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2013 Lexus GS - Breaking Through - First Drive

Lexus builds a new GS that dares to be different.

Peter Tarach
Mar 20, 2012
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Specs & Details
'13 Lexus GS
Engine 3.5-liter Naturally Aspirated DOHC direct injection V-6
Horsepower 306
Torque 277 ft-lbs
Transmission 6-speed automatic with paddle shifters
Price $47,775 base (+$5,690 for F-Sport package)

Something strange is happening. Lexus — known for building conservative, unobtrusive, void-of-emotion automobiles recognized more for their luxury than performance — has decided to shed itself of that demeanor and start anew.

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The car that begs to be the poster child of the fresh, more sports-oriented image is the ’13 Lexus GS sedan. It comes in four different variations: the GS350, GS350 luxury, GS450h (hybrid version) and the one we’re here to talk about, the GS350 F-Sport. With an aggressive front end that combines large grille openings with sharp, angular lines that carry through the side of the car all the way to the rear, where you’ll be surprised to find a subtle diffuser built into the underling of the bumper, this definitely isn’t your dad’s old Lexus anymore.

The exterior styling of the GS is no doubt a rapid departure from years past, and the theme carries over into the interior, where the new design uses ample amounts of hand stitching and high-grade materials that we’ve come to expect from Lexus but with a layout emphasizing the driver. The well-recessed leather seats offer adjustable side bolstering that’ll keep your rear end in one spot should you feel the need to push your GS through some corners. The steering wheel is also exceptionally well designed, providing a superb feel that combines the right amount of sportiness with luxury.

The humongous 12.3-inch display is home to Lexus’ Enform 2.0 that hosts a plethora of apps ranging from Pandora radio to Yelp and Facebook. An optional heads-up display is available that will broadcast driving information onto the front windshield. If that’s not enough, there’s a Mark Levinson–designed audio system that features 17 speakers (we didn’t think you could fit that many speakers in a car, but apparently it’s possible) outputting 835 watts of surround-sound bliss. With literally thousands of hours spent tuning the cabin audio, this system is hard to describe in words. Let’s just say that even the toughest of audiophile critics would be dazzled.

An optional heads-up display is available that will broadcast driving information onto the front windshield.

So we have a Lexus that impresses from inside and out, but can it deliver on the road? Step on the accelerator pedal and a good amount of get up and go surges the GS forward in somewhat exciting fashion. The 3.5-liter V-6 powering the rear wheels turns out 306 hp and 277 ft-lbs of torque; it’s adequate enough, but the F-Sport could use some more grunt to really bring out some excitement. (Perhaps that’s already in the works?) On the bright side, anytime you mash the go pedal, a surge of engine noise makes its way into the cabin, thanks to an “intake sound creator,” which is essentially a tube plumbed into the cabin to heighten the driving experience.

As a whole, the GS F-Sport impresses in all the key aspects of performance. Its steering is precise and crisp, thanks to a dynamic handling option that adds variable gear ratios to the rack, which change during high- and low-speed turns. Because the rear-wheel steering can add up to 2 degrees of angle, the GS handles noticeably better through corners than any of its competition (BMW 5-series and Mercedes Benz E-class) and induces an exceptional level of confidence while driving it nearly at the limit. The suspension employs adaptive variable technology that makes millisecond-quick valve adjustments during shock compression and rebound to not only reduce bounce on rough roads but stabilize the car mid-corner.

As a whole, the GS F-Sport impresses in all the key aspects of performance.
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Sport shift paddles have become a regular occurrence on many “performance” vehicles today, even though most employ automatic transmissions. The difference in the case of the GS is that its 6-speed auto trans provides crisp, quick shifts with rev-matched downshifts and won’t shift at redline without driver input, so if you forget to tap that paddle, there’s a rev-limit-induced engine noise waiting to let you know.

In the braking department, the pedal feels solid and firm, due to some 14-inch front iron rotors with aluminum hats (didn’t think we would see that on a Lexus) and monoblock 4-piston calipers. After repeated laps on a rather large autocross course, there were no signs of fading to report.

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Let’s face the facts here, though — there are very few GS owners who will venture on the track or push their cars to all this hardware’s limits. However, this doesn’t take any credit away from Lexus and what it has accomplished with the new GS. It’s a radical departure from its traditional self, where driver involvement was mediocre at best.

The new GS represents a new direction for the Japanese luxury automaker, one that delivers an emotionally intriguing driver experience, and we can’t be any happier. It’s about time “Lexus” and “fun to drive” could be used in the same sentence.

By Peter Tarach
352 Articles

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