Lexus needed this one. Sure, the RX crossover and the ES sedan sell very well, but neither car could be considered inspiring. At some point, the brand equity will run out for uninvolved heaps of leather that produce zero passion. Lexus had to make an exciting car for the masses.
The all-new 2013 Lexus GS is that car. Taping into their performance cred and boasting new corporate design language, Lexus finally has a luxury sport sedan worthy of taking on the German stalwarts.
Up until now, the GS has been the forgotten child in the Lexus lineup, never taken quite as seriously as the Audi A6 or BMW 5 Series. Both of those vehicles have just undergone major redesigns, while the GS was left to grow long in the tooth. The result? The GS, which was supposed to be the exciting member of the Lexus lineup, had gotten boring.
No more. All models in the Lexus GS series, including the GS 350 and the Lexus GS 450h hybrid model feature the “pinched” grille and other aggressive design elements found on the LF-Gh concept car. That concept portended the new GS, and it is impressive to see how little the design deviated from the concept. The gaping lower grille, angular LED headlight assemblies, and strong, pronounced beltline eschew a sedan making a bold statement of the performance credentials within.
The lineup starts out with the Lexus GS 350, with a base MSRP of $46,900, and the ante is upped with the GS 350 F Sport, demonstrating the most performance-oriented equipment and styling in the lineup. The range-topping model is the most powerful as well as the most fuel efficient- the hybrid GS 450h, with a base MSRP of $58,950. Our GS 350 AWD model came equipped with the Navigation package, and Premium package, and cost $55,407, as tested.
No matter which model selected, all five occupants are treated to one of the best cabins in the luxury game. The interior of the previous-generation was pleasant enough, but quite anonymous. This is a whole different ball game. It is straightforward, elegant, and powerful study in ergonomic design.
The centerpiece of the interior, and perhaps the entire car, is the latest iteration of the remote touch system. It operates like a track ball or joystick and snaps from menu item to menu item. It’s a little hard to explain and needs to be experienced first-hand.
Actual touch-sensitive units have always the preferred method of operating these ever-growing screens, but this system is incredibly intuitive- and it might even be better. It’s also massive. At 12.3 inches, it dominates everything else in the dash.
All versions of the GS feature a 3.5-liter V6, applied in varying ways. The GS 350 and 350 F Sport put out 303 horsepower, sent to the rear wheels or available all-wheel-drive, through a 6-speed automatic transmission. That transmission features a manual mode, operated via steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
Located immediately behind the shifter is the Drive Mode Selector. ECO, Normal, and SPORT modes are offered. In an effort to meet ever more stringent fuel economy regulations, the throttle response in Normal is relatively slow and the engine feels neutered in all but Sport mode. If you want to get up to speed with any haste, SPORT mode will need to be selected, but fuel economy will suffer.
Both the rear wheel drive, and all-wheel-drive versions of the GS 350 get 19 miles per gallon city, while the RWD model gets 28 mpg highway, and the AWD gets 26. We observed roughly 24 mpg in a week of mixed city and highway use. In order to get any decent fuel economy with the accompanying power, you’ll need to opt for the hybrid GS 450h.
This is counter-intuitive, but Lexus claims when it comes to power, the GS 450h is the top dog. The astute Lexus fan will note the absence of the previously-available V8-powered GS 460. With 338 horsepower from the combined gas/electric setup, the Japanese automaker asserts that the GS 450h is fully capable of replacing the V8.
Not so fast. The GS 450h sends its power to the rear wheels through a continuously variable transmission. Nothing about a CVT says “performance” Sure, the GS 450h gets from zero to sixty in just 5.6 seconds (0.1 second faster than the GS 350), but that does not make it the king of the performance ring.
The GS is a looking-glass into the future of luxury and performance. Great leaps and bounds have been made in style and technology, while performance is mitigated in the name of fuel economy. If tech goodies are your thing (and it is for more and more car buyers every day), the GS has it in spades. If a true rear-drive performance machine matters most, BMW still makes the 550i with good old-fashioned V8 power.