In the Lexus lexicon, “F” is for fast. The 2016 Lexus GS F joins the RC F in extending this luxury marque’s performance line. Powered by a V8 engine that’s mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission with a manual shift mode, the Lexus GS F goes shoulder to shoulder with the best performance luxury sedans in the world.
All-new for 2016, the Lexus GS F builds upon the midsize Lexus GS, which was last redesigned for 2013. Along with the Lexus RC F, the GS F offers exterior styling elements that are meant to convey a sportier look and an interior that’s focused on performance driving. The result is a luxury sports sedan with fun-to-drive characteristics, as well as the quality and durability the Lexus marque is known for.
Much about the Lexus GS F should be familiar to the brand faithful. Its general appearance and added performance embellishments parallel the look of the Lexus RC F.
Up front, the sedan projects aggressiveness as its spindle grille is covered with a one-piece mesh design. Carved-out recesses house the headlamp assemblies, which are composed of jewel-like triple-beam LED headlights. At the base of the grille on both sides are large cutouts for the air intakes. The front end is enhanced by a dramatically sculpted hood.
The GS F’s appearance suggests a model ready to pounce. That persona is amplified by its sleek profile featuring a sweeping roofline and a moderately high beltline. Dramatic touches are evident too, as the functional wheel vents connect to the lower body sculpting running across the rocker panel. Pronounced upper character lines and sport alloy wheels further accentuate the GS F’s profile.
To the rear, an available carbon-fiber spoiler serves as a dramatic stamp on a fascia. It’s highlighted by stacked quad exhaust ports that are located within a diffuser. Body sculpting, reflector lights and oversized wrap-around combination lights are also present. Those lights echo the lighting design up front.
Every square inch of the GS F’s interior is covered by high-end materials. Most surfaces are covered in Alcantara with the seats swathed in soft leather. Aluminum trim surrounds various dials, while carbon fiber adds a premium touch across the dashboard and on the center console.
The driver-centric cockpit puts all controls within easy reach and does so without a jumble of switches and buttons to confuse or distract motorists. It’s a minimalist approach, but not one that leaves out important features.
High-back sport bucket seats are ergonomically designed for back and thigh support. The relative hardness and bolstering can be eased by adjusting the electronic lumbar support. Some may find the seats too stiff, but I found them just right. Not once did I feel achy after long stints behind the wheel. Curiously, lumbar support is not provided for the front passenger.
Rear passengers also benefit from an ergonomic design with sufficient room for three adults. Some adjustment of the front seats may be required to provide back-seat passengers with sufficient legroom. Otherwise, head, shoulder, hip and thigh support are above average. Pull down the center arm rest and two cup holders and a storage compartment are delivered, while a pass through grants access to the trunk and its relatively small 14 cubic feet of storage capacity.
At the top of the center stack and sitting within a recess carved into the dashboard is a color display. Beneath that is an analog clock with oversized vents on both sides. Working your way down, a CD player, audio system controls and climate controls are present.
Splitting the front seats are a pair of covered cup holders, the transmission shifter, the mouse-like controller for the infotainment system and a drive-mode selector. You’ll also find an ergonomically designed palm rest for operating the mouse.
Lexus also provides a sliding arm rest between the front seats, opening to reveal a deep storage area where a 12-volt outlet, an audio port and a pair of USB ports are found. The rear facing section of the storage compartment offers a pair of vents and a 12-volt outlet for back-seat passengers. Additional storage compartments are found in the trunk, including under the base of the floor.
There are a few other design features that set the GS F apart from other GS models. For instance, decorative rivets featuring the Lexus logo on the dashboard are present. White LED illumination provides for more balanced lighting throughout the interior, while various color schemes from subdued gray or black to a fetching circuit red are present.
The heart and soul of the Lexus GS F is its 5.0-liter V8 engine. Constructed primarily of aluminum, this engine makes 467 horsepower and 389 pound-feet of torque. Lexus pairs the V8 with an eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters and manual mode. No manual transmission is offered. The GS F requires premium-grade gasoline and is EPA-rated at 16/24 mpg city/highway.
