A Breakthrough for Lexus
Lexus has set out on a mission to revolutionize its image. No longer content with being known solely for luxurious yet lackluster vehicles, Lexus has made significant strides to change that perception. First, they introduced the compact and fierce IS-F, followed by the exotic and awe-inspiring LFA. Now, they’ve turned their attention to the mid-size GS sport sedan, a car with broad appeal. Can the latest iteration of the GS truly mark the rebirth of Lexus?
Breaking Away from Tradition
With the fourth generation 2013 GS 350, Lexus seems to have successfully broken free from their luxury-overload mold. That’s not to say the previous rear-wheel drive GS lacked excitement. In truth, its speed and driving experience were often underestimated. However, one major drawback was its overly aggressive stability control system, which prevented drivers from fully enjoying the ride. The fix, fortunately, was more of a software adjustment rather than a hardware overhaul. Not that the hardware hasn’t seen improvements as well.
The 2013 GS boasts a redesigned body and chassis. From the imposing HID headlights with LED running lights and enlarged air intakes that reach down towards the pavement, to the LFA-inspired curves, the front of the vehicle exudes an aggressive aura. Its profile maintains a sense of familiarity, with sleek sides and sturdy C-pillars leading to a rear end that features a tall trunk-lip spoiler, distinct L-shaped tail lamps with fin-like lens mounts, and a forceful lower fascia with integrated dual exhausts.
Power and Performance Upgrades
Underneath the hood, a slightly modified 3.5-liter V6 engine powers the GS. Horsepower and torque have seen slight improvements, with figures now reaching 306 horsepower and 277 pound-feet respectively. Lexus claims a 0-60 time of 5.7 seconds. While there are no plans for a V8 variant, engineers have cleverly added an Intake Sound Generator, which creates the aural sensation of a V8 engine. For those seeking a more eco-friendly option, the GS 450h Hybrid will boast an impressive 338 horsepower. A revised 6-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters comes as standard, while all-wheel drive remains an available option.
To cater to diverse driving preferences, Lexus has introduced a new drive-mode selector with ECO, Sport, and Sport Plus settings. Additionally, the GS incorporates various cutting-edge technologies to enhance performance, such as Electric Power Steering, Dynamic Handling with Variable Gear Ratio Steering, Dynamic Rear Steering, and Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management.
A Touch of Class and Innovation
What truly sets the new GS apart is the unparalleled sense of feel and responsiveness it offers. This game-changing improvement allows drivers to truly connect with the road, marking a significant departure from the usual Lexus driving experience. While there may be moments when the car’s handling doesn’t provide precise feedback, the ability to turn off electronic traction controls sets the GS apart from the typical Lexus fare.
Stepping inside the GS, you’ll find a blend of classic Lexus design and touches reminiscent of the best from BMW. High-quality leather and exquisite contrasting stitching adorn the interior, exuding an air of elegance. The wood and leather steering wheel incorporates numerous controls and can even be heated for added comfort. The Lexus remote touch central controller remains the primary interface for most functions, now featuring a more convenient push-to-enter design. The optional navigation system impressively expands to a 12-inch hooded center screen. Despite its size, it never feels intrusive, allowing for easy viewing and operation. Voice activation functionality is included as well.
The gauges in the new GS convey a 3D-like appearance, with lighting that transitions from soothing ECO Blue to fiery Angry Red in Sport Mode. Our GS Luxury model was equipped with an array of amenities, including a head-up display, blind spot monitoring, night vision capabilities, window shades throughout, and sumptuous heated-and-cooled 18-way power adjustable front seats. Even rear seat passengers are treated to creature comforts, with flip-down armrest controls for heated seats, climate settings, and audio adjustments. Thanks to redesigned front seats, legroom has been increased, and the trunk benefits from a more compact rear suspension setup, resulting in a spacious 14.3-cubic feet of cargo capacity.
While official fuel economy ratings and pricing details have yet to be released, early estimates for the GS 350 stand at approximately 19 MPG city and 23 MPG highway on premium fuel. When the GS goes on sale in February, it is expected to be priced near its current starting point of $48,000.
While the 2013 Lexus GS 350 undeniably boasts improved capabilities and a more engaging driving experience, it still falls slightly short in terms of providing the absolute responsiveness and feedback offered by its European and American counterparts. The F-Sport model is a more serious contender, but even it primarily relies on electronics rather than solely mechanical enhancements. This approach is not inherently wrong, as engineering “feel” is far more challenging than engineering “performance.” Lexus has taken a major step in the right direction with the new GS, and now it’s time to build upon that success.
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