Test Drive: 2017 Lexus GS F

“What’s your favorite car?” As someone who writes about cars, and has driven literally hundreds of vehicles over the years, I hear that a lot. There’s no easy answer. Sports car, sedan, truck, minivan? What’s your pleasure? What do you need? For a recent road trip to Prescott, great handling, lots of power, sporty character fell into the want category. Room for a suitcase and passengers were the needs. The Lexus GS F checked all the boxes.

I’ve always had a soft spot for Lexus, which rose to prominence during my formative driving years. Among my generation, Lexus represented the hip alternative to traditional luxury brands — the ultimate aspirational vehicles. It topped Mercedes and BMW as the best-selling luxury import brand in 1991, only its second year of existence. The GS sport sedan debuted two years later, the fourth nameplate in Lexus’ line-up.

The “F” designation after the GS tested here indicates that this model is part of Lexus’s high-performance line up, in the vein of Mercedes’ AMG and BMW’s “M” variants. Not to be confused with the “F Sport” moniker, which indicates an appearance package with some handling and suspension enhancements.

Sliding into the GS F’s body-hugging sport seats, I set the drive mode to Sport S, which returns, as the name would indicate, a sportier performance and handling character. In Normal, the ride is comfortable, but a little less responsive, but very suitable and enjoyable for everyday cruising. For the ultimate throttle response and tighter steering feel, slip into Sport S+. Save the Eco mode for around town driving when you want to optimize fuel efficiency. On the open, twisting roads heading north, the GS F passed plodding semis and RVs with ease, even on the uphill climb. The GS F is equipped with Advanced Cruise Control, good for resisting the temptation to obliterate speed limits, which are reached with impressive ease, thanks to the powerful 467-horsepower V-8 engine, paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission.

In true sporting fashion, the GS F emits a satisfying baritone growl upon acceleration. Active Sound Control enhances the sound inside the cabin, piping the engine notes in via the audio speakers. I love the rumble of an engine as much as the next person, but I am somewhat put off by the artificiality of this feature, which can be disabled if you so desire.

Inside, the aforementioned sport seats keep you firmly in place during aggressive driving maneuvers and sharp cornering. Carbon fiber details, striking black and Circuit Red leather, and a sporty dash design cater to driving enthusiasts who crave impeccable style. In typical Lexus fashion, there is no shortage of premium features, including a 12.3-inch split screen multi-media display, and an optional Mark Levinson premium audio system. The Enform infotainment system is controlled via a mouse-like contraption on the center console, which I found to be distracting to operate, necessitating more eyes-off-the-road time than I was comfortable with.

Not your typical sedan, GS F looks and drives like a true sports car. Interior room is ample, with room for five adults to sit comfortably. The trunk isn’t huge, but can accommodate a reasonable amount of luggage. The rear seatbacks don’t fold down, so skis and other long items can’t be part of the road-trip equation. Chances are, however, that even if the GS F is your everyday driver, you won’t be apt to use it for trips to the Home Depot to haul lumber or other long objects.

As expected, the GS F is equipped with a full complement of safety features, including the standard Lexus Safety+ system: adaptive cruise control, forward collison warning system, lane departure alert with active lane control and automatic high-beam headlights. Larger wheels and a premium Mark Levinson audio system are available as options.

The Lexus GS F is an excellent vehicle if you’re looking for that sweet spot of practicality, comfort, and performance. It’s roomy, with the style, beauty, and creature comforts you’d expect from Lexus. And, it provides an element of driving excitement absent from most run-of-the-mill sedans.

Price: $84,350
Fuel economy: 16/24/19 mpg (city/highway/combined)

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