As expected, the Lexus GS F is quick, moving from 0 to 60 mph in about 4.5 seconds. That’s about a full second off the pace of the Cadillac CTS-V, but then the Lexus does it with a naturally-aspirated V8, while the Cadillac receives boost from a supercharger.
Four drive modes are at the ready: Normal, Eco, Sport S and Sport S+. Most of the time, drivers will operate the sedan in one of the first two settings with the latter two designed for tackling curvy roads or the track.
Select Sport S and engine output and throttle response are modified, delivering optimum acceleration. Sport S+ goes one step further by improving steering communication, and the change is evident in the added heaviness to the wheel. The wheel still turns with ease, but even the slightest flick demonstrates just how cooperative the sedan is when navigating the tightest corners in Sport S+ mode.
The GS F’s torque vectoring differential can also be used to enhance driver control and confidence by sending torque to the appropriate wheel when cornering. A switch located on the center console controls the torque vectoring differential, allowing drivers to select standard, slalom, and track driving conditions. When operated in slalom mode, this driver took several 90-degree turns without braking and at speeds far above what mere mainstream sedans can handle. Each time, the GS F stayed centered and composed.
Lexus and technology go together. Beyond style, performance and reliability, the automaker always provides the expected technological trappings that serve to advance the brand.
This model features an instrument panel that’s dominated by a central tachometer and a smaller speedometer. To the left of the dials is a digital readout, presenting driver performance information that includes a G-Force display.
Carved into the dashboard just above the center stack is a nifty 12.3-inch full-color split-screen display. It’s part of the wider Lexus Enform package, which delivers such infotainment amenities as voice-activated navigation and smartphone connectivity. A mouse-like controller located between the seats manages the system, which provides 3-D city views as well as simulated views of approaching crossroads.
A related app suite provides connectivity by means of your smartphone, adding your favorite mobile applications to the display. You can also manage several vehicle controls with your smartphone, including remote start and door locking and unlocking. Finding vehicle in a parking lot is also possible with your smartphone.
All Lexus GS F models come with a head-up display, a USB-equipped center console, Bluetooth and HomeLink. Buyers can also upgrade to a 17-speaker, 835-watt Mark Levinson audio system.
All GS F models come with Lexus Enform Safety Connect, an automatic crash notification system that calls for help in the event of a collision. Specifically, the car’s GPS coordinates are identified and sent to the nearest 911 operator and assistance is dispatched.
Every Lexus GS F is equipped with 10 air bags, including driver and front passenger knee air bags. Other safety features include a rearview camera automatic high-beam headlamps, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning and forward collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic braking.
Shop for any high-performance midsize luxury sedan and the price point begins somewhere above $80,000. This is true of the Cadillac CTS-V, BMW M5, Mercedes-Benz E63 and Audi S7.
The price for the 2016 Lexus GS F starts at $84,440, but goes no higher than $87,000 when the Mark Levinson audio system ($1,380) and orange brake calipers ($300) are selected. Add in a few accessory items, including illuminated door sills, paint protection film and a rear spoiler, and the final price remains below $90,000. On the other hand, fully optioned models from German competitors can easily top $100,000.
Two drawbacks for some buyers are the lack of a manual transmission and engine boosting, such as turbocharging. Some competitors also offer all-wheel drive and that’s not available in the GS F, but it isn’t needed. For shoppers in this category, price is likely only a small concern.
If you can do without a turbocharger, a stick-shift option or all-wheel drive, the Lexus GS F may be what you want. A muscular persona, high-quality materials and Lexus reliability are strong selling points for this sedan. These attributes may be enough to retain the Lexus faithful seeking to satisfy their need for speed. However, winning over customers from more established competitors will be a challenge.
The 12.3-inch split screen and the drive mode selector were two of this writer’s favorite features. I’ve driven both F models — RC F and GS F — finding the latter provides the best combination of performance and passenger room. Either way, Lexus’ F line demonstrates that Toyota’s luxury brand does not lack performance credibility. Spreading the love to other models, including back to the IS line — which hosted the original F model — could advance its appeal.