We drove the Lexus GSF: ultimate sportiness in a velvet glove…

 

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Far eastern shores never fail to fascinate and bewilder us… and the people who live there. Take the Japanese. With a passion very much of their own, they proudly go for perfection, with an uncanny discipline and perseverance.

This clearly shows in the cars they create and build, like the Lexus. The brand always stood for luxury and utter mechanical refinement. But when the Lexus engineers decide to take the sporting route, they also go all the way…

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The result is a car with unseen dramatic sportiness. Every meter you drive it is an unforgettable experience.

One is bewildered by the superb handling of this five seater sedan and the sound and fury of a thoroughbred 5 liter V8 engine. Just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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Starting up the Lexus GS F puts you already in the mood. Indeed, as Yukihiko Yaguchi, the Emeritus Chief Engineer of GS F points out, “This sedan embraces the virtues of sound, response and limitless power feel to support Lexus’ F brand identity of a performance car.”

We simply agree. The sound of this V8, when it awakens, puts a shudder through your spine. It has the hissing noise of a nervous thoroughbred feline, just waiting to leap forward. On the dashboard, the beautiful rev counter dooms up in front of you, and a small horizontal time indicator within this instrument creeps from left to right, below the indication “starting up”… while the engine is humming at some 1500 rpm, pushing the oil through its veins in order to let it reach the farthest corner of its body.

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You just feel like a racing driver getting ready to go, making the last check on seat belts and grabbing that steering wheel just a bit more firmly. Pure sporting drama.

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Actually, you are comfortably wrapped in your perfectly ergonomic bucket seat, with your right hand putting the gear lever in Drive. Ever so smoothly. And gently, this Lexus starts to move. With a deep  growl, ready to react to the slightest movement of your right foot. Yes, react it does. 5 liters of state of the art engine technology sees to this. Not less than 32 valves, and an aggressive valve train fill the cylinders marvelously, and it doesn’t need a turbo to do it. Actually, the working angle and lift of the camshaft have been designed to achieve ample torque production for continuous acceleration throughout the rev range.

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The rev counter in front of you when you have chosen the “Sport S+” mode…

Add to the mix optimized intake and exhaust manifolds, and the seamless operation of a high-performance-tuned Variable Valve Timing – intelligent Electric motor (VVT-iE) that delivers optimal power in all situations, and you have an engine that delivers 351 kW (or 471 HP) at 7,100 rpm and 530 Nm of torque at 4800-5600 rpm.

In addition to producing plenty of power, the GS F’s V-8 is also quite efficient, thanks in part to the tuning of its high-pressure D-4S direct injection system (Direct injection 4-stroke petrol engine Superior version), which allows the engine to operate with a very high compression ratio of 12.3:1.

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A precision engineered exhaust system does the rest. And then there is the sound. Just be amazed with us: a high-function baffle has been placed near the exhaust tips that utilize stainless steel wool as well as glass wool to help achieve a more baritone exhaust note…

Speaking of thrilling sounds, Lexus engineers have taken the auditory experience of the GS F to a further level with the inclusion of Active Sound Control (ASC). The sophisticated Active Sound Control (ASC) electronically synthesizes and assists the sound to the engine and the exhaust note in response to accelerator and shift lever operations, then disperses a pleasing sonic note via the speakers installed at the front and the rear of the cabin. When in operation, the sound output from the front speaker rises along with the engine speed to emphasize the high tone of the air intake as well as the mechanical sounds from the engine itself.

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Simultaneously, the rear speaker delivers a strong low-frequency sound that emphasizes the powerful exhaust note coming from the rear of the vehicle. Furthermore, when there is a sudden change in engine rpm—such as when the instant an up or down gear shift takes place—the ASC system will instantaneously respond in kind to further elevate the dynamic driving experience.

The front and rear speakers operate during SPORT S+ mode, while only the rear speakers function when driving in SPORT S mode. ASC is automatically turned off when driving in NORMAL or ECO mode. The driver can manually switch the ASC system on or off with a switch located on the driver’s side of the instrument panel. Need we say more?

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Everything under control for you to see in the “sport” mode: Oil temperature, water temperature, torque distribution in the differential, speed and revs…

Performance is of course delightful. What to think of a 0 to 100 km/h acceleration time of 4,6 seconds and a top speed of 270 km/h. Actually, the cruising speed is 240 km/h! Of course, the intermediate acceleration times are hard to believe: putting your foot down at 80 km/h will catapult you in 3.8 seconds to 120 km/h…

A special attentive detail which we liked very much is the redline in the rev counter, which enlarges when the engine is cold… We explain ourselves: when you startup the engine from cold, the first few hundred meters, the redline starts at 3500 rpm, to expand swiftly to 4500 and 5000 rpm, but it takes a good 10 kilometers before it is allowed to use the full rev range of this marvelous engine…

8-speed Sport Direct Shift Automatic Transmission

The GS F’s V8 comes mated to an equally efficient gearbox: the 8-speed Sport Direct Shift (SPDS) automatic transmission, which is smooth and ever so clever.

