To say that we knew the Lexus GS F well would be the understatement of the year at CarAdvice. That's because after living with the hi-po four-door sedan for nearly seven months, handing back the keys was a far more difficult task than any of us might have imagined.
It’s one of those under-the-radar cars (particularly in pearlescent white) that ticks all the boxes and then some, and even though all of its rivals are much quicker, it’s unbelievably capable in so many other ways. It’s the go-to car when you need all the bases covered off nicely. That’s performance, design, comfort, build quality, reliability and that all-important noise – and it’s got just enough of that to be genuinely exciting.
Then there’s the handling. Sublime is the only word that feels right, and it's something we only really discovered on the racetrack in Spain at its international launch a few years ago. And we were fortunate to back that up again in Japan in 2018 on the famous Hakone Skyline – where the GS F displayed mind-blowing chassis control and glue-like grip through even the most challenging bends at warp speed (watch the video).
It’s been a real eye-opener for myself and most of my colleagues, because on paper in the executive-express segment you’d probably gloss over the GS F at best, and worse, not even go there at all. Not when you’ve got the likes of the latest BMW M5 Competition and Mercedes-AMG E63 S both packing monster-powered twin-turbo V8s and capable of Lexus-crushing acceleration right out of the box.
The GS F’s naturally aspirated V8 is from a previous era, but somehow still delivers enough noise and excitement to be perfectly relevant today. Dial up Sport+ and use the paddle shifters on the fast-flowing bends on the Hakone Skyline, and the Lexus delivers a level of confidence unmatched by its rivals in the same scenario.
It’s something we would not have thought possible, but the chassis balance is so good for such a large car that you barely need to back off the throttle – ever. And remember, the GS F is a rear-wheel driver, whereas its rivals are all-wheel drive, and yet I’d back the Lexus over the Benz and the Beemer on roads like those for more feel and grip through the tighter stuff, as much as I’m in awe of those two cars.
Good reason for that, too, when we dived deeper into the GS F’s construction process. The GS F was developed with new chassis components to increase body structure rigidity and enhance its cornering and straight-line stability. These include highly rigid front and rear body braces (the front brace has a closed-section construction for even greater stiffness), additional front brace attachment points and new rear suspension mounts.
All suspension control arms are also forged in aluminium for additional rigidity. You can feel the results of that when you turn into the first high-speed corner. There’s usually no need to lift.
Same goes for the brakes. I don’t ever recall going easy on them, even after 30 minutes on the Hakone. The front rotors are grooved and much bigger than your average dinner plate, as are the six-piston calipers. And, trust me when I tell you, there’s no brake fade that’s noticeable.
Let’s not forget, the Lexus is the big winner in the value-for-money stakes, costing almost $100,000 less than its key four-door rivals, and with that you also get unrivalled build quality and comfort in your daily driver.
It’s attention to detail that counts most here, and is no more evident than when you examine the cabin. Take one look at the seats (before you even slide into them) at the highly intricate needlework and the level of contours and shape, and you’ll immediately know all about build quality. They are designed to disperse body pressure away from the hips, and they do just that, because you can drive the GS F all day and arrive without the slightest discomfort.
There are examples of this kind of quality and build all over the car. The paintwork is just another one of those. It’s called White Nova and there are five coats – each of which is wet-sanded by hand. You could write a book on how this car was made and most would find it fascinating.
The GS F’s 5.0-litre V8 engine is bulletproof thanks to a CAT scanner that is used to pick up any issues, like air bubbles, that could cause failures down the track. It’s just one of the many reasons why we have been able to seriously track-test the Lexus on a number of occasions – sparing nothing in terms of mechanical sympathy – day-in and day-out as we did in Japan.
Eight months in and 7000km later, the Lexus feels as tight as it did when we took delivery. I mean, there is not a single squeak, rattle or any other noise from anywhere on the car, and there have been a lot of different drivers with entirely different driving characteristics – some might even call it abuse – but again, not a single issue has arisen. It still feels as good as new. That’s testament to the level of engineering that goes into Lexus’s full-strength F-cars.
Mind you, it’s not perfect. The mouse-pad-style infotainment screen controller is still one of the worst, most unintuitive systems ever designed, but from where I sit, it’s the GS F’s only tangible flaw that’s bitch-worthy. Nothing that a touchscreen and Apple CarPlay couldn’t fix, though.
In the end, performance is only one measure of a car’s overall appeal, even a sports sedan. But, with the Lexus GS F, you get to have your cake and eat it too, because this is a car that rewards on multiple levels every time you get behind the wheel.
It’s also another one of those cars that’s exceedingly hard to give back, and, yes, we’re already missing it, every day.