Lexus GS F

Toyotaís premium arm keeps the rear-drive V8 fl ame lit

by SCOTT NEWMAN

ENGINE 4969cc V8, DOHC, 32v / POWER 351kW @ 7100rpm / TORQUE 530Nm @ 4800-5600rpm / WEIGHT 1825KG/ 0-100KM/H 4.6sec (claimed) / PRICE $148,800 HO wouldíve thought Lexus would turn out to be the black sheep of the premium family?

As rivals downsize and turbocharge, Lexus is sticking to its naturally-aspirated guns, which means that under the bonnet of its new GS performance flagship youíll find a stonking 5.0-litre atmo V8.

Developed in association with Yamaha and lifted unchanged from the RC F, it produces a healthy 351kW/530Nm and sings its way to a 7300rpm redline, however lacking any form of forced induction its trump card is throttle response as sharp as the GS Fís polarising frontend styling Ė with Sport-Plus drive mode selected at least.

There are four drive modes to choose from, which adjust throttle response, gearbox mapping, ESP calibration, a trick torque vectoring limited-slip differential and steering weight, but anyone with a drop of petrol in their veins will drive it in Sport for much of the time, with brief forays into Sport-Plus for spirited driving or track work.

Lexus claims itíll shift 1825kg of sedan to 100km/h in just 4.6sec, which feels a little optimistic, however itís still plenty rapid, particularly if kept on song above 4000rpm. It needs to be worked hard to deliver its best, but with eight closely stacked ratios to choose from youíre rarely caught short of a gear, with changes delivered promptly and swiftly despite the gearbox being a conventional torqueconverter automatic.

Lacking as it does the huge off-idle punch of its turbo rivals, traction is rarely an issue, as 530Nm simply isnít enough to overcome grippy 275/35 Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres without serious provocation.

More often than not itís the front that gently pushes wide at the limit, but grip levels are strong and the balance is essentially pretty neutral.

W In fact, if thereís one thing that demonstrates how far Lexus has come since its blancmange-like mobile lounge chairs of the late-í90s/ early-í00s itís the GS Fís behaviour at the limit. Sure, push to ten-tenths and itíll come apart a bit, but itís an easy car to drive quickly and laps up track work Ė if youíll pardon the pun Ė thanks in no small part to that Michelin rubber and its excellent brakes, with 380mm discs and sixpiston calipers up front and 345mm discs and four-piston rears.

On the road itís also impressive, easily placed thanks to very accurate Ė if not particularly talkative Ė steering, which thankfully forgoes the GS350 F Sportís hyper-sensitive variableratio system. Its size needs care on tighter roads, but its fixed-rate suspension does a good job of keeping its weight under control.

Unfortunately, the consequence of this firm setup is a jiggly ride that threatens to turn brittle on poor surfaces, which dulls the GS Fís everyday shine somewhat. And with a claimed urban fuel consumption of 16.8L/100km it likes a drink, too, though to be fair in hard driving itís not likely to be much thirstier than its force-fed rivals.

Otherwise thereís little to fault; itís refined, roomy and packed with equipment, including a 17-speaker stereo, heated front and rear seats (ventilated fronts optional), threezone climate control, 10 airbags and every active safety feature under the sun. The only options are polished 19s and carbon interior trim, offered at $2500 apiece.

A final verdict on the GS F is tough, however, as it is difficult to know what to compare it to. In that sense, itís a bit of a black sheep in the performance car world. Itís the size of a BMW M5 or Mercedes-AMG E63, yet at $148,800, the price of cars a segment smaller like the C63 or M3. To be honest, it wouldnít be able to keep up with either, but does offer a refreshingly different driving experience.

Lexus probably wonít like the comparison, but with its crisp V8, agile handling and love of a good thrash, what the GS F feels like most is a faster, more premium version of a Holden Commodore SS V Redline, which sounds damning but isnít meant to be. Exactly how well the GS F stacks up weíll find out in a coming comparison, but for the time being itís a welcome addition to the fast four-door segment. M

Like Revvy V8; chassis balance; value; strong brakes; loves a thrash STAR RATING Dislike Firm ride; not that quick; challenging styling 4.0

Itís diffi cult to know what to compare the Lexus GS F to, however itís a welcome addition to the fast four-door segment