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2016 Lexus GS F First Drive Review

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 10/14/2015 Erick Ayapana

It's a brisk 9:30 a.m. in Madrid, Spain, and I'm pressing deep into the loud pedal as I familiarize myself with the Jarama Circuit's 13 sinuous turns. But after just one warm-up lap, Pedro, my chaperone, snaps from calm to beast mode. "Pass them! Pass them!" Pedro yells. "We are faster than them!"

I hesitate, then do as I'm told—but feel a tad guilty. Guilty because I'm in an RC F coupe overtaking the 2016 Lexus GS F, today's shiny new guest of honor. How is this going to look? (To be fair, the guy in the GS F might have been going deliberately slower, maybe assuming the RC F was the quicker car of the two. We'll gather numbers on the GS F sedan soon enough, though, and expect the two F cars to be very close.)

When it arrives in showrooms later this year, the GS F will sit a whole step above the swift GS 350 F Sport. And that car has already been a face-in-ice-water shock to us, topping the considerable BMW 535i in a four-way comparison, propelled there by a list of performance tricks that includes a variable-damping suspension, variable-ratio steering, and an available active rear-steering system. Surprisingly, the GS F deletes all of that, instead coming standard with a torque-vectoring differential (TVD, introduced in the RC F coupe) and a deadly-effective A-arm front and multilink rear suspension setup that's been upgraded and revised from the normal GS.

Related Link: Research the Lexus GS

2016-Lexus-RC-F-front-side-in-motion© Provided by MotorTrend 2016-Lexus-RC-F-front-side-in-motion

With my time in the RC F finished, I hop in the GS F, which suddenly feels weirdly airy and spacious. However, under the sculpted hood is the same 5.0-liter V-8 found in the coupe, cranking 467 hp and 389 lb-ft of torque. And it's totally unleashed in Jarama's Turn 6, a fast and somewhat blind uphill curve. Arcing up the hill, the naturally aspirated V-8 feels simultaneously strong yet Lexus smooth, and although the eight-speed transmission sometimes hesitates to downshift in Sport S mode, it's near perfect and much more responsive in Sport S+.

Turn 10 at Jarama is a blast, a fast, downhill left sweeper that dumps me into Turn 11, a sharp left turn. The GS F's Brembos bite hard approaching 11, and the car's dodge left into the turn is quick and predictable, the torque-vectoring differential really shining here as it spools torque to the critical outside wheel. Like the similarly underpinned RC F, this is an impressively balanced chassis.

2016-Lexus-GS-F-side-profile-in-track© Provided by MotorTrend 2016-Lexus-GS-F-side-profile-in-track

Paddling up through the gears along the approximately 0.6-mile main straight, I see around 140 mph, 28 mph short of the sedan's claimed top speed. Although the straight is flashing past at about 200 feet per second, there's still time to listen to the GS F's soundtrack, which is artificially dramatized by the Active Sound Control (ASC) system, which consists of two dedicated speakers, one up front and another at the rear. Overall the system is good, but just as the car approaches the 7,300-rpm redline, ASC seems to overboost the higher tones, suddenly sounding more like Gran Turismo 6 than a naturally aspirated V-8. ASC is only activated in Sport S and Sport S+ mode, but in normal modes, the GS F is as quiet as a Lexus should be, save for the slight amount of road noise from the Michelin Pilot Super Sports.

2016-Lexus-GS-F-front-three-quarter-in-motion-03© Provided by MotorTrend 2016-Lexus-GS-F-front-three-quarter-in-motion-03

In all, the GS F marks an interesting balance between a luxury cruiser and a track toy, though admittedly it's unlikely to get used much for the latter. Lexus has long touted that its main goal for its F brand is accessible performance—fun but balanced. For instance, in normal driving the GS F's ride quality is stiff for a Lexus but won't surprise anyone stepping up from an IS F. This whole philosophy is recognizable, too, in cars such as the Mazda MX-5 and the Toyobaru twins. Hitting the right balance. Finding the sweet spot. It's art rather than science.

2016-Lexus-GS-F-cockpit© Provided by MotorTrend 2016-Lexus-GS-F-cockpit

What will the cynics say? They'll probably point out that the GS F is being deployed into a segment that's in a perpetual horsepower war, the Mercedes-AMG E63 and BMW M5, for example, making more than 500 horses from their twin-turbo V-8s (way more than the GS F). Does anybody who's flirting with the Lexus brand really need that much power? No. But what most of them want are bragging rights, which are wholly owned right now by the bonkers 640-hp Cadillac CTS-V.

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However—and this is an important however—when it comes to pricing, the GS F's $85,380 MSRP undercuts those two Germans by at least $10,000, though just barely underpricing Le Monster, the CTS-V. Lexus points out that the GS F is a loaded car with standard items such as LED headlights and wildly advanced safety features that would push its competitors to far higher price points.

OK, so it's not quite the glass-shattering power drunk its rivals are. But with Pedro's yells to "Pass them! Pass them!" still ringing in my ears from my Jarama drama, it just might be the smart guy's ideal blend of brains and brawn.

2016-Lexus-GS-F-front-three-quarter-in-motion-02© Provided by MotorTrend 2016-Lexus-GS-F-front-three-quarter-in-motion-02

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