Lexus GS F (2016-2018) review
The Lexus GS F is an impressively quick super-saloon that takes aim at BMW's M5 and the Audi RS6
The Lexus GS is more eye-catching than ever, and as you’d expect from a Lexus it’s exceptionally well made and highly refined. There are a couple of engines in the regular GS line-up, badged the 300h and 450h – the ‘h’ indicating hybrid drivetrains. The least powerful option is a 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol mated to an electric motor, while the more powerful 450h uses a 3.5-litre V6, also with electric assistance. That's all well and good, but if you’re the sort of driver who would consider a German super-saloon, you’ll probably feel that models are a little underpowered… and that’s where the GS F roars in.
You certainly wouldn’t accuse the 470bhp GS F model of being limp-wristed, and the GS F halo car has been introduced to try and grab some of the headlines and acclaim that muscular versions of mainly German executive models attract.
So the Lexus F Sport team has transformed the character of the GS, by ripping out the hybrid powertrain and shoving a distinctly unfashionable normally-aspirated 5.0-litre V8 under the bonnet. Other upgrades include significantly uprated and lowered suspension and big Brembo brakes, not to mention a clever torque-vectoring rear differential and Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres.
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While the other Lexus GS models are available in four trim levels - Executive Edition, Luxury, F Sport and Premier - there’s only one version of the GS F. It comes very highly specced with loads of safety and luxury kit, including a 12.3-inch multimedia touchscreen, part-leather interior and 19-inch alloy wheels.
The Lexus GS F is a left-field rival to German executive ‘muscle cars’ or super-saloons. It’s aimed squarely at the BMW M5, Audi RS6, and Mercedes-AMG E63. While the Lexus holds its own for visual impact and its old-school non-turbo engine, it’s not as sharp to drive as most of its rivals. The 5.0-litre V8 makes all the right noises, but takes a while to reach its peak torque numbers. That’s fine on track, but it means the car’s performance feels a little less immediate on the road. The eight-speed auto box blunts performance a little too, while body control, steering and braking are all shaded by more established rivals. On the plus side, the Lexus is beautifully built, luxurious and should be extremely reliable. If you’re after a muscular cruiser that’s a little different to the norm, it could be worth a look.
Engines, performance and drive
Nicely weighted steering and a comfortable ride despite its sporty intentions makes the GS F a lovely car for fast road drives. This is where it feels most at home, with a less edgy side to the driving experience compared to the German competitors.
There are bespoke drive modes to choose from in the GS F, including a Snow setting that dulls throttle response for slippier conditions. Normal mode is great for the road, while Sport and Sport + sharpen up the accelerator pedal so you can make the most of that V8 when you need to. There’s also a Torque Vectoring Differential, as on the RC F coupe, which can be adjusted to improve agility in Slalom mode or add extra high-speed stability in Track mode.
In the GS F, turn-in when Slalom mode is selected feels artificial and overly aggressive. We’d suggest leaving it in its default setting, as it offers the best balance of comfort and nimbleness.
The sportiest GS model features a 5.0-litre V8 under the bonnet with 471bhp and 580Nm of torque. The engine is a masterpiece, revving hard with a sonorous V8 rumble. Yet while these numbers are impressive, the power and torque is produced high up the rev range, so it lacks the immediate performance of its turbocharged rivals, like the BMW M5 and Mercedes E63 AMG.
Lexus claims 0-62mph comes up in 4.8 seconds, and while it is quick when the engine is spinning close to its rev limiter, a leading hot hatch will leave the GS F in its dust when it comes to in-gear performance. That’s partly due to the eight-speed auto box, which gets long gearing. The lack of torque means you have to change down a fair few ratios when cruising along in top, but the shifts aren’t the quickest, so there’s a pronounced pause before you access the performance. It’s great fun once you do, though.
MPG, CO2 and Running Costs
You’re not likely to be too worried about running costs if you’re thinking of driving a £70k Lexus with close to 500bhp. However, the GS F’s apparent disregard for latest efficiency tech is somewhat out of step with the rest of the GS range where hybrids rule the roost – and indeed out of step with rivals from BMW and Mercedes.
The principle surprise in this era of downsizing and turbocharged engines is the lack of turbos on the GS F. It means efficiency isn’t that great, even under test conditions, as Lexus claims 25.2mpg and 260g/km CO2 on the combined cycle. This means pricey road tax of £505 per year, and high emissions also mean the car will be an expensive choice for business users.
