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.