As early, rave reviews started coming in from respected auto writers I had to ask, Why? The current GS is a nice Lexus, but how could its hotrodded F version be good as—or possibly better than—stalwarts like the M5, S6 and E63? No AWD, no turbos. After experiencing it for myself, I’d have to agree that this is one of the most surprising features of the year.
It’s not the GS F’s outré styling; while undeniably aggressive and visually interesting, there’s a bit of the aftermarket amateur theater in the Nike swooshes below the LED lights and the gaping maw, all of which distract your eye from what is otherwise a fairly slab-sided sedan. Inside it’s a different story: the quality is now exceptional once again, and many of the details—Alcantara dash top, gloss carbon inlays, seats that are both unique in pattern and more supportive laterally (and comfortable longitudinally) than the offerings from Germany—are peerless. The huge infotainment display is gorgeous, but sadly still controlled by a mouse-style system that is behind current iDrive, MMI and Comand systems. In aggregate, the Lexus is a very nice companion on typical clogged commutes, thanks to its overall refinement, comfort and soothing surroundings, but that could be said of most competitors.
What makes the GS F so special is the way it moves. Clichéd comparison it may be, but this Lexus reminds me of BMWs like the E39 5-series and E46 and E90 3-series more than almost anything the Bavarians make today. It has a rigid shell, superbly damped ride that, while never less than firm, doesn’t devolve into crashiness, even over our most neglected roads. Its steering is linear, with excellent reactiveness just off center and weighting that builds in proper fashion as loads on the front axle escalate.
GS F body motions are controlled in a superb manner; the entire machine moves as one; and—a sign of really well tuned damping—the firmest setting in the driver selectable control menu is in many circumstances the best for ride as well as for handling. The Lexus’ active rear differential, which can be set to Slalom and Track modes, contributes here as well, creating a rear end that adds alertness to proceedings without making the Lexus feel in any way unpredictable.
The F’s 467hp 5-liter may lack turbocharged torque, but it revs sweetly with sonorous sounds and is more than fast enough to get one in big trouble; the in-house eight-speed automatic isn’t as responsive as the best twin-clutch units in other high performance sedans but isn’t an impediment. While at sea level this Lexus feels even stronger (as when I drove the RC F on track near New Orleans a couple years back) it is plenty potent up here, at least once it clears 3000rpm. Brakes are very well honed for modulation and ultimate stopping power, meaning the whole package is present.
Usable performance, effortlessly quiet cruising, a great ride and superb day-to-day usability (aside from the lack of AWD) mean this Lexus checks most boxes for a large executive’s express. The cohesiveness of the whole GS F package makes my mouth water for the outrageously gorgeous upcoming LC coupe and its new platform.
EPA ratings: 16/24mpg; 19mpg combined
Price as tested: $86,875
(4.5 / 5)
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