Drive Review – 2016 Lexus GS-F – By Ben Lewis in Los Angeles


Not Godzilla. More like T-Rex.

To paraphrase Sally Field, “Lexus likes us. They really, really like us!”

At least enough to let us spend some more time in the GS F.

But we have some different perspective here, as this time, your humble scribe spent a week partaking in the GS here in sunny LA-LA land. And it ends up netting some mixed results.

First, a quick rehash of the technical pleasantries. Like BMW’s M division, with models ranging between M235i’s and M2,3,4, and 5, there are F-Sport cars, and then there are F-Sport cars.

F-sport is Lexus’ catch-all name for sporty looks and handling package. And in general, it’s our go-to when you want to raise driving fun and eye-candy appeal. But it’s hardly exclusive – you can get a CT200h (previous-gen Prius to you and me) with the F-Sport Package.

What is exclusive are the stand-alone F models. That would be the IS F (which we dearly love) and the RC F (which we liked, but found hard to love).

Now comes the GS F. Some might think it’s a 4-door version of the RC, but we’d disagree. It’s much better. Come to think of it, the GS platform is the Will Rogers of the Lexus family – we haven’t met one we didn’t like. The GS200t we drove was a sweetheart, the GS350 a wonderfully balanced package. And now the GS F.

In this case, What The F means a 32-valve, 5.0-liter V8 pumping out 467 horsepower at a lofty 7,300 rpm redline. Reason to love the GS F, number 1 – That’s a normally-aspirated V8. No turbo trickery. No V6’s running on big boost. It’s an intoxicating mix of traditional rumble and high technology.

And if you don’t think that matters, go to the BMW forums and see all the M3 owners chewing their arms off over how the turbo V6 has lost the character of the E90’s V8. For other light reading, go see how Boxster buyers are burning their lederhosen over the swap from an atmospheric flat-6 to a turbo 4.

We don’t kid ourselves, pressing fuel economy and emissions issues are forcing the hands of the carmakers. (By the way, we still saw 18 mpg average on our tester) But for now, Lexus has said, no dice.

Reason to love the GS F, number 2 –Lexus also pushed back on the need for all-wheel drive to handle the V8 muscle. The GS F is an honest-to-goodness rear driver. Making sure you can enjoy those 467 horses is an advanced torque-vectoring rear differential that will help rotate you into turns and hopefully save your bacon in the process.

So what’s it like to push the limits in this ground-based missile. To run it up to redline repeatedly and throw it at apexes like a maniacal Roomba hunting down dust bunnies?

I haven’t a clue.

Because there’s a problem. The GS F is so fast, and so capable, you rarely have a chance to open the throttle for more than a millisecond before you blow through a speed limit, or rocket out of a corner at a lunch-launching rate.

And there’s another problem. On top of the muscular aggressive looks including triple LED headlamps, large mesh-covered grilles and 19-inch forged-alloy wheels, our tester was covered in a bright orange metallic Lexus calls “Molten Pearl”.

Together this combination of muscle and outrageousness captures everyone’s eyes, from the occasional love-sick bee (this actually happened to us), to kids, dudes in highly-tuned sport compacts, and The Law.

Basically, it’s like riding around on a T-Rex. Make that a giant orange T-Rex.

Now there’s something to be said for driving around in a fluorescent carnivore. Traffic moves aside for you. People look over to see which celebrity is driving. (And look disappointed when you’re not the star du jour). You’ve got street cred with those in the know.

And despite the old sawhorse about it being more fun driving a slow-car fast, than a fast-car slow, Rexxy is an impressively sweet ride. The exhaust has a deep, dark, burble on start-up – enough to fill the cabin, but not so much as to set off neighbor’s car alarm.

The ride is surprisingly supple – at least here in SoCal where the roads are pretty smooth, and the steering has good feel. Throttle response in Normal mode is good – you can glide up quickly to speed without feeling like a knob trying to show off.

Put it in to Sport mode, and everything moves up to hyperspeed. This is a very fast car, a true predator, and as we’ve said, very difficult to find a place to air it out. But unlike a T-Rex, it won’t turn around and bite you – you feel an implicit trust in this sedan. It will hang with you, and make you look good.

Back in Normal mode, you have time to enjoy the good vibes inside. The leather-trimmed sport seats give you a reassuring hug, and the Alcantara trim is soft, and makes you feel surrounded by the good stuff.  You’re more likely to twist the knobs of the optional 17-speaker Mark Levinson audio system than bother with the paddle shifters. (As if anything could sound better than that V8.)

We also like the simplicity of the car. Grandma could drive it. This is not an overly-gizmoed, Space-shuttle, better read the owner’s manual, high-tech kind of car. It’s very much like any other Lexus.

And there is something special about toodling around in Lexy-comfort knowing you have 467 hp ready to be unleashed at a moment’s notice. When you know you can take care of business, you find little need to prove it all the time.

You may have to prove your net worth at the dealership, though. Our GS F started at $84,400 and with the Mark Levinson audio ($1,380) and orange-painted brake calipers ($300), delivered to you, an eye-watering $87,070.

In fairness, an M5 starts around $94,000 and we started to build one, but after we reached $107,000 just went off to weep uncontrollably. The Audi S7 starts a more reasonable $82,900. But similarly-optioned to the Lexus, it was $96,000, and you have to be willing to go for a smaller, less powerful, turbo V8, and Quattro all-wheel drive.

Make no doubt, the S7 is a fantastic car. But there’s something about the purism in a normally-aspirated V8 and rear-wheel drive that makes the GS F the one we’d covet.

So here you have an $87,000 car that you’ll have a difficult time ever wringing the potential out of. One that stands out in a crowd to the point of distraction – even on the jaded streets of Rodeo Drive, and really, makes no sense in a place like LA.

It gets under your skin.

This may be a T-Rex, but it’s no dinosaur. And we’ve missed ours terribly every day since we gave it back.

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What do you think?

About The Author

Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round -- whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, or learning to surf.