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Unexpected autocross test drive of F Sport

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Old 06-01-12, 12:36 PM   #1
TerrySmith
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Default Unexpected autocross test drive of F Sport

So, I just took the Skip Barber 2-day high-high-perfromance driving school at Laguna Seca Raceway and found an unexpected surprise there.

At the beginning of the class when looking over the cars ready to go, I noted the same cars as when I was there in March, but with one additional black IS-F.

Except wait, that's not an IS-F down there at the end.

Click the image to open in full size.

Turns out Lexus had supplied a GS350 F Sport to the school for evaluation.

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I managed to get some time in it on the autocross. I won't give a review but while the car seems a bit big for a track car, it was running with the Lotus Evora in the autocross exercises.

Pictures are from an iPhone taken when other students were driving and I was waiting my turn.

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Later when we were driving on the track, the GS served as a pace car (or lead car driven by the instructors).

Click the image to open in full size.

Between our turns driving on the track (IS-F, Porsche Boxster, Lotus Evora), students were allowed to ride shotgun in the pace cars, so I got a ride in the GS on the track. This picture was taken as the instructor driver calmly announced that we were passing through 105 MPH.

Click the image to open in full size.

The instructor said he had already submitted his report to Lexus but did not say what he reported.

Anyway, nice surprise for me and I thought it might be of interest on this forum.

Thanks,
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Old 06-01-12, 01:04 PM   #2
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very nice, this is awesome. i am very glad lexus is putting so much focus on driving and performance
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Old 06-01-12, 02:41 PM   #3
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I would be really interested in your frank assessment of the GS350 F-Sport's handling abilities.
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Old 06-01-12, 04:10 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by natnut View Post
I would be really interested in your frank assessment of the GS350 F-Sport's handling abilities.
compared to those other cars, for sure...
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Old 06-01-12, 05:20 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by natnut View Post
I would be really interested in your frank assessment of the GS350 F-Sport's handling abilities.
Quote:
Originally Posted by spwolf View Post
compared to those other cars, for sure...
Tough competition for handling and it's clearly not a 2-seater sports car but then it's not an LS either.

Caveats: Since I did not drive it on the track, I did not get as good a comparison as with the other 3 cars. Also, recall I'm learning to drive (fast) and not an experienced pro driver or reviewer.

I did drive the GS on the autocross and I also drove an IS-F on the autocross. Please keep in mind that while driving on the autocross, concentration was on how well the driver (me) handled the car; I was concentrating on instructor directions learning to maintain smooth transfer of balance going through the turns, etc. and so not so much concerned with the car itself. So if my skills were better (and they improved a lot with this course) I could have gotten the GS through the autocross faster than I did. That means the car handles well - I think if I attempted the autocross with my LS, the car would be the limiting factor, not me.

(I noticed when pulling out onto the autocross that the car had an HUD. To indicate the level of concentration on driving on the autocross, I don't recall ever seeing that HUD again, even though it was right in front of my face. My eyes were on the road.) :-)

Still, at my skill level, I could get the IS F through the autocross faster. The biggest noticeable difference was on the short straight were we could hammer the accelerator - the IS F is a lot faster. I think the IS cornered a little better as well, but the two were closer in that regard.

I had no real chance to compare braking ability between the two.

Watching the other students with the GS and Lotus on the autocross at the same time seemed to show the the Lotus could get through a little quicker (roughly averaging out the various skill levels.)

One thing I was curious about was ride comfort with the F Sport suspension. I do have an interest in the GS350 F Sport as a possible replacement for my LS (but not for my IS-F). On the track at 105 MPH (as a passenger) the ride quality was great. Less harsh than the IS F.

Pix do show body roll on GS in the autocross. But then, we saw some of that with the IS F and even a little with the Lotus.

Click the image to open in full size.

So bottom line is it's not going to handle like a small sports car, though pretty close to the IS F. Not as fast as the F either.

But, I would love to have driven it on the track and I think it would make a great street car that handles really well and is fun to drive.

BTW, this F Sport actually had an ML audio system, though it was never turned on.

Thanks,
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Old 06-01-12, 07:43 PM   #6
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Thanks for sharing. The fact that the GS was even at the autocross speaks volumes for where Lexus is trying to go. For my everyday driving, she handles beautifully and has the perfect balance of ride/handling. I had an '06 MX-5 Miata. It was a blast to drive around corners. On freeways, not so much!
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Old 06-03-12, 06:46 AM   #7
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That must have been great fun! Driving the GS on the track is what convinced me to buy one. Since the car you were in had Mark Levinson and HUD it must have been an F-Sport plus with the rear steering. I actually thought it was a little easier to drive than the IS-F, but definitely down on torque in comparison. I also felt 2nd gear was too tall, but that was probably because of the lack of torque (a 7-speed tranny would help).
Great pictures!
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Old 06-03-12, 10:47 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gkcmilner View Post
That must have been great fun! Driving the GS on the track is what convinced me to buy one. Since the car you were in had Mark Levinson and HUD it must have been an F-Sport plus with the rear steering. I actually thought it was a little easier to drive than the IS-F, but definitely down on torque in comparison. I also felt 2nd gear was too tall, but that was probably because of the lack of torque (a 7-speed tranny would help).
Great pictures!
Not sure which MY IS F you drove. I was in a '11. '08 thru '10 models spec'd at 0.91 Gs skidpad turning force vs 0.96 for '11 - '12 IS F models. That might be the difference.

I only drove it on autocross and in that exercise, you never really get out of 2nd in any of the cars. I'm wondering if I had asked to drive it on the track, they might have let me. Oh well.
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Old 06-04-12, 09:47 PM   #9
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The 2011 and 2012 MY IS F have the best suspension specs since MY 08. From what i've been told by a friend, 2012's suspension was improved even more since 2011. Continuous improvement at best. It's great to see that the GS F Sport despite the horsepower and size deficit was chosen in their fleet. That says a lot about the agility of the new GS. I can only imagine 3rd Gen IS will be noticed even more.
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Old 06-05-12, 12:37 AM   #10
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very nice!
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Old 06-06-12, 05:52 PM   #11
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The Lexus Performance Driving event I went to had a mix of driving the GS on the track following the IS-F lead car and then quick little auto cross course with competitive BMW 535i's and MB E350's back to back. I thought the GS definitely felt light on its feet and had great steering and responsiveness compared to the other 2.
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Old 06-06-12, 05:52 PM
 
 
 
 
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