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  • 2018 Lexus GS350 F Sport

    Posted on June 29th, 2018 ninarussin

    Mid-size sedan for driving enthusiasts

    By Nina Russin

    Lexus GS 350

    Lexus GS 350

    This year Lexus renamed its mid-size Lexus GS 200t sedan ‘300.’ The GS 300 is powered by the same two-liter turbocharged engine as before: the name change indicating its equivalent power to a three-liter naturally-aspirated engine.

    The more powerful version remains the GS 350, with its 311-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6. Although the 300 sports a smaller engine, the GS 350 is slightly lighter (about 75 pounds) and accelerates from zero-to-sixty faster: 5.7 seconds according-to the manufacturer.

    Pricing for the performance-oriented GS 350 F Sport starts at $52,060 excluding the $995 destination fee. The F Sport package adds upgraded 19-inch wheels with summer performance tires, sport-tuned variable adaptive suspension, variable gear-ratio steering, bigger brakes, a special driver’s seat, unique exterior and interior trim, a rear valence and rear lip spoiler.

    Other options on the test car include a heads-up display, limited slip differential, power trunk, four-wheel steering, heated steering wheel, illuminated door sills, wheel locks and a trunk mat, bringing the final MSRP to $57,460.

    To turbo or not-to turbo

    Lexus GS 350

    Lexus GS 350

    Deciding between the turbocharged four-cylinder or naturally-aspirated V-6 depends on the type of driving you do and where you do it. The turbocharged four-cylinder GS gets better gas mileage both around-town and on the highway: one-to-two miles-per-gallon. If you live at altitude, the two-liter block will have less parasitic power loss because of the exhaust driven turbo. On the other hand, the V-6 offers a more powerful launch off the line as well as more high-end power.

    Both engines come with an eight-speed automatic transmission that adds large overdrive gears for enhanced highway fuel economy. My test drive was on par with the EPA-estimated 27 miles-per-gallon: not the most fuel-efficient car in its competitive segment, but offering extremely satisfying performance with Lexus’ reputation for reliability and build quality.

    Test drive in Phoenix, Arizona

    Lexus GS 350

    Lexus GS 350

    Over the past week I drove the GS 350 around Phoenix, Arizona’s east valley, including Scottsdale, Chandler and Gilbert as well as a high-speed section of the 10-interstate connecting Phoenix and Tucson. In this writer’s opinion, the GS was Lexus’ first true sport sedan, offering handling and performance on par with its European competitors. It continues to satisfy driving enthusiasts with its excellent front-to-rear balance that gives the car exceptional steering response.

    An adaptive variable four-wheel independent suspension consists of double wishbones up front and multi-link setup in the rear, giving drivers the ability to change shock absorber damping depending on their driving style. Taking the sedan through a decreasing radius cloverleaf at speed, I felt completely in control, with the ability to launch out of the turn at a good clip.

    The 19-inch wheels that come with the F Sport package replace 18-inch rims on the base car: they give the sedan a slightly larger footprint, plus the summer tires in lieu of all-season tires on other models. The summer tires enhance performance but do require that owners living in four-season climates purchase separate treads for the winter. In temperatures below 40-degrees the summer tires get as hard as plastic and offer very little traction.

    Lexus GS 350

    Lexus GS 350

    Ventilated disc brakes on all four wheels stop the sedan in firm, linear fashion.

    Visibility around the perimeter is good. A standard rearview camera eliminates blind spots in the back corners and beneath the rear glass when the driver shifts into reverse, while standard blind spot monitoring alerts the driver when vehicles in adjacent lanes pass through his blind spots.

    Lexus’ Safety System Plus with Pedestrian Detection is now standard. The suite of active safety features adds pre-collision with autonomous braking, dynamic radar cruise control, lane keeping assist and intelligent high beam headlamps.

    The GS comes with LED daytime running lamps and headlamps. At night, the LED headlamps deliver long beams of light close to daylight in intensity and color, with minimal drain on the car’s electrical system.

    Engineers did an excellent job of minimizing road, wind and engine noise intrusion to the interior: something the brand is famous for. Occupants in both rows will find it easy to converse on the highway or enjoy the sedan’s audio system.

    Driver-focused interior

    Lexus GS 350

    Lexus GS 350

    As with most sport sedans, the GS interior focuses on the driver. The driver’s seat that is unique to the F Sport model offers more adjustments and more support during aggressive driving. Sometimes extra bolstering is a benefit and sometimes it’s not: it can be uncomfortable on longer trips. The designers at Lexus got this seat right, with excellent lower lumbar support and bolsters that support but don’t impinge on the hips.

    Ditto for the steering wheel, with its slightly narrow diameter that is more ergonomic when driving for performance.

    I found both the center stack screen and gauge cluster easy to read in bright sunlight and after dark. The heads-up display gives the driver basic information about vehicle speed and posted speed limits, minimizing distraction. It’s located in the lower part of the windshield where it doesn’t obstruct the driver’s forward view.

    Infotainment controls are simple and intuitive to operate. Lexus uses a touchpad device similar-to PCs for many of its controls, eliminating extraneous knobs and buttons. Radio tuning and volume are knobs on the dash for simplicity’s sake.

    Standard dual-zone climate control keeps both front occupants comfortable in temperature extremes. Front seats are heated and ventilated. The smog sensor and air filter came in handy during the test drive, since Phoenix hasn’t seen much rain over the past several months, pushing air quality into the unhealthy zone.

    Rear passengers in the outboard positions should find enough leg and hip room to be comfortable on longer drives. The middle position offers less legroom, but is functional for short trips around town.

    Standard safety

    The Lexus GS 350 comes with ten airbags, antilock brakes, traction control, stability control, Lexus Enform with Safety and Service Connect and Lexus Safety System Plus with Pedestrian Detection.

    Lexus builds the GS at its Toyota Aichi Japan assembly plant.

    Like: A well-balanced midsize sport sedan with excellent front-to-rear balance, steering response and power.

    Dislike: Fuel economy is below some competitors in the segment.

    Quick facts:

    Make: Lexus
    Model: GS 350 F Sport
    Year: 2018
    Base price: $52,060
    As tested: $57,460
    Horsepower: 311 HP @ 6400 rpm
    Torque: 280 lbs.-ft. @ 4800 rpm
    Zero-to-sixty: 5.7 seconds
    Antilock brakes: Standard
    Side curtain airbags: Standard
    First aid kit: N/A
    Bicycle friendly: No
    Off-road: No
    Towing: No
    Fuel economy: 19/27 mpg city/highway

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