We are less than 48 hours away from Lexus' world premiere of the new generation of its premium mid-size sedan, the 2013 GS, but China's Autohome news site has nabbed the most revealing shots of the car to date.
Essentially, the only parts of the 2013 GS that are covered are the front and rear Lexus logos. The car pictured here sports the GS 350 AWD badge at the rear, which means it is equipped with a 3.5-liter V6 petrol engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission that transfers power to all four wheels.
While the GS seen in these pictures could be the China market version, don't expect any significant differences from the North American specification model that will be shown at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in California on Thursday, August 18th.
I like it, but I'd rather pass final judgment when the official press release photos are released in two days.
Yeah, it made it look like the front bumper was broken or collapsing or something. It was uncomfortable to look at...
Originally Posted by Bitter
It's like sex with your cute but chubby cousin that one time when you had both had too much wine at Christmas dinner. You know it's wrong, you're not stopping, and you really regret it the next morning. That is poutine, Canada does this 24x7x365. Canada are a bunch of sick bi-lingual metric cousin f*ckers.
-Bold and dynamic design featuring the new face of Lexus
-Improved driving dynamics
-Packed with innovative performance and safety technology
-Spacious interior with a contemporary and sophisticated feel
-Lexus unveiled the new GS at the prestigious Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in California on Thursday, 18 August. The car will reach the UK market in 2012.
The new GS brings a more engaging driving experience, bolder design and a more spacious, contemporary interior, heralding a new chapter in the history of Lexus.
Starting with the bold spindle grille – set to be a signature feature of future Lexus models – the new GS conveys an air of confidence. This is supported by a redesigned chassis with a wide, strong stance that clearly signals the new GS is designed to inspire and reward driver participation with crisp and precise handling.
Lexus engineers challenged themselves to develop a more spacious interior environment for the new GS. Leaving exterior dimensions virtually unchanged, they increased cabin and boot space to create a richly appointed interior that will transport passengers and their luggage in comfort, regardless of distance.
The new Lexus GS will be launched in early 2012, including hybrid and F-Sport versions. For the UK there will be the GS 450h full hybrid and GS 250 petrol engined derivatives. Details will be announced later this year.
A New Personality, An Invitation To Drive
Designing the new GS to be both strong and agile was a key focus of the engineering team. Their main objective was to provide a more engaging driving experience. To achieve this they created a new aerodynamic body, a wider stance and stiffer structure, a transmission with quicker changes and distinctive engine sound and exhaust note.
The revised platform is more rigid compared to the current model thanks to an increased number of spot welds and adding laser welds in very specific locations. The track, wider by 40mm at the front and 50mm at the rear, works in combination with a revised suspension design to give a more assured stance and superior cornering performance.
The new suspension system is designed to guide the GS through corners with precision. In the front, aluminium upper and lower control arms employ larger bushings. The rear subframe has been completely redesigned to accommodate an all-new multi-link rear suspension, the improved geometry enhancing rear-end control. With the stiffer platform and lighter components, the shock absorbers can use lighter-viscosity oil, responding faster to small inputs.
The use of aluminium reduces unsprung weight and results in significantly improved agility, ride comfort, body control and steering precision. Ventilated disc brakes featuring four-piston aluminum front calipers are equipped with the latest electronic enhancements to provide braking balance and control.
Attention To Detail
The precisely sculpted exterior of new GS fuses distinctive style with engineering functionality, expressing a new generation of Lexus’ design philosophy which will be applied to future models.
This is evident in details such as the fins incorporated into the side of the tail lamps and the design of the boot area, each helping to direct air over and past the car.
The signature spindle grille with its trapezoidal contours integrates into the aggressive front bumper to allow for efficient airflow. This distinctive Lexus design feature, combined with the deep-set, high-tech headlamps and L-shaped LED daytime running lamps, express the vehicle’s confident and dynamic character. The headlamps use a projector beam design, adding a strong, chiseled appearance and excellent illumination.
From the side, the GS projects the image of a spacious performance saloon with a road-hugging stance. The tapered lower door sills and the short front overhang give the vehicle a sense of motion while width-enhancing wheel arches add an athletic stance, suggesting the vehicle’s dynamic abilities.
The rear bumper features a diffuser and centered aero fins to help control underbody airflow. Combined with the L-shaped LED tail lamps, a Lexus design cue, these rear bumper features lend a high-performance appearance.
