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First look: Lexus unveils menacing GS F Sport

F for fierce: F Sport version of redesigned Lexus GS will also be available in some markets as a hybrid with blue badges (pictured).

Lexus lifts the lid on its aggressive new GS350 F Sport ahead of its SEMA show debut

Lexus logo27 Oct 2011

By MARTON PETTENDY

LEXUS has revealed the first official images of its aggressive new GS F Sport sedan a week ahead of its simultaneous debuts in Australia and North America next week.

First seen at South Africa’s Johannesburg motor show in early October, the first F Sport version of the Toyota premium brand’s redesigned large luxury sedan will follow the V6-powered GS350 into local showrooms by June.

While the all-new GS F Sport will be produced in both GS350 petrol and GS450h hybrid guises, only the latter will be sold in Europe, where Lexus is now a hybrid-only brand.

As is Lexus tradition, the GS350’s second-quarter 2012 release here will be followed within months by the petrol-electric GS450h hybrid, with the GS350 F Sport expected to arrive here before then in June.

Lexus is on record as saying that this time round the GS450h will negate the need for an eight-cylinder version of the GS, because of its V8-like performance coupled with four-cylinder efficiency.

It is not yet clear whether the GS450h F Sport, which is cosmetically differentiated from the non-hybrid F Sport model primarily by a blue Lexus badge, will also be sold here.

However, Lexus Australia is expected to reveal its new GS rollout strategy when the GS350 and GS450h make their local debuts in Melbourne on November 2 – almost simultaneously with the GS350 F Sport’s US debut at the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) show in Las Vegas next week.

While the F Sport version brings no additional powertrain performance, the chief mechanical upgrade is the debut of the Lexus Dynamic Handling (LDH) system.

LDH combines the new GS’s active four-wheel-steering system - Dynamic Rear Steering (DRS) - and an F Sport-tuned version of the adjustable damping suspension system - Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) – that will be optional on other models.

Integrated with the car’s Variable Gear Ratio Steering (VGRS), Lexus says the rear-drive GS sedan’s new LDH system also combines with larger-diameter anti-roll bars and uprated suspension bushes to deliver a more engaging drive.

It says LDH monitors vehicle speed, steering direction and driver input to calculate the optimum angle for all four wheels to help improve turn-in response, rear grip, vehicle control and overall agility when cornering.

A first for Lexus, DRS alternates between turning in the opposite direction to the front wheels at speeds under 80km – albeit by small degrees – to the same direction over that speed to assist high-speed stability and handling.

An electronically controlled all-wheel-drive system will also be an option across the new GS range – at least in the US. Depending on conditions, it can vary front-to-rear torque distribution from 50/50 to as much as 30/70.

In lieu of a fully-blown IS F sports sedan-style GS F model, which could rival BMW’s M5 with V10 firepower from the LFA super-coupe, other F Sport upgrades include lighter performance brakes with larger two-piece front discs and higher-friction pads, and an integrated four-wheel steering system - a first for a hybrid vehicle.

Externally, the GS F Sport gains 19-inch sword-spoke alloy wheels similar to those seen on the smaller IS F. The dark metallic alloys wear staggered-width 235/40-section front and 265/35 rear tyres – the widest ever seen on a Lexus sedanThe biggest visual change, however, is the GS F Sport’s unique bodykit, which comprises more aggressive side skirts and front and rear bumpers with larger side and lower air intakes featuring an integrated mesh design.

31 center imageAs is common in the automotive industry, the most sporting version of the new GS wears a front bumper similar to the concept that first previewed it – in this case the LS-Gh, which was on show at the Australian International Motor Show in Melbourne last July.

However, the new GS’ trapezoidal ‘spindle’ grille design, which marks the start of a new Lexus design direction, continues from the standard G350.

At the rear, the GS F Sport – which is Lexus’ answer to the M and AMG sports packages available for the BMW 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz E-class respectively - is differentiated by a grey metallic lower diffuser flanked by a large chromed exhaust outlet on either side, while a subtle rear boot lip spoiler and F badging complete the more sporting look.

Inside the GS F Sport, which will join the CT200h F Sport and IS250/350 F Sport model in the Lexus range, the doors and new 16-way power-adjustable sports seats are finished in dark red ‘Garnet’ leather trim, while aluminium dashboard highlights and an F Sport steering wheel and alloy door sill plates are also included.

Standard on all GS models will be four driving modes - Eco, Normal, Sport S and Sport S+, allowing drivers to choose between maximum performance or efficiency.

For Australia, there are no changes to the GS350’s 3.5-litre V6, which delivers 223kW and 376Nm of torque, and accelerates the new GS to 100km/h in just 5.7 seconds.

“The all-new GS350 F Sport is a vehicle that will appeal to the sporting driver, those who seek performance and comfort without compromise,” said Lexus Australia chief executive Tony Cramb.

“With dynamic handling, incredible stopping power and a true sporting feel, the GS350 F Sport is a vehicle that offers the best of everything to the enthusiast.

“GS350 F Sport is a true sports luxury sedan, offering the ideal mix of driving performance, comfort and advanced technology.”

As we’ve reported, the new GS450h, which made its global debut a month after the new GS350 at the Frankfurt motor show in September, sprints to 100km/h in 5.9 seconds – down from 6.2 seconds – and shares its electronically limited 250km/h top speed with the GS350.

Promising 18 per cent better fuel economy than the previous hybrid GS, the GS450h gets a revised 213kW 3.5-litre direct-injected Atkinson cycle V6 mated with the latest hybrid drive system for a combined 252kW of power and 345Nm of torque.

Combined-cycle fuel consumption is said to be 6.3 litres per 100km – down from 7.9L/100km in the current model – while CO2 emissions have been sliced from 186 grams per kilometre to 145g/km.

This compares with 6.1L/100km and 162g/km for the diesel BMW 535d and 6.3L/100km and 165g/km for the Mercedes-Benz E350 CDI.

The fourth-generation GS, which comes with 10 airbags including a driver’s knee airbag, is 20mm wider (1840mm) than the previous GS, while the track has also been widened by 40mm and 50mm at the front and rear respectively.

Lexus says the bodyshell's torsional stiffness had been improved by 14 per cent – another factor in the claimed overall dynamic improvement in the car.

The current third-generation GS landed in Australian showrooms in February 2005, debuting with a 4.3-litre V8 and direct-injection in the 3.0-litre V6, while the current GS450h became the first large hybrid luxury car on the Australian market in May 2006.

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