The Lexus GS itself is not a new car, but this GS F is something quite different. For those that have been paying attention, F is the designation for Lexus’ sporting models, with the letter standing for Fuji Speedway where all F products are tested. So this is a hot car with a genuine pedigree, even if it only stretches back as far as 2008’s IS F.
Take the mid-sized GS, ditch the hybrid powertrain for a naturally aspirated V8, match it to an eight-speed transmission and add in some impressive technology including an electronically controlled differential with torque vectoring. It also looks the part with both interior and exterior upgraded to boot.
In standard form the GS has always been quite a striking design albeit in a relatively low-key way, making it a car for those who appreciate the thought behind good design. In F form however its appeal is a bit more obvious; finished in the signature blue it squats low over beefy alloy wheels with bigger bumpers featuring larger air intakes to match, plus orange brake callipers and a modest carbon fibre rear spoiler. It’s definitely handsome and sporty but not super-aggressive, which is something you can’t really say about some of its German rivals.
The flip side is that the F brand has a little way to go to be as recognisable as those same German rivals, but it does have two key advantages; firstly it’s the only contender to stick with a sweet naturally aspirated engine, and secondly none of its rivals share the badge with a spectacular supercar like the LF-A. Score one to Lexus.
The GS F is mid-sized executive saloon and is therefore not short on space. Up front it’s the width of the transmission tunnel that makes the cabin feel a little cosy but there’s actually plenty of space for adults. It’s the same story in the rear too, with comfortable leather chairs which are optimised for two but can accommodate three. The boot is also large with 520 litres on offer, making this a genuine executive express for those that can afford it.
Settle down behind the GS F’s chunky leathered wheel and in the first few miles there’s only the occasional V8 backbeat and the sporty seats to tell you that this is a hot Lexus. Pleasingly you can leave all the various settings in their mildest and cover ground with ease and in great comfort. The GS F’s suspension is a little firmer of course, but unless the road is particularly poor it’s just as relaxed as the standard car.
Turn the wick up a little and the GS F starts to reveal its sportier side, and the news is almost universally good. The naturally aspirated V8 obviously gives a little away to turbo rivals but you get the noise and the response instead; not that it’s short of pace of course with 0-62mph despatched in just 4.6 seconds.
You also need to spend a little time playing with the multiple settings. There’s Normal, Eco, Sport and Sport+ modes for the steering, engine and transmission, while the differential has its own Standard, Slalom and Track modes. Which is best is a matter of personal preference, but after driving the GS F on both track and road in various formats its behaviour is surprisingly sharp and composed for a car of this size. It’s not an aggressive car but will respond keenly to driver inputs, with only the occasional hesitation from the gearbox worthy of note.
The GS F’s specification list is huge, over and above that of a standard GS. Aside from the unique engine specification, that clever differential and the bespoke suspension set up the GS F gets full leather throughout, electric front sports seats, satellite navigation and 10-speaker audio system with a 12.3-inch display all as standard. The options list is almost non-existent – only the excellent Mark Levinson premium audio system is worth your while.
A good executive sports saloon is possibly the best kind of family bus because it gives the main driver plenty of luxury and performance whilst still be capable of doing all the boring stuff. That the GS F requires zero extra effort to drive compared to the standard car is a major plus point and makes it totally suitable for everyday use. Yet there are plenty of occasions when you’d want to exploit the performance and it’s easy to do so. The key German rivals may be a fraction faster or sharper, but the GS F strikes an excellent balance between fantasy and reality.
Engine:5.0-litre petrol unit producing 471bhp and 391lb/ft of torque
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic gearbox driving the rear wheels
Performance: Top speed 168mph, 0-62mph in 4.6 seconds
Economy: 25.2mpg combined
Emissions: 260g/km of CO2