What is it?
The 471bhp GS F is Lexus’s entry into the supersaloon market, and here we're driving it in the UK for the first time. It follows the standard template for its kind with a hearty V8 powering the rear wheels, seating for at least four and a decent boot.
The GS F stands out because it has no forced induction. While the BMW M5 and Mercedes E63 AMG are turbocharged and the Vauxhall VXR8 GTS is supercharged, the GS F’s 4969cc V8 is naturally aspirated, with peak torque of 391lb ft developed at a lofty 4800-5600rpm; in the Germans, maximum twist is more than 500lb ft and comes at little above tickover.
Modifications over the normal GS - now available only as a hybrid - include chassis-stiffening reinforcements, aluminium-intensive components for the double-wishbone front suspension and multi-link rear, stiffer springs with passive performance dampers from ZF Sachs, upgraded Brembo brakes and a torque-vectoring differential.
Styling tweaks add aggression to the nose, side skirts and rear with the help of a carbonfibre front splitter and boot spoiler, brake cooling ducts, 19-inch wheels and four exhaust tips.
What's it like?
Striking though the GS F’s exterior might seem, it’s positively meek compared with the car’s made-over cabin. Our test car featured red leather, black leather, black Alcantara with blue stitching, satin-effect inserts, carbonfibre accents and an array of textured plastics.
These surfaces range from genuinely luxurious to disappointingly scratchy, and some of the switchgear looks and feels from either a bygone era or a much lower class of car, but the wrap-around, high-back seats are comfortable, ergonomics are good and there’s genuinely room for four six-foot adults to sit in comfort. The infotainment system uses a generous 12.3-inch screen, but its joystick controller can’t match the efficient simplicity of, for example, BMW’s iDrive.
The GS F gets closer to the M5 for pace, giving away just 0.3sec to 62mph in a time of 4.6sec. This is partly because, while the Lexus’s V8 is 81bhp and a whole 185lb ft shy of the BMW’s twin-turbocharged unit, the GS F also weighs 155kg less.
In fact, the car feels surprisingly quick-witted on the road, its surface-hugging suspension and trick differential helping you deploy power effectively and with confidence. There are four drive modes: Eco, Normal, Sport S and Sport S+, and the steering gains welcome weight in the final mode only, but is always faithful and offers a bit of feel.
Choose Sport S or Sport S+ to release the V8’s full potential and you’re rewarded with refreshingly sharp throttle response, but those expecting a linear power delivery might be surprised by the distinct hike in pace at the 3800rpm mark, when the induction noise changes from a subdued but robust warble to a bellowing growl. The charge continues all the way to the lofty 7300rpm rev-limiter where, if you’re in manual mode, it will faithfully remain until you upshift.
Yet the eight-speed auto gearbox is generally not so obedient. First gear has been designed to aid swift step-off, but in reality, if you’re creeping out of a junction and add more throttle, there’s a palpable delay before it responds. Kickdown requests are sometimes met with a stint of acceleration in the current gear before the ’box finally downshifts; at other times, it comes as requested but is swiftly followed by what feels like an economy-hunting upshift.
Use the paddles to choose gears yourself and upshifts are sometimes gentle and at other times aggressive, seemingly without regard for throttle inputs. Likewise, downshifts sometimes blip sweetly into place, and sometimes lurch into gear. The ‘G AI-SHIFT’ gearbox is meant to read G-forces and throttle inputs to select the appropriate ratio, but it just feels neurotic. A more passive transmission mapping would be preferable, allowing you to properly engage with the characterful engine.
Otherwise, the GS F is well-mannered on UK roads. Its urban ride is firm but not crashy, and while it tends to patter a bit on the motorway, neither foible is that bothersome, especially when traded off against the car’s relative athleticism on more challenging sorties.
Should I buy one?
The GS F’s generous kit list makes it seems comparatively good value next to a BMW M5 or Mercedes-AMG E63, which are four and five grand pricier respectively, but the German cars have better gearboxes, more consistent interior quality and are a bit cleaner.
The Vauxhall VXR8 GTS is both cruder inside and much less economical than the Lexus, but it also offers a better driving experience and costs £15k less. So, while the GS F has a strong engine and tidy handling, there are other options in this niche arena that make stronger cases for your cash.
Lexus GS F
Location Surrey; On sale Now; Price £69,995 Engine V8, 4969cc, petrol; Power 471bhp at 7100rpm; Torque 391lb ft at 4800-5600rpm; Gearbox 8-spd auto; Kerb weight 1790kg; 0-62mph 4.6sec; Top speed 168mph; Economy 25.2mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 260g/km/37%