The Lexus GS F Is Delightfully Anachronistic
A Nebula Gray and Fuji Blue reminder that the GS F is still out there, and it’s still really good.
Finally, a hole has been ripped in the SoCal stop-and-go traffic continuum just large enough to get to one-quarter warp speed. Foot to floor, the roar begins. As it crescendos, the engine's bari-tuned rumble rushes into the cabin, both piped in through the speaker system and exiting via a high-pressure baffle packed with stainless steel and glass wool. It's all very theatric, this manipulation of the dulcet tones pouring out of the stacked rear exhaust finishers of the 2019 Lexus GS F 10th Anniversary Edition we're in.
Its glorious, amplified noise also serves as a sonic reminder of an era that's disappearing faster than the polar ice sheet. Not only is the age of the eight-cylinder engine seemingly drawing to a close, but, more specifically, naturally aspirated eights like those powering the GS F are essentially dead engines firing.
Until that day comes though, we're certainly not going to complain that Lexus has remained true to the strategy it rolled out some 10 years ago with its first F-branded performance car, the IS F: front-engine, rear drive, V-8 power au naturel. There was also the limited-edition LFA supercar, with its wild revving, 4.8-liter V-10 and carbon-fiber weave job, but it's come and gone. What remains are the F division offerings motivated by a version of the marque's 5.0-liter V-8, which now punches out 467 horsepower in the GS F (and 472 in the refreshed 2020 RC F). Don't go changin', Lexus.
At this point, you're probably saying to yourself, "Self, did I just read 467 horsepower? Is that it? Am I missing something?" Yeah, you are: more than 100 horsepower if you're thinking about the 600-some-odd-horse, turbo V-8s powering sport-sedan competitors like the BMW M5 or Mercedes-AMG E63 S. Though the GS F is appreciably lighter than those cars (and around five inches shorter than both in wheelbase), the weight penalty isn't handicapping the Germans in the stoplight-drag bragging rights, as they smoke the GS F to 60 mph by a second plus.
So, yes, it's handily outgunned by its forced-air-huffing rivals. But it's also fast and feisty fun in its own right. Maybe it was the matte Nebula Gray sheen that's a highlight of the 10th anniversary GS F we had for a weeklong spin, the blacked-out spindle grille and aggressive front fascia, or the mean-looking BBS 10-spoke forged rims. Surely that glorious V-8 trumpeting its bad intentions up to its 7,100-rpm power peak had a lot to do with it. Whatever it was, it seemed like all walks of performance car life wanted a piece of the GS F. We had run-ins with a Z06, a 911 Turbo, and a Tesla Model S. The Lexus didn't back down from any of them.
Lexus itself didn't shirk from testing the GS F on the Nürburgring before it launched the car for the 2016 model year, and that work shows when you're hustling it in Sport+ mode, one of several that electronically adjusts various vehicle parameters. These include firming up the electronic steering feel and changing shift points. We didn't get a chance to take the measure of them all on a track or super-twisty backroads, but the high-performance augmentation systems Lexus rolled out for the GS F—including an adjustable torque-distribution setup and a dynamic management program that works to optimize traction and stability control and ABS intervention depending on setting—enhance an already firm, structurally rigid skeleton and suspension component set that includes control arms in the front and a multilink rear.
The 2019 GS F also proved equally adept at going slow when we were shackled by L.A. 's twisted, tangled traffic. The cabin is as you'd expect in a Lexus: quiet, refined. For a performance sedan, the ride isn't punishing by any stretch, even with every setting amped up and the F-tatted sport front buckets enveloping you in bolstered comfort. This particular car is also very blue inside—Fuji Blue to be exact. If blue's your favorite color, then you're in luck! The 10th anniversary GS F has it everywhere in the cabin, even woven into the carbon-fiber trim.
There are a couple of anachronisms we could probably do without if the GS F is to continue to evolve. An update to the transmission would be one. While its eight-speed auto works fine in most situations, we found it lazy to respond under pressure in manual shift mode. It has a single-load CD/DVD player in the center stack, although the $1,380, 835-watt Marc Levinson sound system is a box worth checking. And it wouldn't be a discussion of Lexus without a shot at its infotainment system, although in the GS F the trackpad is at least nicely placed and its 12.3-inch screen is plenty big. Hmmm, maybe it's not so bad after all (it isn't).
As for what will power the F sub-brand's future, we're hearing rumors that a twin-turbo six will replace the natural eight. To be honest, it's probably overdue. Then there's the question of whether the GS itself will survive in a market where sedans are taking a beating.
But while it's still around, the Lexus GS F offers a unique package for thousands less than the Germans, and as long as you like matte silver and lots of blue, the 10th anniversary trim dolls it up nicely. We've seen some good things from F cars in the first 10 years, and we're hoping Lexus remains committed to building on its impressive performance foundation—no matter what powers it. Just don't change too quickly.
2019 Lexus GS F 10th Anniversary Edition Specifications
|PRICE||$85,375/$93,260 (base/as tested)|
|ENGINE||5.0L DOHC 32-valve V-8; 467 hp @ 7,100 rpm, 389 lb-ft @ 4,800 rpm|
|LAYOUT||4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, RWD sedan|
|EPA MILEAGE||16/24 mpg (city/hwy)|
|L x W x H||193.5 x 83.1 x 56.7 in|
|0-60 MPH||4.5 sec|
|TOP SPEED||168 mph|