by Michael Butler
The full-frontal attack on large capacity, naturally aspirated V8 and V12 performance cars, is reaching boiling point; the majority of people are asking for smaller capacity turbocharged engines that offer similar performance, but use less fuel - at least on paper. The mere fact that the Lexus GS F exists at all is a reason to celebrate then: with an all-motor V8 under the hood sending power to the rear wheels, the GS F is the Gordon Gekko of the performance sedan world, fighting its way through a legion of Elon Musks in Teslas and muted turbocharged powerhouses. The 2020 car gets a set of refreshed wheels, some neat interior options, and that same great 5.0-liter V8 engine that makes us believe that people's passion for old-school power isn't disappearing just yet.
The 2020 Lexus GS F makes use of the fourth generation GS platform that's been around since 2012 and gets a number of new standard and optional features for the new year, as well as some slight interior changes. New owners can expect to find a set of matte black 19-inch alloy wheels as standard, and the wing mirrors and B pillars have been changed from gray to black, too. New optional features include blue brake calipers, while orange brake calipers are no longer available. Inside, white seats with black inserts are now optional.
There's no mistaking the 2020 GS F for just another four-door executive sedan; sure, the side profile might still look more Camry than Corvette, but its overall presence screams performance - especially when you look at it dead on: those flared nostrils mean business. Lexus' trademark spindle grille now features the F-series logo and is flanked by large intakes that send a gush of air to the massive front brakes. Wider front flares with gaping air outlets improve airflow around the big Lexus, while broader fenders in the rear give it a muscular look. The undertray on the GS F is specially designed to channel air to the rear differential. In the back, you're greeted by a set of quad-exit exhaust pipes. Standard exterior features for 2020 include a set of black 19-inch alloy wheels, a carbon fiber rear spoiler, electrochromic outside rearview mirrors with memory function, puddle lamps, a shark fin antenna for SiriusXM satellite radio, triple-beam LED headlamps, and daytime running lights.
The GS F is a full-blown executive sports car and measures 193.5 inches in length. It stands 56.7 inches tall when unladen and is 72.6 inches wide with the wing mirrors folded in, and 82.1 inches wide with mirrors folded out. Track width in the front is 61.2 inches, growing to 61.4 inches in the back. The whole package rolls on a 112.2-inch wheelbase and has a ground clearance of 5.1 inches. The V8-powered GS F weighs in at a hefty 4,034 pounds, with its weight balanced quite effectively at 53/47 front/rear.
The best thing about a beautifully designed car is the fact that it will look great in almost any color, and this holds true for the 2020 GS F that loves to flaunt its beefed-up body panels and aggressive smile. Lexus offers the GS F in eight exterior color options, most of which lean towards the darker end of the spectrum. If you like playing it safe, or prefer to fly under the radar, Lexus offers the GS F in Ultra White, Atomic Silver, or Liquid Platinum, and there are two black options of Caviar and Smoky Granite Mica. If the spotlight doesn't scare you, go for Matador Red Mica, Ultrasonic Blue Mica 2.0 at an additional cost of $595, or the electrifying Flare Yellow at the same premium. We love the GS F's dual personality and think it looks best in Smoky Granite Mica, which shows off its curves but also gives it a VIP sleeper look.
Lexus, as a performance car manufacturer, has really come into its own over the past decade, and the 2020 GS F is the culmination of years of research, development, and good old track testing. Lexus doesn't mince its words: the GS F was developed for driving enthusiasts who appreciate an engaging driving experience, while at the same time, wanting a refined and premium sedan. The Lexus Drive Mode Select feature allows you to cruise around in Normal mode when out and about, but switch to Sport, and the throttle response sharpens as does the overall experience. Sports Plus mode goes even further by adjusting damping and steering ratios. To put it simply, the GS F is a full-blown Japanese muscle car and, in typical Japanese fashion, makes use of a million gizmos and gadgets to deliver its 467 horsepower and 389 lb-ft to the tarmac in the most efficient way possible. The GS F will sprint to sixty in 4.5 seconds, overtake slow drivers in the blink of an eye, and get you back to the office just in time to capitalize on that bitcoin crash. Our only gripe is that anything wearing the F badge from Lexus is supposed to be a genuine performance contender. The IS rivaled the M3, so the GS F should rival the M5; but it doesn't, it's completely outgunned by the big German, although it's also a purer experience thanks to rear-wheel-drive while the M5 is all-wheel-driven.