There’s not much call for a £69,995 V8 Lexus super saloon, so it’s unsurprising Lexus doesn’t intend to sell many in the UK. But despite the GS F’s formula, it won’t depreciate quite as much as you might think. Our experts predict the GS F will hold on to 44.9 per cent of its value, so although it will lose a substantial £38,567, used values will actually be proportionally stronger than its more mainstream GS stablemates.
The mighty performance on offer from the GS F’s V8 engine, as well as its high repair and replacement cost, mean high insurance rates are expected. The GS F’s insurance group 48 mirrors that of the BMW M5.
Interior, design and technology
Now featuring the latest ‘spindle’ family grille and slim-line LED headlamps, the Lexus GS range looks better than ever. The hot GS F model adds to the appeal with a tweaked grille, flared wheelarches and side skirts, plus orange Brembo brake calipers behind 19-inch wheels.
Inside, the picture is very similar to the regular GS models. The interior is shared, apart from the addition of sports seats, a few dashes of extra Alacantara, and a rev-counter that changes its graphic imagery depending on which drive mode you’ve selected.
Otherwise, it’s all standard GS, which means you get a dashboard with a huge 12.3-inch TFT screen taking centre stage, while the Remote Touch controller sits in the wide centre console. The fit and finish is excellent, and the materials all suggest superior quality too, with neatly stitched leather-look dash, bare metal controls for the stereo and a proper clock with hands.
Equipment levels are very high, as you might expect. The GS F spec sheet includes a triple-zone climate system, hot and cold front seats, and a meaty 17-speaker Mark Levinson hi-fi. You can control the rear climate zone and sound system from the heated rear bench seat too.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
The standard GS sat-nav system is good, especially with the vast screen for mapping routes. However the control system, which uses a mouse-like knob to navigate menus is a little frustrating at first. It just feels a bit over-fiddly, so entering details like postcodes are quite awkward, but doubtless the interface improves to some extent with experience.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
The front seats of the GS F are comfortable and spacious with plenty of side support for fast corners. With a relatively supple ride compared to other super-saloons, and a genuinely plush feel to the cabin, the GS F is a very comfortable mode of express transport.
The GS F is 4,915mm long, 1,845mm wide and 1,455mm high, which is similar to other cars in its class. It’s pretty heavy too at 1,865kgs, but that’s the same as the Audi RS6 and only 10kgs more than the BMW M5.
Leg room, head room & passenger space
While the Lexus doesn't quite have the same amount of room in the rear as its rivals, it will be fine for most uses. Adults over 6 feet tall will find it a squeeze to get behind the driver, however. That’s a bit of a shame, as the GS F has a rear bench can be heated, while the front passenger seat also comes with a 'chauffeur' function. This allows rear occupants to remotely slide the chair forward to create more space.
Opening the standard powered tailgate reveals a 482-litre boot, which is around 30-litres larger than the hybrid models – they have to accommodate a battery. There’s still significant wheelarch intrusion though, and in common with the hybrid versions there’s no folding rear bench or even a handy ski-hatch.
Reliability and Safety
Lexus earned a remarkable reputation for engineering reliability into its cars; a fact which is reflected in its regular first-place finishes in our Driver Power satisfaction surveys. The brand was knocked into second place overall behind Tesla in our 2016 results, but almost matched the electric car builder for reliability and beat it for build quality.
In 2016 the pre-facelift GS model finished 5th overall out of a list of 150 cars rated by owners, and in fact was one of four Lexus models that crowded the top 10. Very little fundamental has changed in the facelift, so the current GS range should perform just as well. It’s also worth noting that, should a problem arise, you can expect to be very well looked after by your Lexus dealer. The Lexus franchise network took overall honours in the Driver Power survey every year from 2002 until 2015, and managed a still impressive third place in 2016.
Euro NCAP hasn’t crash tested the GS, but there’s a pretty convincing safety spec sheet. All models including the GS F feature 10 airbags, stability control, rear cross traffic alert and blind spot monitoring.
The Lexus standard warranty is not spectacular, with three years and 60,000-mile cover thrown in. Given the marque’s reputation for reliability, it’s surprising that the Toyota-owned company isn’t able to match the five-year, 100,000-mile cover on Toyota badged models
Lexus servicing prices for the GS F mirror maintenance costs for the RC F coupe, as it shares the same powertrain. This means it’ll be £295 for an intermediate service and £545 for a full service. Intervals are relatively short at 10,000 miles or annual.