Even the paint technology has been developed to make subtle bodylines more noticeable and the surface appear finely polished. New colours will benefit from glass flakes incorporated into the coating that adds a high level of brilliance to the paint. Lexus engineers also developed a new coating technology which makes the paint appear more radiant, the additional metallic texture giving both strong shading and defined, sharp highlights.
Spacious Interior with Premium Upgrades
Painstaking attention to detail has been applied to the GS cabin to create a balance of luxury, technological amenity and emotional design. Focused around the driver and the driving experience, it also provides more space for all occupants, increasing the comfort of both front and rear passengers. The new layout of the long, sculpted dash gives the driver and front passenger a sense of roominess through its clean centre stack and large high-resolution display screen. Most of the comfort and convenience controls such as audio and climate are relocated to provide a cleaner and more sophisticated dash layout.
A redesigned seat frame and changes to the steering column give increased comfort and better forward visibility to the driver. Revised door openings offer easier entry and exit and boot access is improved with a wider, deeper opening. Luggage capacity has been increased by almost 25 per cent.
The interior includes a number of embedded premium features as standard equipment. A new energy-saving auto climate control system called S-Flow uses the occupant-detection system to focus airflow only to the front area where passengers are actually seated, a first-in-class technology. A next-generation Remote Touch with one-push confirmation is standard on all models and enables smooth, intuitive operation of climate, audio and phone controls as well as use of the navigation system and more. A standard reversing camera helps add security and convenience.
The finely crafted cabin detail is complemented by ambient lighting that unobtrusively welcomes and guides the user into the vehicle, providing a carefully designed experience. New white LED lights are sequentially lit to illuminate the areas around the doors, centre console and footwells. A new analogue clock, carved from an ingot, adds an unexpected touch.
Cabin materials include three types of wood and meticulously detailed contrast stitching is used as a visual accent around the interior to create a rich, tailored interior space.
Integrated Safety Systems
In addition to enhanced braking systems and an impact-absorbing body structure, the new GS offers significant advances in both passive and active safety systems as standard equipment.
Among the class-leading 10 airbags in the new GS, there are knee airbags for both driver and front passenger. Rear seat occupants have seat-mounted side airbags, and all four outboard occupants are equipped with side curtain airbags.
New Whiplash Injury Lessening (WIL) front seats increase the likelihood that occupants will be in the optimum position at the moment of impact, enhancing the protective effect of the seatbelt system. Standard seatbelts with pretensioners with force limiters used for front and outboard rear seats add to occupant protection.
Options include a pre-collision system, which uses the dynamic radar cruise control system to provide early warning of upcoming objects that might result in a collision. The system also uses a first-in-class infrared camera to monitor the driver’s eyes. If the driver is not looking forward when a collision appears imminent, the system will sound a warning sooner than otherwise. If the driver still does not respond and make the appropriate manoeuvre, the system will initiate braking up to two seconds prior to impact, helping to lessen the severity of the collision.
Other available safety systems include a Night Vision System that enhances driver visibility in the dark; Head-Up Display (HUD); a Blind Spot Monitor that helps detect vehicles in rear/side blind spots; and Lane Keep Assist (LKA) with Lane Departure Warning (LDW). GS is the first in its segment to offer LKA with active steering torque to provide a small assistance in maintaining course, while the LDW feature alerts drivers if they begin to drift out of their lane.
Next-generation Lexus multimedia brings a host of standard entertainment and connectivity enhancements, including enhanced Bluetooth® capability with automatic phonebook download and streaming audio.
GS drivers will get DVD audio and video compatibility, MP3 sound enhancement, 5.1 Surround Sound, and a high-resolution eight-inch central control display centrally located high up in the instrument panel.
Cars fitted with the navigation system will have an industry-first 12.3-inch high-resolution multi-media screen, large enough to support simultaneous, split-screen viewing of a large map display, plus audio, climate or other vehicle information.
For the ultimate in audio performance, an 835-watt, 17-speaker Mark Levinson audio system is available. The system provides 7.1 Surround Sound through 10 channels using a new class D Digital amplifier and efficient Green Edge™ speakers that are lighter, more energy-efficient and have less distortion. The new system produces almost three times as many watts per channel versus the previous generation.
That's quite a beak. Looks better with the LEDs on. But it really looks like a bottom-feeding suckerfish I'm afraid.
Originally Posted by Bitter
It's like sex with your cute but chubby cousin that one time when you had both had too much wine at Christmas dinner. You know it's wrong, you're not stopping, and you really regret it the next morning. That is poutine, Canada does this 24x7x365. Canada are a bunch of sick bi-lingual metric cousin f*ckers.