Being able to buy a high-compression naturally aspirated V8 in 2020 is a true blessing for gearheads, and the 5.0-liter gem resting under the hood of the Lexus GS F more than delivers. Lexus engineered their 5.0-liter V8 with low weight and quick responses in mind and made use of forged connecting rods and titanium valves to allow the big beast to rev right up to a 7,300 rpm redline. The engine produces 467 hp and 389 lb-ft of torque at 4,800 rpm. A Toyota-sourced high-pressure D-4S direct fuel injection system that uses port fuel injection allows the engine to operate at a high 12.3:1 compression ratio.
Power is sent to the rear via an eight-speed sport direct-shift transmission and torque vectoring differential. The gearbox does well to manage the slightly peaky engine around town, delivering fluid shifts that don't upset low speed driving quality; but switch up to Sport Plus mode and the combination of screaming V8 power and a fast-shifting transmission makes the whole car come alive. Since max power is only available well past 6,500 rpm, and max torque close to 5,000 rpm, the GS F loves to be revved out to its redline and will crush the quarter-mile in 12.8 seconds, on its way to a top speed of 168 mph.
Lexus could've taken the easy way out by dropping a big V8 in an ordinary GS chassis and calling it a day, but that's not the Lexus way - not by a long shot. The GS F is absolutely stuffed with handling and chassis upgrades, which explains its handling capabilities. Under the sculpted body, you'll find front and rear chassis bracing, a linear adaptive variable suspension system, and a front and rear suspension system that makes use of forged aluminum upper and lower control arms, a stabilizer bar, and exclusively-tuned coil springs and bushings, as well as optimized suspension arm bushings. All of this is attached to a Brembo performance brake kit and sticky Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires.
What this translates to is a four thousand pound executive sedan that handles like it's on rails. In Normal mode, the steering is well-weighted, and turn-in is sharp, but it still manages to soak up road imperfections with ease. Switching up to the more serious Sport Mode Plus makes things noticeably sharper, and stiffer. There's tons of mid-corner grip from the large tires, but step on the gas pedal and the GS F will happily let go of any sense of traction. Despite the power deficit over the best from BMW M and Mercedes-AMG, the GS F is a purer experience, which makes us wonder if the power wars have really improved the segment at all?
With a 5.0-liter V8, the 4,000-pound executive sedan was never going to win any fuel economy awards. Instead, expect the worst and be relieved when it betters the figure you had in your head - it's a modestly camouflaged muscle car after all. Lexus offers an EPA-estimated 16/24/19 mpg city/highway/combined, which is is a hard pill to swallow, especially when you consider the fact that the cheaper and significantly more powerful BMW M550i XDrive sedan with its 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 will deliver 18/25/20 mpg. The GS F is fitted with a generous 17.4-gallon fuel tank, which should give it a maximum range of 330 miles.
The driver-focused design language of the exterior continues to the inside, where the GS F strikes a great balance between the young-at-heart performance-minded driver and the responsible executive that pays the bills for rear tires and track day shenanigans. Interior details such as the multi-function three-spoke steering wheel with F logo embedded on the bottom and high-back sport bucket seats let the driver and occupants know that there's more to this car than meeting deadlines and making it to the airport on time. Step inside the cabin of the GS F, and you'll be greeted by a set of standard aluminum scuff plates, ten-way power driver and eight-way passenger front sport seats, front and rear LED map lights, a programmable HomeLink garage door opener, as well as a four-zone climate control system with passenger detection functionality. Practical features such as Siri Eyes Free, SmartAccess keyless entry with push-button start, and Lexus' Enform remote - which allows the driver to start the engine from a distance, heat up the cabin, and find their vehicle in a crowded parking lot - adds to the GS F's daily ease of use.
