We’re not sure how to take this new Lexus GS F, it’s got us a just little confused. There’s no doubt it will be exquisitely built and that it will perform admirably, we just can’t decide what category to place it in.
Consider the evidence.
It’s the latest in the F series of performance saloons that the luxury brand have developed so we know it should be pretty quick. This particular version boasts a naturally aspirated 5.0L V8 producing 470bhp, all of which is squeezed through a new 8-speed automatic gearbox with manual shift setting, on its way to the big fat 19″ rear wheels. The gearbox has four modes; Normal, Eco, Sport and a Sport S+ setting designed specifically for the track.
And it’s certainly at home on the track. As well as being circuit tested in Japan, the new GS F spent some time tear-arsing round an obscure little German place called the Nurburgring and its’ performance apparently pleased the engineers no end. The taut suspension and uprated brakes give it a solid feel at speed and the near neutral balance means it’s nice and agile in the twisty bits.
The interior certainly ticks the luxury boxes, albeit with a distinctly Japanese interpretation. The electronic display automatically adjusts depending on the selected drive mode and the custom-designed seats provide extra lateral support, without sacrificing comfort. There’s touches of elegance with Alcantra trim on the doors and centre console and the layout gives the distinct impression it was designed for simplicity and function rather than to distract the driver from the job at hand. It really looks like it would be a nice place to sit and watch the world disappear beneath the wheels.
So, a 470bhp 5.0L V8 in a luxury four-door saloon that weighs just 1,830Kg. It’s going head-to-head with the big boys with their M5’s, AMG’s and XJ’s. Or is it?
You see, this is our dilemma. All of the above share the same solid feel and effortless speed – we imagine, Lexus are yet to reveal performance figures – as the GS F. But none of them look quite like this. This is more like an Evo that’s come over a bit posh.
Ok, maybe that’s an exaggeration but you get the point. The GS F has a certain presence, it’s a bit more “look at me” than most luxury saloons. It sits lower and wider than the standard model and with large air vents in the bumper and those slim, angled headlights it has the look of an angry man determined to do some damage. The chromed exhausts look good though, and the subtle carbon fibre spoiler gives the whole rear end the impression that it’s more than capable of hurtling this car down the road at pace. Don’t misunderstand, the GS F looks fantastic, but amongst the words we wouldn’t use to describe it are “understated” and “elegant”.
Which brings us neatly full-circle. Where does the GS F fit in? There’s an excellent chance that Lexus have built a very good car but it’s possibly a bit too luxurious – and no doubt expensive – for the fans of the playstation saloons. It lacks the more understated appearance of other performance saloons so it’s unlikely to tempt anyone so inclined out of their BMW, Mercedes, or Jaguar.
The more we ponder, the more we think Lexus may have just created a whole new niche. This could be a risk, or it could be a stroke of genius. We just won’t know until we see how many customers are going to fill it?
Words: David Young