Tuned for the road and track
My test drive included a track portion on the 2.4-mile Jarama Circuit, an 11-turn Formula One racetrack with several tight, decreasing radius turns, as well as a street drive on roads that took us through villages and out onto twisty country roads.
The track drive included not only the GS F but also its little brother the RC F, and each car had a pro driver in the passenger seat to coach us through the Jarama Circuit and run through the various drive modes. The GS F comes standard with a Drive Mode Selector with Normal, Eco, Sport S, and Sport S+ modes, all of which adjust the dampers, throttle response, transmission shift points, stability control limits, and steering weight. The torque-vectoring differential also has Normal, Slalom, and Track settings.
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While the RC F is a bit portly for its size, the GS F weighs only about 75 pounds more, making it light for the class. At 4034 pounds, it weighs 356 pounds less than the M5 and 111 less than the lightweight CTS-V. That helps the GS F drive smaller than its considerable size, though the drive modes and the settings for the torque-vectoring differential really change its dynamic personality.
Leave the Drive Mode Selector in Normal mode and the GS F’s natural character comes out. Though a bit light, the steering is delightfully quick and the car turns in crisply. Push it hard into a corner, though, and the sticky Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires give up grip and allow it to plow forward rather than rotate. The Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management system (VDIM) also kicks in all too willingly, engaging the traction control and even cutting the power as the car scrambles for traction through the Jarama Circuit’s many tight turns.
Switch over to the Sport S or Sport S+ modes and put the differential in Slalom or Track and the GS F is suddenly very willing to rotate, and this is where it feels much smaller than its size. Basically, the GS F’s natural understeer is cured by the active torque-vectoring rear diff.
In Sport S+ mode the VDIM is also less intrusive than it is in the RC F, making the GS F the more fun car to drive with at least some of the safety nets in place. Lexus didn’t let us use the “Expert” mode, which engages only minimal stability control, in either car, but the RC F would benefit from the GS F’s VDIM tuning.
Out on the road, the GS F cures another ill of its little brother. The longer wheelbase helps iron out some of the ride harshness of the RC F and makes the GS F a fairly comfortable cruiser. The quick, direct steering and strong brakes are just as satisfying on the street as they are on the track, making this a fun car to drive in any situation.
Powerful but limited
The story under the hood is a good one, but not a great one. The GS F gets the same 5.0-liter V-8 as the RC F and it makes the same 467-horsepower and 389 pound-feet of torque. It’s an advanced engine, but it doesn’t offer the ridiculous power of the force-fed engines of those aforementioned rivals. This V-8 features both direct and port injection and runs on both the Otto and Atkinson cycles. These traits allow it to deliver decent fuel economy as well as willing power. It is rated at 16 mpg city, 24 highway, and 19 overall.
The 5.0-liter winds willingly up to 7300 rpm, emitting the throaty howl of a naturally aspirated V-8 along the way. Lexus even pipes in more sound through a pair of speakers, one up front and one in the rear. The simulated sound comes through the front speaker in Sport S mode and through both in Sport S+. Given the V-8’s intoxicating growl, the simulated sound is unnecessary.
The V-8 offers plenty of power, and Lexus’ estimate of a 4.5-second 0 to 60 mph time seems realistic. Throttle response is, indeed, immediate, but Lexus’ claim of unlimited power is an overstatement, especially in the face of competitors with as many as 640 horsepower. If Lexus really wants the GS F to compete against the some of the world’s best sport sedans, it’s going to have to turbocharge or supercharge this engine.
The eight-speed automatic transmission is a similar tale. It shifts smoothly and responsively, though not as crisply and quickly as some of the better dual-clutch transmissions on the market, including the one from BMW. I would also like to see a manual transmission, though that’s likely a pipedream. Again, if Lexus really wants to compete, a dual-clutch gearbox would produce faster shift times and quicker lap times.