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Lexus gets F-ing serious

Fire-breathing GS: Lexus is contemplating a high-performance GS F variant to sit above the F Sport (left) in the new model's performance pecking order.

BMW M5-rivalling GS F super-sedan to follow seven new F Sport models from Lexus

Lexus logo23 Nov 2011

By MARTON PETTENDY

LEXUS is plotting an F-model avalanche that should culminate in a BMW M5-challenging GS F super-sedan from the Japanese premium brand within two years.

The exact mechanical make-up of the first GS F has been the subject of speculation for years, with the IS F sports sedan’s bigger brother rumoured to be powered by everything from a higher-performance version of that car’s 5.0-litre V8 to a detuned or downsized version of the LFA super-coupe’s 4.8-litre V10.

Lexus remains tight-lipped out the existence of an F-badged model to top the fourth-generation GS large sedan range that will arrive here in 3.5-litre V6-powered GS350 and V6 petrol-electric GS450h hybrid forms next April.

Whatever it is motivated by, however, the GS F will deliver far more aggression than the GS350 and GS450h F Sport models that will debut a unique higher-performance chassis when hits local showrooms by June.

We understands the F Sport treatment will also be applied to the 2.5-litre V6-powered GS250 entry model, which is yet to be officially confirmed, but should join the range sometime next year.

31 center imageLexus Australia has promised to introduce no fewer than seven F Sport models to its local line-up between now and the end of 2012, in addition to the existing CT200h F Sport hybrid hatch and F Sport versions of the IS250 and 350 sedans, bring its total number of F Sport models to 10 next year.

The company revealed in August that it will offer F Sport versions of the facelifted RX350 and RX450h luxury SUV, which is due to debut at the Geneva motor show in March, but has ruled out an F Sport derivative of the LandCruiser-based LX570, which itself will be revealed in facelifted form at the Detroit show in January.

Including the GS250, that makes five new F Sport models, and the large LS limousine – a facelift for which is due to break cover at next October’s Paris show – is almost certain to form the basis of next year’s final two F Sport models from Lexus.

“Imagine the LS460 Sports (which along with the LS600hL hybrid currently tops the local Lexus range) with an F Sport treatment similar to the GS,” Lexus Australia marketing chief Peter Evans told GoAuto at last week’s Los Angeles show.

“It would be a competitor for top-end models like the (Audi) S8. A market still exists for that sort of car in Australia,” he said.

We expect both the V8-powered short-wheelbase LS460 and hybrid-powered long-wheelbase LS600hL to receive the F Sport therapy, which would go even further than the Brembo brakes, specific suspension tune and unique wheels seen on the existing LS460 Sports.

Lexus says the new GS’s less ‘vanilla’ styling and better chassis dynamics constitutes a “rebirthing” of the Toyota luxury brand, but a range of cosmetic and chassis upgrades will further improve F Sport versions in both areas and provide a glimpse of what could be expected from the LS F Sport twins.

Dressed in a bespoke new bodykit and fitted out with unique interior trims and seats, the GS F Sport models feature a unique chassis comprising higher-performance suspension calibration with adjustable adaptive dampers, bigger 19-inch wheels and tyres, a larger braking package with semi-floating two-piece front discs and high-performance pads, a unique rear-wheel steering system and bespoke vehicle management settings including a higher-threshold electronic stability control system.

Although more engine performance will remain the domain of the GS F, GS F Sport models promise increase dynamic performance via the Lexus Dynamic Handling system that combines thicker anti-roll bars, uprated suspension bushes and the standard fitment of a retuned Adaptive Variable Suspension system, which is optional on non-F Sport GS models.

Dynamic Rear Steering, which will make the GS450h the first hybrid model to feature rear-wheel steering technology, can angle the rear wheels up to two degrees in the opposite direction to the front wheels to deliver better manoeuvrability at speeds below 80km/h, or in the same direction at the front wheels to aid high-speed stability.

The GS F Sport bodykit resembles the LF-Gh concept that previewed the GS, comprising a more aggressive front bumper with larger air intakes and mesh grille, a rear diffuser flanked by huge chrome exhaust outlets, specific side skirts and a rear lip spoiler.

F Sport models already account for half of all CT200h sales in Australia, and there will also be replacements for both F Sport versions of the IS sedan, which is expected to receive a major midlife makeover by 2013, while Lexus continues to develop the idea of its first compact SUV.

“It’s still a way off,” said Mr Evans. “We haven’t seen a concept yet. Until we get a specification master sheet nothing’s locked in.

“Allocation of engineering resources, potential sales and benefit to the brand are the key here, but I think there is an opportunity for Lexus there, given the growth of that segment with models like the (Audi) Q5.” Meantime, Lexus continues to deliver local examples of its range-topping F-car, the LFA supercar, with four now on Australian shores (including Lexus Australia’s own demonstrator) and a further six expected here by the end of next year.

Mr Evans said there was still a possibility more than 10 LFAs could eventually arrive here, if for whatever reason all of the vehicles allocated to other countries are not purchased.

“We’d like more if we can get them,” he said. “There are still plenty of people knocking here. We don’t take their money or make any promises, but some more could shake loose from small countries.”

What’s coming from Lexus:

GS350 redesign, GS350 F Sport – April
GS450h redesign, GS450h F Sport – June
LX570 facelift – January reveal
RX350/450h facelift, F Sport – March reveal
LS460/600hL facelift, F Sport – September reveal
IS250/350/F Sport facelift – TBC
GS250, GS250 F Sport – TBC
GS F – TBC
Small SUV - TBC

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