2016 Lexus GSF review | first drive

To picture the new Lexus GSF, imagine an HSV made from better stuff. This big, V8-powered, rear-drive sports sedan from Japan is hefty but surprisingly agile, just like the cars from Holden’s performance-car arm. Its 5.0-litre engine roars power and its looks scream speed, just like an HSV. But the GSF is also a product of Toyota’s quality-obsessed and technology-loving Lexus luxury-car division.

This blend of raw and refined works better than you might expect. The Lexus delivers V8 thrills, but it’s also a good place to chill. The leather and Alcantara-trimmed interior of the Australian-market GSF includes premium 17-speaker Mark Levinson audio, wide 12.3-inch centre screen, head-up display, excellent sports front seats and an array of high-technology driver-assist and active-safety features under the heading “Lexus Safety System+”.

The price of the GSF is yet to be decided, as it’s not due in showrooms until February next year. But the number will be close to the $150,000 mark, according to Lexus Australia chief Sean Hanley. This is about $30,000 more than the 450h Sports Luxury, the V6 petrol-electric hybrid that currently tops the GS line-up. And it’s also about $50,000 more than HSV’s top GTS model.

This V8 is high-class all the way
Soon after poking the GSF’s starter button, you’ll understand one of the reasons for the price tag. The car’s 5.0-litre V8 is a rorty ripper of an engine. It revs high and hard for something with so much cubic capacity. From about 4000rpm all the way to its 7300rpm cut-out the soundtrack is brilliant; the deep, hard-edged blare that only a pedigree V8 can deliver.

With its ability to switch between the efficient Atkinson combustion cycle (used in Toyota and Lexus hybrid engines) for cruising and the Otto cycle of a normal petrol-burner for maximum power, 32 titanium valves in its Yamaha-made cylinder heads, and a sky-high, Ferrari-like compression ratio, this V8 is high-class all the way. Despite the engine’s technology, the GSF’s almost 1900kg kerb weight means fuel efficiency isn’t a strong point.

The engine is teamed with a Japanese-made eight-speed automatic. This Aisin transmission is a smooth shifter. Between the GSF’s rear wheels is a clever and costly differential. Computer-controlled clutches inside it are able to direct engine torque to the rear tyre with best grip, for improved cornering.

Lexus didn’t spare any expense on the chassis of the GSF, either. The standard GS sedan already has a suspension layout to equal the premium German brands it competes with. For the F model, stiffer springs that lower the car by 15mm and shock absorbers from German specialists ZF Sachs are fitted. Italy supplies the brakes. Clamping on the car’s plus-size discs are six-piston front and four-piston rear calipers from Brembo. For those who really want to stand out, these can be supplied with painted orange — makes a change from red and yellow.