The world of high-performance luxury sport sedans has basically become a game of one-upmanship. Which one has the most horsepower? Which one goes from zero to 60 mph in the quickest time? Which goes around Germany's Nürburgring track quicker than the rest? In the process, some of the visceral thrill and tactility of these cars have been lost — turbocharging is numbing engine response and all-wheel drive is limiting tail-out antics.
Well, consider the 2018 Lexus GS F a refreshing option for keeping it old-school. Its 469-horsepower V8 is non-turbocharged. As such, it has less low-rpm, torque-rich thrust than its turbocharged competitors, but in return it produces sharper and more engaging responsiveness and a more special soundtrack. Oh, and it sends its power to the rear wheels, just the way the sports car gods have always intended.
As with all of Lexus F cars, there's more than just a big engine. Compared to a regular GS, the GS F features retuned steering for even better feel. And its superb handling is made possible by an adaptive sport-tuned suspension that allows for impressive control, minimum body roll and, quite impressively, a sufficiently comfortable ride. The end result is an uncommonly rewarding sport sedan even in routine driving.
Of course, beyond its performance credentials, the GS F is still a Lexus GS — for better and for worse. For better, you get impeccable build quality and a long list of standard features, including safety and driver aids that its competitors almost always charge extra for. There are still some downsides here — most notably, the frustrating-to-use Remote Touch infotainment interface — but overall this is one refreshingly honest and thrilling luxury sport sedan.
Notably, we picked the 2018 Lexus GS F as one of Edmunds' Best Sport Sedans for this year.
The Lexus GS F's standard safety tech gets an upgrade for 2018. The adaptive cruise control system now works at all speeds, meaning that it'll work in stop-and-go traffic. The lane departure warning system has been upgraded to include lane keeping assist, meaning the car will automatically provide steering assistance to keep you from straying from your lane. The Enform Safety Connect and Enform Service Connect telematics systems are also now complimentary for the first 10 years.
There's only one trim level and few options, so there's really not much to recommend beyond that audiophiles would be wise to get the Mark Levinson sound system. We've never been disappointed by this mainstay option in the Lexus lineup.
The 2018 Lexus GS F is the high-performance version of the regular Lexus GS sedan, which we review separately. There is only one loaded trim level. It comes with a 5.0-liter V8 (467 horsepower, 389 pound-feet of torque), rear-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic transmission. Besides its engine, the GS F stands apart from lesser GS models with a torque-vectoring rear differential, an adaptive sport-tuned suspension, sport steering, Brembo brakes, aerodynamic enhancements and special styling.
Other standard features include auto-dimming mirrors, xenon headlights, automatic high beams, LED running lights, automatic wipers, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking, lane keeping assist, keyless ignition and entry, power-adjustable front seats with memory functions, leather upholstery and a power-adjustable steering wheel.
Also standard is the Remote Touch infotainment interface with a 12.3-inch display, a navigation system, voice controls, Lexus Enform (infotainment app suite and remote vehicle controls), a USB port, and a 12-speaker sound system with a CD player, satellite radio and HD radio.
Options are limited to different wheels, orange brake calipers, a head-up display, and a 17-speaker Mark Levinson sound system that also adds a six-CD changer.
Each vehicle typically comes in multiple versions that are fundamentally similar. The ratings in this review are based on our full test of the 2017 Lexus GS F sedan (5.0L V8 | 8-speed automatic | RWD). There have been no changes made to the 2018 model that would alter our ratings of the GS F.
The GS F is an uncommonly rewarding sport sedan even in routine driving. The steering is sharp and communicative, and that inspires driver confidence. Its maximum thrust can't match others in the class, but it is not slow either. Overall, it's a pleasure to pilot.
There's natural and responsive power delivery in the GS F. The V8 is a bit down on low-speed grunt compared to the turbocharged competition, but by no means is it slow. High-rpm power is exhilarating. In our testing, a GS F accelerated to 60 mph in a respectably quick 4.7 seconds.
Good but not great brakes. In town or during hard driving, they offer intuitive modulation. We observed some mild squealing during nearly every routine stop. In max-effort panic stops, the pedal feel could be better. Our measured stop from 60 mph in 108 feet is good but not class-leading.
This steering is outstanding. Spot-on weighting with great on-center feel. Communicative like few modern steering racks. Actual road texture can be felt by the driver. Quick and precise without ever being darty. It gives a good sense at all times of the grip available at the front wheels.
This sedan really shrinks around you on a canyon road. A hint of body roll provides a good sense of cornering loads. It responds well to your inputs. The variable differential settings make a big difference in cornering behavior.
Very well-mannered. In routine driving, the transmission shifts smoothly and downshifts readily. The engine is responsive from a stop. Sport and Sport+ modes have suitably more aggressive shift schedules. Manual gear changes are not quite as immediate as we'd like, though.
