On the Road Review: Lexus GS-F Sports Sedan

Lexus has never done a car quite like this new GS-F midsize sedan. It has pretended to offer a real sports sedan in the past, a previous GS gentlemen’s coupe, too, but not until this GS-F has Lexus had something that approaches the German luxury/sports sedans in performance.

Starting at $45,000, the GS series includes several sedan models, including a hybrid model with a CVT automatic, as well as practical AWD sedans. The GS-F, also available in a very sexy coupe body, starts at just under $85,000 and is a far more extroverted offering than what the marketplace is familiar with.

Regal in its luscious Atomic Silver paint, the GS-F is packed with the hardware that completes the transformation from Clark Kent to Superman: 5.0-liter, 467-hp DOHC V-8 engine, eight-speed direct-shift automatic with paddle shifters, F-spec selectable double-wishbone/independent suspension, TVD-torque vectoring rear differential, 15-inch brake discs with six-piston calipers painted orange, plus 19-inch forged aluminum wheels shod with Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires. There is a carbon fiber spoiler as well as fender vents for the underhood heat, while quad-exhaust pipes fill the rear fascia.

These specs could be confused with a Corvette if it weren’t for the typical Lexus luxury ensconced in a four-door sedan. Alcantara suede trim covers the dash-top, door trim and console surfaces, while leather-surfaced F-spec sports seats hug your torso. LED lighting all around, dynamic cruise control plus a host of electronic driving aids are included. There is also the expected auto-climate system, power sunroof and a huge 12.3-inch info/entertainment/navigation screen with its remote-touch interface (mouse) controller. A large dial on the console lets you opt for ECO mode in order to reach the 24-mpg EPA highway rating, but a twitch or two to the right activates Sport+ mode, where throttle settings, steering feel, transmission shift points and chassis settings all change to extract peak performance from the lusty-sounding V-8.

Lexus has chosen to enhance the impact of the V-8 with ASC—active sound control — that artificially pipes in added intake honk through the car’s front audio speakers, while added exhaust sounds are pushed through the GS-F’s rear speakers when you are plying the go-pedal. Spinning the V-8 to redline, and ripping off instantaneous full-throttle shifts makes the GS-F sound, and perform, like the competition in ways that will leave you begging for more open roads.

ECO mode delivers relaxed highway travel, the car cruising at 80 mph at only 2,000 rpms, and the trip computer averaging more than the spec’d 24 mpg. Change the setting on the console knob, mash the right pedal, and the GS-F seeks triple-digit speeds after only three gear shifts. This car accelerates hard, and without protest. The comfort of the cabin masks the car’s elevated pace, while the chassis does a commendable job of handling the powertrain’s exaggerated output. ECO mode might be more suitable for urban travel, but the click over to Sport+ was vastly more entertaining, as the tactile feel of the Lexus, plus the sensory-stimulating sounds, helps create a rewarding sports-sedan driving experience.

Entering the realm of BMW M-series high performance sedans, Audi RS-sedans, Mercedes AMG products and Cadillac’s V-series cars is heady territory. These bodacious four-doors are executive express rocket ships disguised as everyman luxury sedans, until you light the wick. Lexus knows it needs to compete in this quadrant if it hopes to build niche sales and create a similar halo affect over its other sedans and crossovers. With this price point, the GS-F matches up nicely against the Cadillac CTS-V, while the others are tens of thousands of dollars more. Unfortunately, the CTS-V packs a supercharged 640-hp V-8 that rips the heart out of the Lexus, but still, the GS-F is a great beginning. When was a Lexus ever in any conversation that contained the names Corvette and CTS-V?

Never has there been a for-sale Lexus with a throbbing V-8, big slotted discs brakes, NASCAR-inspired front splitter and intake grilles, plus low-profile Michelin sport tires. This car is a huge anomaly. A Lexus!

Last year, the sportiest IS Lexus sedan visited. It had the stance, the ambitious look of a sports sedan, yet it lacked the overall polish necessary to sustain such an effort against the vaunted BMW 3-series, or even match up well against Infiniti’s refined offerings. This GS-F erases that gap in the Lexus lineup.

Lexus is well known for building excellent cars that perform well — since 1989. This GS-F proves that Toyota, and Lexus, can build performance cars too. The threshold has been crossed. Where they go from here is anyone’s guess, but it should be a fun ride.

Tim Plouff

Tim Plouff

Columnist at The Ellsworth American
Tim Plouff has been reviewing automobiles in the pages of The Ellsworth American weekly for nearly two decades.
Tim Plouff

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