In the interests of full disclosure, when I first developed an interest in all things automotive, I could never understand the philosophy behind a practical performance car. The concept was either too simplistic or too complex for me to wrap my head around.
After all, what is the point? Sporty performance cars looked better in coupe form and there were much cheaper ways to obtain the practicality of four doors.
This all changed with the arrival of the E39 M5. This was a BMW that changed my thinking. I would happily argue the E39 M5 was a watershed moment in the Bavarian marque’s history.
There is a place for a performance car capable of carting a family in comfort. Not all automotive purists are willing to concede and convert to the now mandatory SUV. Starting a family shouldn’t represent the demise of the keen driver.
While the Europeans maintain a high level of desirability, Japanese muscle is now knocking on the door.
On test here is the 2017 Lexus GS F, a car that still smells fresh, it has only been on sale in Australia for a little over a year. The GS F has a starting price of $153,540 plus on-road costs. At that price, the GS F has a significant value advantage over German competitors.
In an area of the market that isn’t as sensitive about price, this is a car that needs to fulfil more than one brief, comfortable daily commuter, accomplished grand tourer and firebreathing weekender are all the criteria that need to be satisfied.
Now, this is a timeless formula, big engine in the front with drive at the back. Sounds simple enough. This is a recipe that many Australian motoring enthusiasts are still drawn to.
This is a big engine, a 5.0-litre naturally aspirated 351kW/530Nm V8 resides under the hood. As we are now in an era of turbocharging and downsizing, it’s quite possible this engine is one of the last of its kind.
In this day and age, engines like this are only supposed to excite Neanderthals, those longing for a return to the good old days. Yet in an era dominated by green philosophies and a race to motoring carbon neutrality, the character of a powerplant like this remains appealing.
You can’t help but think, this is the sort of engine that owners will fondly describe to future generations over an almond milk latte at a public charging station.
Romantics will be taken with the way the engine’s power is delivered. It does give the GS F a point of difference. Lexus has matched the V8 to an eight-speed automatic.
When the start button is pressed, the engine growls to life as if awoken by a defibrillator. It’s a sound that’s impossible not to enjoy.
Lexus engineers have worked to improve the GS F’s soundtrack by updating the Acceleration Sound Control. The system is designed to deliver an improved noise by adjusting the engine sound and the exhaust note in response to throttle input. The sound is then dispatched through the car’s speakers.
It’s electronic wizardry rather than old-school mechanical adjustment which leads some to dismiss the end result as artificial. It’s a better overall sound than that found in the RC F coupe but lacks the purity enthusiasts might lust after.
As a daily driver, the GS F is as extremely comfortable and can compete strongly against any other premium four-door car. It’s easy to drive and park. The cabin ambience is wonderful and insulates occupants from the noise of the city. The engine doesn’t throb in a way that urges the driver to smash the throttle. The smart play is to put the car into ECO mode and enjoy a relaxed drive.
Along with the ECO option, Drive Mode Select provides a variety of settings to match the driving situation and the driver’s mood. All of which bring alterations to the GS F’s character.
In grand touring mode, the GS F feels at home. It will happily hammer through long drives in a relaxed way. It’s lovely to drive fast on the highway, the GS F isn’t as twitchy as some of its rivals. The GS F is wonderfully composed thanks to a quality suspension set-up. Rivals tend to be far too firm to provide a supple feeling when the speed rises on the highway.
The deep breathing V8 just hums away, you're aware of its presence but it’s not intrusive. The GS F is refined and comfortable to a level commensurate with its purchase price. Even on poor road surfaces, tyre noise is low. There’s never any doubt you’re in an expensive car.
If you're likely to be ferrying kids around, the GS F comes standard with a comprehensive safety package. The Lexus Safety System+ encompasses the latest active safety technologies to avoid or mitigate collisions.
As a weekend toy, the GS F offers plenty of driver engagement and a very good compromise between outright power and handling. The steering is brilliant, it’s sharp regardless of speed.
The gearing is slightly longer than most drivers would expect, the up-shifts could be a fraction faster.
The Torque Vectoring Differential that we experienced in the RC F is also featured here. The Slalom setting generated the most smiles in the RC F, however here it felt far more aggressive, leaving the Standard setting as the ideal option to utilise the GS F’s agility at higher speeds.
