Old-school fun in a newcomer
THE GS F provides something you wouldn’t normally find in a four-door Lexus: genuine, oldschool fun.
“It should be fun to drive, no matter who’s driving or where they’re driving it,” says Lexus Australia chief executive Peter McGregor.
He may have a point; opening up the big, 5.0-litre V8 provides a giddy, childish rush that’s impossible not to enjoy.
It’s down on outright brawn against BMW’s benchmark M5 but the GS F is powered by a true petrolhead’s delight: a freerevving, naturally aspirated V8, with great dollops of grunt on the loud side of 4000rpm.
And while an automatic gearbox probably isn’t the last word in involvement, the eightspeed in the GS F works hard to keep drivers interested.
Sensors measure how forcefully the GS F is accelerating, braking and cornering, then adapt the shift points accordingly.
If, for instance, you’re barrelling around a track, it’ll hold gears longer so you can rev them harder, as well as automatically downshift as you brake for a corner. If you’re cruising on the freeway, it’ll change up early to keep things comfortable and quiet.
But the paddle-shifters really unleash the eight-speeder’s true merits — downshifts take a mere 0.2 of a second, while upshifts take just 0.3 secs.
In full manual mode, the gearbox won’t automatically PRICE $148,800-$151,700 WARRANTY 4 years/100,000 km CAPPED SERVICING Free first service; no capped servicing SERVICE INTERVAL 12 months/15,000km SAFETY Not rated, 10 airbags ENGINE 5.0-litre V8, 351kW/530Nm TRANSMISSION 8-speed auto; RWD THIRST 11.3L/100km DIMENSIONS 4915mm (L), 1845mm (W), 1440mm (H), 2850mm (WB) WEIGHT 1865kg SPARE None; inflation kit 0-100KM/H 4.6 secs change up a gear, even when you’re bouncing off the rev limiter at a heady 7300rpm.
To keep things entertaining in the corners, Lexus has purloined a few ideas from its CCS-R race car, such as the clever rear differential, big Brembo brakes and lightweight, track-ready suspension.
Electronic torque-vectoring in the differential keeps the big Lexus remarkably stable, even at the ballistic speeds you can achieve on a track.
Huge brakes scrub off speed at an astonishing rate and will work time after time, thanks in part to their size but also because the angular nose funnels cooling air over the rotors.
The GS F is agile in a way that belies its 1865kg weight. The suspension is brilliant at keeping that mass in check but it’s just too stiff and unyielding for Australian roads.
Such a ride would be almost acceptable in a hard-edged coupe but the GS F brief is a large, luxury four-door sedan.
Things don’t get much better in the cabin. Seats are comfortable, passenger space is ample but the media and navigation are just about unfathomable — menus are too complicated and the controls border on light torture.
What’s worse is the setup will lock you out on the move, so front passengers who want to connect their phone to Bluetooth or adjust settings will have to ask the driver to pull over, or attempt a speed run through the indecipherable menus at a red light.
The Mark Levinson audio looks impressive at first glance but the sound quality isn’t on par with BMW’s (admittedly optional) Bang & Olufsen job in the M5. It sounds properly appealing only when it’s piping the sound of the V8 through the 17 speakers. Purists can switch the whole thing off. If they can find the setting to do so.
The Lexus is a likeable car despite the terse ride and infuriating media setup. Wonderfully involving, properly fast and significantly cheaper than the cheapest M5, it’s also unfortunately flawed in some key areas.