Lexus has unveiled the long awaited F version of their GS sedan, the aptly named “GS-F.” It aims to take on the heavy hitters of the high performance luxury sedan market. You know, the BMW M5, Mercedes E63, Audi RS7, and Cadillac’s daring new CTS-V. With such hefty competition, we were all sure that Lexus would really come prepared. We waited with baited breath as we saw test mules running through their paces, hoping it would be another a bombshell like the Cadillac.
Now out in production form, we see that Lexus has given the GS-F a big naturally aspirated 5.0L V8 that produces all of 467bhp. And that would have been great… if it were still 2003.
Looking On The Bright Side
Many will argue that the horsepower doesn’t really matter, and in many ways they’re right.
If we take away all concerns with market competition, and just look at the GS-F alone for what it is, then I must admit it looks like quite a nice package. 467bhp surely is enough to have some serious fun with, and that 5.0L V8 is one hell of a dramatic sounding engine. I’m sure the handling will be good, as Lexus has really been improving across the board in the dynamic department. The GS-F will undoubtedly be good fun in its own right.
Additionally, being a Lexus, the GS-F will almost certainly be the most reliable car in the big bruiser-cruiser sedan segment. It will be very well made, and may even hold its value quite well for the sort of car that it is. It also happens to be one of the lighter cars in its segment, weighing in around 4,034lbs.
Looking On The Real side
So it’s all fine and good if Lexus makes a car that is decently fun. But in the real world it all comes down to one single question, “Would you buy it?”
If we are to assume that the Lexus GS-F really does intend to try and steal buyers from the BMW M5, Mercedes E63, Audi RS7, and Cadillac CTS-V, then it has some serious problems.
You see, 467hp not only isn’t competitive here in 2015, it wasn’t competitive back in 2007 either. In fact, you’d have to go all the way back to 2003 for the GS-F to actually be a member of the perverbial pack. Back then, the Mercedes E55 had 469hp, the Audi RS6 had 450hp, and the BMW M5 had just 400hp, so the Lexus would’ve fit right in.
Today, though, not a chance. Even if we ignore the fact that chassis dyno tests all show that the M5, E63 and Audi RS7 are all actually producing over 600hp, the Lexus GS-F is still around 100hp down on their official horsepower figures. I mean, what on Earth could Lexus’ product development people have been thinking when they signed off on something so weak?
My issue here is really more about attitude, though. Lexus’ F-division is supposed to be something really exciting that will help carry the image of the larger Lexus brand. The fact that they just took the exact same engine in the RC-F and threw it in the larger GS-F just appears very, very lazy and uninspired. I mean how boring is that? It’s like they want the F-division to stand for mediocrity or something.
That is not the way to go about your high performance division at all. Frankly, if Lexus is just going to keep half-assing their F-division, then they might as well save their effort and just forget about it altogether.
One Saving Grace
Now, I am basing my whole criticism of the Lexus GS-F on the notion that they intend to price it against the likes of the BMW M5, give or take $100,000. If that is the case, then Lexus is essentially trying to sell you a BMW 550i for the price of a full-blown M5. But what if that isn’t the case?
There may be some hope if, by some miracle, Lexus has realized the GS-F’s obvious inferiority to cars like the BMW M5… which, for reference, is just as fast as a Lamborghini Gallardo LP-560, but with 5 seats and a big trunk. The GS is clearly not at the same level of performance, but it isn’t a slouch either, of course. In terms of horsepower, it is right around where the BMW 550i, Mercedes E550, and Audi S6 sit. If Lexus were to price the GS-F against them, then I think it could be quite tempting for many buyers.
You see, the BMW 550i is very anonymous and boring. Sure it’s fast, but nobody cares that it’s there. It isn’t really that “special.” If the GS-F does wind up being priced against the BMW 550i, then it will certianly be the most lust-worthy car in that class of second best luxury sedans. Being a full-blown high performance variant at that level gives it the “special” appeal that many buyers would enjoy.
Sure, you could make the argument that most such people would just go for a BMW M3 if they couldn’t quite afford an M5. But I do think the GS-F is different enough from the M3 in what it offers to make a place for itself in the same price range.
And Now, We Wait…
So it seems the GS-F is either going to be a really good thing or a really bad thing, and it all rests on its price. Will it be a disgraceful failure, or a very clever undercut on the existing market? We won’t be able to make that final call until Lexus announces the number later on, so now we play the waiting game.
Look, I am glad Lexus has finally released the GS-F. I just wish it’s 5.0L V8 had two turbos strapped to it with around 600hp. If it is to be an M5 competitor, then that is what it needed to be. Most owners of these powerful sedans use them as everyday cars, not on the race track. The only part of the car’s performance they will ever truly exercise is the engine, and that is why horsepower matters so much.
Toyota and Lexus have always been pretty conservative with their cars. There seems to be an attitude of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, and in the world of affordable economy cars that has proven a solid philosophy.
The high-end marketplace is a lot different, though. People spending near six-figures on a high performance car want the cutting edge stuff, as well as a level of performance that really pushes the modern boundaries. I don’t think the GS-F does any of that, to be honest, but that is totally okay if it isn’t trying to compete in the top tier.
Let’s hope the price is right…