2013 Lexus GS challenges German competitors
BY KIRK BELL For Sun-Times Media April 6, 2012 2:05PM
2013 LEXUS GS 350
ENGINE: 306-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6
TRANSMISSION: six-speed automatic
DRIVETRAIN: rear-wheel drive
FUEL ECONOMY: 19 city/28 highway
BASE PRICE: $47, 775
AS TESTED: not available
BMW is used to being chased. The brand’s sport sedans are regularly benchmarked by other automakers for their amazing balance of ride and handling. The BMW 5 Series has been the handling champ of midsize luxury cars for decades.
Now one brand can match or even exceed the 5’s dynamic character. It’s not Audi or Mercedes-Benz or even Infiniti. Surprisingly, that brand is the traditionally conservative Lexus with the 2013 GS.
With this redesign, Lexus set out to turn the GS into a full-fledged grand touring sedan. That meant making it more emotional to look at, sit in and drive.
The emotion starts with the looks. The new GS represents the next expression of Lexus’ L-finesse styling language, one that is more aggressive and distinctive. An available F Sport package with more aggressive front air intakes and wide-and-wider 19-inch tires looks even meaner. The F Sport’s rear P265/35s are the widest tires ever put on a Lexus.
No matter how good a luxury sedan looks, if it doesn’t deliver the goods from behind the wheel, it won’t stack up to the German competition. So Lexus gave the GS a bit of the LFA supercar’s driving DNA. Lexus engineers devised a more rigid platform, increased the track up to 2 inches to make it more planted and stable, and switched to aluminum suspension components — a double wishbone up front and a rear multilink — to reduce unsprung weight.
Those are just the basics. Lexus also developed an optional dynamic rear steering system and the F Sport package. The rear steering turns the rear wheels up to 2 degrees in the opposite direction of the fronts to help the car rotate at low speeds and with the fronts to improve stability at high speed.
Few GS owners will take their cars to the racetrack, so road manners are really more important. The base suspension, with its 17-inch wheels, does a fine job of soaking up bumps. The F Sport has an adjustable variable suspension that also affects other vehicle systems.
An eco mode aids fuel economy slightly, but throttle response becomes dull and a bit frustrating. The normal mode offers a fine balance of ride and handling without making the car wallow and float.
Power is competitive, too, though the GS no longer offers a V-8 like its German rivals. It comes only with a 3.5-liter V-6. In base form, this silky-smooth 306-horspepower engine launches the GS from 0 to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds. A new intake sound creator helps the engine emit a refined but aggressive exhaust note during hard acceleration, but you can barely tell the engine is on during normal cruising.
The lone transmission for nonhybrid models is a six-speed automatic that comes standard with steering wheel shift paddles, shifts quicker than last year, and adds downshift throttle blips. We found the transmission to be smooth and more responsive than we are accustomed to in a Lexus.
The GS 450h hybrid has a continuously variable automatic transmission that doesn’t ever shift, so power delivery feels a bit unnatural. It uses the same 3.5-liter V-6 as the GS 350 and total output is 338 horsepower . The hybrid is some 30 percent more efficient this year thanks to the more efficient Atkinson combustion cycle. The electric assist gives the GS 450h a bit more low-end torque than the base engine, improving response from a stop and cutting the 0 to 60 mph time slightly to 5.6 seconds. Fuel economy is an impressive 29 mpg city/34 highway.
Inside, the GS features a quality cabin that is now roomier. Quality materials abound and soft-touch surfaces cover the dashboard, armrests and door panels. The front seats are comfortable and notably supportive, and while there is statistically just a bit more room up front, it feels more spacious.
The car’s additional width adds almost 3 inches of rear hip room, making three-across seating more comfortable. Headroom is improved by almost an inch and the front seatbacks are carved out to add more knee space. In total, there is enough room for a 6-footer to sit behind another 6-footer, though very tall rear passengers will still find rear headroom cramped.
In terms of technology, the GS takes a couple of steps forward and one notable step back. The positives are the Lexus Enform system and the largest dashboard screen on the market. This massive 12.3-inch dashboard screen can show three types of information at once. Enform pairs with your smart phone to provide access to apps. Tech junkies will love it, but be careful to monitor how much data you stream through it (it may cost you) and never let Enform distract you from the road.
The functions on the dashboard screen are controlled by Lexus’ remote touch system. It comes with a mouse on the center console that uses resistance (called haptic feedback) so you can feel the “buttons” on the screen.
Remote touch aside, the 2013 Lexus GS is a real contender in the prestigious luxury sedan market. The look is attractive, the interior is refined and roomy, and most importantly, the GS is now a sport sedan on par with or even better than Germany’s best. Lexus says this new focus on sportiness will permeate its lineup in the future. We look forward to more cars as good as the GS.
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