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  • Extended Drive: 2013 Lexus GS F Sport

    Posted on April 23rd, 2012 ninarussin

    Sedan raises the bar for driving enthusiasts

    By Nina Russin

    2013 Lexus GS 350 F Sport

    Last fall, Lexus revealed its newest generation GS midsized sport sedans with three variants: base V-6, hybrid, and F Sport. Over time, the Grand Sport has evolved from a pleasant but rather bland product to a car truly worthy of weekends at the race track.

    The F Sport package enhances performance from the sedan’s naturally-aspirated 3.5-liter engine and six-speed automatic transmission with 19-inch alloy wheels and low-profile tires, adaptive suspension tuned for aggressive driving, four-piston front disc brakes, rear spoiler and a 16-way adjustable bolstered driver’s seat.

    The package adds $5,690 to the GS $46,900 base sticker price. Granted, it’s quite a chunk of change, but the option truly brings out the sedan’s character, as a supremely refined and well balanced chassis.

    Driving the sedan on the track at Los Vegas Motor Speedway last November the GS glided through a series of challenging chicanes like a ballerina. The car almost steers itself.

    This week I put several hundred miles on the GS F Sport, on a road trip between Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona, as well as some time on the Bush Highway east of Phoenix.

    In addition to the F Sport package, the test car is equipped with blind spot monitoring ($500), ultrasonic park assist ($500), navigation with Lexus Enform, real-time weather and traffic updates ($1735), a handling package with dynamic rear steering ($1700), cargo net and trunk mat ($169). Delivery adds $875, bringing the price as tested to $58,069.

    V-6 engine shines off the line

    2013 Lexus GS 350

    Engineers imbued the aluminum V-6 engine with an abundance of low-end torque for exceptional performance off the line and merging into high speed traffic. Direct injection and a high compression ratio give the engine excellent throttle response. Zero-to-sixty acceleration is 5.7 seconds for the rear-wheel drive model, according to the manufacturer.

    An Eco meter in the gauge cluster enables the driver to extend gas mileage if he so chooses. The meter seems to respond to throttle position as opposed to rpm. I found it less useful than simply modifying acceleration to keep the engine revving at or below 2000 rpm. Since the engine requires premium fuel, saving gas when possible significantly lowers costs on longer road trips.

    The six-speed automatic transmission automatically modifies shift points according to driving conditions. It will keep the car in the high overdrive gears during steady state cruising, or downshift for power during aggressive driving.

    The driver can also select gears manually using either the shift lever or formula-style shift paddles on the steering wheel. The shift paddles are ergonomic and easy to use, producing crisp gear changes with a minimum of shift shock.

    The electric power steering system saves space under the hood and weight when compared to a conventional hydraulic setup. I was impressed with the sedan’s 34.8-foot turning circle, which makes the occasional U-turn a piece of cake. On the other hand, the GS has exceptional on-center response at speed with pleasantly heavy steering response.

    The dynamic rear steering feature manages front and rear steering angles independently to improve the rear wheels’ grip when cornering. The technology makes it close to impossible to break the rear end of the car loose.

    The adaptive suspension and steering features which come with the F Sport package make real-time changes to shock damping and steering response depending on driving conditions. Despite having stiffer shocks and the F Sport’s aggressive wheel/tire package, the test car was surprisingly compliant during ordinary driving.

    On the other hand, when I pushed the envelope on the two-lane Bush highway, the wheels’ large swept areas and real-time shock damping kept the sedan glued to the road. The chassis easily rebounded from pitchy hills and dips along the way.

    Visibility around the perimeter is good. A standard rear backup camera displays a wide angle view to the back of the car. Lines superimposed over the image show the vehicle’s trajectory according to steering inputs.

    The optional blind spot monitoring system illuminates LED signals in the side mirrors when vehicles pass the blind spots to the left and right of the sedan. Although over-the shoulder visibility is good to either side, the blind sport monitoring system makes it easier for commuters to weave through thick traffic.

    Standard bi-xenon headlamps project beams which are longer and closer to daylight than halogen to better light the path at night.

    Spacious interior

    2013 Lexus GS 350 Interior

    Standard keyless entry and start enables the driver to unlock the GS and fire the ignition without removing the key fob from his pocket. It’s a convenience which adds a measure of safety for those who enter their cars at night in urban areas.

    The sedan’s spacious interior up to four passengers. A tall floor tunnel and the location of the center console eclipse most legroom in the middle second-row position.

    The F Sport package adds a heavily bolstered driver’s seat which adds extra support for days at the track. Adjustable thigh support makes the seat more comfortable during extended road trips. Lower lumbar support is excellent for both the driver’s and front passenger seats.

    A power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel enables smaller drivers to maintain a safe distance from the front airbag and a clear forward view.

    Deep hoods over the gauge cluster and both center stack screens make them easy to read in bright sunlight. Lexus Enform on the test car enables the driver to get directions from a call center with the push of a button. The system is much easier to use on the go than programming a conventional hard drive navigation unit. The call center will also notify police and emergency personnel if the vehicle is involved in a serious collision.

    The driver can also pair his smart phone with the car’s infotainment system to access functions such as Pandora and IHeart radio. The sedan’s standard 5.1 surround sound audio system comes with satellite radio, iPod and MP3 interface and Bluetooth streaming audio. Redundant audio controls on the steering wheel enable the driver to manage these options with minimal distraction.

    Designers did a good job of giving all passengers access to cup and bottle holders. There are plenty of storage areas throughout the passenger cabin, including a locking glovebox.

    The trunk is spacious enough for a weekend’s worth of luggage, golf clubs, the weekly groceries or smaller camping equipment. Cyclists will be better served with one of Lexus’ sport-utility vehicles.

    Standard safety

    The Lexus GS comes with front, side, side curtain, driver and front passenger knee airbags, active front head restraints, antilock brakes, traction and stability control. The vehicle dynamic integrated management system manages the car’s ABS, electric power steering and stability control features in a manner which is invisible to the driver.

    The all-new GS is on display at Lexus dealerships nationwide.

    Likes: A beautifully balanced sport sedan, the new GS is equally adept at commuting through heavy traffic and weekends at the race track.

    Dislikes: None

    Quick facts:

    Make: Lexus
    Model: GS 350 F Sport
    Base price: $46,900
    As tested: $58,069
    Horsepower: 306 Hp @ 6400 rpm
    Torque: 277 lbs.-ft. @ 4800 rpm
    Zero-to-sixty: 5.7 seconds
    Antilock brakes: Standard
    Side curtain airbags: Standard
    First aid kit: Standard
    Bicycle friendly: No
    Towing: No
    Off-road: No
    Fuel economy: 19/28 mpg city/highway
    Comment: The manufacturer requires the use of 91 octane unleaded gasoline.

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