Designed to compete with the BMW 5-Series and Mercedes Benz E-Klasse, the V8 Lexus GS was high performance luxury
I have been a diehard fan of BMWs since my early teens. When I had the income to purchase a new-to-me used car about ten years ago, my vehicle of choice was the BMW E39 M5. With two young children and a wife to support, I had a budget I needed to adhere to. Unfortunately, my budget consisted of not only acquisition costs but also operating costs.
Acquisition costs for my next car was negotiable meaning I had room to play. However, my budget for operating costs was not as flexible. Insurance costs had to be average, reliability above average, insurance costs average, and repair costs, also average. Once my budget was finalized, I realized that the BMW M5 was not going to work. My obligation to my family was going to have supersede the realization of a childhood dream, ownership of a BMW M5.
At the time, the shortlist of suitable alternatives that fit the bill was very small. Next on the list was the 1998 to 2005 Lexus GS400/430. The acquisition cost at the time was comparable to a used M5 but operating costs and forecasted reliability were dramatically lower. Unfortunately, so was the overall character and “fun” of the car when compared to the M5.
The Lexus GS, or ‘grand sedan’ was first released in Japan as the Toyota Aristo in 1991. In 1993, it appeared in US Lexus showrooms as the GS300. Currently manufactured in Japan, the Lexus GS is currently in its fourth generation.
Designed as a performance sedan competing with the likes of the BMW 5-Series and Mercedes Benz E-Class, the GS is available with six cylinder engines and rear wheel drive. However, there was a V8 performance-oriented model produced in the second, third and fourth generations.
The 2-Gen V8 Lexus GS
Produced exclusively for the US market, the GS400 was powered by the 4.0-liter 1UZ-FE, a 32-valve quad camshaft V8 piston engine. Originally designed for use in CARTIRL (), the 1UZ-FE powering the GS 400 produced 300 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque. This is 15 horsepower than the same engine powering the LS 400 and SC 400. The difference in horsepower can be attributed to differing intake manifold designs. Worthy of note is that the 1UZ-FE has proven to be so reliable, smooth and strong that a version of the engine, the FV2400-TC is approved for aviation use by the FAA. It is one of the few motor vehicle engines to transition to aviation use.
Putting power to the ground was a five-speed automatic transmission equipped with steering wheel shift buttons. The 0-60 mph time of the GS 400 of xx was sufficient for Lexus to lay claim that the GS was the world’s fastest production sedan at it its introduction in 1997. The BMW M5 would shatter that claim a few months later with 0-60 times between 4.8 and 5.2 seconds.
In 2000, the GS received a facelift for the 2001 model year that included subtle changes to the interior and exterior of the vehicle. Exterior modifications included a new grille, mildly tinted headlamps, and taillights. Interior changes were an updated design to the steering wheel and dashboard facia.
The biggest changes were under the hood in the form of the second generation UZ engine. Officially named the 3UZ-FE, engine displacement was increased 0.3 liters to 4.3 liters. Output remained at 300 horsepower will torque was increased 15 lb-ft to 325 lb-ft. The renamed GS430 took just 5.7 seconds to rocket from 0 to 60 miles per hour.
The 3-Gen V8 Lexus GS
In 2005, the third generation GS was released powered by the same 3UZ-FE engine. However, the five speed automatic transmission was replaced with a new six-speed automatic sequential shift transmission.
The 2007 model year was to be the final year for the venerable 3UZ-FE engine. In 2008, Lexus released the GS 460 powered by the 4.6-liter V8 1UR-FSE engine. Output increased to 342 horsepower and 339 lb-ft of torque. Combined with a new eight-speed automatic transmission, the new drivetrain posted 0 to 60 mile per hour acceleration times of 5.4 seconds.
2007 also saw the release Lexus GS 450h, the first mass-produced rear-wheel drive luxury hybrid car. Using an electric motor and a 3.5-liter V6 engine mounted to a continuously variable transmission (CVT), the 450h was able to go from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 5.2 seconds.
In 2007, we saw the V8 lose its position holding the top spot in the GS line up. Despite the fact that the 6 cylinder-based hybrid posted a faster 0-60 time, the V8 GS 460 was lighter had a higher top speed. The V6 would continue to hold the top spot until the 2016 model year with the V8-based GS F.
The 4-Gen V8 Lexus GS F
With the launch of the IS F, Lexus F, the high performance division released its first vehicle in the F line up. This is the same division that launched the Lexus LFA supercar in 2019.
In 2016, Lexus F applied their magic to the GS to produce the GS F. It was also when we saw the return of the V8 to the GS platform. Powering the GS F and its two-door sister, the RC F is a new 5.0-liter, 32 valve V8 engine producing 467 horsepower and 389 lb-ft of torque. It is the most powerful V8 engine Lexus has produced for use in a production vehicle. The Lexus low-rev, high-torque performance drivetrain is going against the industry-wide trend embracing high-reving, smaller displacement engines and turbo charging technology.
Putting power to the pavement is a specially calibrated eight-speed Sports Direct Shift transmission developed in conjunction with the engine. The combination is sufficient to propel the GS F from 0 to 60 miles per hour in xx seconds accelerating all the way through to a top speed of xxx miles per hour.
The magic of Lexus’ F division is applied throughout the GS F, from the interior of the vehicle to the braking and suspension system. This has not gone unnoticed by the automotive press as it has received several accolades and is rated one of Edmund’s best sports sedans for 2018.
The closest competitor for the GS F is the BMW M5, my first choice for my first high performance sedan several years ago. Fast forward to the present, things have changed quite a bit for me. I still very much admire the BMW M5, my first choice for my next performance car is in fact the Lexus a new (for me) Lexus GS F.
What do you prefer?
What is you favorite GS? Do you prefer the JZ-GE or JZ-GTE in-line 6 or the V8 based GS?