over to one of the sportier settings, you'll find the transmission kicking down four or five gears if you really insist on flooring it (The only reason it won't do this in the most aggressive modes is that it holds unnecessarily low gears until you tell it otherwise.).
The GS F is also incredibly comfortable, even when you really turn up the wick. Its harshest settings are not nearly as punishing as those you'll find in some other sporty cars, which is welcome in some ways. Lexus must have realized there's no point in completely gutting the GS F's luxurious ride in the name of performance numbers that are never going to match up to the competition no matter how quickly it can liquefy your kidneys.
Leftlane's bottom line
We want to love the GS F, but we'll have to settle for liking it. Certain reliability aside, it's hard to really say what you're getting for your money, especially if you care more about straight-line speed and ultimate capability than day-to-day comfort.
The GS F is the car we wanted six years ago. Unfortunately, we live in a very different world. What would have been exceptional in 2010 is merely run-of-the-mill today. And it's a shame, because as run-of-the-mill goes, the GS F is darned good.
2016 Lexus GS F base price, $84,440; As-tested, $86,770
Mark Levinson Audio package, $1,380; Destination, $950
Photos by Byron Hurd.