Published: 17:57, 19 June 2017
F is to Lexus what M is to BMW, or R is to Jaguar. In other words – or just some words – the addition of that single letter brings with a promise of something a little more indulgent, something more driver focused. Something more fun.
Unless its rivals, particularly the trio of German powerhouses, Lexus has steered cleared of the pursuit of absolute power and performance, attempting instead to evoke a more emotional response to driving the GS F thanks to an evocative soundtrack and aggressive looks.
The 471bhp 5.0-litre V8 powering this super saloon is as nature intended. There’s no turbocharger, no supercharger, the GS F relies purely on cubic capacity to provide the grunt. And grunt it does. It may be a little down on performance compared to its German, and British, rivals but make no mistake, the GS F is more than capable of providing all the visual, aural and ‘I think I may have just soiled my pants’ drama you’ll ever need.
The V8, in all its naturally-aspirated glory, sounds fabulous. It’s pure, unadulterated character as it bellows enthusiastically away is addictive and rousing (by the way, you’ll want to disable There’s no lag because there’s no turbo, instead torque builds rapidly, but steadily, so there’s a constant force pinning you back in your seat when you, safely and legally, floor the throttle.
There’s enough torque turning the back wheels to break the bond between rubber and tarmac before the GS F launches itself – and you – to 62mph in 4.6 seconds. Lexus were keen to focus on driver involvement and, when that big, brutish V8 launches you down the road first impressions are positive.
New manufacturing techniques, additional bracing and the use of lightweight suspension components, including lowered and stiffened springs, as well as uprated dampers give the GS F a purposeful and composed ride. A ride that is necessarily stiff – this is a sports saloon after all – but remarkably comforting, even on the furrowed surfaces we British call roads.
It also helps keep its weight well below that of its rivals. The handling is further enhanced thanks to the inclusion of a torque-vectoring rear differential.
It all combines to produce an impressively precise and taut-handling machine but you’ll find it responds best to more considered steering input, to carefully chosen lines, rather than attempts to constantly adjust your trajectory through each bend.
The steering is beautifully judged, with a nice weight, particularly if you select Sport S+ mode, which just helps to sharpen everything up a degree or two.
It also stops brilliantly.
So far so good, you’ll be thinking. And you be right. You’re probably expecting a but, and you’re right about that, too. That but is the gearbox. It’s an 8-speed automatic – you can swap ratios manually if you want – and it is disappointing in its inconsistency.
Leave it to its own devices and it’s rarely on the same wavelength as you. It fails to understand the difference between the significant demands of overtaking and the gentle, considered acceleration required to arrive at cruising speeds.
It’s little better operating the gearbox manually because swapping ratios is a mixed bag. While some changes are as smooth as silk with barely a murmur of protest while at others they can be less obliging.
Equipment levels are as you would expect for a range-topping model. It wears 19in alloys, Brembo brakes, LED headlights, carbonfibre boot-lip spoiler and quad exhaust. Inside you get a head-up display, dual-zone climate control, heated and ventilated electrically adjustable front seats and, of course, leather everywhere.
You also get Lexux’s premium infotainment system with a 12.3in screen, sat nav, Bluetooth handsfree and audio streaming and DAB radio. It’s accessed with the firm’s unique touchpad controller which can be a little fiddly initially but, in day to day use, is no better nor worse than trying to prod a touchscreen without taking your focus away from the road.
It’s spacious too. Front seat passengers are especially well catered for while anyone consigned to the rear seats will find that, as long as it’s not a round trip to Kirkintilloch, they’ll emerge at the end on their journey in fair fettle.
The Lexus GS F has a lot to offer and if you can forgive the indecisive gearbox – something that I found remarkably easy once the car’s glorious V8 starts bellowing away at full volume – it is actually a formidable opponent for the big-hitters from Germany.
It isn’t quite the car it could be, but in many ways that is part of its charm, and that naturally-aspirated V8 sets it apart, as does its typically Lexus styling. It’s by no means cheap, but you do get a bucket load of equipment for your money.
Lexus have followed a very different formula to create the GS F and that mix of old-school charm and hi-tech wizardry is an intoxicating one.
Lexus GS F
Price from: £73,375
Engine: 5.0-litre V8
Transmission: 8-speed automatic with sequential shift mode
Max power: 477hp @ 7,100rpm
Max torque: 530Nm @ 4,800 – 5,500rpm
Max speed: 168mph
Acceleration (0-62mph): 4.6sec
Extra urban: 34.9mpg
Emissions (CO2): 260g/km
For more information visit www.lexus.co.uk
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