Just the Facts:
-Lexus is still considering a high-performance GS F model.
-If the GS F does reach production, it would be as a 2014 model.
-Power may come from a supercharged V8.
-CEO Akio Toyoda is in favor of F Sport and F models.
• GS 450h Features Second Generation Lexus Hybrid Drive System
• Fuel Economy Improved by More Than 30 Percent
• New Atkinson Cycle V6 with Gas Engine
With a five vehicle hybrid line-up, Lexus reinforces its commitment to hybrid technology with the all-new 2013 GS 450h. When it was introduced for the 2007 model year, the GS 450h was the first hybrid-powered luxury sport sedan to enter the market. Today, the GS 450h is the world’s first premium performance sedan to be equipped with a V6 Atkinson cycle gas engine and two-motor hybrid system, in a front engine rear-wheel drive vehicle.
The hybrid version of the 2013 GS 350 incorporates improvements to its hybrid powertrain and is equipped with a second generation Lexus Hybrid Drive system. GS 450h engineers have aimed for reductions in fuel consumption and emissions, while providing exhilarating performance.
With a total system power output of 338 hp, the GS 450h will accelerate effortlessly from 0-60 mph in 5.6 seconds. Conversely, fuel consumption is expected to be improved by more than 30 percent. The GS 450h is targeting certification as a Super-Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle II (SULEV II). The new GS hybrid also features a Drive Mode selector. In addition to the Normal mode, the driver can customize the driving experience using Eco, Sport S, Sport S+ and EV modes.
“The all-new GS 450h will provide our customers with an exciting blend of performance and precision in a new hybrid package,” said Mark Templin, Lexus group vice president and general manager in the U.S. “With its dynamic exterior styling, roomy interior and advanced technology features, the GS 450h further demonstrates Lexus’ mastery of the luxury hybrid.”
As with all Lexus hybrid vehicles, the new GS 450h is a full hybrid capable of operating in gas-only or electric-only modes, as well as a combination of both. Its Lexus Hybrid Drive system features an ultra-smooth running, Atkinson cycle 3.5-liter V6 engine mated to a compact, high-output, water-cooled permanent magnet electric motor. The two powerplants drive the rear wheels both independently and in tandem, as needed.
In addition to the gas engine and electric motor, the new GS 450h’s hybrid drive system a generator; a high-performance nickel-metal hydride battery; a power split device which, via planetary reduction gears, combines and re-allocates power from the engine, electric motor and generator according to operational requirements; and a compact power control unit to govern the high speed interaction of the system components.
Adapted specifically for the hybrid powertrain and a first for premium performance sedans, the 3.5-liter V6, DOHC engine benefits from several technical improvements including the adoption of the Atkinson Cycle engine design to optimize the fuel-efficient benefits of Lexus Hybrid Drive.
Compression is delayed in an Atkinson Cycle engine, because the intake valves close late. This creates a high expansion ratio for less compression, reducing intake and exhaust energy losses and converting combustion energy to engine power more effectively.
A high compression ratio of 13:1; a new, mid-port intake tumble generator; and the adoption of the latest evolution of Lexus’ four-stroke, direct injection technology, D-4S, help the GS 450h achieve better fuel consumption.
With one injector installed in the combustion chamber and a second mounted in the intake port, D-4S combines the strengths of both direct and port injection, realizing optimum engine efficiency throughout the power band and improving torque across the rev range, while minimizing fuel consumption and emissions.
The D-4S system features new slit-type injector nozzles with a modified port shape, a higher fuel pressure for more efficient combustion, and idle port injection for improved NHV characteristics.
Engine noise, vibration and friction have been lowered through the adoption of lightweight chain technology.
The cooling performance of the hybrid system’s Power Control Unit (PCU) helps reduce fuel consumption and has been improved through the adoption of dual cooling paths and a single-piece, integrated AC/DC converter.
System control has been enhanced. The PCU boosts motor drive voltage to a maximum 650V in Sport mode and limits it to a maximum of 500V in Eco mode under normal driving conditions where maximum output is not required. The motor is driven at lower voltage to provide a more environmentally–advanced driving performance to help enhance fuel efficiency.
The electric motor features lighter mounts and reduced friction. The system’s regenerative braking operation range has been expanded, contributing to further improvements in fuel efficiency. In addition, the battery layout has been redesigned. A new stacked configuration maximizing luggage space allows the 2013 GS 450h to have more cargo area than the previous generation gas model.
