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Lexus GSF 2016 review

Hi-tech V8 sedan delivers plenty of thrills wrapped in a luxury package.

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.

This heavyweight sedan was a hoot to hustle round the former Grand Prix circuit

Most of the external changes specific to the GSF are to be found at the front. Its wide-mouth grille looks to have been inspired by some deep-sea krill-slurper, but the wider front guards do add a touch of visual menace. The rear view is more attractive, with pairs of stacked, chrome-tipped exhausts either side and a cute little carbon-fibre spoiler on the bootlid.

For our intro to the car, Lexus let us loose on the Jarama racetrack outside Madrid. In a normal Lexus, this would be a big mistake, but the GSF is different. Its broad Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres are super grippy, and this heavyweight sedan was a hoot to hustle round the former Grand Prix circuit. The electronic chassis stability system didn't spoil the cornering fun.

On public roads, the GSF is a happy place to be... so long as the road is smooth. Overtaking is easy and, until you plant the accelerator, the cabin is a quiet and quality place to spend time. But that firm suspension, which works so well on a racetrack, could turn out to be too jiggly and jerky on second-rate Australian roads.

Verdict

Lexus doesn't expect the GSF to sell in large numbers, only two or three a month.

But this is a good enough car to persuade sceptics — perhaps even HSV owners — that Lexus is capable of adding a little fast and furious to the quiet and quality that are the bedrock of the brand's reputation.

Pricing Guides

$58,945
Based on 6 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$53,971
Highest Price
$57,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
GS-F 5.0L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO $90,090 – 103,510 2016 Lexus GS 2016 GS-F Pricing and Specs
GS-F ALCANTARA 5.0L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO $92,950 – 106,810 2016 Lexus GS 2016 GS-F ALCANTARA Pricing and Specs
GS-F ANILINE 5.0L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO $91,740 – 105,490 2016 Lexus GS 2016 GS-F ANILINE Pricing and Specs
GS200t F Sport 2.0L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO $50,160 – 57,640 2016 Lexus GS 2016 GS200t F Sport Pricing and Specs