Lexus GS F Review: Breaking Free From Sport Sedan Conventions
The decision to spike the sedan segment’s stagnant punch bowl with its own unique shot of V8 adrenaline may not have payed off just yet, but it’s apparent that Lexus is onto something with the GS F. Ever since its unveiling, we’ve put our desire to get one for a week-long review on display. Everything about a well-rounded sport sedan appeals to us, and unlike the polarizing RC F coupe we drove this past spring and its face that some say only a mother could love, the GS F rocks a less fish-like persona.
Having a sedan that holsters this much performance and practicality for a warm week in October is a blessing like no other. We took full advantage of having the ability to pick up kids from daycare in a jiffy, shop for groceries without fear of running out of trunk space, and visited an uncle an hour away amid the smooth sailing comfort that is without question Lexus-grade. Next to the Ford Focus RS, this sedan was one of the most highly anticipated reviews of the year for us, and it did not disappoint.
Lexus has done a remarkable job of reinventing itself, and while some of its styling decisions and tech touches leave certain shoppers looking toward alternative options, the craftsmanship, reliability, and regal cabin touches remain indisputably top tier. But with AMG, V, M, R-Sport, and RS competitors gnashing their teeth and offering things like higher horsepower forced induction engines, adjustable suspension, and shallower price tags, what has Toyota’s luxury arm done to make the GS F stand out from the crowd? In short, a hell of a lot.
According to Lexus’s corporate philosophy, its polarizing new design language is referred to as “L-finesse.” While the word finesse needs no explanation, the L supposedly represents leading-edge design, with an overt emphasis on the word “edge.” So while some critics and luxury buyers may feel that the lines on the GS F are too edgy, we dig the overall design, and received a plethora of complements from family, friends, and strangers alike based upon its sharp styling. With its wedged nose, bulging vented fenders, sharp creases, staggered 19-inch alloys, subtle carbon fiber flourishes, and sleek LED lights, we could not have been more pleased with the way this sedan sat in our drive and looked on the open road.
Exterior pros and cons
+ Sharply hooked, heavyset, and LED lit, the GS F is easily the prettier looking of the two V8 Lexus demigods.
+ The hourglass spindle grille, dark accents, quad exhaust, exposed carbon, vented fenders, massive air intake ducts, beastly six-pot Brembo calipers with spiral slotted rotors, and forged 19-inch alloy wheels in a staggered configuration all look spot-on.
+ Despite all of the aforementioned performance touches and sharply edged styling cues, driving a GS F doesn’t scream for attention like the RC F Coupe in Molten Orange does. It’s not quite a sleeper, but it’s not overly in your face either.
– We think the GS F looks outstanding. When asking other people what they thought, responses were varied.
– The rear wing is not deployable like on the RC F, and for as stylish as they may appear, the 19-inch wheels look a hair undersized on something so large amid the swaths of bodywork.
It may not have a supercharger or a pair of snails attached to it that spool off exhaust fumes, but the 467 horsepower V8 packed beneath the bonnet of the GS F still has the ability to make you smile and shiver when in S+ mode. By taking the titanium-filled 5.0-liter from the RC F and attaching it to an eight-speed automatic gearbox with torque vectoring capabilities as standard equipment, Lexus has hit the piston on the head. Normal, Slalom, and Track modes all reward you with noticeable traction returns, and while we don’t foresee many members of upper management drifting out of the parking deck on a Tuesday in this thing, the way in which Track mode grabs the ground is right on the money.
Powertrain pros and cons
+ A wide variety of driving modes and torque vectoring adjustment allow for a plethora of performance gains that help drivers keep it pointed in a straight line under heavy throttle, slalom sideways, or smoothly cruise in Eco mode.
+ Lexus’s 5.0-liter V8 revs hard, doesn’t mind being pushed to redline, and comes with the reliability and refinement one would expect from the brand.
+ Eco mode still offers notable throttle feel for interstate passing and returns an EPA estimate of 24 miles per gallon.
– No cylinder deactivation to give better fuel returns, and it only runs right on Premium.
– Still a bit low on the power grid when compared to the equally priced Cadillac CTS-V since it doesn’t have forced induction … yet.
Cabin feel on a sedan of this grade demands the best, and Lexus does not disappoint. It kicks things off with real carbon fiber accents, vented/heated seats that have just the right amount of bolstering, and both leather and Alcantara touches in mass. With its larger display screen, finely stitched upholstery, spacious rear bench and trunk, and power adjustments for damn near everything, the only component we felt that was missing from the equation was a place for our sunglasses when not in use.
