2013 Lexus GS350 vs. GS350 F-Sport

By Zack Klapman and edited by Christina Selter.

What does $5,600 mean to you? It really depends on your income, doesn’t it? To some, that is equal to months of work, to others weeks. If you’re Bill Gates, seconds.

If you’re standing in a Lexus dealership, looking at a 2013 GS350, that’s 11% of the MSRP. That’s close to 10%. A 10% discount on something hardly alerts us, and a 10% increase on a new car is met with similar disinterest. In the long run, it’s a small change. That’s the amount of money that separates the 2013 Lexus GS350 and the GS350 F Sport. It’s a decent sum of money, no question. Certainly enough to ask, “What does it get me?”

2013 Lexus GS350

It doesn’t get you a better engine; both cars share a 306HP/274tq. 3.5-liter V6. It doesn’t get you a fancy gearbox; they share a 6-speed auto with paddle shifters, both have RWD, and both will probably run forever. It isn’t that much faster, the size doesn’t change, and it doesn’t travel through time.

There is a noticeable appearance difference, with the F-Sport looking more aggressive inside and out, due to lips and spats outside, and a striking red leather interior bouncing out of the black headliner and shining aluminum (it’s a beautiful cabin that encourages sin without sacrificing Lexus’ quiet ride).

I, for one, hope to get more than a trim package for that money, and you do. Though the drivetrain and architecture remains the same, the F Sport option gives you a few small ingredients that change the GS to a true sport sedan: 16-way adjustable seats with adjustable bolsters (like a suit you can adjust with a button), 19” wheels with sport rubber, a Sport+ option that tightens the throttle and steering, adjustable suspension dampening, and bigger brakes. And those are absolutely worth $5,690.

2013 Lexus GS350 F Sport

I had the pleasure of driving a 2013 Lexus GS350 F Sport for a week, and loved it. It is Jekyll and Hyde at the turn of the driver mode control wheel (Comfort, Normal, Sport, and Sport+). It sails along quietly, a 4-wheeled Leer jet, but was also a true companion for mischief in canyons and at Fontana Raceway.

To be clear, the “regular” Lexus GS350 is no Valium capsule. At Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca, it proved itself as the base for the F Sport. Its 306HP loves to rev and pulls 4,000lbs of comfort with ease; It’s pretty quick. Steering feel is fine (not as quick as the F’s), and it’s a balanced car. If you want a powerful, roomy sedan to own for the next ten years, this should be at the top of your test list.

2013 Lexus GS350 F Sport

But… I missed that Sport+ setting. The regular GS is a kid with potential. The F Sport has applied himself. The upgraded tires, suspension, and shocks work so well together. And it looks better. The F Sport gives Clark Kent a black t-shirt, contact lenses, and brings his hair into the 20th Century. It turns this reliable commuter into a Japanese-made barn-stormer. It has the handling I used to get from a BMW, without the repair costs. If I were going to buy a $47,000 full-size, I’d spend $53,000 on the F-Sport without hesitation. And in a few years, when it’s a used option, it will be an even better value.

(Note: All vehicles provided by manufacturers for comparison test purposes. Photos provided by Lexus.)