Pitch perfect

The new Lexus GS F drives like a Continental car, but with a refinement the carmaker is known for.
The new Lexus GS F drives like a Continental car, but with a refinement the carmaker is known for. ST PHOTOS: KUA CHEE SIONG
The new Lexus GS F drives like a Continental car, but with a refinement the carmaker is known for.

Lexus' GS F strikes all the right notes

One has to be hard and yet soft, aggressive and yet subdued, brutal and yet gentle.

Those may sound like instructions from a white-bearded Shaolin monk, but they are in fact the mantra of the new Lexus GS F.

The steroidal GS is powered by a naturally aspirated 5-litre V8 that makes 470bhp and 530Nm. A super smooth eight-speed autobox ensures the right amount of that goes to the rear wheels to suit the moment.

While most cars have gone turbo, the GS F proves there is yet life and relevance in a non-turbo engine, especially one as muscular and as refined as its V8. It allows the Lexus to dish out an extraordinary blend of sportscar performance and limousine comfort.

In terms of performance, it is just a shade off what the hardened Lexus RC F offers - 0.1 second slower to the century mark and with a ride-and-handling formula leaning towards effortless motoring rather than all-out tyre- burning. So, while it may not match the turbo models from BMW's M or Mercedes-AMG, it is at least half a notch above those both in terms of comfort.

  • SPECS/LEXUS GS F

  • Price: $454,000 with COE

    Engine: 4,969cc 32-valve V8

    Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with paddle shift

    Power: 470bhp at 7,100rpm

    Torque: 530Nmat 4,800rpm

    0-100kmh: 4.6 seconds

    Top speed: 270kmh

    Fuel consumption: 11.3 litres/100km

    Agent: Borneo Motors

Its suspension is firm but never harsh. It offers excellent vehicle body control without being punishing to the bodies of its occupants.

At the wheel, it feels very Continental - solid, purposeful and unwaveringly precise. So much so that you will mistakenly flick the wiper stalk instead of the signal stalk - repeatedly.

Yet, you will notice a level of refinement Lexus is renowned for. The said stalks operate with a cushioned effect, with none of the hard, mechanical click you get in a German machine.

Everything else functions in the same fashion - as if the moving parts in its knobs, switches and hinges are never quite in direct contact, but operate magnetically.

And so it is with the way the car moves - with well-oiled efficiency and abject fluidity.

You sense the brute force of its massive V8, but it simmers just below the surface, never flaring in an overt display. Think of the grace and pace of a wushu exponent, as opposed to the jerky forcefulness of a karateka.

But being a non-turbo, its peak power is not as easily accessible. So, quite often, you sense that the car is not as quick as it should be - especially in the city and when the car is in normal drive mode.

Switch to Sport+ and things liven up significantly. And unlike other performance cars, Sport+ in the GS F is usable for day-to-day driving.

The Lexus' gradual torque curve means you get the slow-burn of an old-school V8. Given a road less congested, the pleasure of this creamy grand tourer will last much longer. What is more accessible, though, is its rich and textured engine note, afforded by an eight-piston ensemble amplified by polished quad pipes. The music is never blasting in your face, yet you can make out every note as if you are sitting in the front row - alone.

It is an addictive arrangement and one that you do not tire of quickly. Easy listening is best between 3,500rpm and 5,000rpm, but should the mood strike you, you can take it past 7,000rpm for a performance Maranello would be proud of.

What the Italians might also approve of is the car's styling. The GS F is a very handsome sedan, with all the cues that suggest strength, speed and sportiness. Sure, looks are often deceiving, but in this case, what you see is very close to what you get.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 23, 2016, with the headline 'Pitch perfect'. Print Edition | Subscribe