Enjoy your luxury ride, but still looking to stand apart from the masses? Look to Lexus, the luxury arm of Toyota Motors and its exclusive "F" sub brand born on the speedways of Japan.
This week's tester, the competent mid-size Lexus GS F sedan counts as one of a handful of Lexus products offering this specially-tuned opportunity, but not for long.
The "F" suffix signifies the power apex available in the Lexus universe. Currently, only two 2020 Lexus models convey the 'F' designation, our four-door GS F tester and the two-door RC F. Both include potent V-8 inspiration along with double wishbone front and multilink rear suspension.
The "F" represents Fuji Speedway, the Pacific Rim base where Lexus conducts much of its high-speed testing. It's the Lexus answer to other import brands offering high-impact side gigs including the Mercedes-Benz AMG division and BMW's M selections, with price tags often times higher than the Lexus alternatives.
The rear-drive GS F builds upon the long-established GS 350, one of two mid-size sedans gracing the Lexus lineup. The other, Lexus' front-wheel-drive ES, historically enjoyed stronger sales than the performance oriented GS. The GS debuted in 1993 with a fourth-generation effort arriving in 2012.
Sad to say, but no fifth-generation sees the light of day as Lexus ends GS and up-charged GS F production at the conclusion of the 2020 model year. With 2019 calendar year GS sales (combining both GS and GS F) totaling a lowly 6,604 units (down a jaw-dropping 48 percent from 2018), this long-anticipated decision comes as no surprise.
The GS F provides daily driver opportunities during the work week, and serious bona fide weekend track thrills. Expect scant few changes from the 2019 effort save for now standard matte black 19-inch alloy wheels.
Ordering a 2020 GS F requires minimal decision making since this low-volume power product comes stocked with loads of standard fare. The few available factory options include a heads-up color-coordinated front windshield info display ($900), upgraded Mark Levinson sound system ($1,380) an Ultrasonic Blue Mica exterior paint job ($595) and 10-spoke alloy wheels supporting 19-inch tires ($600).
Lexus accommodated us with all four extras during the week's test. Top-performance Lexus sedans don't come cheap. For its 2020 going away party, the GS-F celebrates with a $85,010 check-in price, ending at $89,510 with all available extras and a $1,025 destination charge. By contrast, a conventional GS 350 starts a shade over $51,000, and offers the choice of all-wheel or rear-wheel drive (the GS F exclusively features rear-wheel motive).
The sole engine returning from 2019: an old-school, 5.3-liter naturally aspirated (non-turbocharged), high compression V-8 supplying 467 of horsepower grunt and teaming with an eight-speed automatic transmission. Some frame this pleasurable V-8 'retro' as rivals quickly pivot towards turbo-charged inspired (or twin turbo) V-6s to save weight and a bit of fuel, but the V-8's linier delivery of predictable punch creates a low-growl that's music to the ears of big-engine aficionados. Timewise, traveling from zero to 60 miles an hour in the GS F requires 4.5 seconds on the stop watch.
Various luxury automakers have incorporated electronic boosts via hybrid technology to generate extra horsepower (see the Mercedes-Benz AMG E53), but again GS F enjoys the simplicity of a V-8.
The GS F comes to play with two drive modes specific to thrill seekers, Sport and Sport Plus, (maximizing torque performance by holding gears longer). To be fair, Lexus also includes 'Normal' and 'Eco' modes, but why invest in a GS F just to experience the no-thrills of 'Eco.'
Drive modes team together with instrument panel's digital design. The animated center circular gauge promotes a digital speedometer with tachometer graphics appointed around the orb. Selecting Sport Plus turns circular framing graphics fire red. Choose Eco, and a gentler green tint appears.
In addition to high-flying drive modes, the GS F includes a torque vectoring differential (TVD) button than when activated, sharpens handling by reducing steering effort and interacting very kindly the two Sport modes. For us Midwesterners, a "Snow" mode button next to the TVD orb helps better grip the rear-drive GS F when starting out from mushy surfaces.
Historically, front grilles carry forward a horizontal theme, placed in between headlights flanking each side. Lexus turns this staid thinking on its head with the 'new face of Lexus,' a vertically skewed spindle grille with cinched waist and wide top and bottom representing something to the effect of a truncated hourglass. Back in the 2013 model year during its fourth-generation intro, the GS sedan debuted this look.
The GS F's diminutive trunk lid includes a carbon fiber end spoiler. Also specific to the F are quad stainless steel exhausts tuned in tandem with the V-8 . 'F" performance badging appears on front fenders and on the right rear trunk lid. More distinguished GS F elements include be-jeweled triple-beam upfront headlights upfront accenting wide lower air intakes to cool down track-ready front brakes. Side fender scallops provide a bonus visual.
Like most Lexus vehicles, a stately circular analog clock with Roman Numerals centers the dash. The exalted interior includes warm blue stitching, dark suede materials interacting with carbon-fiber-like highlights and posh leather. The performance F logo appears on the lower steering wheel and front bucket backrests.
A sizeable 12.3-inch rectangular multi-function display window sits inside a deep-set cove above the analog clock, and below a top-side brim serving its secondary function as a welcome sunshade. It's far from the reach of driver and shot-gun passenger alike. While the GS F performance aspects will be missed upon its impending retirement, the remote interface system used to communicate with the in-dash theatre screen will not.
The system depends upon a toy-like 1.5-inch by 1-inch elevated wiggle pad between subtle front bucket seats monitored by the driver's right-hand thumb and fore-finger motivating an on-screen icon. Press down on the pad to choose each selection, noted with a soft audio alert. A handy, long, narrow rest with suede padding helps alleviate wrist fatigue. Three quick select push buttons up front help reset the screen. Set aside plenty of practice time to familiarize oneself with these peculiar nuances. Neither Apple Car Play nor Android Auto Smartphone interplay are available.
Mid-size dimensions provide enough elbow room for three adult riders in row two during short jaunts. The GS F remains one of the few sedans with no fold-down second-row backrest.
The good-sized tank holds 17.4 gallons of required 91-octane premium fuel. Track ready, low-volume sedans prioritizing V-8 prowess, don't concern themselves much with fuel-economy concerns highlighted with GS-F's estimates of 16 miles per gallon city and 24 mpg highway.2020 Lexus GS F
Price as Tested: $89,510
Engine: 5.3-liter V-8
Wheelbase: 112.2 inches
Overall Length: 193.5 inches
Overall Width: 82.1 inches
Overall Height: 56.7 inches
Fuel economy: 16 mpg/ 24 mpg
Curb weight: 4,034 pounds
Powertrain warranty: five-years/70,000 miles