Agility shouldn’t really be a descriptor for a 4915mm car that can pass as a family sedan, yet the GS F is nimble with commendable body control when it’s being pushed. It feels light on its feet, this isnt completely unexpected, the GS F has a slight weight advantage over the current M5.
It’s a car that will happily change direction at speed and keen drivers can easily exploit this talent simply because the GS F establishes such a high level of confidence. It doesn’t feel like a family sedan when pushed hard through the bends. In fact, the stability of the car at speed is demonstrated with a level of authority that doesn’t leave room for differing opinion.
Brembo brakes are found on all four corners. Up front, 380mm discs with 6-piston aluminium callipers, while on the back sits 345mm discs with 4-piston aluminium callipers. The callipers are finished in an orange paint that contrasts nicely with the forged alloys and metallic black paint of our test car.
The feel of the brake pedal is close to perfect, the braking package doesn’t suffer from the same oversensitive traits found in the coupe.
So after a week of driving, the GS F was able to demonstrate what a compelling all-rounder it is. It is a car that can act as a daily driver, refined grand tourer and weekend smile factory. Buyers will need to consider how much weighting they apply to each of these talents.
One area where the V8 comes under scrutiny is fuel economy. Over our week with the GS F, our average consumption figure hovered around 13L/100km. If you get a little excited and put the car in Sport or Sport+ mode, this number will climb quickly.
A car like this also needs to look the part. We became quite taken with the exterior of the GS F, it’s got a dash of aggression in its design, but in many ways, it’s understated and elegant.
There are sporty touches to differentiate the GS F from other GS variants, wide front fender flares, quad exhaust tips, the boot lid rear spoiler and the sculpted rocker panels provide the visuals to emphasise the performance aspect of the car.
With the exception of the LC500, this is Lexus’ best interior. Every model in the local Lexus portfolio has a lovely interior so it doesn’t come as any surprise to see the quality on display inside the GS F.
Both layout and material choices are spot on. The waves of Alcantara on the seats and dash look and feel wonderful. All the buttons and knobs offer a premium tactile experience.
Dash mats are no longer a must-have accessory, the advent of airbags hastened their demise. In the GS F, the dash was partially covered in Alcantara, it didn’t just look nice, it served a practical purpose by limiting the annoying reflective glare that can bounce off a plastic dash.
Lexus designers have cleverly integrated the 12.3-inch infotainment screen into the dash. It looks brilliant without interfering with the driver’s forward vision.
For a brand from a country with a knack for developing audio/visual technology, the infotainment system isn't as good as it needs to be. Surely a more intuitive system can be developed. This is the cabin’s only weak spot.
For those in the backseats, the atmosphere is carried through. The seats are comfortable and occupants are treated to plenty of leg and headroom.
Lexus is yet to offer a capped price service program. The brand’s dealerships provide a premium service experience by offering a loan car. Alternatively, for those who live or work close enough, dealers will collect the car and return it after maintenance is completed. Intervals are set at 12 months/15,000km.
GS F buyers are supported with a four year/100,000km warranty. This is above average in the context of the premium end of the market.
What you get with the GS F is a car with a character that’s different to the German offerings. This shouldn’t be considered a bad thing. The GS F isn’t as precise as some, but its performance and capability are far easier to extract. Driver engagement doesn’t always correlate with the numbers on the spec sheet which is a good thing for the GS F. It won't win a numbers game against German rivals, but it doesn’t really need to. The GS F is a new interpretation of the fast family sized sedan. It’s a talented machine that can easily be driven every day while still being enjoyed on the weekends. Best of all, the value equation is unbeatable.
2017 Lexus GS F Specifications
Price from $153,540 plus on-road costs Engine 5.0-litre naturally aspirated V8 petrol Power 351kW @ 7100rpm Torque 530Nm @ 4800-5600rpm Transmission 8-speed automatic Combined Fuel Consumption 11.3L/100km Tank Capacity 66L Length 4915mm Width 2085mm Height 1440mm Wheelbase 2850mm Performance 0-100km 4.6 seconds Turning Circle 12m Weight 1865kg Service Intervals 12 months/15,000km Warranty four year/100,000 kilometre
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