Drivers have their day
Track Day: Lexus LFA and the 2013 Lexus GS 350
We approach track time like a fluffy white cat to Fancy Feast. That is, we lick our chops… which is exactly what happened in sunny Las Vegas on Superbowl weekend in the all-new 2013 Lexus GS and LFA supercar. With a bevy of Lexus staff and race car driver extraordinaire, Scott Pruett, we availed ourselves to no fewer than ten pristine versions of the completely redesigned GS for a full-Monty outing via aggressive track and autocross runs at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Topped with a triple-digit speed run in the unbridled and ironically civilized $375,000 LFA, we donned a wrap-around grin that didn’t end even after the cars went back to their stables.
Full details and imagery after the jump.
Photos by Eric Yang
Take note of the prominent aesthetic changes on the GS, centered around the spindle grille, looking like the chromed abdomen of a very large black widow spider. It’s done up a bit more subtly here than the LF-Gh concept we saw debut in New York. Get used to this new grille shape, as you’ll see this design language pervade the brand. The styling of the GS is clearly more sinewy (for a luxury sedan) but still very Lexus-like. From the hood creases, the more aggressive airdam and the leaner taillights, it all lends to a less anemic and more focused look.
The interior also gets all new duds that do not betray the name. Better, more sporty seats, streamlined dash and high-end trim materials look and feel fantastic. The gadget hungry do not get ignored in the process, with the optional Lexus Enform system, essentially an app suite that mates with your smartphone and gives you in-car access to your mobile applications like Yelp, Facebook and OpenTable, most via voice-recognition. Enform will also provide you with live navigation with full by-the-minute updates, collision notification and enhanced roadside assistance services.
But beyond just tech and looks, the GS can now add the bragging rights of a driver’s sedan. For such a large car, it drives like a smaller one the harder you push it. Navigating a challenging autocross course with tight turns and switchbacks is typically more the work of nimble sports cars and coupes. Well, the GS proved to steer pretty true, turn in where you point it and brake well with minimal fade time after time. We were thoroughly impressed with the results of some serious engineering work by Lexus. Making a fairly cushy luxury sedan handle well is like making a bacon cheeseburger that’s light and refreshing. The GS 350 makes good use of a 306 hp V6 with 277 pound feet of torque, mated to a 6-speed automatic with manumatic paddle shifters. We’d like to see a traditional stick shift available on the F Sport, but we’re guessing the bean counters gave an unequivocal no to that idea. Nevertheless, the GS in all versions will hit 60 in under six seconds.
From the base version, through the F Sport and Hybrid iterations, we tore up the course on at least 30 autocross and track runs between two of our crack drivers. Some cones were harmed but not killed on the more spirited laps but more due to driver overeagerness than anything lacking in the machine. We confess that our skepticism about the GS was obliterated when it threw down more than just robust power but progressive and smooth acceleration, good steering feel, proper gear changes and solid body control. We think Lexus is headed in a very good direction, indeed.
But beyond just tech and looks, the GS can now add the bragging rights of a driver’s sedan.
We then swallowed a concoction of equal parts fear and giddy excitement as we hopped in the passenger seat of the LFA supercar with Scott Pruett (this time, sans snow) who exhibited all the restraint of a Biggest Loser contestant at Old Country Buffet when taking us for a spin. Mr. Pruett holds the distinction of being the 2011 Grand-Am Champion, having raced in multiple series from the aforementioned to CART, NASCAR and IMSA and it showed. We were tossed around like rag dolls as Scott took the refined hyperbeast up to an eye-watering 128 mph, on a sweeping turn no less. Relaxed and ever-composed, both car and driver worked in awesome synchronicity. All we can say is, we want one… the car, that is.
We departed the track pleased, educated on the religion of the new Lexus movement and excited about another serious step for automotive advancement and driver engagement. Not too bad for the biggest weekend in football.