by Jay Traugott
The Lexus GS F is back for 2019, now celebrating 10 years of F, the Lexus performance arm. Sharing the same powertrain as the RC F coupe, the GS F is Lexus' answer to the BMW M5 and Mercedes-AMG E63S; but, whereas those models focus on power wars amongst themselves, the Lexus refreshingly has more of an interest in being one of the best luxury sports sedans to drive. Not the fastest by any stretch of the imagination, but arguably the most sonorous and certainly the most engaging and enjoyable to take a corner in. The 5.0-liter V8 produces 467 horsepower and 389 lb-ft of torque, which it sends to the rear wheels via an eight-speed auto. Pricing starts at $84,600, with a more expensive 10th Anniversary Edition available with a bunch of cosmetic enhancements.
With the addition of a 10th-anniversary model, some small changes are made to the GS F. The special edition will be available to 100 buyers in the States and features unique Matte Nebula Gray paint, blue brake calipers, forged BBS wheels, and numerous blue interior trim additions, including blue carbon on the dash and door trims as well as blue seat belts. The regular GS F model is unchanged from the 2018 model year, besides a new yellow paint option.
The GS F is a less fluidly designed vehicle than the RC F coupe, which has better proportions. LED running lights and the signature trapezoidal grille, as well as the trademark stacked quad pipes at the back are there, but the 19-inch wheels look small, and the shapes and curves fail to hide the car's size as well as rivals manage. In fact, the GS F looks bulkier than it is.
The GS F is averagely sized for the segment, measuring 193.5 inches long, 72.6 inches wide, and 56.7 inches high. The wheelbase is 112.2 inches. Despite obstinately not converting to all-wheel-drive or a switchable system with rear-wheel bias, the GS F is still a heavy car, weighing in at 4,034 lbs.
The color palette for the 2019 model year is very similar to last year's offering. However, Molten Pearl has been discontinued and in its place is the $595 Flare Yellow, presumably to once again remind us of the bygone LFA era. Other colors include Smokey Granite Mica, Ultra White, Atomic Silver, Liquid Platinum, Caviar, and Matador Red Mica. Ultrasonic Blue Mica is the only color besides Flare Yellow that will cost extra on a regular GS F, also adding $595 to the bill. The 10th Anniversary Edition is available exclusively with Matte Nebula Gray paint.
The GS F is strictly rear-wheel-drive and only available with an eight-speed automatic gearbox. Both work well, but there is a hint of hesitation from the gearbox in manual mode, something that points out the GS F's aging tech. Lexus engineers have also not fully embraced turbocharging just yet, instead fitting the GS F with a large capacity, naturally-aspirated 5.0-liter V8. The aurally-pleasing engine develops 467 hp and 389 lb-ft, which is far behind similar fast sedans like the M5 or E63S. It will sprint from 0-60 mph in 4.5 seconds and run into the limiter at 168 mph. Yes, the Germans and just about everyone else will be faster, but take a moment to consider the fact that we have been so intoxicated by power wars that we think an engine producing almost 500 hp is weak. 450+ hp is still a lot of ponies for one car - we just don't realize it because we're spoilt. The GS F does have a trump card though. It handles beautifully and despite being afflicted with electric assistance on the steering rack, feels magnificently communicative, with no dead spots or artificial-feeling responses. Combined with a glorious soundtrack, the GS F is a unique take on what a fast sedan should be, and we love it.
The 5.0-liter V8 engine in the GS F is shared with the RC F coupe and returns an output of 467 hp and 389 lb-ft of torque. Power delivery is linear and progressive, offering more reward the further you chase the red line. Acceleration is sufficiently brisk, but not face-melting, thanks in part to the heft of the GS F. This car hustles hard, it just doesn't blast off into the distance in the fear-inducing manner that many rivals do. No manual gearbox is available, which is becoming more and more commonplace; so, instead, the GS F is available with an eight-speed automatic only. Unlike the options from BMW and Mercedes, the Lexus' transmission is not lightning sharp in manual mode, but leave it in sport and it shifts perfectly fine. When cruising, the gearshifts are silky and quiet, which is what you want in a GT-like four-door. Even if the gearbox was completely rubbish, we'd forgive the oversight, as that V8 is unstifled by turbocharging and therefore lovely to listen to as you climb up the gears.
