It has been some time since I’ve had a thumbs-up and enthusiastic wave from another car enthusiast while driving down the highway, maybe because so many of the cars on my review schedule lately have been mainstream products without a lot of panache. But, on my way back from the city, where we did our swap this week, a young man in a tricked-out older BMW 3-Series honked as he passed me at about 90 mph expressing his appreciation.

While this Lexus GS 350 F-Sport is not much of an eye-catcher from the rear view, the large dual exhaust outlets, wider 19-inch tires and F-Sport badge gave it away. My young admirer obviously knew it was something beyond the mundane.

So, what is it, you ask?

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Well, it is the 311-horsepower version of Lexus’ mid-size, rear-wheel drive (all-wheel drive optional) GS 350 sedan in its F-Sport version. This 5-passenger luxury people hauler comes in two-liter turbo, 3.5-liter V6 and hybrid versions each with an F-Sport iteration. The two-liter turbo version without F-Sport starts at $46,310 and the top-of-the-line hybrid 450h with F-Sport starts at $68.680. This GS 350 F-Sport under our scrutiny this week starts at $54,810 and our well-optioned test car shows just over $60,000 on the sticker’s bottom line.

Our impressive-looking “Ultrasonic Blue Mica” tester sports Lexus’ huge, gaping spindle grille, dramatically sculpted front fascia and squinty headlight bezels featuring LED strikes. Its exaggerated face puts off some observers but Lexus and Toyota have dedicated themselves to no longer producing cars with boring design. The rest of the car shows little drama but has just enough style to match its personality. The overall quality of exterior details is certainly obvious.

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Inside, we find decent materials that are at home in this luxury class. Fit and finish rate among the best and the analog clock in the center of the dash is a nice touch of luxury. A large multifunction screen imbedded high on the dash is managed through a unique mouse-like gadget they call Remote Touch Interface. Many reviewers don’t like it much, but I like a lot. It floats around to move the cursor on the screen and provides haptic and auditory feedback as it enters and exits active fields. Auxiliary, USB and power outlets reside at the front of the console where they are easy to access.

Generous and comfortable leather seating front and rear along with impressive range for the power seats and power adjustable steering wheel will easily accommodate even big or tall folks. Rear seatbacks do not fold but the generous trunk will swallow a good 16 cubic-feet of stuff and we have a pass-through for skis or other long stuff. The GS in all its iterations would make a great car for two couples traveling together.

The F-Sport designation does not refer to power differences, rather it refers to special suspension, steering and engine/transmission calibrations along with bigger front brakes and a few other tidbits. This GS 350 is powered by a strong, 311-horsepower V6 with a modest 280 pound-feet of torque. According to Car&Driver it’s good for a 0-to-60 time of 5.8 seconds – not best in class but pretty darned good and probably enough to satisfy all but the most power-hungry drivers. The EPA rates it at 19 mpg in the city 27 on the highway and 27 mpg combined using required premium fuel. Our week of mixed driving conditions netted us an impressive 26.4 mpg without any effort at hypermiling.

The F-Sport comes with four driving modes that alter shift points, suspension response, steering input and a variety of other dynamic functions of the car. Normal and Eco modes feel fairly tepid unless you put your foot in it, but Sport and Sport+ significantly improve the feel, most noticeably in throttle response.

Lexus’ new car warranty covers the whole car for 4 years or 50,000 miles and the powertrain for 6 years or 70,000 miles.

Our impressions on the road are of a smooth, ultra-quiet, luxury sedan with better-than-average performance. It makes some nice, muffled rumbling noises on full throttle acceleration and it effortlessly got up to speed on our short cloverleaf freeway exit before entering the traffic lane. Only about half the cars we test can do that. Pushing it around the last 90-degrees of the ramp demonstrated its impressive cornering competence particularly in Sport+ mode. While we did not pretend we were on the race track we pushed it enough to get a sense for its poise and agility, both of which are good but certainly not as stiff and quick as some of the German competitors.

While the price is steep it is entirely in line with, and a bit less expensive than, some of the German competitors in this class. The Lexus GS 350 F-Sport would be near the top of my list if I were shopping in this segment of the market.

© Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved