Old-school fun in a new­comer

Herald Sun - Motoring - - PRESTIGE - CRAIG JAMIESON

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.

VER­DICT

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.

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