2016 Lexus GS-F – A Velvet Wrapped Sledge Hammer

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The 2017 GS-F is the most powerful sedan Lexus has ever built. It’s longer, wider and lower than the standard GS. The 467 horsepower dual overhead cam 5.0 liter V8 launches the car from zero to 60 in four and a half seconds. All that power is sent to the back wheels through a torque vectoring differential that’s standard equipment. This trick differential dynamically varies the level of torque delivered to either rear wheel. It has fifteen inch front brake rotors that spin between six piston Brembo calipers that drag this two ton four door from 70 to zero in 160 feet. All this, and four swinging doors. Welcome to Lexus’ attempt at carving out its own slice of the performance sedan market.

Inside, carbon fiber trim abounds. Our press car was trimmed in the conservative gray and black color scheme. The racy high-bolstered seats don’t look all that comfortable, in truth, they are. Everywhere you look in the cabin the fitment and quality is excellent. The tach is front and center in the digital gauge cluster. Above the requisite luxury car analog clock, there’s an infotainment screen that’s over a foot wide. Our press car was fitted with the Mark Levinson audio system, which means there are 17 speakers stuffed into this car. All the amenities one comes to expect in a luxury car are present, radar cruise, rain sensing wipers, blind spot monitoring and a bevy of other features.

There’s plenty of leg room for passengers in the back seats. Leather, suede, and carbon fiber are all neatly integrated into a clever interior design. And it all feels good, well, almost all of it. For whatever reason, someone at Lexus decided to use Alcantara here and there, namely on the door panel which you grab it every time you shut the door. For those not in the know, Alcantara is fancy for pleather. It’s ok to look at, but has a distinctly synthetic and thin feel. It feels out of place in a high-endinterior.

This is like ascending Everest, and then ten feet from the summit saying, “well, that’s good enough” and hiking back down. This car is beautifully designed and built, but using a cheap material in a place where it often falls under the hand seems like they stopped short. That, and the absurd navigation interface is useless while driving, but I’ve gone on ad nauseum about that in other reviews. However, it’s easy to forgive the these quibbles the first time you climb in, hit the starter button and hear the low, guttural report from the exhaust tips.

On everything but very smooth roads, the ride is rougher than is really comfortable. This is in part to sporty suspension. The chassis on this car also feels very stiff. Lots of car writers talk about a stiff chassis feel, but what does that mean? It’s something that can be sensed. There’s a loaded feel to the car, as if it’s under tension. It’s not a lightweight feel like a sports car, nor is it a heavy battleship feel. It’s substance without mass. On the highway the car is quiet and refined.

The engine has four power modes, Eco, Normal, Sport and Sport plus. Twist the big knob on the console two clicks to the right and gauge cluster transforms as you engage sport plus. Drop the pedal and the big V8 snorts and the car leaps forward. Acceleration comes on smoothly. It’s not abrupt like a ‘Vette, but it’s no slouch either. Lexus engineers had the foresight to know that owners would want the option to completely disable the traction control and vehicle stability. You know, in case you want to do something as uncouth as sliding around corners is a flourish of smoke and noise. It’s highly undignified but entirely within the capabilities of this powerful sedan. The excellent throttle response allows for precise control and the high tech differential keeps things from going too wayward.

From the outside the car looks good. Yes, it has that crazy Lexus grille. But the wide, triple-beam LED headlights do a good job of drawing the eye out toward the fenders, giving the front of this car a wide and aggressive aesthetic. From the side the car looks long but not out of proportion. The fender vents on a four door seem a little shouty, but that’s kind of the point of the F type cars. It’s luxury with an edge. The 19” forged alloy wheels, some of the best looking I’ve seen from any manufacturer, allow a peek at those big brakes. If the bright orange caliper paint seems a little over the top don’t fret, owners can opt out. The carbon fiber spoiler and diagonally stacked exhaust outlets make this car look as good going as it does coming. There’s a grace and economy in the body lines. The result is something effective and uncluttered.  It is not just gorgeous for a four door, it’s a great looking car, no qualifiers needed.

On paper, the GS-F doesn’t stack up against some cars in its class. They may cost less, have more power, or get to 60 quicker. But when you drive this car all the things that can’t be described in numerically make this car a stand out. This car is about sensation, it’s about owning one car that can haul the kids and haul some ass.  Sure it has a few shortcomings, but these are very few, and the rest is good enough to look past them. This car is a balance between raw and refined, and it is hands down the best Lexus I have ever driven.

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