I said in my opening piece about the 2013 Lexus GS F-SPORT that it was a car Toyota’s upscale brand hoped would leave the German brands saying “WTF?” After a week behind its wheel, it’s safe to say I found myself saying that quite a lot, too, because of how much it reminded me of a German performance sedan.
The GS F-SPORT has a split personality controlled by a big, round knob in the center console. Turn the knob to the left for “ECO” mode, and throttle response seems to mimic that of a mid-’90s BMW– smooth, predictable, with a willingness to romp if prodded. Pressing the knob, as if it were a giant button, will switch the car to “Normal” mode, slightly increasing its willingness to rev. Twist that knob to the right, and you find yourself in “Sport S” mode, and yet another twist to the right puts you in “Sport S+” mode– both purposeful steps toward a more frantic, face-stretching performer.
Flicking over into “Sport S+” on a highway onramp will result in 85 MPH merges for the uninitiated. The car’s power delivery is that quick, with no hint at all that it could run out of steam anytime soon, even at those license-endangering speeds. Once you’re accustomed to the Sport modes, they become a fun way to liven up the backroads, allowing the car to do some downshift engine braking heading into turns.
Those who want to do their own shifting have that option– sort of– via the car’s manual mode. Though the transmission is a traditional torque converter six-speed automatic, the stick can be pulled over to the left to enable the driver to select a gear to hold manually. Additionally, paddle shifters are located behind the steering wheel. I tried it out on a twisty, bumpy country lane and found it generally agreeable, though the transmission’s programming would not allow the engine to lug below about 1,200 RPM or rev to the limiter. At either extreme, the transmission would assume control whether you wanted it to or not– admittedly probably for the best.
I noted in a previous piece that the GS F-SPORT’s steering was almost twitchy. That feeling gave way to a feeling of supreme control as I racked up some miles, allowing me to dial in plenty of steering angle without shuffling my hands across the steering wheel or facing any awkward wrist-over-wrist positioning during quick turns in succession. The F-SPORT specific wheel featured perforated leather and felt good no matter where I positioned my hands, with no awkward stitches or seams. And no matter how hard I worked that wheel, the car’s grip on most surfaces was tenacious, perhaps thanks in part to the fitted 19-inch Bridgestone performance tires.
The GS F-SPORT had leather seats as black and comfortable as its steering wheel, especially for the driver. With a 10-way power adjustable seat including lumbar, bolstering, height, and recline angle, I had no trouble finding a position that felt perfect and held me in place during spirited cornering. But the coolest thing was getting into the car. When I buckled my seat belt, the seat’s last lumbar and bolstering adjustments would come back, as if first patting me on the back and then hugging me, while the power tilt and telescoping steering wheel moved to my preferred position as if being served to me on a platter. A car that seems to love you and wants to serve you? Yeah, easy to fall in love with.
I’ve long been a fan of BMWs from the days before BMWs got so complicated. In a lot of ways, this Lexus GS F-SPORT reminded me of those days and those BMWs. Not only does it ape the modern-day 535i M Sport in size, being within a couple inches of that model in all directions, but its mannerisms feel a lot like an earlier 5- or 7-series. The V6 engine is torquey and confident without being brash, much like the 3.5-liter inline sixes BMW put in so many 5′ers. The cabin is well-appointed, yet understated like an early- to mid-’90s 7′er, though it has an infotainment system that would give any modern-day Bimmer a run for its money. Doors shut solidly, window motors sound authoritative, and the car seems purpose-built for gobbling up highway miles– all things to which those golden era BMWs can also lay claim. After a week driving the GS F-SPORT, I feel confident in saying this car is what those legendary cars would have been had they learned to speak Japanese.
I won’t lie, almost every experience with the Lexus GS F-SPORT has left me wanting one. The only thing in the minus column from my too-brief experience with the car: So-so fuel economy. More on that in my final post about the car later. If I can get over that, I had better start scraping together my pennies– our tester rang in at $58,369.
Disclosure: Lexus provided the vehicle, insurance, and a tank of gas.