I want you to imagine a scenario.
You are a 45 year old father, living an upper-middle class life, with two kids, a wife, the whole scheme. In your youth, you were a car enthusiast and loved everything about driving and its dynamics. But life hit you, and you had to make sacrifices. You traded that two seater roadster for a CRV.
What if you didn’t want to compromise though?
That’s where performance sedans come in.
In technical talk, a sedan is a 4 door car, with 5 seats, and an engine at the front. Normally, most people buy an affordable mid-size sedan. The most famous and most popular worldwide being the Toyota Camry. A Camry is FWD—or front wheel drive—meaning that all engine power is directed towards the front wheel as your press your foot on the accelerator. The front wheels also have the job of steering a car, regardless of where the power is going, so FWD cars tend to not handle very well. They go into corners and will understeer, which means that you will turn the wheel but the car will continue to go in a straight line.
A performance sedan on the other hand is quite a different beast. A performance sedan is the same basics as a sedan—4 doors, 5 seats, front engine—but is usually either rear wheel drive or all wheel drive. And they have much bigger engines. Much bigger. And a lot more power as well. Performance sedans don’t come cheap; most don’t start new south of $50k, but you do get a lot for your money.
Since the 1980s, if you wanted a performance sedan that was well made, reliable, and powerful, you bought a BMW M3. There was no argument about it. Next came the Mercedes AMGs, then the Audi S line, etc. Now you are sitting here wondering, “Haseeb, this is a blog about Japanese cars, why are you talking about German cars?” I’m getting to it just bear with me. In the latest refresh of the BMW M3, BMW did something a bit different. They dropped their traditional V8 for a turbocharged V6. Now, a traditional V8 is just that, it has 8 cylinders in the engine bay that fire off to create power. The turbocharged V6 only has 6 cylinders, but also two turbos (which in a sense act like cylinders but use exhaust pressure instead of gasoline for power. Turbos generally create lag when used, because pressure needs to build for them to start working. Sales of the turbocharged M3 didn’t go as planned because BMW didn’t realize how much people missed the V8.
Lexus for those who don’t know is the luxury division of Toyota. They are most famous for their high end luxury sedans. A few years ago they forayed into the performance sedan market with the IS-F, a beefed up version of an ordinary IS. It sold decently but didn’t really catch on. At the 2016 Detroit Auto show last year, they unveiled the Lexus GS-F. It was a performance sedan that packed nearly 500 hp, 4 doors, RWD, and a sport-tuneable luxury suspension. To put all that jargon into words, its a performance sedan with all the bells and whistles you could ever ask for on top of being practical. It’s even got things you didn’t even think you’d need. There are switches to increase or decrease the volume of the exhaust, sliders to decide how precise the steering should be, dials to decide how soft or how stiff the ride should be. And on top of that, it drives better than any of the competition in it’s class today. The workmanship of all of Tokyo’s best engineers is very visible here.
But there is a problem. And a big one. The car looks like a tsunami of vomit. Lexus has generally been known for making subdued cars. Cars that are designed very simply and that age gracefully. Straight lines, muted colors, etc. The GS-F takes all of that and does a burnout over it. The front grill looks extremely confused giving the front face of the car a look that shouts early 2000s anime. The angles all around the car change very suddenly giving it a pseudo transformers look. Also the transmission is as well put together as a first grader’s lego set. It’s crap to put it bluntly. To add to that, Lexus is demanding a fat $85k for the car.
As much as I want to love this car, and as much as I want to say I want this car, I can’t bring myself to endorse it. Owning this car requires you to say “wait I can explain” any time someone asks you about it, and that really isn’t okay.
Internally, the car is near perfect. Externally, it looks like a refugee from Fukushima.
However I will say this car is a step in the right direction. Lexus has been churning out better and better cars in recent years and this is evidence of that. They have a long ways to go, but there is hope indeed for the forgotten kings of Tokyo.