We first had an opportunity to drive the all new Lexus GS 350 F-Sport during the annual Auto Roundup, hosted by the Texas Auto Writers Association (), where we were able to put the GS F-Sport on the infield track at Texas Motor Speedway (TMS). I’ve tweeted before about the advertising campaign that Lexus has been running along with the launch of the new GS. The new “F-Sport” branded GS is shown to be, and named to sound, as sporty as other “F” branded Lexus products, but under the hood you don’t get a V8 – or larger – engine. So I was immediately skeptical of the GS F-Sport.
Out on the track and closed off private roads around TMS, this car surprised us enough to immediately put in a request for a full week with this car. Thankfully, the people at Lexus were happy to oblige.
This F-Sport GS has a 3.5-liter V6 under the hood pushing 306 horsepower and 277-ft-lbs of torque. That might not seem like much for a big sedan, but it’s more than you get in a BMW 535i. To test out its sporty credibility, we pulled out onto the infield track at TMS. Quickly we reached down near the gear shifter and selected the sport plus setting which firms up the suspension, tightens the steering, and quickens up the throttle response and gear shifts. Then I switched the transmission into the manual shift mode to take advantage of the paddle-shifters mounted on the back of the steering wheel. Revving up the engine on the line, you get a good hint of what this car was made to do. The exhaust note is deep and growls in a way that puts you in the mood to rev this engine out.
Slam on the gas and you’ll get from 0-60 in just 5.7 seconds. We were able to hit about 80 coming up to the first right hand corner. Push hard on the brakes and turn in. The brakes feel good and slow this sedan down with ease. Turning feels direct and the electronic steering gives decent feedback. Power out of the turn and you can feel the rear end getting enough grunt to want to step-out. All around the track, the GS F-Sport just kept getting better and better, and out of the many cars I took out on the track that day, this one really stuck out in my mind as one of the better and more surprising.
But this car isn’t really a track star. Although it’s fun and quick for a Lexus GS, you could easily find a faster car around the track for the same sort of money. What this car really is about is real world comfort and speed. So as soon as we got our hands on one in the midst of Dallas traffic, we set out to put this car to the real test.
As fun as this car is around the track, it can be just as fun and exciting while taking tight turns and accelerating off the line on normal roads. One experience in particular stands out that really describes the value of this car.
Leaving my office in Dallas after a long and stressful day, I head out into rush hour traffic for a long and stressful drive home. I nestled down into the comfortable and bolstered seat and switched on the seat cooler – we’re in Texas remember, and it’s already hot! I reached over to the joystick like controller to navigate the enormous 12.3-inch display. The controls and user interface are pretty slick and modern, and were easy to use without distracting you too much from the job at hand. I connected the system to my iPhone playing Pandora Radio and kicked back to enjoy the greatness that is the Mark Levinson sound system. Get out on the highway and you can turn on the Lane Keep Assist function that senses the lane that you are in and warns you as you start to fade out of that lane. Next, you can kick on the radar-assisted cruise control. This will lock you to the rear of the car in front of you and keep you at a safe distance. As they slow down, you slow down. When they speed back up, you speed back up. With both of these aids turned on you can relax and enjoy the comfy of your Lexus interior.
This day, I decided to take the long route home. There’s a particular backcountry road that, if you’re in a capable car, can easily relieve some stress. So I pulled off the highway and headed down this non-disclosed road. You start by heading up a hill and from the top of this hill you can survey the road ahead for any potential trouble, mostly in the form of law enforcement or slow, old ladies. You’ll also see the turns that lay ahead. Turn off all aids and switch the GS F-Sport into Sport Plus mode and switch the transmission into manual shift and say goodbye to all your built up work-stress.
The point is that this car is not just a comfortable cruiser packed full of technology to make your drive easier, it’s also a fun car when you’d rather do some real driving, instead of letting technology do all the work. I had the pleasure of powering down long straights interrupted by sharp turn after turn and then powering back into the next straight for a good 5 miles before I was entering back into civilization. I’ve taken this road with many cars, but only a select few can really make the best of it. This is one of those cars.
Back to reality, the price tag is no joke. With a decked out sticker price of just over $62,000, this is still an exclusive car to many. When you’re willing to spend that type of money on a car, you’re faced with many options. BMW’s, Audi’s, and Mercedes-Benz. All with great cars that can do what this Lexus can do and all with brands that will make your neighbors envious. So why choose the Lexus? Well that might just end up being personal preference. I think this car can most definitely hang in with the likes of the big boys, but it comes down to what you really want to spend your money on and what you want to be seen driving. The established players are all well and good, but the Lexus can bring a new-school look and feel into the market. It’s worth taking a look at and it’s definitely worth taking for a test drive.