All second-generation GS hybrid models have a new platform that is designed to be more rigid compared to the previous models. Engineers conducted extensive platform testing, ultimately increasing the number of spot welds and adding laser welds in very specific locations. The track works in combination with a revised suspension design to assure a more solid stance and superior cornering performance.
The new suspension system is designed to help guide the 2013 GS through corners with precision. In the front, upper and lower control arms are made from aluminum and employ larger bushings. The rear subframe has been completely redesigned to accommodate an all-new multi-link rear suspension, using improved suspension geometry that retains tire cornering force and enhances rear control. With the stiffer platform and lighter components, the shocks can use lighter-viscosity oil, so they move easily and respond to small inputs more quickly.
The use of front and rear aluminum control arms helps reduce unsprung weight and results in significant improvements in agility, roll damping, ride comfort, body control and steering precision. Overall, the suspension is lighter and stronger, allowing it to react to driver input readily, and ride quietly without harshness. Ventilated disc brakes featuring four-piston aluminum front calipers includes the latest electronic enhancements to help provide braking balance and control.
The GS 450h also offers the Lexus Dynamic Handling system, an integrated four-wheel steering system. The leading edge platform technology of the Lexus Dynamic Handling system offers Lexus’ first integration of Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS); Dynamic Rear Steering (DRS); Variable Gear Ratio Steering (VGRS); and the latest generation of Lexus’ unique Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM) system to help coordinate every aspect of front and rear wheel control and provide agile, sharp and confident driving behavior with a more direct response to the driver’s actions.
The Lexus Dynamic Handling system integrates the control of the Electric Power Steering (EPS), VGRS and newly developed DRS. Monitoring vehicle speed, steering direction and driver inputs, the system calculates the optimum angle for all four wheels. Using VGRS to the front and DRS to the rear, the system can independently control both front and rear wheel steering angles to help improve turn-in response, rear grip, vehicle stability and overall agility when cornering.
The DRS system monitors vehicle speed and yaw rate, steering angle and speed, and lateral G to calculate the required rear wheel steering input, to a maximum of 1.5 degrees. At speeds below 50 mph the front and rear wheels turn in opposite directions. At speeds over 50 mph, front and rear wheels turn in the same direction.
Further coordinating DRS with VGRS, AVS and VDIM, the Lexus Dynamic Handling system will automatically customize the adaptive suspension tuning and active safety systems to suit road conditions, vehicle speed and driving style, giving customers confidence to experience the new GS’ exceptional driving performance.
The standard 17-inch alloy wheels are paired with 225/50R17 tires while the optional 18-inch alloy wheels are equipped with 235/45R18 tires. The GS 450h’s Electronically Controlled Braking (ECB) system characteristics have been modified to provide greater responsiveness from the first touch of the pedal.
Like the GS 350, the GS 450h will be standard equipped with 10 airbags, including a knee airbag for both driver and front passenger. Rear seat occupants have seat-mounted side airbags, and all four outboard occupants are equipped with side curtain airbags. Also standard are new Whiplash Injury Lessening (WIL) front seats that 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 collisions. Standard seatbelts with pretensioners with force limiters used for front and outboard rear seats further assist occupant protection.
Available options to help further enhance safety include a pre-collision system, which uses the dynamic radar cruise control system to provide early warning of upcoming objects that might result in a collision. The system also uses a Lexus first infrared camera to monitor the driver’s eyes to check on driver status. In the event that the driver does not appear to be looking forward when a collision appears imminent, the system will initiate the warning at an earlier threshold. If the driver still does not respond and make the appropriate maneuver, the system will initiate light braking intervention up to two seconds prior to impact, designed to help to lessen the severity of the collision.
Other available safety systems include a Night Vision System that enhances driver visibility at night; Heads Up Display (HUD); a Blind Spot Monitor that helps detect vehicles in rear/side blind spots; and Lane Keep Assist (LKA) with Lane Departure Warning (LDW). LKA provides a small amount of active steering torque to help maintain course, while the LDW feature alerts the driver if the system detects that the vehicle is beginning to drift out of the lane.
The 2013 GS expresses a new generation of Lexus’ design philosophy with its precisely sculpted exterior and will lead the rest of the lineup in an entirely new direction. When designers shaped the GS they visualized the flow of air around it and, like the LFA supercar, maximized aerodynamic efficiency.
Exclusive to the hybrid model is a unique three-lamp design that aligns the turn signal and Lexus-first high and low beam LED lamps in a single horizontal row. The improved illumination and beam range provided by LED lamps offers better visibility even under low beam driving conditions. In addition, the rear bumper of the GS 450h covers the exhaust pipe apertures. The GS 450h can also be distinguished by Lexus’ signature blue hybrid badging.
