2016 Lexus GS 200t F Sport Review

Earlier this year during the Monterey Car Week, Lexus showed us its 2016 Lexus GS model range. We pretty much knew what to expect — and we weren’t wrong. In a typical midcycle refresh, its exterior style was tweaked some, and the GS 350’s V-6 picked up a couple of extra ponies, among other small changes. But the biggest news — and least expected — was that Lexus is introducing its 2.0-liter turbocharged four under the hood of a new model variant, the 2016 Lexus GS 200t. A turbo-four in a car as large as the GS? We have to admit, we were a bit skeptical.

Lexus is far from alone in downsizing, however. Small-displacement, forced-induction engines are finding their way into luxury automobiles faster than you can say global warming. German rivals Audi and BMW offer turbo-fours in their midsize sedans, the A6 and 5 Series, respectively. There’s simply no easier way to meet ever-tightening emissions and fuel economy mandates while retaining acceptable performance.

On the surface at least, the performance numbers for the 2016 Lexus GS (241 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque) seem acceptable enough and help propel the roughly 3,800-pound GS from 0 to 60 mph in a shade over 7 seconds, according to Lexus. While no rocket ship, in our first stint behind the wheel of the GS 200t we found it at least as quick as the numbers suggest, with Lexus claiming it is nearly as peppy with three adults in the car. (We’ll have to take Lexus’ word for it for now.)

Our drive came at a Lexus F event, so it made sense that the 2016 GS 200t F Sport was the version on hand. It features the F Sport suspension, which includes stiffer springs and revised bushings, Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) with driver-selectable shock absorber damping, variable gear-ratio steering, Drive Mode Select with Sport S+ mode, and four-piston brake calipers up front with high-temperature pads. Aluminum control arms help reduce unsprung weight, and its wider summer tires roll on 19-inch wheels.

How do you tell it’s an F Sport model from the outside? Note the unique front bumper and rear lower valence, mesh front grille inserts, and of course, side badges. The F Sport flair also dresses up the sleek-looking interior, which includes a 16-way power sport driver’s seat, aluminum trim, F Sport pedals and doorsill plates, and perforated leather seat upholstery. It’s a cohesive package that adds a touch more than $7,000 to the car’s sticker and looks sharp enough (as long as you can get past the “spindle” grille that was ever so subtly reshaped for the new model year).

Mash the throttle on the rear-drive-only GS 200t F Sport and after some noticeable early lag as the turbo spools up the 2.0-liter steadily gains steam beyond 2,000 rpm until plateauing just shy of 6,000 rpm. All the while it plays an eager, if not particularly sophisticated, tune, augmented in the cabin by a sound symposer. The eight-speed auto isn’t a hindrance, swapping cogs fairly quickly under hard acceleration.

2016 Lexus GS 200t Rear Three Quarter In Motion

The Drive Mode Select dial spins four ways. Eco is for the fuel misers. Normal is fine for around-town driving. Sport mode amps up the powertrain settings, sharpens throttle response, and makes the shift points more aggressive. But you’ll need to turn it to Sport S+ to have the most fun. The setting allows for the most playful chassis behavior before the Lexus Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM) system steps in and modulates the shenanigans.

The GS rides very well, striking a balance between taut and compliant. Lexus has been fine-tuning its F Sport tuning, and it shows after our stint in the car. It still exhibits a bit of roll and dive, as to be expected for a car in this segment, and its uprated brakes stop strongly with good feel, though we didn’t get a chance to see how they hold up on the track. But really, that’s just as well. The F Sport range isn’t about hardcore performance anyway — that’s for the GS Fs and RC Fs of the world. Think of F Sport as a similar philosophy to BMW’s M Sport, Audi’s S Line, or Cadillac’s Vsport, and you get the idea.

You’ll cough up $46,555 to start for a standard GS 200t (some $4,000 less than an equivalent rear-drive GS 350), while the 2016 Lexus GS 200t F Sport rings in at a fairly hefty $54,860. It’s worth mentioning that $635 of the F Sport’s cost is in the required Lexus Safety System, a package that includes pre-collision braking, lane-departure warning, and adaptive cruise control. That said, a 311-hp, V-6-powered Lexus GS 350 F Sport is only about $1,000 more than the turbo-four version. So if performance is your thing, the choice is easy: Go with the six. But if you just want to save a few bucks and burn less fuel, then the turbo F Sport is the GS model for you.

2016 Lexus GS 200t Side In Motion

2016 Lexus GS 200t F Sport Specifications

On Sale: Now
Price: $54,860 (base)
Engine: 2.0L turbocharged DOHC 16-valve I-4/241 hp @ 5,800 rpm, 258 lb-ft @ 1,650-4,400 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Layout: 4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, RWD sedan
Fuel Mileage: 20/30 mpg (city/hwy) (est)
Brakes: Steel vented discs
L x W x H: 192.1 x 72.4 x 57.3 in
Wheelbase: 112.2 in
Weight: 3,805 lb
0-60 MPH: 7.2 sec
Top Speed: 143 mph

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