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Lexus' latest high-performance sedan is a star on and off the track



Blitzing GingerMan Raceway's back straight in the Lexus GS F at 120 mph all day is easy, but braking for the 90-degree right hander at the end gets sketchy after a few laps in a street car. Seven rotations later, I'm still smirking as the V8 howls at wide-open-throttle, and surprisingly the brakes show no signs of fade.
After a few more sessions out, my admiration only increases for the GS F's excellent handling, responsive and weighty steering, playful nature and fade-resistant Brembo stoppers. This is a Lexus that's legitimately fun to wheel around a race track, and built to handle the grueling exercise. It doesn't feel over-engineered and void of personality, which is something I wouldn't have expected from Lexus, given its history.
Toyota's luxury division initially rose to prominence with its reputation of producing well-built, smooth and coffin-quiet vehicles. The knock against them were that they lacked drive character, soul and visual flare. Things have changed, though, with the effort put into becoming a serious performance threat to its German and American competition now paying off.
A producer of beautiful noises.
The GS F is the second sedan in the Lexus performance lineup to receive the full F makeover, following the first-generation IS F that includes bigger power, extensive chassis revisions, suspension upgrades and more aggressive looks. With it, Lexus aims to give the likes of the BMW M5Mercedes-AMG E63 and Cadillac CTS-V a run for their money.

Flashbacks on track

The idea of Lexus producing performance vehicles on par with BMW and Mercedes-Benz is something that I'm still getting used to, but the GS F unearths memories from five years ago, when I flogged the LFA supercar around this very same 2.1-mile west Michigan circuit. Prior to piloting that V10 animal, I didn't think Lexus could produce a sporty driver, period. Now in the GS F, I see some of that LFA magic.
This GS F becomes wildly entertaining on track with Drive Mode Select in Sport S Plus, unlocking all of the V8's fury, tightening steering and activating the stability control's Expert mode, which kills traction control and gives you enough rope to pitch through corners sideways. If you get really out of shape, however, the computer still cuts in to save your keister.
A hard-charger around GingerMan Raceway.
Most impressive is how the GS F behaves when you stop screwing around and put down clean laps. Sharp turn-in gets the nose quickly darting in whatever direction you tell it, while it hangs on through corners with superhero-like composure. It handles GingerMan's fast transitions beautifully, and exhibits only a smidge of understeer through the really tight stuff. It feels solid and eager, thanks to upgrades like additional underbody braces, bigger and stickier Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires, torque vectoring rear differential and reworked suspension.
The fixed suspension uses Sachs mono-tube shock absorbers with steel springs, which some may skewer as a cheaper alternative to adaptive suspensions found on the M5, Audi RS 7 and CTS-V. True, the GS F doesn't have as wide of a damping range, but Lexus' tune works well for the track and street.
Lexus makes the steering communicative, tricky to do with an electric system. And the torque vectoring diff, which overdrives the outside wheel in a turn, helps in getting the power back on in corners.
Speaking of power, the five-liter V8 punches in at 467 horsepower and 389 pound-feet of torque. Those numbers may sound weak compared to the force-induced nuclear reactors in some of its rivals. Today, the M5 has 560 horsepower, the RS 7 Performance packs 605 ponies and the CTS-V comes with a staggering 640 horses.
The screaming 5-liter V8 packs 467 horsepower.
If you're horsepower drunk and value bench racing with your buddies yammering about specs, then the Lexus isn't going to be for you. However, the GS F's engine does have its benefits. Being naturally-aspirated, the V8 features a linear powerband as well as lively throttle response, and it belts out magnificent sounds at full bore.