The high-performance heart and soul of Lexus’s hot-rod rocket sedan is a nearly extinct creature in the automotive powerplant jungle: a V8 engine that’s skipped the turbochargers, and dispenses the better part of 500 hp across a peaky, free-breathing, naturally aspirated, and high-revving wave.
A hot-rod cruiser with muscle and comfort to spare.
The 5.0L, 467 hp V8 in the 2017 Lexus GS F spins happily to beyond 7,000 rpm, and once you’ve heard what that sounds like, there’s not much left to hear.
It’s a striking contrast to so many smaller, boosted engines that offer full, hard-hitting torque from just a whiff off of idle. Remember power curves? The Lexus “F” V8 has one – flaunting a shape and structure to its output, which creates a sensation of performance that’s becoming increasingly rare.
Improved low-end torque from turbocharged engines is better by the numbers, but it’s not as exhilarating as feeling the sauce pile on, build up, and peak, as you get heavier and heavier in your seat, and watch the tachometer flit around its redline. The GS F’s engine also sounds glorious, and works across eight tall gears for a feeling of endless thrust.
It’s this experience that comprises one of the best parts of the GS F’s performance, and makes it a compelling choice for those after a hot-rod cruiser with muscle and comfort to spare. It’s track-day ready if you like, but more than that, this is a luxury sedan that stays in step with its soul, while giving drivers added power and speed in a car that works flawlessly as a long-haul tourer.
On one hand, it’s a rolling luxury lounge. On the other, it’s a four-door missile that chugs back pavement like it’s going out of style, drenching the cabin vigorously with rich sound effects all the while. With pricing tickling six figures, having two cars in one is a good thing – and a little silver dial is your gateway between the two.
Flick it into Normal mode: light and lazy steering, a semi-soft sports sedan ride, and imperceptible, low-rpm gearshifts are engaged. You glide along in peace and quiet, and here, the GS F is no more stimulating to drive than a Camry. Add in the massively comfortable seats and the top-line trim materials lining the cabin, and the upscale, rich, and relaxing environment created is a great place to take in a long drive.
Flicked into Sport or Sport + mode, the GS F feels as though it’s just downed a double-dose of pre-workout, with a Red Bull chaser. The throttle is hyperactive. The steering thickens and heavies. The digital tachometer morphs into a race-car-like readout with on-screen fluid temperatures and a segmented rev counter.
Here, gearshifts occur harder and faster and at higher revs. Everything tenses up, and gets more aggressive. Drivers can even click the trick torque-vectoring differential (TVD) into various modes that help fine-tune agility for the type of sporty driving at hand, by actively controlling the power split across the rear wheels to help the car precisely steer, slip and slide on its axis. The TVD also helps the GS F fire off the line with admirable composure: just stand on the throttle and it bites in and launches hard, without any wheelspin or axle-hop, which aren’t classy at all.
Best of all, in its sportier drive modes, the GS F’s engine comes to life – with added use of a special flap in the intake that opens to soak the cabin with meaty sound effects. Boot down, there’s no more silence; there’s only a solid shove into your seat, a rush forward, and a feeling of endless acceleration backed by a soundtrack that calls many a Hollywood car-chase scene to mind. And the power curve builds, engorges, and swells as the four-cam mill rips through its rev-range like a plasma-cutter through tin foil. Careful, though: she’ll rocket you into demerit point territory in a jiff, and your local radar cop will hear you coming.
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Steering is heavyset, ideal in a big car to help drivers find, lock into, and maintain their line with confidence. It also nicely communicates the machine’s weight and current attitude back to the driver’s hands. The dynamic is less playful, darty, and frisky, more bolted-down and confident.
Pushed hard through some winding backroads as hard and fast as a reasonable driver may push, the GS F just bites in, the tires barely put up a fuss, and it stays flat and composed. Power output virtually never overwhelms the chassis or brakes, adding further poise. Things tend towards slight understeer when positively flogged, though the limits are so high, this won’t be a concern for drivers on the street.
If you partake in some spirited driving, remember to keep the revs up – this engine loves it, and returns the favour with gobs of on-demand power and full access to the glorious sound effects.
The feel from the braking system, complete with its giant orange calipers the size of VHS cassettes and a set of cooling ducts and slotted discs, falls slightly behind, say, the CTS-V or M5 for a feeling of all-out precision. Still, stopping power is available in abundance, with no fade to speak of even after repeated hard stops. Like the engine, this braking system feels most at home when worked hard.
Gear shifts are fast and nicely rev-matched, though the eight-speed automatic here falls behind many dual-clutch-equipped competitors where precision and smoothness are concerned.
Translation? Some similar machinery feel a measure more finely honed where brake feel and gearshift performance is concerned, but the GS F still feels, acts, sounds, and performs like a great big pile of go-fast fun.
Distinctive and unmistakable looks help add further appeal and cement the GS F as a unique choice. I’ll get some salty comments for saying this, but I figure the GS F is a better-looking car than many of the Germans: more gorgeous and unique and swoopy. Don’t miss the grille (not that you could) or the vertically stacked quad exhaust. She’s a real head-turner – and, unlike the comparable European posh-rockets, you won’t see four of them parked outside when you arrive at Sears.
Uniqueness carries on, on board. The gorgeous seats look like something out of a Romulan spacecraft, and perch you behind one of the most distinctive instrument clusters going, with a giant, centre-mounted rev-counter helping to provide an effective invitation to the world of performance motoring. In typical Lexus fashion, it’s all assembled meticulously, and fully detailed, right down to the texture of the door handles, and the feel of all of the switches and controls.
In all, this cabin satisfies for quality, feel, and the effective use of styling and tech, even if the sometimes-fussy Remote Touch Interface, with fingertip-controlled track-pad, takes a little getting used to.
Other notes? Headlight performance is good, and excellent with high-beams engaged, in terms of light saturation and spread. Further, driven gently, the GS F is highly reasonable on fuel, using well under 10 L/100 km during highway cruising at a good clip.
Gripes? Where the standard GS is quiet enough at speed to hear yourself blink, the GS F’s gummy-bear-sticky Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires are noisier, and tire noise was higher than expected. Further, the use of some unsightly metal bolts to fasten the suede trim pad to the top of the dashboard seems questionable. Finally, some drivers may take issue with the firm seat bolsters poking them in the backside as they get seated.
Ultimately, the GS F is worthy of consideration if you’re a loyal Lexus shopper (most Lexus shoppers are), and also if you’re after something unique, as ready for touring as it is for rip-snorting performance, and something backed by a brand that’s known around the globe for quality, reliability and residual values. If you want to own your new hot-rod luxury-missile for many trouble-free years, this is probably the one to have.
|Engine Displacement||5.0L||Model Tested||2017 Lexus GS F|
|Engine Cylinders||V8||Base Price||$97,100|
|Peak Horsepower||467 hp @ 7,100 rpm||A/C Tax||$100|
|Peak Torque||389 lb-ft @ 4,800 rpm||Destination Fee||$2,045|
|Fuel Economy||14.9/9.7/12.5 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb||Price as Tested||$99,245|
|Cargo Space||399 L|