Interior pros and cons
+ Lexus-grade interior refinement, meet F-grade sport design language. Together you shall offer everything from heated and vented seats that were obviously inspired by H.R. Giger, to a steering wheel and exclusive sport pedals that are grippy and ready for action.
+ The Mark Levinson audio upgrade may tack on an additional $1,380, but with 17 speakers, 7.1 channel architecture, and 835 watts of juice, the sound system in the GS F is absolutely outstanding.
+ Favorite touches include real carbon fiber inserts, swanky LED strips in trim gaps, metal control knobs for volume and channel selection, a trunk the size of Singapore Harbor, Alcantara fabric galore, and a sliding center console that is long and loaded with charging ports.
– In its current location, you or your passenger will likely bump the “Remote Touch” mouse or one of its Enter buttons by accident. From there all you can do is watch the anarchy unfold, as it clicks, drags, and jumps its way across multiple screens.
– No sunglasses holder, the center stack features some dated looking buttons, no panoramic sunroof, cupholder layout blocks access to heated seat functions, and full access of the moonroof requires the use of two buttons and unnecessary steps.
Tech and safety
Here is where the GS F loses its way for a moment: While it may be noticeably superior to the RC F in regard to its display screen, touch controls, and center stack graphics, when compared to something like the Prius Prime, it suddenly seems dated. In its defense, Lexus has done a great job of making the driver’s experience downright sensational, and leafing through MID menus and the toggled head-up display will emphasize this. As for safety, the GS F takes full advantage of Toyota’s TSS-P sensory systems and camera tech in order to provide a very predictable and confident driving experience.
Tech pros and cons
+ Sleek driver info display tells you everything you need to know about gear choices, maintenance reminders, G-force pull, torque distribution, and a whole lot more. There is also a standard color head-up display.
+ Tech safety is heavy-handed here, giving drivers every imaginable precautionary perk Toyota can muster.
+ The horizontal 12.3-inch center screen is perfectly proportioned and can be split to show all of Lexus’s Entune info while keeping navi prompts at the ready.
– It may be decades ahead of the infuriating touchpad found in other Lexus models, but the “Remote Touch” mouse is still a far cry from intuitive. PC Mag’s review of the system nailed it with descriptors like “clunky” and “iffy.”
– No touchscreen capabilities, no surround view cameras, adaptive cruise can be jumpy, and its corporate stablemate Prius Prime has it beat for both menu and map graphics.
For as loaded and luxurious as this sedan is, it is still one potent motherload of a rear-wheel drive experience. As predicted, it did not disappoint: Once a drive mode has been selected, and a stability control system has been activated along with a torque vectoring variation, drivers can gleefully glide, slide, or rocket their way to their destination. While this may sound like a time consuming, in-depth tuning affair, it is actually pretty straightforward thanks to an easy to use series of switches and knobs, so forget spending a fortnight trying to find a traction setting in an obscure menu somewhere.
In both Regular and Eco driving modes, the sedan sips fuel and sails almost silently down the interstate, offering a relaxed steering feel that is neither disjointed nor overly taut. However, S and S+ modes will spike the engine, transmission, and electric power steering while toying with stability and torque vectoring makes you forget that the softer, non-adjustable Sachs suspension on this sedan is geared more toward comfort. It’s a tail-happy, refined four-door that loves to rev hard all the way to redline.
But being that it is naturally aspirated and weighs in at a stout 4,128 pounds, the GS F is still noticeably slower than most of the competition, and for as sporty as it feels, it still shifts gears with all the intent of, well, a Lexus. Sure, you can still feel the rear differential pound the seat of your pants as it pops from one gear to the next, but unless you manually turn off the Active Sound Control (ASC) system, what you’re really getting is a cacophony of synthetic intake and exhaust sounds. Fortunately, you don’t get any of this folderol when in Normal or Eco driving mode, and once disengaged you will likely discover that the noises emanating from either end of the vehicle are plenty loud on their own.
Wrap up and review
On a scale of one to five we have to give the Lexus GS F a hearty 4/5. While it hits almost all of the right chords in regard to luxury, styling, and sensibility, it does lose some traction when you factor in its sluggish gearbox, tech missteps, and lack of boost. There also is an $87,000 price tag to consider, which allows you to obtain a 640-horsepower CTS-V and still have enough left over for a few tanks’ worth of Premium petrol.
But despite these few factors, we can tell that this initial incarnation of the GS F is well ahead of its RC F coupe cousin, and even some of the competition. It may not be the most powerful, the most attractive to you (though that’s subjective), the fastest, or the most affordable, but it’s also the first F-branded GS in the Lexus stable. With such a solid foundation and room to run, there’s only one thing left for you to do: Go out and drive one. You won’t be disappointed.