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WTF-SPORT: Lexus Lets Us Test the Car With the BMW 535i M Sport In Its Crosshairs

Sections: Chassis

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Lexus GS F-SPORT on the tarmac at 8A3

This is our 2013 Lexus GS F-SPORT test car. (Lyndon Johnson photo.)

Based on the full-page print ads you may have been seeing in mainstream automotive magazines, it’s clear Lexus is hoping the Boys from BMW are left saying “WTF?!?” when they see the Lexus GS F-SPORT race their top-dawg 5’er. And they handed us the keys to one.

Well, more like the key fob. You see, the GS F-SPORT doesn’t have a traditional key. Its large key fob has the usual lock, unlock, trunk release, and panic buttons, but there’s no need for an actual cut key because the functions normally handled by a key are handled electronically. Come back to your locked car, and all you have to do is put your hand near the door handle for the car to invite you into its warm embrace.

The front seat interior shot of the 2013 Lexus GS F-SPORT

The interior, while black, is still inviting, and it is comfortably appointed in leather just about everywhere you’re likely to touch– and some places you’re not likely to touch. The driver’s seat seems to embrace you as you buckle the seat belt and the side bolsters tighten up to your seat memory preset. (Lyndon Johnson photo)

And embrace you it does! Sit down in the driver’s seat and buckle your seat belt, and the steering wheel, seat position, lumbar support, and side bolsters of the Lexus GS F-SPORT all adjust to your presets. It feels like the car is giving you a hug, glad to have you back in its cozy, leather-rich interior– especially when the side bolsters tighten up on you.

A press of the engine start/stop button elicits a hefty-sounding starter, as Japanese cars go, and the 3.5-liter, 306-horsepower gasoline V6 engine thrums to life. The Lexus Enform infotainment system, whose centerpiece is a panoramic 12-inch screen mounted in a cavern-like orifice in the dashboard, lights up and displays a message urging you to avoid playing with the system’s mouse-like controller (more on that in a later post) while driving. After that, it goes through a series of checks, looking for Bluetooth media devices, your phone, and any USB or AUX devices you may have plugged in.

The 12-inch panoramic infotainment display in the 2013 Lexus GS F-SPORT

This screen warns you when you start the car not to play with its functions and drive. Stuff like this is why. I mean, the car even gives you a weather forecast complete with graphics! That’s cool, but getting here requires some fineagling of the mouse-like control device mounted in the console, and you’ll probably find yourself distracted in doing so. Best to look up this kind of info while parked, eh? (Lyndon Johnson photo)

That warning from the Enform screen is reinforced the first time you put the Lexus GS F-SPORT in gear and drive, no matter whether you choose the most-tame ECO mode or any of the other drive modes selectable by a round knob on the center console. (The others, for the record, are Normal, Sport S, and Sport S+.) Though throttle mapping in ECO mode remains fairly subdued and shift points come lower on the RPM gauge than in any other mode, the Lexus makes its goal clear to anyone who cares to note the sensitivity of its tiller. Requiring just 1.25 turns from lock to lock, the car nearly seems to dart through corners with minimal steering input. And even in ECO mode, the car’s willing chassis and tall gearing almost beg to be driven at speeds I once saw Car and Driver refer to as “extralegal.” Once you grow accustomed to the GS F-SPORT’s tuning and chassis characteristics, you’ll likely find yourself reasoning that 70 MPH is a totally sane cruising speed on smooth 45 MPH two-lane roads. Good luck getting the constabulary to buy that line of reasoning.

The engine bay of the 2013 Lexus GS F-SPORT

This is where those 306 horses run wild, the underhood home of the Lexus GS F-SPORT’s 3.5-liter gasoline V6 engine. Interesting note: The engine requires 0W20 oil. (Lyndon Johnson photo.)

Like many similarly fast cars, the sensation of speed is subdued by the car’s easy flickability and overachieving powertrain. Though 306 horsepower doesn’t sound like a lot in an era of 301-horsepower SUVs, trust me on this one: It’s plenty enough to lose your license in a car this light and slippery. The GS F-SPORT weighs just shy of 3,800 lbs (that’s 12.42 lbs per horsepower) and has a .27 coefficient of drag. The sleek body on the Lexus GS F-SPORT makes it more aerodynamic than both its distant cousin, the Toyota Prius and its Detroit-born competitor, the Chevrolet Volt, both cars that have every reason to be as aerodynamically efficient as possible.

After a day of driving the near-$60,000 Lexus GS F-SPORT, I’ve found myself falling in love with the car, though a few features have been slow to grow on me, and one feature is sadly amiss from the options list altogether. More about those in later posts this week. In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy some more wheel time behind Japan’s BMW 535i M Sport fighter before posting my next article on the car. Watch this space.

Disclosure: Lexus provided the vehicle, insurance, and a tank of gas.

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