Lexus GS F-Sport
New face of luxury and performanceBy Botchi Santos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
When you think Lexus, you think luxury, you think unparalleled build quality, you think refinement, solidity, silence. You associate any vehicle made by Lexus with something as exquisite as a Swiss watch, as hefty and heavy as a gold bar, as refreshing in a sea of European luxo-barges as a light aperitif, the list goes on. Cynics will also point out that Lexus are like shy, retiring types who prefer to blend in rather than stand out, be inconspicuous rather than be in the limelight.
But to most, the words Lexus and sporty, aggressive, performance-oriented are concepts mutually exclusive. Well, Lexus hopes to change that, starting with the looks, and of course, the dynamics.
Now for a little introduction. Lexus introduced a new design language known as “L-finesse” in the mid-2000s with its LF series concepts and the 2006 Lexus GS. L-finesse is represented by three Japanese kanji characters which translate as “Intriguing Elegance, Incisive Simplicity, and Seamless Anticipation.” Design characteristics, including a fastback profile, lower-set grille, and the use of both convex and concave surfaces, are derived from Japanese cultural motifs. While earlier Lexus models were criticized for reserved and derivative styling, and often mistaken for understated mass-market cars, automotive design analyses described L-finesse as adding a distinctive nature and embrace of Japanese design identity.
It works, because it gives the Lexus a very unique and discerning look that is neither middle-way safe, nor Germanic-Generic, fitting for a car built in a small island with modest resources at best.
But looks matter little if there is no depth of character, or in this case, a proper performance-oriented design brief with requisite engineering.
The GS F-Sport, based on the regular GS 350 but with extras thrown in for more fun, is a surprisingly engaging drive, almost hooligan especially in black, with gun-metal wheels and low-profile tires. The spindle grill dominates your attention, as do the big wheels and lowered ride height, making you realize that this isn’t any regular Lexus.
Its 2GR-FSE features dual injection (both indirect or port injection and direct cylinder injection) to deliver both power, refinement, efficiency and crucially, performance. While the block is similar to the 2GR-FE seen in lower model Toyota Camrys and the like, the cylinder head is extensively different, delivering 307.73 hp and close to 380 Newton-meters of torque, mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission with a manual override sequential-style shift control. The basic block is, interestingly, used in Japan’s premier Super GT Grand Touring/Sports Car series, and a supercharged variant is even fitted to the latest Lotus Evora GT sports car. Indeed there’s something to be said for well-engineered engines finding their way into almost everything. The 2GR-FSE revs with gusto all the way to its 6,400-RPM redline, and with the Lexus Drive Mode set in SPORT, the paddle-shifters are a joy to use, blipping the throttle automatically on downshifts as if it were an automated manual rather than a real automatic.
The F-Sport differentiates itself further from the regular GS 350 with stiffer, lower springs, more firmly tuned Lexus Adaptive Variable-Rate (nee air suspension) Dampers, thicker anti roll-bars, beefy 4-piston front calipers on 14-inch rotors, bigger 18-inch tires with 245/40R18 Dunlop Sport Max summer performance tires (foreign markets have the option for 19-inch wheels and tires in staggered fitment) and the 4-wheel steering which is made standard on all local GS F-Sport units. On a sidenote, the Lexus beefy 4-piston calipers are a favorite cheap upgrade for tuning shops in Japan for a variety of cars that need stronger, more powerful brakes.
The rest is similar to the regular GS 350: double wishbone front suspension, a multilink rear with lots of aluminum, and a new toe-control arm at the back that improves high-speed stability and response while allowing trunk space to grow an additional 14 cubic feet worth of cargo.
The 4-wheel steering is extremely sharp—at low speeds it turns in the same direction as the fronts, such that the F-Sport turns almost diagonally. Whereas at higher speeds it crab steers, i.e., turns in the opposite direction as the fronts, which in my experience, tends to give it that almost hyperactive bloodhound feel of a rally rep or Nissan’s GTR super sports car. It takes some getting used to but understeer indeed is almost absent for all but the most manic of drivers.
Aside from the VVTi variable valve timing and cam phasing, the F-Sport’s intake has an additional valve that, when engaged in SPORT mode, opens up and elicits a snarling growl that is cultured yet controlled in aggression; it mimics some German V8s in fact, and sounds wonderful enough that I find myself flooring the throttle from first to third every time the road is wide open and clear. But keep the Lexus Drive Mode in NORMAL or ECO modes and the Lexus moves serenely and quietly, just as you’d expect.
Inside, interior quality has improved yet again, and Lexus engineers trimmed a good amount of sound deadening that was deemed unneeded or redundant, while still maintaining same levels of NVH. The new GS, with even more features, weighs only 40 lbs more than the model it replaces at 3,882 lbs or 1761 kg. There’s a 12.3-inch TFT screen that displays the various in-car systems like audio, cruise control, climate control and drive mode selector, plus an in-board fuel/trip computer. It syncs with your mobile phones and media devices via Bluetooth and can play music being streamed via Bluetooth as well. USB and AUX-IN connectivity are also available. The front seats are 16-way adjustable, covered in leather, and the best part is that they feature both heating and more importantly, air-conditioning, useful for those hot summer days parked outdoors.
On broken surfaces, the GS F-Sport, set in NORMAL or ECO mode, drives like how a Lexus should and is able to return a steady 5.8-6.5 km/liter city driving. On the highway, this improves to about 7.5 km/liter. But slot it into SPORT mode and watch your fuel consumption plummet to below 4.5 km/liter, which is fair for a big, heavy and thirsty RWD sports sedan. Of course, ABS-EBD brakes with brake assist, traction/stability control and 10 airbags have you covered if you lose the plot completely. Of course, Lexus SELF-PARK is included.
Did I just say sports sedan and Lexus in the same article? Wow, that was pretty fast, getting me convinced this Lexus GS F-Sport is the one. Try it, be amazed and surprised.
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