2013 Lexus GS 350Posted on September 18th, 2012
Luxury Sedan with Four Season Performance
By Nina RussinOf all the passenger car segments, I find luxury sport sedans one of the hardest to write about. The BMW 5 Series, Audi A6 and Volvo S60, all cars the new Lexus GS competes against, are each formidable contenders. The fact that the GS rises to the top of this very elite class is high praise indeed. Engineers raised the performance bar by making the new GS one of the best balanced cars this writer has ever driven.
I have driven the 2013 GS several times now, including Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the Phoenix metropolitan area and most recently, a road trip between Indianapolis and Cincinnati. What stands out about each experience is how easy the GS is to control: it practically steers itself. Drivers who find themselves behind the wheel of the GS will discover their skills have improved, simply because engineers did such a good job on the chassis.
The newest Lexus Grand Sport comes in three variants: V-6, Hybrid and F Sport. All-wheel drive is available on all but the F Sport model, giving the sport sedan better traction on wet roads.
Base price for the GS 350 is $49,450, excluding the $875 delivery charge. Options on the test car include blind spot monitoring ($500); a premium package which includes heated and cooled front seats, rain sensing wipers, adaptive suspension, 18-way power front seats, three-zone climate control, heated steering wheel, semi-aniline leather upholstery and wood trim ($6530); navigation with Lexus Enform ($1735); intuitive park assist ($500); trunk mat ($105) and cargo net ($64). Final MSRP is $59,759.
Test drive in the MidwestMy recent drive through the Midwest included some pouring rain as well as sunshine, surface streets in Indianapolis and Cincinnati, and 100 miles of the I-74 freeway. I like doing test drives in Cincinnati because the streets are narrow, hilly and uneven. Suspensions which seem just fine on the smooth roads around Phoenix don’t necessarily pass muster going over a series of raised potholes on a 40 mile-per-hour Midwestern surface street.
Cincinnati is a town in which street parking is the norm rather than a rarity, and off-street parking spots are small. Covered garages in older buildings are like obstacle courses, in which the driver has to maneuver between supporting beams.
The roads were originally built for horses and carriages rather than large modern cars, so staying within a lane can be a challenge. Newer roads tend to crest and flatten approaching a stop light. In Cincinnati, they get steeper.
Despite all of this, I found the GS effortless to drive. Part of the reason is the sedan’s 54/46 front-to-rear weight balance. Because of the engine location, most sedans are more nose-heavy. The car’s track is 62 inches: quite wide for its 112.2-inch wheelbase. The wide track and 17-inch alloy rims improve stability at speed.Although the base V-6 engine is smaller than for former GS models, it produces excellent power, accelerating from zero-to-sixty in 5.7 seconds. Direct injection improves throttle response by delivering fuel directly into engine cylinders rather than passing through the valves. This also reduces the amount of uncombusted fuel which comes out the exhaust as carbon monoxide.
Because the engine is smaller, fuel economy is better than for former generations. The all-wheel drive V-6 model averages 21 miles-per-gallon. For those who don’t need the wet weather performance, a rear-wheel drive variant is about two miles-per-gallon better. Lexus requires the use of 91-octane premium gasoline due to the engine’s high compression ratio.
A six-speed automatic transmission is a bit behind the technology curve, since some competitors now use seven and eight-speed boxes. It can’t yield the gas mileage of those units, but shifting is smooth, with no noticeable shift shock during normal driving conditions.
A rotary knob on the center console enables the driver to modify shift points according to road conditions and his driving style: eco, normal, sport and snow. Formula-one style paddle shifters on the steering wheel allow the driver to select gears manually when pushing the performance envelope.
All-wheel drive on the test car ensures that engine power reaches the wheels with the best traction, by varying the front-to-rear power split from 50/50 to 30/70, depending on road conditions.
Toyota was one of the first companies to use electric power steering systems because they are a necessity in hybrid cars. As a result, engineers have had more time to refine their performance. For the new GS, this means a 34-foot turning circle, with equally impressive on-center response on the highway.
The four-wheel independent suspension consists of a double wishbone setup in front and multi-links in the rear. The adaptive suspension option enables the driver to change shock absorber damping for weekends at the track.
Optional blind spot monitoring illuminates LED signals in the side mirrors when cars in adjacent lanes pass through the driver’s blind spots. This is one of my favorite current safety technologies. I find it especially helpful trying to monitor traffic in heavy rain which I experienced during the test drive, as well as in rush-hour traffic.
Standard bi-xenon headlamps project longer beams of light than halogen, which are brighter and closer to daylight. Driving on two-lane service roads between the airport and the hotel late at night, the headlamps made poorly lit corners much easier to see in the rain.
A standard rear backup camera projects a wide-angle image to the back of the car when the driver shifts into reverse. Lines superimposed over the image show the vehicle’s trajectory according to steering inputs. Not only does this make it easier to see cross-traffic when pulling out of a vertical parking slot, it gives the driver a better view of the vehicle in back when parallel parking.
Lexus uses a mouse device on the center console for controlling audio, Enform and navigation systems. It took me less than five minutes to program the navigation system for the destination. Graphics on the center stack screen are bright and easy to read. Thanks to the navigation system, I felt safe and protected on my way to the hotel.
The GS interior can seat up to four adults comfortably: a tall floor tunnel and the location of the center console limit legroom in the center second-row position. I’m not sure that I know what to do with 18 seat adjustments, but the driver’s seat was extremely comfortable during the two-hour drive between Indianapolis and Cincinnati. Three-position seat memory controls for the driver and front passenger enables multiple family members to share the driving.
Three-zone climate controls give second-row passengers a separate set of controls. Vents behind the center console circulate air through the back of the cabin. Although the middle seat is cramped, passengers in the second-row outboard positions have ample head, hip and legroom.
The trunk has ample space for golf bags, some small camping equipment, luggage and groceries. Cyclists would be better served with one of Lexus’ crossovers or sport-utility vehicles.
The 2013 Lexus GS comes with front, side and side curtain airbags, electronic stability and traction control, and antilock brakes. LED daytime running lamps make it easier for other drivers to see the sedan on canyon roads or in low light conditions. Safety Connect with automatic collision notification notifies the police and emergency medical personnel if the vehicle is involved in a serious accident. The service can also help police with stolen vehicle location.
Tire pressure monitoring, a tool kit and first aid kit are also standard equipment. The newest GS sport sedans are on display at Lexus dealerships nationwide.
Like: A luxurious, elegant sport sedan with outstanding handling characteristics.
Model: GS 350 AWD
Base price: $49,450
As tested: $59,759
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:* 19/26 mpg city/highway
Comment: *Lexus requires the use of 91 octane premium unleaded gasoline.
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