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Transmission performance is further enhanced with the adoption of the Lexus G force Artificial Intelligence Shift control (G AI-SHIFT). When driving in the SPORT S mode, the system selects the suitable gear ratio for sporty driving by monitoring the vehicle’s G sensor while simultaneously tracking the degree of throttle opening; if you put your foot down, the box will upshift quicker. Furthermore, the G AI- SHIFT control intuitively and succinctly blips the throttle on downshifts.

When driving in the top-flight SPORT S+ mode, the engine is kept in higher RPM zones altogether.

Different driving modes…

We mentioned it here, the driver can choose between NORMAL, ECO, SPORT S and SPORT S+ modes. Of course, one can easily cancel a given drive mode at any time. In the ECO mode, throttle opening, engine output and the air conditioning /heating (HVAC) system are carefully optimized. What’s more, when you push to throttle to deep at low speeds, this is automatically adjusted and suppressed to improve fuel economy. The heating/cooling capacity and airflow of the climate control system are adjusted lower for engine speed and compressor operation.

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In the Sport S and Sport S+ mode, chassis and drive train responsiveness are further enhanced, with a further modulation of the Electric Power Steering (EPS) in the Sport S+ mode for still more sportiness.

Indeed, the driving sensation in the top level sport mode is something you must have experienced first hand to believe it.

Icing on the cake: the Torque Vectoring Differential (TVD).

The Torque Vectoring Differential (TVD) improves dynamic performance by precisely controlling rear wheel torque, helping to control the vehicle’s orientation when cornering. What’s more, the TVD system has been tuned to provide a very natural feel; its operation is virtually imperceptible to the driver.

The TVD transfers torque between the right and left tires with the ideal amount based upon data including throttle input, braking, yaw rate, longitudinal and lateral G-force and other pertinent parameters. The amount of torque transferred between each rear wheel (right/left) is virtually instantaneous and optimally controlled regardless of whether the accelerator pedal is depressed or not…

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The TVD allows the driver to choose among three distinct settings via a switch on the centre console that best suits his/her style of driving or driving conditions:

  • Standard: delivers a high level of stability and agility for ideal vehicle behavior.
  • Slalom: places additional emphasis on steering response, giving the vehicle a more agile character akin to one with a smaller wheelbase.
  • Track: provides additional stability when driving at higher speed, allowing the driver to accelerate with confidence.

A unique attribute of the TVD is Drive Power Control. By using high-response compact motors as the ECU computes the ideal amount of torque transfer, a speed multiplying planetary gear instantaneously changes left/right torque distribution through the engagement of a multi-plate clutch. This highly advanced system is able to finely tune torque distribution in only 1/1000th of a second.

We can only tell you, it works beautifully…

Practical and frugal…

Although based upon the existing Lexus GS platform, the GS F possesses different exterior dimensions, as it is longer and wider, as a result of extended front and rear overhangs, whilst standing lower to the ground. There has been no sacrifice made in interior or luggage space, which can accommodate up to four golf bags; for additional space/cargo requirements, a trunk pass-through is available.

The instrument cluster is also a class of its own, as you have een on the photos, and contributes greatly to the panache of the interior. Close attention has been paid to important details such as the size and thickness of fonts and indicators for easy recognition by the driver. The look and information displayed within the centre meter changes in accordance with each Drive Mode selected. A Head-Up Display (HUD) allows the driver to see pertinent info such as speed, tachometer/read indicator and gear shift display conveniently without taking his/her eyes off the road ahead.

Another forte for instilling the “F” atmosphere are the F-exclusive sport seats for the front and the rear, with high-backs in the front seats. The bucket-type front seats provide indeed optimum support and comfort, and keep you firmly into place thanks to an ergonomic design for the shoulder section. What’s more, the sewing pattern and stitching on the front seats have been placed so that it closely mimics the skeletal and musculature of the human body… enhancing comfort also on long drives.

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The quality of the materials, the LED illumination of the interior, all contributes to the refinement we have come to expect from Lexus vehicles.

Of course, performance always comes at a price. But when driving at constant (legal) speeds and using anticipation, the average consumption achieved is quite good indeed, showing how efficient modern petrol engines have become. The manufacturer quotes 11,3 liters as average, with urban consumption indeed being above 16 liters/100 km.

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Conclusion

This Lexus GSF reaches for the sky in many respects. In terms of refinement, bet certainly also in sporting panache, driving experience with an excellent chassis and superb mechanical engineering. Engine and drive train are masterful examples of what can be achieved nowadays. So for enthusiasts looking for the ultimate in mechanical sophistication, flamboyant style and driver sportiness, take a long hard look (and drive) in this Lexus GSF.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

 

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