When you attach the executive nametag to a car, it usually infers that there are going to be a bunch of rather important people sitting in the back, so interior space is always going to play a major role in the purchasing decision. The 2020 Lexus GS F falls somewhat short in this category: while headroom comes in at 38.9 and 38 inches for the front and rear, which is ample for most adults, it's legroom that takes a knock - although there's 40.6 inches of legroom in the front, the back offers a leg-cramping 32.8 inches. Stepping into the rear highlights the GS F's biggest shortcoming, and the space it does have pales in comparison to its competitors, such as the BMW M550i xDrive with its 36.5 inches. Shoulder room comes in at 57.2/55.7 inches front/rear, and hip room is measured at 54.4/54.2 inches front/rear - marginally less space than what the BMW provides.
You'll find tight tolerances and beautiful workmanship when you enter the cabin of the GS F, and in typical Lexus fashion, the GS F offers near-peerless cabin refinement and build quality. New owners can choose between black leather with black carbon fiber trim, Circuit Red leather with black carbon fiber trim, or white and black leather with carbon fiber trim - the latter being a new option for 2020. Key driver touchpoints, such as the steering wheel and shift knob, are covered in leather, and you'll also find scatterings of aluminum inside the cabin. The sun visors and headliner are covered in a premium cloth material.
Interior space isn't the GS F's strong point; offering a maximum trunk capacity of only 14 cubic feet puts the GS F close to the bottom of its class in terms of cargo capacity. The BMW M550i xDrive offers over five cubic feet more space at 18.7 cu-ft, but the Mercedes-Benz E53 AMG sedan does even worse, offering only 13.1 cubic feet of space. The E53 AMG is redeemed by the fact that its 40/20/40 folding rear seat can open up to reveal more cargo space, while the GS F is stuck with non-folding rear seats. What can be said about the trunk space on offer is that the trunk liftgate opens up very wide, and the liftover isn't too high, which means you'll be able to throw your golf bag in there without the need of a precise aim.
Small items can be stored in the center console storage box, glove box, rear-seat center console, or small covered nook in front of the shift knob.
The one thing the Lexus most definitely has over its major competitors is the abundance of standard features on offer. The exterior is blessed with triple-beam headlamps and LED daytime running-, brake-, tail-, and license plate lights, a carbon fiber rear spoiler as well as heated electrochromic auto-dimming outside rearview mirrors. Inside the cabin you'll find power front seats with height-adjustable center armrest and rear headrests, cruise control, a HomeLink programmable garage door opener as well as a keyless access system with push-button start, LED ambient interior lighting and Lexus' Safety System Plus which includes advanced driver assistance features such as pre-collision warning with integrated pedestrian detection, dynamic cruise control, intelligent high-beam assist and lane departure alert. The Lexus Enform Remote system also makes a welcomed appearance and allows the driver to start and stop the engine, monitor a guest driver, and locate the vehicle in a crowded space. A head-up display system is also available.
A generously-sized 12.3-inch high-resolution display is mounted in a swooping arch over the center dashboard console and, unlike other sports cars, is not obviously angled towards the driver, making it easier for both front occupants to view displayed info. Integrated navigation with 3D building display, traffic detour preview, and preset route functionality will get you to those important stockholder meetings on time, every time. The Lexus Enform app suite is another standard feature that brings a lot to the party: you gain access to Yelp, iHeartRadio, Facebook Places, Movietickets.com, OpenTable, Pandora, and much more. You also get standard-issue Bluetooth, USB charging port, voice command, and Siri Eyes Free, which allows you to connect your iPhone to send emails, read messages, search your music library, and more. HD and SiriusXM satellite radio are included, and the sound gets channeled through a 12-speaker, 299-watt sound system with AM/FM and CD functionality. For those who are seriously into their music, Lexus offers an optional Mark Levinson sound system that features 17 speakers, an in-dash six DVD/CD changer, and 835 watts of power.
