Lexus GS F — Luxury-flavored performance

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Lexus has created something very intriguing for its diehard fans who like the styling and handling traits of the current GS sports sedan, but who yearn for more muscle such as found in BMW's M series and Mercedes-Benz AMG-tuned sedans.

The muscle comes with the F-badged GS — offered for the first time last year, the fourth F-badged creation from the newly minted Lexus performance family — with a 5.0-liter V-8 producing 467 horsepower, 389 pound-feet of torque, a 0-to-60 time of 4.4 seconds and a quarter mile clocking of 12.8 seconds at 110 mph.

These numbers, which are fantastically good for a four-door Lexus, are not going to set the high-performance luxury world on fire — the BMW M5 (575 hp) and Mercedes AMG E63 (605 hp), as well as the Cadillac CTS-V (640 hp), all come with more muscle than the Lexus. But they all come with a higher price tag and presumably with something less than the vaunted Lexus build quality and reliability.

We found the newest F-badged car a winner in the road warrior sweepstakes — never mind the track or the Nürburgring or whatever. Ninety-nine percent of the people who plunk down north of 85 grand for this sports sedan are going to enjoy its performance attributes on city streets, on the highway, and on twisting rural blacktops where the uncompromisingly styled Lexus will shine.

Speaking of twisting rural and mountain roads, the GS F gets new continuously variable dampers for 2017, known as the F-Adaptive Variable Suspension, which Lexus says provides even better handling and ride control by controlling dampening force with more precision. After 200 miles behind the wheel we agree with Lexus.

Compared to the standard GS 350, the GS F is adorned with more aggressive bodywork, quad tailpipes, and a bold front fascia with race-inspired functional air inlets, triple-beam headlamps, larger brake calipers, and a carbon-fiber rear spoiler. Under the muscular skin reside such performance goodies as a torque-vectoring rear differential, a retuned suspension, an eight-speed automatic with manual control via paddle shifters, and a sound enhancer to bring the big V-8's exhilarating rumble under hard throttle to the welcoming ears of the driver.

But keep the throttle at an even pace and the GS F ambles along without drama; a very quiet and respectable Lexus — a perfect gentleman of a sedan most of the time, but a performance juggernaut when called upon.

The drivetrain setup — 5.0 V-8 mated to an eight-speed automatic shifter — is the same one used in the RC F sports coupe, and it works in both formats. In addition to the performance, the GS F yields decent gas mileage — if you keep your foot out of it — measured at 16 mpg city, 24-highway and 19 overall.  It also sounds amazing through the Lexus F trademark stacked tailpipes. The special exhaust system emits a rumbling baritone note, and Active Sound Control (ASC) electronically “boosts” the sound in the cabin via the audio speakers. The driver can turn the ASC system off.

Inside, the GS F offers sleek leather seats with enhanced lateral support. The interior also introduces new white LED interior illumination and new color schemes including Status Gray, Black, and Circuit Red. High-quality materials adorn the cabin with supple leather, aluminum trim supplemented by suede accents, and carbon-fiber embellishments. The front seats — the same as used in the RC F — have more prominent bolsters to support spirited driving.

Gauges are clear and precise and we love the huge 12.3-inch center navigation and information screen — standard on the GS F — that we wish all luxury cars would mimic. But we have been — and still are — critical of the Lexus Remote Touch interface that uses a mouse-like controller and a cursor to access audio and navigation controls. It's built in driver distraction — virtually unsafe at any speed. We have a hard enough time using a cursor while on our computer, let alone while hurdling down the road.

Standard technology and safety features on the GS F include Bluetooth phone and connectivity; rearview camera; a 12-speaker surround-sound audio system with CD player, satellite and HD radio; Siri integration for iPhones; and Enform Remote that can start the engine, adjust climate controls, monitor the vehicle's position and set limits and receive alerts for speed, distance and curfew.

Standard equipment for the GS F starting at $84,915 is abundant. The outstanding 835-watt Mark Levinson sound system for $1,380 is the only option available outside of orange calipers and premium paint — and we highly recommend it. Our test car with the upgraded audio system was $87,275 including a $975 destination charge.

Base price: $84,915; as driven, $87,275
Engine: 5.0-liter V-8
Horsepower: 467 @ 7,100 rpm
Torque: 389 foot-pounds @ 4,800 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed shiftable automatic
Drive: rear wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 112.2 inches
Length: 193.5 inches
Curb weight: 4,034 pounds
Turning circle: 36.8 feet
Luggage capacity: 14 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 17.4 gallons (premium)
EPA rating: 24 highway, 16 city, 19 combined
0-60: 4.4 seconds (Car and Driver)

The Good
• Compelling power and luxury combination
• Quality interior
• Reasonable price for segment

The Bad
• Horsepower falls short of rivals

The Ugly
• Accessing navigation and audio distracting