2016 Lexus GS F – Driven

2016 lexus gs f 8211 driven – DOC681132

Lexus is working hard to rebrand itself as something far different than dolled-up Toyotas. That’s clearly apparent with its list of F-Sport and F cars, the polarizing RC coupe, and now this – the GS F. It’s a V-8-powered sedan with rear-wheel drive, paddle shifters, low-profile summer performance tires, massive brakes, and an aggressive appearance far beyond any sedan Lexus has made before.

The GS F is Lexus’ answer to cars like the BMW M5 and Cadillac CTS-V – bit bruisers in the segment with loads of horsepower and tons of brand cache. Lexus uses the same style recipe as BMW and Cadillac, too. All the performance and appearance goodies are added to a soft-riding, plush sedan built for those with high-class tastes. As such, the GS F is based on the standard Lexus GS sedan – the same one that comes with a V-6 and a hybrid option.

The differences, however, are all in the details. Up front is a 467-horsepower, 5.0-liter V-8 mated to a quick-shifting, eight-speed automatic transmission. Power is sent through Lexus’ proprietary Torque Vector ing Differential to 275-series Michelin Pilot Super Sport rear tires. The whole thing rides on Sach-sourced shock absorbers at each corner with a fully independent suspension system. Six-piston front and four-piston rear Brembos bring everything to a stop – and quickly.

I recently spent a week with the 2016 GS F, using it as a daily driver and highway cruiser like most folks typically would. However, a week before, I blasted around the infield track at the Texas Motor Speedway with another GS F example at a recent Texas Auto Writers Association event. The extensive seat time allowed the GS F’s true nature to be found. So what’s the GS F all about, you ask? Keep reading.

Exterior

Lexus GS F – Driven

Lexus GS F – Driven

Lexus GS F – Driven

The GS, like all modern Lexus products, wears a massive front grille that Lexus calls its Spindle Grille. Opt for an F Sport or F-branded Lexus , and the grille grows even larger. That’s no exception with the GS F. The hour glass-like shape stretches from the hood to the pavement, with no dramatic break in its flow or separation between the upper and lower sections. Two smaller air inlets below the headlights add to the gaping front, these providing air to the front Brembo brakes. Love it or hate it, the Spindle Grille looks like nothing else on the road. Ther’s a lot to be said for that.

The GS F attracted hoots and hollers form several people, a thumbs-up from an IS F driver, and plenty of attention in nearly every parking lot I stopped at.

LED headlights with LED daytime running lights add a high level of techy-ness to the front, while lighting the road in a dramatic white light at night. The headlights’ beam does drop off dramatically at a rather surprising distance, making it easy to over drive the low beams, however. Thankfully the automatic high beams help the situation.

The GS F rides on beautiful 19-inch wheels with more spokes than anyone cares to count. The different color choices within the wheel further add detail, making these some of the sharpest wheels in the industry. Besides the front fascia, the F version of the GS gets wider front fenders that trail over the tires with a gill-like scoop. The scoop bleeds down to the flared-out rocker panel, which then creates a body line in the rear bumper. Also unique to the GS F are the four chrome-tipped exhaust pipes stacked at an angle.

Beyond the massive Spindle Grille, beautiful wheels, and sculpted body lines, my GS F tester came coated in Molten Pear – a paint color that screams for attention. And attention was never in short supply. The GS F attracted hoots and hollers form several people, a thumbs-up from an IS F driver, and plenty of attention in nearly every parking lot I stopped at.

Interior

Lexus GS F – Driven

Lexus GS F – Driven

Lexus GS F – Driven

The GS F’s interior is an obvious iteration on the standard GS cabin. There’s plenty that carries over, including the 12.3-inch Enform infotainment system and its track pad. However, like the exterior, there’s plenty of unique goodies that set the GS F apart. Sport seats with gorgeous contrast stitching feature heavy bolsters for extra support during hard corners. They also have a nearly limitless number of adjustments, making them some of the most comfortable in the Lexus stable.

Sport seats with gorgeous contrast stitching feature heavy bolsters for extra support during hard corners

The gauge cluster is also unique to the GS F. It takes after the IS F, which pulls inspiration from the mighty Lexus LF A. A large digital tachometer is centered in the cluster. An analog speedometer is mounted to the right and is darn near impossible to read at a glance, eventually becoming invisible. A large information screen to the left provides tabs on everything from coolant temperature and oil pressure, to gear position, G-forces, traction graphs, and of course infotainment information.

The center console is mostly an efficient use of space. Seat climate controls are mounted nearly under the dash, twin cup holders feature a folding cover, the standard-issue Lexus gear shifter sits next to the mouse-like controller for the infotainment system, and a rotary dial controls the four driving modes.

Rear seat passengers have ample room and impressive bolsters. Fold down the center armrest, and it’s an all-day roadtrip. Front seat comfort is also very good, with everything placed ergonomically.

Drivetrain

Lexus GS F – Driven

Powering the Lexus GS F is the same 5.0-liter V-8 found in the RC F. The all-aluminum engine features a dual-overhead cam design with four valves per cylinder. It features both port and direct fuel injection and both Otto and Atkinson combustion cycles. These technologies allow the V-8 to scream to a 7,300-rpm redline and produce 467 horsepower, yet sip fuel when maximum power isn’t needed. Naysayers will denounce the Lexus’ 467 horsepower as being deficient, but the 5.0-liter is the only one within its competitive segment to come naturally aspirated.

The GS F comes standard with the Torque Vectoring rear differential that’s optional in the RC F.

