2013 Lexus GS 350 F SportPosted on October 3rd, 2012
Performance package makes sport sedan track-worthy
By Nina Russin
A year ago, Lexus rolled out an all-new version of its GS sport sedan, which includes base, hybrid and high-performance F Sport models. Although the F Sport uses the same 3.5-liter V-6 engine and six-speed automatic transmission as the base model, enhancements to the steering, brakes and suspension gives the sedan more aggressive performance.
A dynamic handling system, optional on the F Sport, monitors steering input and vehicle speed. The system automatically modifies the angle of the rear drive wheels for better steering response.
Standard comfort and convenience features include keyless entry and start, perforated leather upholstery with driver’s seat memory, dual-zone climate control, premium audio system with satellite radio, Bluetooth and iPod integration, and a power tilt-and-telescoping steering column with redundant controls.
The F Sport package adds $5,499 to the sedan’s $46,900 base price; the dynamic handling features costs $1,700. Other options on the test car include blind spot monitoring, navigation with Lexus Enform, cargo and trunk mats. Lexus Enform concierge service includes turn-by-turn navigation, real-time weather, traffic and stock information. Final MSRP which includes delivery is $58,069.
Test drive in Phoenix
The best way to experience the difference between the base GS and F Sport models is to drive them back-to-back. Since I had driven the GS 350 on a trip to the Midwest two weeks ago, the differences between that car, and the F Sport sedan I drove this week in Phoenix, were more obvious.
The F Sport GS builds on a great base package. The new GS is the best balanced sport sedan Lexus has ever produced. It’s a formidable competitor against the European sport sedans it competes against. Power from the V-6 engine is abundant. The engine delivers 303 horsepower and 274 foot-pounds of torque. Peak torque is available at 3600 rpm, which is about half throttle.
F Sport enhancements give the driver better control over this power with quicker steering response, a stiffer suspension and bigger brakes. All GS models include three performance modes, which the driver selects by using a rotary dial on the center console: eco, normal and sport. The F Sport adds a sport-plus mode, which makes the steering even quicker and the suspension stiffer.
Despite its performance bent, the F Sport model is civilized enough to use as a daily commuter. Optional blind spot monitoring illuminates LED signals in the side mirrors when vehicles in adjacent lanes pass through the driver’s blind spots. I would recommend the $500 option for those who frequently drive during rush hour, since it makes it much easier to weave through traffic.
The normal mode softens up the suspension a bit for driving over the types of rough surface streets common in the upper Midwest. Even with its larger wheels and tires, there’s enough compliance to keep occupants comfortable going over frost heaves or potholes.
Since the F Sport package also adds over ten percent to the GS MSRP, buyers should also consider the type of driving they will be doing. This isn’t to say that the performance enhancement isn’t worth the money. But since the GS is such a nice sedan out of the box, the performance variant makes the most sense for buyers who plan to participate in road rallies and weekend track events.
The best way to experience F Sport enhancement, aside from a track, is on a winding two-lane road with minimal traffic. I travelled east of Phoenix into the Tonto National Forest to find a good spot. In sport mode, the driver can manually select gears using formula-style paddle shifters. The transmission holds onto the gears unless the driver comes to a sudden stop.
Front-to-rear weight balance for the rear-wheel drive GS is 53/47. The chassis literally prances over bumps in the road and eats up curves. I realize that some drivers prefer a manual gearbox over any type of automatic. But for those who don’t want the inconvenience of a clutch during rush hour, the six-speed automatic with manual shift option is a nice alternative.
Larger rotors on the F Sport model give the GS better stopping power. Nineteen-inch wheels and tires are standard on the F Sport as opposed to 17-inch rims on the standard GS. Summer performance tires which come with the model are ideal for track time in balmy weather, but won’t work well in sub-freezing temperatures. Buyers who intend to drive this car in cold weather will need to install winter tires when the mercury drops.
The F Sport option adds some styling enhancements both on the exterior and inside of the car: a sport front bumper and lower rear valence, mesh grille inserts, special leather seats and aluminum trim on the interior. It also includes a black headliner.
Designers increased rear passenger space in the new GS, so the sedan can comfortably accommodate four adults. The sedan’s tall floor tunnel virtually eliminates legroom in the second-row center position. I found the driver’s seat on the F Sport quite comfortable for my two-hour test drive. Although the seat is designed for high-speed driving, it doesn’t have the over-aggressive bolsters which can make some seats uncomfortable.
The optional navigation system is intuitive to operate, using a mouse device on the center console. I found the graphics, which include split screen views when the driver approaches critical junctures, quite easy to follow.
LED interior lights provide plenty of illumination at night, despite the sedan’s dark interior. A subtle color band over the gauges tells the driver which driving mode he has selected. Both the gauge cluster and center stack display are easy to read in bright sunlight.
Redundant steering wheel controls allow the driver to program the audio system and use the Bluetooth interface without taking his eyes off the road. Driver’s seat memory controls make it easy for multiple family members to share the car.
The Lexus GS F Sport comes with front, side, side curtain, driver’s knee and front passenger knee airbags, daytime running lamps, antilock brakes, traction and electronic stability control. Bi-xenon headlamps provide beams of light which are longer than halogen, and closer to daylight.
Whiplash-resistant front seats come standard on all GS models, as does Safety Connect, which automatically notifies police and emergency medical personnel in the event of a serious collision. Tire pressure monitoring, a first aid kit and tool kit come with all models.
The 2013 Lexus GS F Sport is on display at dealerships nationwide.
Like: A beautifully balanced, powerful sport sedan which can also double as a daily driver.
Model: GS 350 F Sport
Base price: $46,900
As tested: $58,069
Horsepower: 303 Hp @ 6200 rpm
Torque: 274 lbs.-ft. @ 3600 rpm
Zero-to-sixty: 5.7 seconds
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: Standard
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy*: 19/28 mpg city/highway
Comment: *Lexus requires the use of premium91-octane unleaded gasoline.
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