Perhaps the best way to think of the GS F is as a Mr. Hyde version of the Dr. Jeckyll-ish GS. It doesn’t look much different, at first blush, but once you get closer the differences start to jump out.
Hey, are those 19-inch forged aluminum wheels? Why, yes they are!
Are those Brembo brakes with orange calipers and stacked quad exhaust outlets, a layout vaguely reminiscent of the glorious Lexus LFA?
The regular GS doesn’t have a big rear diffuser, ground effects and a carbon fibre decklid spoiler, does it?
No, the GS has none of those.
And I could go on, but you get my drift.
The Lexus GS F is a V8-powered, rear-wheel drive, high-performance sedan that looks a lot like it drives: fast and aggressive.
The fun begins under the hood, where Lexus engineers have chucked the plebian V6 from the GS into the recycle bin and replaced it with a 5.0L V8 that pumps out 467 horsepower and 389 lb-ft. of torque.
Power is put to the ground through the rear wheels via an 8-speed Sports Direct Shift automatic transmission complete with a manual mode and steering-wheel mounted paddle shifters.
Handling is aided by a plethora of advanced control tech, including Torque Vectoring Differential, Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management and, of course, traction control.
Lexus’s AVS, short for Linear Adaptive Variable Suspension system, which allows damping to be controlled with more precision, is also standard kit.
Working hand in glove with all of this engineering is a drive mode system featuring normal, eco, sport and sport plus settings that alter the GS F’s on-road comportment from excuse me, kind sir all the way up to get the hell outta my way, maggot!
Inside, the Lexus has upped the performance ante with richly finished – and quite firm – Recaro-like sport seats, steering wheel and shift knob, all of which are wrapped in perforated leather with exposed stitching that feels nice when you run your fingers over it.
A massive 12.3-inch LCD display with navigation, satellite radio, Bluetooth and scads of other connectivity features anchors the centre stack, while an Alcantara-finished console lid and dash cowl with carbon fibre-looking trim inserts complete a performance-oriented cockpit that matches the car’s looks.
I’m not a big fan of the rather awkward and unintuitive console track pad / mouse device Lexus insists on putting in its cars, but the other controls, knobs and switches are well executed.
The GS F is designed for track use, and I can attest that it did feel at home in that environment when I drove one on the Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit near Victoria last November.
To be honest, the GS F was a bit too much car for that circuit. Lots of switchbacks, hard braking zones and tricky compression turns made the GS F feel like a bit of a caged animal, but there’s no doubt in my mind it has the potential to be a good tracking car – it just needs a bigger circuit where it can stretch its legs.
The Grand Prix track at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park fits that bill – hopefully, I’ll get the chance to hustle a GS F on that circuit someday.
In the meantime, however, I can report on the GS F’s manners on public roads.
On a variety of surfaces from smooth to extremely rough, the GS F delivered a quiet and composed ride that often feels – in normal mode – like a GS in disguise.
Bumps are well absorbed, save for the most broken pavement and biggest potholes, although my tester is riding on softer winter tires. Stickier summer rubber might make things a bit harder on the spine, I acknowledge.
With that said, unless you dial the drive mode selector to sport plus and really mash the accelerator (which is a perfectly justifiable thing to do in a car with a 5.0L V8), the GS F’s sharp performance character is pretty well concealed.
It’s happy to plod along at posted speed limits with only a faint V8 growl serving as a reminder that you are indeed driving a car with almost 500 horsepower resting under your right foot.
Things change considerably however when you slide the shifter into manual mode, dial the selector to sport plus and begin stomping on the accelerator.
At that point, Mr. Hyde has introduced himself, taken off his coat and is making a sandwich – the GS F is in the house. That’s when the fullest expression occurs; acceleration becomes hair trigger, the V8 gets loud and objects on the road are reduced to fading blips in the rearview.
It’s a great deal of fun, but that’s only a part of the GS F’s charm. The other part is its ability to serve as a capable daily driver, replete with cutting-edge technology and ample amounts of style.
The only thing that really strikes me as being a bit of a minus with this car is it's rather hefty price tag. On the plus side, the GS F only comes one way in Canada, so there really isn't anything to add in terms of optional gear, but $97,000 remains a significant sum of money for most buyers.
However, when compared to the intended competition, the GS F's sticker looks somewhat better as all (with the exception of the Audi S6) carry a higher starting MSRP. It's worth noting that the forthcoming offerings from BMW (M5) and Mercedes-AMG (E 63) will also likely boast more horsepower and torque, so prospective buyers should keep that in mind.
Price considerations aside, the Lexus GS F strikes a pretty fine balance between Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde.
SPECIFICATIONS – 2017 Lexus GS F
BASE PRICE / AS TESTED: $97,100 / $99,271 (incl. $2,045 destination)
ENGINE: 5.0L V8
HORSEPOWER: 467 hp @ 7,100 rpm
TORQUE: 389 lb-ft. @ 4,800 rpm
CURB WEIGHT: 1,830 kg
CONFIGURATION: front engine, rear-wheel drive
TRANSMISSION: 8-speed automatic
FUEL ECONOMY RATINGS (L/100 KM - CITY / HWY. / COMB.): 14.9 / 9.7 / 12.5
WARRANTY (MOS. / KM): 48 / 80,000
ALTERNATIVES: Audi S6, BMW M5, Mercedes-AMG E 63
Photography by Lee Bailie