The GS F's magic trick lies in its chassis. Despite its weight, it moves with a fluidity and type of response normally reserved for more old-school machinery. Steering is direct without being sharp and still manages to be enjoyable and appropriately weighted whether at high or low speeds. The adaptive suspension provides just enough body roll to let spirited drivers know that the car is alive beneath them, but when pushing the limits, there's no drama - just a smooth transition to easily-manageable oversteer. Mid-corner bumps and elevation changes are handled well too, although heavily pockmarked tarmac is still noticeable. The brakes are a little less confidence-inspiring, as they work fine at normal speeds, but require a little more input than one would normally expect when you're really going at it. Overall, the GS F handles wonderfully while still maintaining the comfort levels required for a premium sedan, regardless of which driving mode you're in. It feels old-school, and that's no bad thing in a market dominated by digital, aloof computers with wheels.
The GS F scores EPA estimates of 16/24/19 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles, which is more or less in line with some of its more powerful rivals. The BMW M5 will do marginally better, and the Mercedes-AMG E63S will return slightly less impressive economy figures. The Lexus GS F's 17.4-gallon gas tank will run out after about 330 miles, which is neither good nor bad for the category.
The GS F is fitted with the usual luxury amenities, including heated, ventilated, and power-adjustable front bucket seats: 10-way for the driver and eight-way for the front passenger. Both seats include three memory settings and the steering wheel is also power-adjustable with heating. Infotainment is slightly less impressive, with Remote Touch being tricky to use despite an expansive 12.3-inch display. Build quality is where the GS F claws some points back, with the cabin being solidly assembled and well-appointed with plenty of leather. The design is starting to feel a little dated, but overall, it's a nice place to be. An optional head-up display adds some modernity to the traditional feel.
With ample legroom and headroom for five six-foot adults, the GS F is a comfortable cruiser and feels bigger than it is on the inside. Thanks to numerous adjustments and a tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel, finding a suitable driving position is not a chore. Getting in and out of the driver's seat is easy too, as the steering wheel automatically moves up and out of the way of your knees. With wide door openings, rear occupants won't complain either. All-round visibility is also good, and while the offset wing mirrors may appear slightly less sleek from the outside, they allow better range for your gaze around the car when inside. The rear quarters are similarly easy to see out of.
Perforated leather trim is standard in the GS F, with the 10th Anniversary option making all of it blue. Faux suede and soft-touch plastics are also present, dropping the quality feel slightly, but overall, the standard carbon fiber adornments are enough to elevate the GS F's interior suitably for a premium sports sedan. Color options are limited to black or red with black contrasting, while the dash, gear lever, armrest, and steering wheel receive blue stitching to highlight the "F" theme. Brushed aluminum pieces are also scattered about.
The GS F has a large trunk area, being able to swallow 14 cubic feet of cargo - enough for four medium to large suitcases. The only let-down is that the rear seat is fixed in place. More storage exists beneath the floor, and thanks to a deep and wide trunk opening, loading is simple. A ski pass-through opening can also be utilized for longer items.
In the cabin, the usual average-sized glovebox features, while the door pockets are large and the center console bin features a novel removable tray. Two cupholders in the front, and two more at the back round off storage spots.
The GS F comes standard with numerous features, including a sunroof, rearview camera, keyless entry and start, power-adjustable front seats with heating and cooling, a heated steering wheel, auto wipers, high beams, and dual-zone climate control. Driver assists include blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic monitoring, and the Lexus Safety System+, which includes forward-collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking, lane-keep assist, as well as radar-guided adaptive cruise control. The TFT driver info display also includes a lap-timer and g-force monitor, while connected apps can check the vehicle's location and vitals remotely. A bit of extra cash will earn you an available head-up display.
Despite a 12.3-inch display, Lexus interiors will always be let down in the infotainment department by the current Remote Touch system. Rather than utilizing full touch or a rotary dial, this system uses a joystick that proves to be more irritating than innovative, requiring a steady hand at all times and precision with one's inputs. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto have also been left out. Navigation is included and can be voice-activated, but the system works clunkily and the graphics look past their sell-by date. On the plus side, a 12-speaker sound system is standard and can be upgraded to a 17-speaker Mark Levinson unit.
The 2019 Lexus GS F has not suffered any recalls, but the mechanically identical 2018 version did have one issued in February of that year for a high-pressure fuel pump that may crack and subsequently leak fuel. Lexus provides a four-year/50,000-mile basic warranty, as well as a six-year/70,000-mile powertrain warranty for all new vehicles they sell.
The NHTSA has not yet rated the GS F but the IIHS has assessed the structurally similar GS 350, and it scored Good in the overall evaluation. However, it is worth noting that the frontal collision avoidance system was not tested.
The GS F is generously equipped as standard, featuring the Lexus Safety System+. This suite of features includes radar-guided adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, automatic high beams, and forward-collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking. An emergency assistance button, automatic collision notification, and stolen vehicle notification all form part of a package that sends information to the Lexus Enform response center, which can then dispatch emergency services. The GS F also features 10 airbags all around the cabin, including standard rear-seat side airbags, which are not always available in rivals' offerings.
