2016 Lexus GS F review


Through no fault of my own, I managed to put over 1,600 miles on this GS F, including one short stretch of very spirited driving on a very tight, twisty, 42-mile-long hill-country pass. So I may be uniquely qualified in all the world (or at least at Autoweek) to comment on it.

The first leg of my 1,600 miles was from LA to Sears Point (aka Sonoma, "Think outside the bun.") Turns out I didn't even have to do that 900-mile run -- I could have flown, but this is Autoweek, not Commercial Airplane Passenger Week, so it was good for me, and good for the GS F. At the very least, I learned there's no hyphen between GS and F.

At Sonoma I turned the car over to no less a road racer than Scott Pruett, who did many laps around those 11 turns in it and proclaimed that it was, "Quite good, really."

The GS F is Lexus' fourth "F" so far, after the 2008 IS F, 2012 LFA and 2014 RC F. It's also the fifth GS, a model line that covers everything from the diminutive 2.0-liter four-cylinder 200t, the 350, 350 F Sport and 450h hybrid. Lexus wants to make sure you know that the GS F is no GS 350 F Sport, though all the GSes share the same platform. The GS F has the powerful 467-hp 5.0-liter V8 from the RC F, while the GS 350 F Sport makes do with a V6. The GS F also has a stiffer version of that chassis, plus its own suspension, torque-vectoring rear diff from the RC F, meaner engine parts and a few other things, including amplified engine sounds pumped through the car's audio system. The latter is reassuring as you're trying to sneak out of your driveway in the middle of the night -- that "throaty rumble" (Lexus' words) is more inside the cabin than outside.

On the open highway, the car is perfectly at home, playing the first half of its dual personality role. It is quiet (when the engine noise isn't being pumped in), commodious and comfortable. It's not quite as practical as it could be since you can't fold down the rear seats, thus quashing my plan of stuffing a bike in there. But you can seat five adults, four of them comfortably. Along the long, painfully boring stretch of Interstate 5 between LA and the Bay Area, the GS F is happy to replay all the audio books you gathered for the drive. It acts like a luxury sedan. It also took advantage of all 389 lb-ft of torque when a rare passing opportunity arose on that bland, plodding highway. Under acceleration, it felt a little lighter than its 4,034 pounds.

Lexus lists 0-60 mph in 4.5 seconds, the quarter mile in 12.8 seconds and an electronically limited top speed of 168 mph, which we didn't try on a public road. It is perfectly fine as a long-distance hauler and it has room for all the luggage you'll need for, say, a week at Pebble.

The most surprising quality I found was how well it handled very tight, twisty curves. Driving back from Pebble, I seat-belted my luggage into the back seat and took a hill-country pass that I've taken in many different vehicles, from Mustangs and NSXs to Lamborghinis and a Mazda RX-7 R2. The GS F felt as big as I expected it to, given that it is over 16 feet long and over 2 tons. It does not, as Lexus claimed when the GS F was new, offer "the speed and agility of a premium sports car." Well, it might if you've never driven a premium sports car, which maybe most buyers haven't. The surprising quality was the Lexus G force Artificial Intelligence Shift control of the eight-speed Sport Direct Shift automatic. What a shifting algorithm this thing has! In Sport S-plus, it would anticipate downshifts faster than we could think of downshifting. It blipped the throttle like an old-school road racer would do it and it was more than ready to keep going at just the right engine speeds as long as I wanted to. Find the guy who programmed this thing and buy him a Kirin Ichiban. If they could package this in a smaller, lighter vehicle, they'd really have something.

But all too soon I was out of interesting road and plodded back to LA on Highway 101. Would I recommend this to a sports sedan buyer? It depends. If you like the Lexus buying and ownership experience, then consider that a plus. If you really want a rip-snortin' sport sedan, you'll want to also try the BMW M5, AMG E63, Audi RS 7 and Cadillac CTS-V. Only the CTS-V is priced in the same ballpark as the GS F, the latter which starts at $85,390 compared to $85,995 for the Cadillac. The others are 10 to 25 grand more. Are they worth it? Only you know what you want, but if it's a real sport sedan, then maybe you'll like those better. Drive them all and then decide.

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