2016 Lexus GS F First Drive

2016 Lexus GS F

For going on a decade now, Lexus has been on a mission to convince enthusiast buyers who might gravitate toward European cars that it, too, can build world-class sports cars and sports sedans. It started with the 2008 IS F, a would-be BMW M3 competitor that showed promise but just couldn’t really challenge the best performance four-door of the day.

Then came the 2012 LFA. This $375,000 carbon fiber V-10-powered supercar was breathtakingly quick and proved that Lexus, a brand known for stodgy but comfortable sedans and crossovers, truly knew what performance felt like. However, the LFA was so limited (Lexus sold just 500 units) that it didn’t provide the halo the brand really wanted.

Next up was the RC F, which arrived last year. A compact sport coupe aimed at the BMW M4, the RC F actually does some things better than its somewhat flawed German rival, but even with a V-8 under the hood, the Lexus can’t beat the turbo-six-powered BMW around a racetrack.

Now Lexus is offering its fourth F model, the 2016 GS F. A mid-size four-door sedan, the GS F fires its salvo at rivals like the BMW M5, Mercedes-AMG E63, Cadillac CTS-V, and Audi RS 7. The GS F’s chief engineer, Yukihiko Yaguchi, wants customers to know that this car was bred for the road and the track, and that it produces great sounds, immediate responses, and limitless power. Does the GS F deliver on those promises and does it have the bona fides to take its place among such elite rivals? I travelled to Madrid, Spain to drive the GS F on the Jarama Circuit and find out if the fourth F is the real deal.

2016 Lexus GS F

2016 Lexus GS F

2016 Lexus GS F

2016 Lexus GS F

Worthy bones

The GS F certainly starts with the right clay to make a sport sedan worthy of the road and track. I’ve found the current GS to be more fun to drive than the traditional ride and handling benchmark in the class, the BMW 5 Series, which has become somewhat paunchy in its middle age. For the GS F, Lexus, improves upon that already worthy structure with four additional underbody braces.

The suspension and chassis hardware are also more sophisticated. The GS F gets the GS’s double-wishbone front suspension and a multi-link rear suspension. Two front arms and two rear links are aluminum to reduce unsprung weight and increase rigidity, the front and rear geometry is tweaked, and spring and bushing rates are stiffer. Zachs shocks and Brembo brakes are used at all four corners, with big 14.96-inch front rotors and 13.58-inch rear rotors.

More importantly, the GS F comes standard with the electrically controlled clutch-actuated torque-vectoring rear differential that is optional on the RC F.

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