If you like the idea of owning and driving a car for over 200,000 miles or more, then you should definitely be looking at getting a Lexus because they simply refuse to die. The 2020 GS F lives up to the legend and has only been recalled once in the past three years for a high-pressure fuel pump that could crack and leak during hard use. J.D. Power gave the 2018 model a spectacular score of 92 on their consumer verified reliability rating scale, although the authority has not rated either of the latest two year models. Lexus will make sure that the smiles don't stop with a basic four-year/50,000-mile warranty, which includes a six-year corrosion warranty, a six-year/70,000-mile drivetrain warranty, a one-year/10,000-mile maintenance plan, and a four-year roadside assistance plan.
The 2020 Lexus GF has not been tested by the NHTSA, but a 2019 model was put through its paces by the IIHS. The IIHS only tested a select number of crash performance areas, so full test results are yet to be released. The IIHS was impressed with the GS F's moderate front overlap, side, and roof-strength crash results, but the IIHS found that the GS failed to provide adequate head protection for back seat passengers. Certain advanced driver assistance technologies such as the emergency auto brake feature were not tested.
The list of standard safety features on the 2020 GS F is substantial, to say the least. The basics are covered by tri-beam LED headlamps, a tire pressure monitoring system, door side impact beams, front and rear crumple zones, ABS, brake assist and brake force distribution, as well as traction control, stability control and a vehicle dynamics integrated management system with multiple driving modes. Passengers are kept intact via 10 airbags. The Lexus Safety System Plus brings a bunch of advanced driver assistance features to the table, which includes lane departure assistance, intelligent high-beam assist, pre-collision warning with pedestrian detection, and high-speed dynamic radar cruise control. The optional head-up display system keeps the driver's eyes focussed on the road for increased safety.
We are on the doorstep of driving fully autonomous electric vehicles, so the fact that you can still buy a rear-wheel-drive executive sedan with a naturally aspirated V8 is one worth celebrating. The GS F is a beautifully balanced car, not only in terms of performance and handling but in the way it manages to look muscular without the need for massive wings and wheels, or in the way it can disappear under the radar when painted the right shade of black but snarl at passers-by at the slightest jab of the throttle. The high-compression V8 found under the hood of the GS F is a gem of an engine, and despite the fact that it likes to drink, it forces the driver to wring its neck to get the most out of it, but will happily burble along if unprovoked. The interior might be cramped in comparison to its rivals, but the interior of the GS F is a beautiful place to be. Although we wish the GS F could truly rival the M5 and E63, it simply doesn't have the firepower. But, viewed in isolation, it's a simply superb machine.
You'll have to pay for the privilege of owning a V8-powered Lexus GS: with the V6-powered GS 350 coming in with an MSRP of $51,395 in RWD configuration, the GS F comes in with a total cost of $85,010. These prices do not include delivery, processing, and a handling fee of $1,025. Compared to its rivals, the Lexus also looks pricey; the more powerful, spacious, and frugal BMW M550i xDrive comes in at $76,650, and the equally impressive Mercedes-AMG E53 Sedan will set you back only $73,800, around $11,000 less than the Lexus. Fully equipped, the GS F will cost $89,690.
