Now in its fourth generation, the Lexus GS mid-size luxury sedan can be had in two distinct forms: the hybrid GS 450h and the gas-powered GS 350. Both models are designed to be more stylish inside and out than their somewhat bland predecessors and the GS 350 ups the performance ante with an available driver-focused F Sport package. For those who want performance above all else, an all-new, V8-powered Lexus GS F sport sedan is now available.
For the latest model year, the GS receives additional standard safety features.
The GS sports Lexus' corporate "spindle" grille that juts inward to emphasize the stylized "L" badge at its center. Underscored by hood detailing and pointed (now-bi-LED) headlights, the grille is distinctive and visually signals that the GS is not just another staid Japanese luxury sedan. Elsewhere, some of the car's detailing is derivative - the LED accent lights were pioneered by Audi, while the side windows terminate in yet another interpretation of BMW's famous Hofmeister kink - but overall the look is far more likely to incite double-takes than the outgoing model.
Inside, the GS takes cues from both the LFA supercar and CT five-door hybrid with an elegant five-passenger cabin highlighted by an enormous (optional) 12.3-inch split screen navigation display. A three-spoke steering wheel and meaty side-view mirrors signal the car's sporting intentions, while elsewhere items like an understated analog clock and tasteful contrasting stitching help to create an air of refined, high-quality luxury. The dashboard contains relatively few buttons due to a mouse-like knob that handles audio and navigation adjustments. Many buyers find that the somewhat fiddly knob is a love-it-or-hate-it item, so shoppers are strongly encouraged to try before they buy.
The GS' interior is exceptionally quiet except when the accelerator pedal is thrust all the way to floor, at which point intake plumbing sends extra underhood music into the cabin.
Let's Talk Power
There are now three different engines available in the Lexus GS (four if you count the GS F's V8)--a two-liter turbo, the carry-over 3.5L V6 and the hybrid system.
The turbocharged four-cylinder is new to the platform. It's standard on the GS 200t and available only with rear-wheel drive. It makes 241 horsepower at 5,800 RPM and 258lb-ft of torque at 1,650 RPM. Like all rear-drive, non-hybrid GS sedans, the 200t comes standard with a new eight-speed automatic transmission. This combo is good for 22 mpg city, 33 mpg highway and 26 mpg combined. Opting for the F Sport (with its larger wheels and stickier tires) drops those figures to 20 city, 30 highway and 24 combined.
The next step up is the GS350, which is available in both rear- and all-wheel drive. The V6 is good for 311 horsepower and 280lb-ft of torque. Rear-drive models employ the eight-speed automatic, while all-wheel drive models use the older six-speed. Standard RWD models are rated at 20 mpg in the city, 29 on the highway and 23 combined. F-Sport models (RWD only) get 19 mpg city, 28 on the highway and 22 combined. All-wheel drive drops those numbers down to 19 mpg in the city, 27 on the highway and 22 combined.
The highlight of the GS 450h is its efficient hybrid powertrain. A detuned version of the aforementioned 3.5-liter V6 works with a pair of generators and a 240-cell nickel metal hydride battery to send a total of 338 horsepower to the rear wheels through a CVT. Even with the additional 400-pound mass of its hybrid system, the GS 450h is actually slightly quicker than the less powerful GS 350. The GS 450h is rated at 29 mpg in the city, 34 mpg on the highway and 31 mpg combined.
F Sport Package
For the first time, the F Sport package is available across the GS lineup--even on the hybrid model--though the extent of its modifications differs depending on the application. No matter which car you're looking at, rest assured that F Sport means a cranked-up performance factor with a host of technologies designed to improve handling. These are highlighted by the Lexus Dynamic Handling system with Dynamic Rear Steering, which monitors vehicle speed, steering direction and driver inputs in order to calculate the optimum steering angle for all four wheels. The system can independently manage both front and rear wheel steering angles to help improve turn-in response, rear grip, vehicle control and overall agility when cornering.
Lexus says that an Adaptive Suspension system included in the package helps front and rear wheel control and provides agile, sharp and confident driving behavior with a more direct response to the driver's actions.
Visual changes include more aggressive air intakes on the lower front fascia, a unique rear lower valence, a rear lip spoiler and F Sport mesh grille inserts. On some variants, special 19-inch wheels shod with meaty tires round out the upgrades included in the package.
Luxury Comes Standard
The GS comes standard with perforated-leather upholstery, genuine wood trim, 10-way power-adjustable front seats, a power sunroof, an eight-inch high-resolution multimedia display, a backup camera, a 12-speaker audio system, automatic dual zone climate control, cruise control, a USB audio device input, Bluetooth phone connectivity and audio streaming, HD radio with iTunes tagging, a backup camera and more.
GS350 and 450h models now come standard with navigation.
For customers desirous of an extra dose of luxury, Lexus offers several GS option packages.
The Premium Package includes rain-sensing wipers, heated and ventilated front seats and power rear sunshade.
The Luxury Package includes Premium Package features plus Adaptive Variable Suspension, an Adaptive Front Lighting System, unique high gloss espresso wood ornamentation, semi-aniline leather, 18-way power front driver and passenger seats with articulated back, side bolster and thigh support controls, four-way lumbar, butterfly headrests, passenger seat memory, rear HVAC and audio controls, rear manual side sunshades, 18-inch alloy wheels and wood and leather-wrapped (or trimmed) steering wheel.
Besides the massive 12.3-inch screen, the optional navigation system allows access to Lexus's Enform Application Suite, which pairs with the owner's iPhone, Android or Blackberry to provide local searches through Bing and utilize voice-enabled apps to make restaurant reservations through OpenTable, get movie tickets via MovieTickets.com or tap into internet radio, including Pandora or iHeartRadio.
The system also provides ability to check-in on Facebook and search for various business reviews including restaurants on Yelp. SiriusXM data services offer information on stocks, traffic, weather, sports and fuel prices.
Audiophiles will appreciate the available 17-speaker Mark Levinson premium surround sound audio system. The system provides 7.1 channel surround-sound through 10 channels using a new class D Digital amplifier with a clean 835-watts from 20-20,000 hz at only 0.01 percent total harmonic distortion. Green Edge speakers, a Lexus first, are lighter, more energy-efficient and have less distortion than conventional units.
Lexus Safety System + adds pre-collision warning with pedestrian detection, all-speed dynamic radar cruise control, intelligent high beams and lane departure warning with steering assist.
The GS is equipped with 10 airbags, including a knee airbag for both driver and front passenger. Outboard rear seats have seat-mounted side airbags, and all four outboard occupant seating positions are equipped with side curtain airbags.
New Whiplash Injury Lessening front seats reduce the space between the occupant's head and headrest to help limit excessive head movement and help decrease the severity of whiplash-type injuries in certain types of rear end collisions.
Finally, the GS offers a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, dynamic cruise control, automatic high beams, and lane departure warning with steering assist.
Other optional safety systems include a Heads Up Display and a Blind Spot Monitor that helps detect vehicles in rear/side blind spots.
Some of the Lexus GS 350's main competitors include the luxurious Mercedes-Benz E-Class, the elegant and technology-laden Audi A6, and the BMW 5 Series.