Hot on the heels of the all-new Lexus GS revealed in August 2011, the Japanese luxury brand has revealed the mildly heated-up F Sport version, ahead of its official unveiling at the Sema show in Las Vegas on 1 November 2011.
So what’s changed on this new Lexus GS besides the application of the F Sport badge?
Visually, the F Sport is a tad more aggressive, especially at the front. The standard GS’s slatted grille and smooth bumper have been replaced by a unique mesh design for the inserts and purposeful, vertical side grilles add to the visual menace.
The jury’s still out on the new corporate spindle grille, but here on the F Sport, it looks to be the most satisfying application of it yet. See this looming large in your rear view mirror and you’d feel you ought to be pulling over to let it through.
Tweaks elsewhere are less dramatic: the rear bumper has a metallic grey lower diffuser hinting at a road-hugging tail, which is further embellished on the GS450h with a chrome moulding. In current Germanic fashion, the trailing edge of the boot lid is adorned with a vestigial rear spoiler strip.
Lexus GS F Sports ride on a new design of dark-finished 19-inch alloys, wearing wider tyres at the rear. The fronts measure up at 235/40/19 versus the 265/35/19s at the back. This not only improves traction, says Lexus, but it also dials in a few more notches of butchness to the overall look.
Lexus has used these first official photos to show off its striking new garnet red leather interior treatment, a hue that will be unique to the GS F Sport. But will Lexus buyers really pick bright red hide? We’ll see…
Sporty styling cliches have been selected so wood is shunned in favour of aluminium, the headlining is blackened and perforated leather swathes the sports steering wheel and gear knob. And of course, your feet touch aluminium pedals.
But all that glitz does not a sports saloon make. Has Lexus done much to improve the dynamics of the GS F Sport?
Lexus is keen that customers recognise the F Sport isn’t simply a regular GS where all the body kit boxes have been ticked on the options sheet, claiming significant improvements to the handling. If Lexus is to be believed, this is much more aimed at the thrusting 5-series end of the sports saloon market.
Lexus claims to have improved the new GS’s agility with a retuned suspension set-up at both ends, with Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) waving a magic wand over body control and steering response. Rear shock absorbers have been repositioned, mounted on stiffer bushes to reduce body roll.
Being a Lexus, the interior is a button fest, so drivers will be able to play at will, flicking between the suspension’s Normal (read ‘everyday’) and Sport S+ (‘let’s ‘ave it’) settings. The latter controls the stiffness of the damping on either side of the car when winding through a series of bends maximising poise and agility.
The GS F Sport’s steering has also been beefed up. When Sport S+ is engaged, the electronic trickery reduces the gear ratio by 10% requiring less input at the wheel, whilst a 4% dose of extra torque is applied too, in an attempt to reward enthusiastic drivers with greater feel in the palms of their hands.
Furthermore, the GS450h F Sport is also equipped with Lexus Dynamic Handling, providing a rear wheel steering function, the first such system on a hybrid. Lexus promises ‘sharp and confident driving behaviour’ with a more direct response to the driver’s actions. The electronics monitor all the cars performance parameters and independently controls steering angles. Under normal driving, the rear wheels, which can turn up to two degress, turn in the opposite direction to the fronts up to 50mph; beyond that on the same trajectory.
Isn’t all this F Sportiness at odds with Lexus’ green image?
Lexus isn’t abandoning its carefully honed environmentally-conscious persona. The F Sport GS features four driving modes from a thrift-minded Eco setting where minimisation of fuel consumption is king, through a graduated series of Normal, Sport S and Sport S+, the latter of which cranks all the setting up to optimum for the most responsive driving experience the GS can muster.
No official performance or economy figures have been released for the Lexus GS F Sport yet, but as a guide the standard 450h model has a governed top speed of 155mph and will reach 62mph in 5.9 seconds. Lexus also claims fuel consumption has been improved by 18% over the outgoing GS at 44.8mpg, while CO2 emissions have dropped below 145g/km.
UK sales of the Lexus GS F Sport are due to commence in summer 2012.