The engine is mated to the same eight-speed automatic transmission found in the RC F, as well. It provides a variety of firmness in shifting, all dependent on the driver-selected drive modes. Twist the drive mode knob over to Eco, and the trans slips through the gears like butter melting in to a steaming potato. The edgy Sport+ drive mode conversely makes the transmission behave like dual clutch, firing off gears with rapid precision. The paddle shifters respond fairly quickly to shift requests, as well.

The GS F comes standard with the Torque Vectoring rear differential that’s optional in the RC F. It has a dedicated button that controls its activity. The driver can choose between Normal, Slalom, and Track modes, making the diff send power where the GS F needs it most. Think if it as a proactive traction control system.

Pulling things to a stop are Brembo brakes, with rotors measuring 15 inches up front and 13.5 inches out back. Six-piston calipers grab the vented and slotted discs at the front, while four-piston calipers grab vented discs in the rear. The calipers can also be ordered in orange.

Driving Impressions

Lexus GS F – Driven

Lexus GS F – Driven

Lexus GS F – Driven

The Lexus GS F is a big car, but not so big as to feel cumbersome. Its size is one of its strong suits, however, as it gives the sedan a sense of presence and grandeur. Inside, this size translates into plenty of room for people and things. On the road, however, its size somehow disappears. Once positioned comfortably behind the wheel, the car simply feels right and makes driving a pleasure.

Once positioned comfortably behind the wheel, the car simply feels right and makes driving a pleasure.

The 5.0-liter V-8 makes some great noises, especially when the vacuum-operated secondary air box opens up above 3,000 rpm or so. It’s almost a shame the extra noise isn’t programmed to happen at a lower rpm. (Thankfully a quick plugging of a single vacuum hose is said to keep the air box open all the time.)

Steering is direct and quick, yet only provides minimal feedback of the road. Steering, along with throttle mapping and transmission shift points, all change in accordance with the drive modes. They include Eco, Normal, Sport, and Sport+. On the track, the GS F hauls itself with ease, making quick work of tight, technical sections. Long straights are the only place where the V-8 feels underpowered. Everywhere else, especially around town, the V-8 never lacks horses and torque.

Pricing

Lexus GS F – Driven

The 2016 GS F is not cheap. Then again, neither are any of its competitors. In that regard, the GS F represents sometime of a bargain. The base price comes in at $84,440. My tester only sports one option – the $1,380 Mark Levinson audio system. Other options are available, and include various things like door guards, floor mats, illuminated door sills, and those orange brake calipers.

Lexus charges $950 for processing and handling, making my tester carry a total price of $86,770.

Competition

Cadillac CTS-V

Cadillac CTS-V

The Lexus GS F might be all about back road bombing in comfort, but the CTS-V is Cadillac’s four-door version of the Corvette Z06. The CTS-V packs the same supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 as the Z06, though it makes 640 horsepower in this application. An eight-speed automatic does the shifting. Magnetic Ride Control gives the driver choices with suspension settings. Super sticky Michelin tires provide the grip, allowing the big sedan to hit 60 mph in just 3.6 seconds.

Having driven the Caddy nearly back to back with the GS F, it’s easy to feel the extra horsepower under the CTS-V’s hood. Still, when it comes to livability, the Lexus would likely win out. Prices for the CTS-V start at $83,995, though prices can quickly jump above $90,000.

BMW M5

The M5 is hands-down the most iconic of this trio, having been around far longer and caring an established history in its trunk. The M5 is known as a driver’s car – one that quintessentially combines luxury and performance. Some argue the M5 started the performance sedan category altogether. Modern times, however, haven’t been so good to the M5. The competition is getting tougher and many have abandoned the Bimmer bandwagon. Still, the M5 is a formidable opponent.

The 2016 version is powered by a twin-turbocharged V-8 making 575 horsepower and 500 pound-feet of torque. An honest six-speed manual comes standard, though most will choose the seven-speed dual clutch. The sprint to 60 mph takes just 3.6 seconds. Prices reflect the BMW’s status. Its base price starts at $100,095. Like any BMW, options quickly inflate the price by thousands.

Conclusion

Lexus GS F – Driven

So what’s the GS F all about, huh? Well, you can tell by the competition Lexus’ goal was not a numbers-hungry sedan designed to attract bench racers and the egocentric. Rather, the GS F is a sports sedan that work. It might not be the fastest, or the quickest. It’s not even the best handling of the bunch.

What the GS F embodies is power and finesse wrapped in a overtly beautiful shell with comfort and poise dripping from every leather-covered surface within is attractive interior. It’s the sport sedan for the driver who doesn’t want an outrageous track machine. Reports around the web confirm this. interview with Lexus design and engineer Yukihiko Yaguchi reveals the car is more about back-road driving and the enjoyment found in blitzing a two-lane road. Lap times and 0-to-60 mph times are left for those who care more for numbers.

While it’s hard to argue against Yaguchi’s approach, and while the GS F doesn’t feel underpowered by any mean, the Lexus does trail the BMW and Cadillac in terms of desirability. This is perhaps the Lexus’ biggest downfall. It relies heavily on attracting customers on its aggressive looks alone. Folks won’t run into a Lexus showroom with the latest issue of magazine saying, “Give me the car that won this three-way track comparison!”

Thankfully the GS F has far more than its looks to offer. Those who drive it will love the combination of luxury and performance. It might not be the fastest, nor the most popular, but dadgummit if the GS F isn’t one of the most well rounded sport sedans on the market. For that, it earns my respect.

LOVE IT

  • Flashy in all the right ways
  • Tech-rich drivetrain
  • All the comforts of the Lexus GS

LEAVE IT

  • V-8 down on power compared to others
  • Some may dislike Enform system
  • Expensive

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