There arenâ€™t many naturally-aspirated V8 sports sedans left on-sale but Lexus now offers one of them. The Lexus GS F 2016 is the ultimate version of the large sedan built by Toyotaâ€™s luxury arm that you can buy. Itâ€™s also the most powerful sedan Lexus has ever built and itâ€™s certainly one of the most interesting and enjoyable too.
Lexus GS F 2016
Trying to pigeon-hole the Lexus GS F sports sedan isnâ€™t that easy. In theory itâ€™s a rival for the Audi RS 6, BMW M5 and Mercedes-AMG E 63, in the same way the standard GS lines up against the A6, 5 Series and E-class.
But in reality itâ€™s a fair bit cheaper â€“ even if it will set you back north of $150,000 once youâ€™ve rolled-out of your local Lexus dealer and on to the road. So maybe the S6, the M3 and C 63 are more logical rivals.
The GS F is also a far less complex animal than the German superstars. Thereâ€™s no force-fed aspiration, no all-wheel drive (okay, only the Audis have that) and no retuning of the suspension available.
Instead the Lexus F division â€“ equivalent to M and AMG â€“ has stuffed the 5.0-litre V8 engine and eight-speed automatic transmission from the RC F coupe into the GS F and continued to send all 351kW and 530Nm to the rear Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres.
Yes, you can tune various bits and bobs of the GS F; make the transmission more aggressive than Darth Vader on crack, adjust the weighting of the electric assist steering and vary the characteristics of the torque varying differential (TVD) depending on whether youâ€™re cruising, enjoying a winding road or on racetrack.
You can go the other way too and opt for Eco mode in the Lexus Drive Mode Selector in an attempt to get somewhere near the 11.3L/100km claimed fuel consumption rate (on 95 RON PULP) fuel. But surely, if you laid out this much money on this type of car, youâ€™re more interested in the fun bits like the claimed 4.6sec 0-100km/h time.
Both numbers are optimistic in our view, but chasing the latter definitely sits closer to the heart and soul of the GS F.
The 2UR-GSE V8 loves to rev and sounds better and better â€“ with assistance of the engine and exhaust note being piped into the cabin via the speakers (in the sport modes) â€“ the closer it gets to its 7300rpm redline. Thereâ€™s no vibration, shake or buzzing, just a steadily enveloping sense of speed. It isnâ€™t the sort of engine that frightens with its ferocity, but nor does it take a backward step when the throttle is flattened.
For all the simple pleasure it delivers that engine is a complex beast with quad cams, dual injection and the choice of both economical Atkinson cycle and more aggressive Otto combustion cycle.
The chassis too has some decent technology to call upon; thereâ€™s the TVD, the staggered 19-inch Michelins, ZF Sachs monotube dampers, some judicious body strengthening and impressive six-pot front Brembo callipers.
Our test week with the GS F included a run up and down Mt Buller, then a dash north on the legendary Whitfield road. Although pace was, erm, sub-sonic with â€˜she who must be obeyedâ€™ onboard, the GS F displayed exemplary grand touring manners. Yes, the suspension tune is firm, but itâ€™s not skittish and its definitely not uncomfortable except on the harshest surfaces.
The steering is perhaps a tad too light, but the accuracy is there and on its big footprint (wheelbase 2850mm by track 1555mm front/1560mm rear) the GS F displayed admirable stability and grip. The Brembos did a laudable job slowing the 1865kg heavyweight time and again. Maybe the tighter corners werenâ€™t quite the GS Fâ€™s forte, but it wasnâ€™t for a want of trying.
But for every kilometre on those sorts of roads many more are spent on freeways. And here the GS F is as quiet, smooth and luxurious as you would expect a Lexus to be. It is also spacious as a big sedan should be for both front and rear-seat passengers.
Thereâ€™s also plenty of standard gear; 10 airbags, the Lexus Safety System+ (including Pre-Collision System, Active Cruise Control, Lane Keeping Assist, Adaptive High-Beam System), 17-speaker Mark Levinson premium audio system, three-zone climate control, heated leather-accented steering wheel, a moonroof, a power rear sunshade and a smart key card.
But those kilometres spent idling down the freeway also exposed the GS Fâ€™s most annoying trait. Itâ€™s fiddliness.
There are 16 different functions located on the horizontal spokes of the steering wheel alone. Then thereâ€™s the way the digital instrument panel rotates through different presentations depending on which drive mode has been selected. And thereâ€™s also literally folders of information available in another rotating screen. Everything from g-sensor to lap times to fuel range.
Speaking of which, the fuel gauge itself is a tiny after-thought in the top-left corner of the instrument panel. I mistakenly though a bar graph below it was the gauge and we nearly ran out of fuel before I twigged.
In behind the steering wheel are a profusion of stalks and paddles for indicators, wipers, cruise control and gearchange. I just kept mixing them up and it drove me batty.
Now move to the centre stack. Thatâ€™s dominated by a giant 12.3-inch non-touch media screen. This can be set up in multiple ways, so thatâ€™s another variable to deal with. The screen is accessed by a controller that works a lot like a computer mouse. Well, a sticky, slow yet overly-sensitive computer mouse that proved entirely distracting.
Clearly, Lexus needs to graduate to the next generation of cockpit ergonomics in the same way Audi and Benz have with their latest controllers and new graphics-based instrument panels, screens. The sooner the button forest is banished the better.
The confusion in the cockpit was the most obvious drawback of the GS F, although some people might nominate that geometric over-sized snoz as being even more obvious!
Certainly, the driver has less complexity to face and more to enjoy when simply faced with the open road and a chance to employ the GS Fâ€™s simple, appealing talents. Capable of punting hard or cruising gently, it is a worthy alternative to the default German offerings.
2016 Lexus GS F pricing and specifications:
Price: $148,800 (plus on-road costs)
Engine: 5.0-litre eight-cylinder petrol
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Fuel: 11.3L/100km (ADR combined)
CO2: 262g/km (ADR combined)
Safety Rating: N/A