Monday, October 20, 2014

Is the Lexus GS at the top of its game?

For all the wonderful things Lexus cars are, "athletic" is not an adjective that usually enters a discussion of the brand. Traditionally, the automaker has produced cars that trade sharp reflexes for more predictable comfort (the IS F sport sedan and LFA supercar excepted). Lexus has reshaped that perception with the 2013 GS 350. Slightly wider and taller, much stiffer and with vastly improved steering feel, the GS 350 can finally lay claim to ground once owned solely by German sport-lux sedans.

     The new GS is somewhat similar to the earlier generations, underneath all of that fancy, more aggressive looking sheet metal. For example, length and wheel base remain the same, but the chasis is widened by about 2 inches or so. Among other things that are shared between the generations is the same basic suspension setup, with an improved design that allows for a larger trunk, which is good for a few bags of golf clubs, or what have you. The engine is also almost the same, but it has been tweeked to give you more power and fuel economy. When you step on the gas, you hear an almost throaty growl coming from the exhaust, which will certainly put a smile on your face.

     Inside, interior designs worked their magic to reduce weight from things like the head liner and door panels, to make room for such things like the massive touch screen in the middle of the dash. That screen houses all of the infotainment functions, and can be a little bit tricky to use. For example, the radio screen is split into two different sections, but to get to the other side of the screen requires a firm, but gentle click of the cursor to get to the other side. Maybe a setting can be adjusted to where the sensitivity is adjusted based on the screen that appears on the screen.

     Overall, the end result is that the GS is more equipped than it has ever been to go chasing on the likes of BMW and Audi, and give them one heck of a fight in the process. With Lexus' ever popular quality standars, which translate into fantastic quality, and add one of the best dealer experiences in the industry, and you have one heck of a package.


 The 2013 Lexus GS350 is a sporty, yet luxurious midsize sedan that offers ammenities that you might not have even thought possible to have in a car. Standard on the GS are: 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic xenon headlights, foglights, a sunroof, auto-dimming mirrors, keyless ignition/entry, leather upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and 10-way power front seats with driver memory. Standard electronics features include Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, an 8-inch control display with touchpad interface and a 12-speaker surround-sound audio system with a CD player, satellite radio, HD radio and a USB/iPod interface.

     If you opt to step up to the Luxury package, you will get things like: 18-inch wheels, adaptive headlamps, adaptive suspension dampers, upgraded leather, an 18-way power driver seat, a wood-trimmed steering wheel and rear climate and audio controls. The Premium package builds on those features with heated and ventilated front seats, rain-sensing wipers and a power rear sunshade. A Cold Weather package includes a heated steering wheel, headlamp washers and a wiper de-icer.

     Stand-alone options include 18-inch wheels, blind-spot detection, a head-up display, heated rear seats, parking assist, lane departure warning and lane keeping assist, dynamic rear steering, a night vision camera, adaptive cruise control (with a pre-collision mitigation system), a premium Mark Levinson 17-speaker surround-sound audio system, and a hard-drive navigation system with a 12.3-inch display, voice recognition, real-time traffic and Lexus Enform smartphone-connected apps and services.


 The 2013 GS 350 is powered by a Toyota/Lexus staple, the 3.5 liter V6. This engine makes 306 horsepower, and 277 lb.-ft of torque. A six speed automatic with a manual shift mode that allows you to use to steering wheel mounted padle shifters is the only transmission on the GS, but you do have a choice between AWD, or RWD. For bang for the buck fun, AWD is recommended. Fuel economy for the AWD version is rated at 19/26 city/highway, which if you think about it, is rather good for a car of its size, as well as having AWD.


     Safety is something that every automaker takes seriously, but Lexus takes it a step further. Standard safety features on the 2013 Lexus GS 350 include antilock brakes, traction and stability control, front and rear side-impact airbags, front knee airbags, side curtain airbags, active front head restraints and a rearview camera. Safety Connect, a traditional telematics service with automatic collision notification, stolen vehicle locator and emergency assistance button, is also standard.

Driving Impressions

 The GS350 delivers a healthy dose of V6 punch, while still giving you a Lexus smooth ride, like no other car can. However, when you push the car to its limits, gone are the days of the undulating, unsporty motions of GS cars past. Instead, improved steering feel, albeit a bit on the numb, and not much feedback side of things, as well as an improved suspension design make the GS feel almost as if it is glued to the road when going around certain turns. Make no mistake here, it is still a rather large car, and when pushed hard enough, it will certainly act like one, but it has been tightened up to give you more of a smile factor when you want to drive in a spirtied manor. A plus on this side is the stability control system that doesn't really seem to present itself when the times might call for it.

     One gripe would have to be the transmissions shift points. Even when in manual mode, the tranny releases revs to early, upshifting at about 6,500 rpm, a small nusiance when you want to slam the gas pedal to the floor after coming around a corner.


     If you are in the market for this type of car, should you put it on your list? Certainly, and here's why. You have the amazing dealer experience that comes with buying a Lexus, and you have the reliability that you could argue is legendary. Mix that altogether, and with the 2013 Lexus GS350, you have one heck of an amazing package. It will certainly bring the fight to the Germans, to say the least.

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