2016 Lexus GS F first drive review
At first glance the new Lexus GS F looks like a no-brainer. It’s a luxurious V8-powered sports sedan that undercuts its European rivals by almost $100,000.
Closer inspection, including time in the Adelaide Hills and on the Mallala racetrack, makes it less clear just exactly what the GS F is and who it will appeal too.
On paper things look promising. Powered by a 5.0-litre V8 engine good for 351kW and 530Nm and mated to an eight-speed transmission driving the rear wheels it has the same drivetrain as the RC F coupe.
On the road, the first impression starts well too. The V8 engine has a pleasingly old-school growl and offers up plenty of bite to match the bark. But it doesn’t blow you away in the same way BMW’s 423kW twin-turbo V8 M5 does. Or AMG’s similarly equipped 430kW E63. Or Audi’s RS6 Avant twin-turbo V8 with 412kW.
That’s OK when you consider the GS F starts at $148,800 (plus on-roads) and the Germans are all well north of $200,000. But when you consider the HSV GTS is packing a 430kW supercharged 6.2-litre V8, and even the Clubsport R8 SV is available with 340kW, for less than six figures the Lexus’ value argument begins to weaken.
But the big Japanese sedan will appeal to those who want a sports sedan and refuse to consider anything locally made, or are perhaps looking for something to replace their latest HSV with a more prestigious badge.
And with that in mind there is actually a lot to like about the GS F. The gearbox is nicely matched to the V8, offering up fuss-free changes in automatic mode and reasonably sharp changes when you use the steering-wheel mounted paddles to drive it manually.
The drivetrain has enough grunt to launch the GS F from 0-100km/h in a respectable 4.6 seconds. On both the road and track there was a healthy dose of mid-range pulling power, helping it build speed with ease making it feel like a proper sports sedan.
It also stops very well thanks to 380mm ventilated Brembo brakes up front and 345mm discs at the rear. While the initial stopping power was very impressive on the track, we didn’t get a chance to put them to the test with repeated hard stops thanks to only limited hot laps.
Grip is impressive too thanks to a combination of specially developed Sachs dampers and Michelin Pilot Super Sport rubber; measuring 255/35 front and 275/35 rear on 19-inch rims. For a big sedan the GS F hangs on well and feels predictable in the way it reacts.
The steering is nicely weighted and is direct, but lacks the feel and feedback you get from the European and Australian competition.
Helping the GS F get the power to the ground is a Torque Vectoring Differential that can be switched between Normal, Track and Slalom modes offering varying degrees of freedom for the enthusiastic driver. In Track mode Lexus claims it will allow GS F to hang its rear out with stability control only jumping in if it detects you are about to spin completely. If that isn’t enough (and rare in a Lexus) stability control can be completely switched off.
The character of the GS F can also be tailored to the conditions with Normal, Eco, Sport+ and Sport+ S modes that alter the response of the throttle and gearshifts. But it doesn’t change the suspension and that is an area where the GS F falls down compared to its rivals. It may have good grip but it comes at the expense of compliance as the car has a tendency to not only jar over larger bumps but also get unsettled by smaller imperfections in the road.
It does win some points back with its interior presentation. The GS was already one of the best interiors Lexus as ever produced and the sporty F touches – Alcantara wrapped wheel and new seats – lift it again.
Lexus Australia is offering two grades of GS F separated only in seat specification. The $148,800 (plus on-road costs) model comes equipped with Alcantara-trimmed seats with heated function, while the $151,700 version gets semi-aniline leather accented seats with heated and ventilated function for the front seats.
Standard equipment on both models includes 19-inch alloy wheels, LED headlamps, 12.3-inch display screen, tri-zone climate control, colour head up display, heated leather steering wheel, smart key, moonroof, power rear sunblind and a 17-speaker Mark Levinson sound system.
On the safety front both models come with 10 airbags and are the latest models to gain the company’s Lexus Safety System+; a suite of active safety aids including pre-collision warning, Active cruise control, lane keeping assist and adaptive high-beam.
That is a generous load of equipment for the money and does give it an edge on the HSV, winning some ground back in the value stakes.
But the GS F remains in a middle ground on both price and performance between its European and the Australian rivals.