2013 Lexus GS 350 RWDPosted on December 27th, 2012
Five-passenger sport sedan
By Nina Russin
The all-new GS might be the best car Lexus has ever produced. Its performance is flawless, and because of that, the GS poses a serious threat to rivals such as the BMW 5 Series and Audi A6.
Equally important is the fact that the GS is in no sense derivative of its German competition. In this writer’s opinion, it is as much pure Lexus as the more expensive LS, albeit with a few less bells and whistles.
There are three variants: the base GS 350, GS 350 F Sport and the GS 450h gasoline/electric hybrid. The GS 350 is also available as an all-wheel drive sedan for buyers needing better traction in wet weather.
MSRP for the rear-wheel drive base model is $48,900 excluding the $875 destination charge. The test car comes with a luxury package that adds rain sensing wipers, 18-inch alloy rims, adaptive variable suspension, adaptive front lighting, semi-aniline leather upholstery, three-zone climate control and 18-way power front seats ($5750).
Other options on the test car include blind spot monitoring ($500), Mark Levinson audio system ($1380), navigation ($1735), intuitive park assist ($500), a cargo net ($64) and trunk mat ($105), bringing the price as tested to $57,809.
Engineered for driving enthusiasts
Although it is about the same size as the mid-sized Lexus ES (the GS wheelbase is about an inch longer), the GS engine has significantly more power. Equally important is the front-to-rear weight balance: 53/47 on the GS, as compared to 61/39 on the front-wheel drive ES.
Both sedans are a great choice for buyers who want a stylish, luxurious sedan, but only the GS is track-worthy. Powered by a 306 horsepower V-6 engine and six-speed automatic transmission, the rear-wheel drive model accelerates from zero-to-sixty miles-per-hour in 5.8 seconds.
What really separates the GS from other comparably priced sport sedans is its steering response. It is the best-tuned electric power steering system this writer has ever experienced. Vehicle dynamics integrated management, which prevents the car from skidding by integrating braking, steering and throttle controls plays a part in that. So does the optional adaptive variable suspension.
The 2013 GS has a wider track than former models that makes it more stable at speed. Aluminum suspension components reduce unsprung weight, while the addition of more laser welds makes that chassis more rigid. The upshot of all this is that the sedan literally seems to steer itself. It’s an almost eerie but undeniably cool thing to experience first-hand.
Southern Arizona road trip
The Christmas holiday presented a perfect opportunity to take the GS on a road trip between Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona. The interstate between the two cities seems to be in a perpetual state of construction in an effort to widen the road from four to six lanes.
While most drivers find this annoying, the uneven road surfaces and mandated lane changes create some challenges that make for a more interesting test drive. Add to this drivers distracted by their own holiday agendas, and there’s bound to be numerous instances of swerving and emergency lane changes.
The driver uses a rotary control to choose between three performance modes: Eco, Normal and Sport. Eco mode modifies throttle mapping and climate controls to extend gas mileage, while Sport modifies throttle mapping and shift points for the best handling. Normal is a default mode between the two extremes, which functions well for the majority of everyday driving conditions.
I avoided using the Eco mode because I wanted to see what kind of gas mileage I could get without softening the throttle. I used about ten gallons of gasoline for the trip, which also included some mileage around both the Phoenix and Tucson metro areas.
My results were about two miles-per-gallon better than the EPA estimate of 23 mpg. The manufacturer requires 91-octane premium unleaded gasoline, so buyers should take that into account when calculating cost of ownership.
Although visibility around the perimeter is pretty good, both the blind spot monitoring and rearview camera proved invaluable. They give drivers an extra measure of protection when those they share the road with are distracted.
Blind spot monitoring illuminates LED signals in the side view mirrors when other cars pass through the driver’s blind spots, making it easier to maneuver through dense traffic. The rearview camera projects a wide angle image to the back of the car when the driver shifts into reverse, eliminating blind spots and helping the driver to monitor cross traffic.
The 3.5-liter V-6 engine in the GS provides an abundance of power. Direct injection that delivers fuel directly into the engine cylinders, electronic throttle control and variable valve timing give the engine finesse, with a fat torque curve and excellent acceleration off the line.
The six-speed automatic transmission progresses seamlessly through the gears under normal driving conditions. There is some shift shock during hard acceleration, accompanied by a pleasing belch from the car’s dual exhaust pipes.
Four-wheel ventilated disc brakes stop the GS in a firm, linear manner.
Inside, the GS offers its occupants all the amenities they expect from a luxury sedan, and a few nice surprises. Remote keyless entry and push button start are standard, saving the driver from fishing for the key fob.
Optional Lexus Enform enables the driver to pair the audio system with his smart phone and use the car’s head unit for apps, including Pandora, IHeart radio, Open Table, Bing and Movie Tickets. The navigation system includes real-time traffic, sports, stock and weather updates.
Lexus Enform can also connect the driver to a personal assistant for directions: a safer and easier alternative to stopping and programming the navigation system on a crowded freeway.
I don’t know that I explored all of the 14 seat controls, but I did find the driver’s seat very comfortable for the test drive, with ample lower lumbar support. The seat heaters keep front occupants comfortable on cold winter days. They also do wonders for sore back muscles.
Formula-style paddle shifters on the steering wheel enable the driver to select gears manually, or he can use the gearshift lever in the center console. An information screen on the gauge cluster shows driving range, ambient temperature, instant and average fuel economy.
A tall floor tunnel consumes most of the legroom in the center second-row position, but most adults should be comfortable in the outboard seats. All passengers have access to 12-volt power points for recharging portable electronic devices and cupholders.
The trunk has room for a weekend’s worth of luggage, groceries, golf bags and small camping supplies. Cyclists will be better served by one of the Lexus crossovers or sport-utility vehicles, which have taller, longer cargo areas.
The Lexus GS comes with LED daytime running lamps, front, side, side curtain and front occupant knee airbags, tire pressure monitoring, antilock brakes, traction and stability control. Lexus Safety Connect can assist with stolen vehicle location, and notifies police and emergency medical personnel if the driver is involved in a serious collision.
The 2013 GS 350 is on display at Lexus dealerships nationwide.
Like: A stylish, comfortable sport sedan with outstanding ride and handling.
Model: GS 350
Base price: $48,900
As tested: $57,809
Horsepower: 306 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: 19/29 mpg city/highway
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