Lexus adds serious sport to luxury
The birth of the Lexus GS F was something of a cloak-and-dagger affair, with team leader, engineering boss Yukihiko Yaguchi, bypassing official channels to start work on what was to become the Lexus IS F V8 sedan.
Those after-hours sessions led to Mr Yaguchi being involved in the RC F coupe and LFA supercar.
Now comes the GS F four-door sedan. Mr Yaguchi is still there, this time as emeritus chief engineer on the project. The heart of the GS F is a 351kW 5.0-litre V8 mated with an eight-speed transmission driving the rear wheels.
As Lexus does, the big engine is augmented by a high-end range of standard specification, such as four-mode drive select and sophisticated dynamic management.
It rises on 19-inch alloy wheels, has Brembo brakes with orange calipers, LED headlights, colour head-up display, 10 airbags and 17speaker premium audio system.
The base model hits the market at $162,008 on the road. However, there is a shopping list of enhancement packs, adding such things as leather upholstery, polished alloy wheels and carbon interior trim, which sees the range top out at $170,284 on-road. The latter was the test vehicle.
Lexus’s large spindle grille, with distinctive chrome “L” contrasting with the dark mesh, dominates the front of the GS F, orange painted calipers peek out from behind polished alloy wheels and the rear features diagonally stacked twin exhausts — a characteristic of the high-performance Lexus F series.
At almost 5m long, the car cannot be accused of looking bulky from the side. The profile matches the car’s intent. The lines are linked front and back by Lexus F Sport bumpers, vents replace foglamps and a rear spoiler sits atop the powered boot lid above LED tail-lights. The GS F runs on Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres.
Sports sedan or not, there is no sacrificing any of the luxury expected of a Lexus. Thick pile carpet mats adorn the floor, sports seats in the upper models are upholstered in leather, while the driver enjoys an easy-entry steering wheel and seat slide.
Sun worshippers can bask in the glow by opening the tilt-and-slide moonroof.
Front and centre of the information systems is the 12.3-inch LCD screen displaying live traffic alerts and rear-view camera image with mobile guidelines.
A 17-speaker Mark Levinson audio system includes DAB+ digital radio and there’s Bluetooth connectivity with audio streaming, voice control for phone, dual USBs and auxiliary input plus two 12volt outlets.
With variable valve timing and direct fuel injection, the 32-valve twin-cam 5.0-litre V8 engine pumps out 351kW of power at 7100 rpm and 530Nm of torque between 4800 and 5600 rpm. Carbon dioxide emissions meet Euro 6 standards.
Gear shifts with the eight-speed automatic transmission take fractions of a second, smoothing out the drive in all but the harshest acceleration.
Driving pleasure is enhanced with the transmission’s throttle blips matching the engine’s speed to the gear. The tachometer displays the gear engaged.
Two G-sensors and artificial intelligence swing into action for optimum sports driving on winding roads and adopt full converter lock-up from second to eighth gears in manual mode.
With a five-star safety rating, Lexus GS F calls on 10 airbags for passive safety, while a vehicle dynamics management system consisting of stability and traction control, plus ABS anti-skid braking with brake assist and electronic brake force distribution.
Occupants of the test car also benefited from Lexus Safety System+, incorporating high-speed adaptive cruise and distance control, pre-collision safety with auto braking, lane keep assist and blind spot monitor with rear cross traffic alert.
Before anything else, the driver taking his seat is greeted by an analogue speedo which tops out at 340 km/h, a somewhat optimistic figure I would have thought. Not that the GS F is lacking in performance.
Pushing the start button brings up an adjacent 8.0-inch digital display of information associated with both street and track performance.
The set-up realigns to correspond with the chosen Lexus Drive Mode — Eco, Normal, Sports and Sport S+ — presenting key readings such as speed, revs, shift indicator and relevant gear.
It has a claimed combined urban/highway cycle fuel consumption of 11.3 litres per 100km. The test vehicle used seven litres per 100km on the motorway and up to 16 litres per 100km in the city.
With 530Nm of torque, overtaking is freely offered and assured. And while Lexus has made an art of keeping passengers insulated from outside noise, speakers in the front and rear of the GS F cabin electronically produce sounds that rise with engine speed and emphasises the exhaust note behind the vehicle. The system can be turned off by the driver via a switch on the instrument panel.
With all vehicle stability controls switched off, it is possible to get the GS F sideways, as I experienced from the co-driver’s seat with rally champion Rick Bates behind the wheel on laps of Mallala race circuit in South Australia earlier this year.
With safety systems fully operable, I found it impossible to unsettle the same car on the same track, the driving experience being heightened by the change in engine note under acceleration.
The Lexus GS F is no AMG or M Series, but beware, Benz and BMW, with a 4.6-second sprint time and engine tuning to match, it’s getting there. On the other hand, in the standard of luxury for its occupants, the Lexus is unequalled.
The GS F is Lexus luxury with street-smart attitude. Pictures: Marque Motoring
A rear spoiler sits atop the powered boot lid.
Sports seats in the upper models are upholstered in leather.