The 2020 GS F is only available in one trim, which is good news for the buyer, who will benefit from the fact that most of the available features come standard. So what exactly do you get when you purchase an $85,010 Lexus GS F? The exterior features a carbon fiber rear spoiler, black-painted 19-inch alloy wheels, Brembo performance brakes, triple-beam LED headlights with LED daytime running, brake, tail, and license plate lamps, heated electrochromic auto-dimming outside rearview mirrors, quad exhaust pipes and cool F badges spotted around the fenders and trunk. Step inside the GS F's beautifully crafted interior and you'll notice the 12.3-inch infotainment display with integrated navigation and SiriusXM satellite radio, a 12-speaker sound system, power-adjustable front seats as well as cruise control, a HomeLink programmable garage door opener and power tilt and telescoping steering wheel with memory function.
5.0-liter V8 Gas
As a standalone model, the GS F already comes standard with the majority of the available features, but Lexus has kept a few goodies for the options list. First up is the $900 color head-up display, which can be configured to display audio, speed, current gear, and engine speed info. For an extra $600, you can get a set of exquisite 19-inch hand-polished 10-spoke alloy wheels by master wheel makers, BBS, or if bumping EDM classics is more your thing, then the $1,380 Mark Levinson sound system should be on your wishlist. This sound system features 17 speakers and a total power output of 835-watts.
Since you only have a single option, we'll tell you why you should purchase the $85,010 2020 Lexus GS F. Firstly, it's a V8-powered RWD muscle car, but the fact that it comes from Japan makes it even cooler. The GS F's 5.0-liter V8 features forged connecting rods and titanium valve springs, which allows it to rev past 7,000 rpm and produces 467 hp and 389 lb-ft of torque. This is enough for a zero to sixty sprint time of 4.5 seconds and a quarter-mile time of 12.8 seconds. Lexus has also focussed on its handling and overall driving experience, which explains the presence of adaptive suspension, Brembo performance brakes and extensive chassis bracing. So it drives good, but it looks just as good: triple-beam LED headlights, carbon fiber exterior trim, and black 19-inch alloy wheels give the GS F a seriously mean look. Inside there's enough tech and safety equipment to make even the most tech-savvy driver happy, and the sport bucket seats, wrapped in two-tone leather, adds a bit of motorsport to the Wall Street-feel cabin. If we had the money, it would be Smoky Granite Mica in color, and we'd also get the optional head-up display and BBS wheels.
The Lexus IS is the smallest sedan that the Japanese luxury automaker offers for sale, and it slots in under the Lexus ES and GS. The IS is renowned for its surefooted and sporty driving experience, and the 2020 car is one of the best driving compact executive cars on sale today. Power is provided by a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four gas engine that produces 241 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque or a naturally aspirated 3.5-liter V6 producing 311 hp and 277 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy ranges between 21/30/24 mpg and 19/26/21 mpg city/highway/combined. Power is sent to the rear or all four wheels via an eight-speed auto transmission. Although the IS is classified as an executive sedan, the GS feels decidedly more refined and classy inside. Surprisingly, the IS offers about the same interior space as the largest GS but offers significantly less trunk space at 10.8 cubic feet. The IS shares its safety tech with the larger GS but has to settle for a less impressive infotainment system. The IS starts off at $38,560. We'd spend the extra money and get the more powerful GS F. The two are truly leagues apart, and the performance aspect of the F-tuned GS appeals to us.
If the GS F is the executive board member, then the RC F is most definitely a non-exec. The compact luxury coupe shares its 5.0-liter V8 engine with the GS F but receives a few special tweaks which allow it to produce 472 hp and 395 lb-ft of torque, and the Track Edition model will sprint to sixty in only 3.96 seconds. The RC F makes use of the same eight-speed auto transmission, which sends power to the same trick diff in the rear. Despite being over 100 pounds lighter than the GS F, the RC F shares its fuel economy figure of 16/24/19 mpg city/highway/combined. The most obvious difference between these two cars is the fact that the one is a coupe and the other a sedan, which means you get less space for people and their stuff in the RC F. Where the RC F shines is out on the track, where it feels more focused and light-footed than the GS F. Both cars do what they do brilliantly, but the RC F does it with more flair and focus. The RC F costs $64,900, making it more performance for less money - a winner in our eyes.