Many brands have performance “sub-brands” now. Manufacturers are starting to run out of letters and while M and AMG may be the most famous letters, F is one of the most serious. The Lexus GS is already a terrific sedan, but engineers at Lexus decided it would be more fun with a 467-horsepower V8 under the hood, and they were right. The GS F is much more than horsepower, though. It has what is difficult for many OEMs to infuse in their performance cars. In a world of digital cars, the GS F feels authentic, which is just fine with us.
The heart of the GS F lies in its high-performance, naturally aspirated 5.0-liter V8, engineered for low weight and high strength, with forged connecting rods and titanium intake and exhaust valves that allow a 7,300-rpm red line. Add to the mix optimized intake and exhaust manifolds, and the result is an engine that delivers 467 horsepower and 389 pound-feet of torque. The high-pressure D-4S direct injection system, which also uses port fuel injectors, allows a high 12.3:1 compression ratio for optimized performance and efficiency. Variable valve timing enables the engine to operate in the Atkinson cycle at cruising speeds and can switch to the Otto cycle for higher performance levels when accelerating. The 2UR-GSE engine is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission that, for the most part, plays nice. The biggest problem is no matter what mode you are in, the transmission does not respond quickly. There is a slight delay when you request a shift until it actually happens.
Lexus offers several different driving modes. Normal mode is best for everyday driving. Sport S sharpens the throttle opening while Sport S+ extracts the most from the powertrain and sets the electric power-steering assist for the greatest degree of driving feel. Eco mode helps to enhance fuel efficiency by weakening throttle response and adjusting the climate control system for best efficiency. For long interstate drives, Eco became our favorite setting to optimize fuel economy. When it came time to drive on a nice road, Sport S+ was the best choice with the transmission in manual mode.
The GS F offers Torque Vectoring Differential as standard and it is one serious piece of hardware. Using high-response compact motors, a planetary gear instantaneously changes left-right torque distribution through the engagement of a multi-plate clutch. It operates as quickly as .001 seconds, whether the accelerator is pressed or not, based on data including throttle input, braking, yaw rate, longitudinal and lateral G-force, and other pertinent parameters. Using a switch on the center console, the driver can select one of three settings for the TVD.
Standard delivers a high level of control and agility for everyday driving. Slalom places additional emphasis on steering response, giving the vehicle a more agile character akin to one with a smaller wheelbase. Track enhances high-speed handling and reduces understeer and really makes the car come alive.
Of course, the GS F is still a Lexus, so it rides well and is quiet at speed. Combined with our car’s optional Mark Levinson 835-watt 17 speaker audio system, the car ate miles up like a teenager at a buffet. With the big V8 and a 4,000-pound weight on board, the GS F can hit 60 mph in 4.5 seconds and does the quarter mile in 12.8 seconds on its way to a top speed of 168 mph.
As impressive as those numbers are, what sets the GS F apart is how raw it feels. It feels like you took a regular car and stuffed a huge engine in it. Many other manufacturers try to make their cars more civilized, which just takes the fun out of them. Driving the GS F feels like you are trying to tame a tiger and the sound and feel is authentic, except for the fake engine noise through the speakers, which can be switched off.
A high-end car from a high-end manufacturer is not cheap. The GS F starts out at $84,350, but there is really only one important option, which is the upgraded audio system for $1,380. Otherwise the GS F is fully optioned with everything you need and more. The GS F feels like a hot rod sedan and it can be driven like a gentleman or like a hooligan. That is exactly why it is so much fun.