Mountain Wheels: Lexus’ brave GS-F demonstrates power on a big platform (review)
2017 Lexus GS-F
MSRP: $83,940; As tested: $87,490
Powertrain: 467-HP 5.0-liter V8 with eight-speed automatic transmission
EPA figures: 19 combined (16 city/24 highway)
My guess earlier this year about the sheer potential expressed in the Lexus GS platform (as I labored with the awkward reality of its very base, 2.0-liter turbo engine) turned out to be true.
And as I spent some time with the car’s grand, beautifully designed and — most importantly — brutally powerful GS-F variation, all my dreams came true. In a vehicle that’s big enough to transport real-sized passengers in speedy comfort, it is a brutally sophisticated grand tourer that provides an intriguing alternative to big-league bruisers such as the BMW M5, the Mercedes-Benz E63 or even the jarringly powerful Cadillac CTS-V.
Adding a 467-horsepower V-8 to just about any platform (much like the Hellcat swap-job going around what seems like the entire Dodge and Chrysler family) is certainly not a recipe for disaster, and here the grunty, high-revving engine allows the big GS to live up to its full potential.
Frankly, it’s also a little scary, especially when you first check out bits like the carbon fiber trunk lid, the beautiful, thin-spoked wheels or those very active brake vents behind the front wheel wells.
A menacing black wall of nose, trimmed with more carbon fiber at the bottom, gives the automobile the look of a locomotive from hell. And that is a model it very easily accomplishes.
Of course, you’re going to have noise complaints from the neighbors and maybe find yourself tired of scooching your posterior over those very rigidly side-bolstered sports seats, with their torso-gripping pass-thru shoulder frames and fixed headrests, like ejection seats.
But my guess is that folks cross-shopping in the spendy M5 territory (the GS-F is nearly $84,000 in its most basic form, comprehensively laden as it is with goodness) have already committed to those sorts of issues, so let’s concentrate on what good the car is going to do for you, and your soul.
The nice part is that unlike the other ultra-performers, GS-F is powerful but not entirely sketchy and track-oriented in its ferocity. The power is indeed formidable but not uncontrollable; if you choose to go particularly fast, it’ll take you there, but it’s not lurchy or vulgar in the process, as some of those high-spirited, big-boned overperformers tend to be.
General thrust is no issue, and while you may get a slightly more precise and unrestrained onslaught of power by twisting the knob over to Sport or Sport Plus (an Eco mode is also ironically included), any deep plant of your right foot on the accelerator is going to put a big smile on your face.
Bystanders may not get quite the aural experience you do, despite the baritone blast of the engine; much of that outrageously boisterous exhaust noise in the cabin is, disappointingly, created by a “symposer” that suggests you’re in a mix of old-school Barracuda and an F-1 race car.
And then there’s the issue of physics in a vehicle of this scale. While brakes have been upgraded to help harness all of that terrible forward motion, I apparently overdid it a bit on my standard winding depopulated mountain test route.
Still, you get a surprisingly intense, grounded and delightfully responsive overall experience, with steering that’s precise and stickiness in curves that seems a little unnatural. The eight-speed automatic may not line up sub-four-second drag races, but it’s fast-acting and responsive enough for spirited cavorting.
Cabin details also dip into the ultra-luxe territory, even for Lexus. Again, more real carbon fiber trim everywhere, plus tasteful blue stitching (and a bit of white stitching inside those grippy ejection seats). Is there such a thing as too much alcantara suede? You might ask that here, with armrest, dash, doors and even the palm rest for the mouse-like navigation control covered in that furry stuff.
You’ll sense some very tall edges along the central channel and may have to convince a fifth passenger the ride won’t be so long, as it effectively removes the middle floor space in the rear.
I also appreciated the simplified and ostensibly race-oriented one-gauge instrument cluster, which becomes hyper-colored and ultra-focused the higher you switch the car into its various sports modes. Off to the right there is a small, discrete analog speedometer ever so dangerously topping out at 210 mph. Insurance adjusters may delight in the reality that GS-F is electronically limited to just 167 mph.
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