The GS F is a unique offering in this segment. Lexus is well aware that its rivals make far more power and are therefore quicker. Yet they have still opted to stick with building a car that will appeal to the senses more than the ego. The GS F is very quick nonetheless, but it does its business in an engaging way, making the car feel alive and organic. The chassis is brilliant and forgiving, and the Lexus can be pushed hard before you get into serious trouble. It's not a perfect car, though. We highly recommend testing the infotainment system before signing up for the GS F, as it's exceptionally finicky and annoying. If you're used to ultimate luxury and blingy switchgear in your interior, some materials may also disappoint. However, as a driver's car with oodles of comfort and plenty of safety tech, the GS F will put a smile on your face every day.
The GS F is a standalone model but a limited-run 10th Anniversary Edition package can be equipped if you're one of the first 100 people to ask for it. The GS F starts at $84,600, while the base price of a 10th Anniversary-equipped model is $89,350; both prices excluding taxes, a $995 destination charge, and other fees. Fully optioned, a regular GS F will clock $89,370, but the inclusion of the limited edition add-ons will send that figure to around $92,000.
The GS F is a solitary offering in Lexus' performance mid-size sedan lineup. Numerous features are therefore equipped as standard, including LED running lights and taillamps, auto wipers, emergency braking, radar-guided cruise control, and of course, a non-turbo 5.0-liter V8 developing 467 hp and 389 lb-ft. The GS F also includes keyless entry and start, heated and ventilated bucket seats trimmed in perforated leather, and a heated leather-wrapped steering wheel. Both the seats and the steering wheel are power-adjustable, and navigation is included too. A carbon-fiber rear spoiler, stacked quad exhaust tips, rear diffuser, and aerodynamic enhancements to the front that help cool the brakes are among the distinguishing F-specific features. Not many options are offered on the GS F due to its almost fully-loaded base spec, but a head-up display, Brembo brakes, 19-inch BBS forged alloys, and an upgraded Mark Levinson premium stereo system are available.
5.0-liter V8 Gas
The GS F offers only one package for 2019 and only to 100 U.S. buyers. The 10th Anniversary Edition features exclusive Matte Nebula Gray Paint, blue brake calipers, and black 19-inch BBS forged alloy wheels. The package celebrates 10 years of F, Lexus' version of BMW's M Division. This trim will add $4,750 to your base price, but will also add a number of interior alterations too: Fuji Blue leather is added to the seats and steering wheel, with a white center stripe adorning the latter, while the dashboard is covered in blue suede and the dash and door trims feature blue carbon fiber, with the seatbelts being changed to blue items too.
Since the GS F is only available as one model choice, is well-equipped as standard, and the 10th Anniversary Edition package is a limited run with no performance gains and is likely to only appeal to a select number of people due to its bright interior coloring, we'd suggest a regular GS F with the $300 Brembo brake upgrade and $600 BBS wheels. The standard 12-speaker sound system is just fine, so we'd skip upgrading here. All in, the cost would be $85,500 before delivery and other fees, making the GS F competitively priced.
The BMW M5 is one of those cars that just sits on top of the performance sedan throne and simply gets better with each new generation. The original fast sedan has kept evolving, and the new generation is even better. The F10 model was already quicker than the GS F, but the newer G30 has upped the power and added all-wheel-drive with rear-wheel-drive capability. In a straight line or around a track, the M5 will utterly decimate the Lexus. It also offers more trunk space and a far plusher interior. However, the M5 starts at over $110,000 and suffers worse fuel economy. The BMW is the better car overall, but the Lexus has character and is more fun to exploit. Where the M5 scares you and demands race-driver reflexes to be fully tested, the GS F is more chuckable and fun. For the price and the quality, we'd forgive the Lexus its poor infotainment system and rather have a car that can be played with every day.
The other major German rival the Lexus has to contend with is Mercedes-AMG's E63S. Again, the GS F is a cheaper option but the difference in quality is even more evident here. The Merc is utterly luxurious and looks special from every corner. It has an understated class that few can manage, and with a smaller engine and an extra gear, it's barely less economical than the GS F, despite its 600-hp turbo output. Far more standard features are also equipped to the Merc, and there's a wider array of customization options too. The Lexus simply can't compete with the comfort and style of the Mercedes. The Lexus sounds better, and drives like a much smaller machine, so - again - if driving is your determining factor, the GS F wins for sheer interactivity and fun, but as an everyday car that you'd want to enjoy sitting in while having the capability of sticking with some supercars off the line, the Merc is a better choice.