Excellent seats and a firm but compliant ride quality make the GS F equal parts sport sedan and long-distance mile-eater. There's a bit of road noise, but it's not fatiguing. The climate control interface is button-centric — we'd prefer knobs. Overall, it's a comfortable vehicle in its class.
The seats are especially comfortable with modest bolsters that still manage to provide adequate lateral support. Medium-firm padding. These seats seem to cradle your entire back quite uniformly without any significant pressure points. Backseat comfort is solid, too, even for taller people.
The ride quality is firm and still manages to take the edge off rough roads and most impacts. Variable dampers have three settings, and none is brutal. You know you're driving a sport sedan, but it's never punishing. Suitable for long-distance driving.
Noise & vibration7.5
Road noise at moderate speeds is more noticeable than it ought to be for a car of this class. Wind noise is well-suppressed, while the engine is quiet during cruising. Put the hammer down, though, and you get a great-sounding V8 wail above 4,000 rpm.
It maintains set temperature adequately, but it doesn't seem to compensate for sun exposure as other systems do. The all-button climate interface isn't as easy or quick to use as those with knobs. The buttons are clearly marked at least. Sufficiently effective seat coolers when on the max setting.
The interior design is showing its age, but it has the fundamentals of driving position and visibility covered well. The cabin is very button-centric, and a few of them are oddly placed. The driving position is spot-on.
Ease of use6.5
Good placement of primary controls and most secondary ones. But there are some head-scratchers — the parking alert button is completely covered by the sliding console lid in its forward-most position, for instance. And we had to consult the owner's manual to find the parking brake.
Getting in/getting out7.0
The driver's seat and steering wheel power out of the way to aid entry or exit. The GS F's wide lower body kit extensions hamper your movements a bit, but otherwise it's a pretty easy car to get into.
It's easy to find a suitable driving position, with a good relationship between the seat and the steering wheel and pedals. A nice, wide dead pedal is placed well in regard to the brake and gas pedals. The telescoping wheel has decent reach, and the driver's seat motors up fairly high.
Tall drivers will find ample headroom despite the compulsory sunroof. The driver's footwell is pleasingly wide. You get a nice sense of width in the cabin, too. In back, there's enough headroom and legroom for 6-foot-tall passengers. On a par with the class.
The cowl is not especially low, but the ample windshield compensates to avoid any sense of sitting in a bunker. There's good separation between the mirror and the windshield pillar. The rear windows' squared-off trailing edge expands the view over your shoulder.
The subdued cabin design incorporates many materials and integrates them precisely. The leather and faux suede are of high quality. Some vinyl-padded surfaces and plastics have a relatively subpar feel, making the cabin less rich than some competitors'. An occasional muted creak from the dash.
The amply sized trunk will swallow plenty of gear, though it's let down by a back seat that's fixed in place. There are plenty of areas to store items in the cargo area and in the front portion of the cabin. It handles car seats well, though the lower latch anchors can be a bit of a hassle to reach.
Solid options for storing various items. There are large door pockets, a sliding-lid center console bin with a removable tray, and an average-size glovebox. Backseat occupants enjoy a fold-down console with a lid and two deployable cupholders.
The wider-than-average trunk opening has concealed gooseneck hinges and is pretty deep. The back seat does not fold but has a ski pass-through. Handy fold-down grocery bag hook, tie-down points and additional storage well under a door. The decklid is not powered but is light and easy to manipulate.
Child safety seat accommodation7.0
The outboard seats have LATCH anchors that are tucked away and a bit difficult to access. There's decent room for a rear-facing child seat, though the front seat will need to be pushed very far forward.
This cabin is behind the times when it comes to infotainment. The control interface is awkward, and the native voice controls are subpar. There's no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto functionality, and the screen graphics look old. But there is a nice suite of driver aids as standard equipment.
Audio & navigation4.0
The Remote Touch interface is infuriatingly bad. The target icons are easy to overshoot, and the feel is poor, with inconsistent haptic feedback, so it requires a lot of glance time. The screen is huge, but responses can be slow and the graphics are old-school. A reason to avoid this car.
Bluetooth pairing is intuitive and easy, and there's a USB outlet, auxiliary jack and accessory power. Apple CarPlay or Android Auto is not available. Instead, the GS F includes Siri Eyes Free.
The comprehensive suite of driver aids — lane departure and blind-spot alerts, lane keeping, automatic emergency braking and high beams — can be set to be permanently off if so desired. The adaptive cruise can't operate in stop-and-go traffic.
Slow responses and wildly incorrect navigation, even in an ideal test condition (parked, quiet, driver speaking clearly), don't give confidence in the GS F's native voice controls. You'll have to rely on Siri Eyes Free instead, but that applies only to iPhone users.
Edmunds expert review process
This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.
We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.