Don’t be too quick to dismiss that burly sedan next to you that appears to have a small snowplow stuck to its snout.
Sure, it could be full of old duffers in plaid shorts arguing over who had the loosest, goofiest girlfriend in the ‘60s -- my people, but it just might be a Lexus GS-F like the one I had recently, a pretty darn pure hot rod dressed like a California accountant on the make.
Believe me, it can bite.
Actually, I kind of liked the looks of my 2018 GS-F, especially in a searing metallic blue with wild red-and-black interior.
As you know, Lexus does a lot of things really well, but styling and all-around performance are not generally among them – just take a long look at the brand’s painfully overwrought SUVs.
As a result, more subtly designed vehicles like the GS and IS sedans and the hot new LC 500 coupe stand especially tall at Lexus House because they know how to lie-low gracefully.
The rumbling belt-you-in-the-back GS-F just might be the best overall vehicle that Lexus offers, acting and romping in ways that seem very un-Lexus-like.
Granted, mine still arrived from Japan with one of Lexi’s deeply polarizing super-sized spindle grilles, but when mounted low on the GS-F and surrounded by a sea of electric blue, it was not all that bad.
It shared some of the chiseled real-estate up front with narrow horizontal headlamps that sported interesting hockey-stick-shaped running lights below them.
Meanwhile, a broad, clean hood with crisp lines on its edges further tamed the silly grille, which I think can be detached and used as an effective barbecue unit while camping.
However, while the sides appeared mostly flat, slightly rounded fenders did lend some muscle to them, as did meaty 255/35 tires up front and 275/35s in back tucked tightly into the wells.
Find outr, that sticky rubber was wrapped around nice-looking multi-spoke 19-inch wheels flashing – get this --orange brake calipers behind them.
Also, the car’s conventional-looking tail lamps wore clear boy-racer lenses, and crazy dual-dual exhausts below the lights – two on each side – were stacked at 45-degree angles.
Maybe the loud, lusty 5-liter V-8 up front made Lexi’s designers kick off their tasseled loafers.
Right up front, we need to acknowledge that certain German competitors – say, Benz and Bimmer and Audi – offer high-end, turbocharged super-sedans with far more power and quickness than the GS-F.
But none of those Autobahn-burners has the unfiltered exhaust note of the GS-F or its instant, non-turbocharged responses.
With 467-edgy horsepower, the rear-wheel-drive GS-F is still plenty fast, eagerly awaiting any provocation.
Snarling and howling richly through those crazy pipes, the two-ton Loony Lexus can blast to 60 mph in a muscle-car-like 4.4 seconds, according to Car and Driver.
A really well-sorted 8-speed automatic holds the car in lower gears in fast corners and provides quick, crisp shifts under hard acceleration.
Even better, the GS-F could dive into speedy corners flatly, locking down curves with pretty impressive grip and balance.
In addition, the steering – though a bit vague – felt quick and well-weighted, neither too soft nor too hefty.
As you might expect, though, the GS-F doesn’t ride much like a luxury car, stepping firmly over bumps but with enough wheel-travel to still feel sophisticated.
Lugging a window-sticker approaching $90,000, the GS-F looks and feels expensive – mostly.
Although the retro-modern interior in mine felt wonderfully eccentric, it fell a few steps short of the luxury in newer German sedans. (The GS-F has been around, largely unchanged, for three years.)
The black plastic on the dashboard, for instance, looked a bit common, though a stitched suede pad over parts of the dash added some richness.
I’m not even vaguely a digital person – I still unintentionally take photos of my feet with that cellphone thingy -- but I found Lexi’s 12.3-inch display screen classy, recessed smartly in a bin at mid-dash.
Lexus also deserves praise for its knobs for the stereo and buttons for climate control, but none of those features can touch the large, center-mounted tachometer in the GS-F, faux carbon-fiber trim or those fabulous red seats.
Shaped like serious sports seats, they always elicited a grin from me with their supportive bolsters and patterned, perforated centers – all in the same shade as Marilyn Monroe’s best lipstick.
It made me want to find some Eddie Cochran and turn it up really loud.
Heck, even the back seat offered decent leg- and headroom, meaning you may be able to pass off the GS-F as a “business sedan.”
The main options on my not-so-sedate sedan included the 19-inch wheels ($600); the heads-up display ($900); and the 17-speaker Mark Levinson stereo ($1,360).
Look at it this way: While 90 large might not seem like much of a bargain, the GS-F is at least $10,000 less than some German competitors.
And I might go a bit further: The GS-F remains the only high-end sports sedan I would buy used.
2018 Lexus GS-F
- What I liked most: The GS-F’s brash, bad-boy personality and performance in what is sort of a Lexus, one of the best-built vehicles on the planet.
- What I would change: The grille, of course.
- MSRP: Base price, $84,350; as equipped, $89,120.
- Fuel economy: Rated at 16 miles per gallon in town, 24 on the highway and 19 mpg combined with filler on the left
- Official color: Ultrasonic Blue Mica.
- Odometer reading when tested: 2,909 miles.
- Weight: 4,150 pounds.
- Length-width-height: 193.5 inches long/72.6 inches wide/56.7 inches tall.
- Fuel-tank capacity: 17.4 gallons.
- Towing capacity: Not available.
- Spare tire: None – air pump instead.
- 2018 Lexus GS-F in a few words: Not the fastest nor the highest-profile sports sedan out there, but it might be the most engaging.
- Warranty: Four-year, 50,000-mile overall warranty and six-year, 70,000-mile powertrain protection.
- Final assembly location: Aichi, Japan.
- Manufacturer’s website:
- E-mail me @ [email protected]