Until the Lexus GS F came along, we didn't realize there was a sweet spot between high-end luxury sport sedans like the BMW M5, Cadillac CTS-V, and Mercedes-AMG E63, and their little brother versions, the BMW 550i M Sport, Cadillac CTS V-Sport and Mercedes-AMG E43. Yet that's where the 2017 Lexus GS F thrives, offering more power at a higher price than the little brothers, but not quite reaching the upper echelons of the big boys.

Whatever category you choose, make no mistake: the 2017 Lexus GS F is the real deal, backing up its intimidating styling with a 5.0-liter V8 heart. The engine routes its 467 horsepower to the rear wheels through an 8-speed automatic transmission capable of shifting quickly enough that you're unlikely to pine for a manual alternative. This is old-school power: displacement and revs, with no turbos or superchargers getting in the way of the roar coming from the tailpipes and...speakers. Yes, similar to the BMW M5, the GS F uses its audio system to augment the engine sounds. Enthusiasts criticize this technique as inauthentic, conveniently forgetting that the "authentic" sounds they prefer wouldn't exist these days if engineers didn't carefully audio tune the intake tract. We say, let enthusiasts argue about angels on pinheads, and instead just enjoy the GS F's glorious V8 roar.

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0-60 mph in 4.5 seconds

But the sound is only half as thrilling as the actual thrust. Full throttle blasts you from 0-60 mph in about 4.5 seconds, and the massive Brembo brakes ensure repeated and reliable stops from high speeds. There are four driving modes (five if you count the "Customize" mode) each with its own unique display on the TFT gauge screen before the driver. In Eco and Normal modes, it's classic quiet, comfortable, and refined Lexus luxury. The suspension is firmer than the standard GS350 but hardly uncomfortable, the transmission encourages you to sip fuel with lazy downshifts—too lazy, really—and the engine and steering responses are decidedly luxurious. Switching to Sport mode quickens shifts and sharpens steering, and it unlocks the engine's song across the entire rev range instead of just above 3,500 rpm.

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However, when it's time to unleash the beast, Sport+ makes use of the GS F's new-for-2017 adaptive variable suspension, stiffening the shocks and letting the GS F show its true mettle. Whether you like high-speed sweepers like a freeway onramp, or the tight second-gear corners of a mountain road, the Lexus GS F exhibits outstanding poise and handling refinement. Individually selectable modes for the electronically controlled rear differential let you optimize its power distribution for regular driving, slalom or track driving; since we didn't engage in any of the latter two, our time with it was brief, but previous experience shows it makes a measurable difference.

As equipped, the 2017 Lexus GS F we tested cost about $88,000, a perfectly justifiable price. There is a short gripe list: active cruise control shuts off below 15 mph; the trunk doesn't offer a power lid; the Lexus infotainment interface remains fiddly, and it doesn't offer Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. But weighed against the car's considerable strengths, they pale in significance. Not only has Lexus established itself as a premier maker of performance sedans, the GS F is so good that we consider our expectations raised for future F-branded Lexus models.


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