The GS fuses distinctive style with engineering functionality. Fins incorporated into the side of the tail lamps and the design of the trunk area all help direct air over and past the car. The rear bumper underbody area was designed for reduced wind resistance to help keep the car steady. Finally, air inlets located on the outer edges of the lower grille serve as cooling ducts.
The signature spindle grille with its trapezoidal contours evolved from current Lexus styling and fully integrates into the aggressive front bumper allowing for efficient airflow. This distinctive Lexus design feature combined with the deep-set, high-tech headlamps and L-shaped LED daytime running lamps further express the vehicle’s confident and dynamic character.
From the side, the GS projects the image of a spacious sport sedan with a road-hugging wider stance. The tapered lower rocker panel and the short front overhang give the vehicle a sense of motion. Width-enhancing front and rear wheel arches adds an athletic stance enhancing the vehicle’s dynamic presence.
The rear bumper features centered aero fins to help control underbody airflow. Combined with the L-shaped LED tail lamps, a Lexus design cue, these rear bumper features lend a high-performance appearance. Overall, the new GS sheet metal represents a significant extension of the Lexus L-finesse philosophy that is the core of all Lexus product design.
The GS line-up will feature three colors that are new to the Lexus color palette: Riviera Red, Meteor Blue Mica and Liquid Platinum. Vehicles in Riviera Red will benefit from glass flakes incorporated into the coating that adds a high level of brilliance to the paint. Lexus engineers developed a new advanced coating process for Liquid Platinum exteriors. The GS will be the first Lexus to adopt this new coating technology. Vehicles with the Liquid Platinum exterior will appear more radiant as an additional metallic texture gives both strong shading and defined, sharp highlights. This metallic effect makes subtle and defined bodylines more noticeable and the surface appear finely polished.
The GS 450h will share the same luxurious and technological amenities as its gas counterpart, including next generation Remote Touch; analog clock with LED indicators, carved from an ingot; and a new energy-saving auto climate control system called S-Flow that focuses airflow only to the front area where passengers are actually seated. A few notable differences include a bamboo-finished steering wheel which reinforces the sustainability of the GS 450h, and the hybrid monitor.
“There is no other mid-luxury hybrid like the new GS 450h,” said Lexus’Templin. “The handling, acceleration, and design of this Lexus hybrid are impeccable. We can’t wait for customers to drive one.”
In this video, two insiders, Paul Williamsen, National Manager, Lexus College, and Brian Bolain, National Marketing Manager, tell us more about the model’s design cues, some of which come from the Lexus LFA supercar.
No official details have been provided but these snap shots were released on the Lexus of South Africa Facebook page. Modifications look subtle with a more aggressive front bumper and new wheels. We can only presume other upgrades include modifications to the suspension, brakes and exhaust, with some sporty touches inside the cabin.
Comparing the 2013 GS—gas against hybrid—with a Lexus master driver.
Question: Does the 2013 Lexus GS, with its LFA-inspired design cues, drive like it looks?
Recently, I traveled to the Shibetsu Proving Ground in Japan with Lexus Drive Meister Yoshiaki Ito to find out, as well as do a little personal, unofficial comparison between the new GS 350 and its hybrid counterpart, the new GS 450h.
This Lexus testing track is going to give me a feel for the models’ new performance modes, SPORT S (enhanced powertrain) and optional SPORT S+ (enhanced powertrain plus enhanced adaptive variable suspension, steering system, and vehicle stability control), as well as the cars’ behavior in long, foot-to-floor straights, fast double-lane changes, and high-speed S-turns.
TAKE-OFF/ACCELERATION: Blasting off first in the GS 350, in SPORT S+ mode, the response from the GS 350’s engine is instant and smooth, accompanied by a deep roar and a throaty burble that, frankly, I’ve not heard in the previous model.
Ito explains: “The new GS 350’s exhaust note is a natural, dynamic response, but it’s also optimized. For the first time, we’ve enhanced engine and exhaust notes via the air intake and exhaust systems.”
The GS 450h take-off, though, with its V6 engine, is a revelation. The previous GS Hybrid had a pretty seamless pick-up from a standstill, but this is altogether more raw, more primal, as if the car had a much bigger engine under the hood.
As with the gas model, I’m in Sport S+, the instrument panel glows red, and as the hybrid builds speed, I can feel the G-forces pushing me deep into the driver’s seat. Ito points out that Lexus purposely spent much time working with the hybrid’s two-motor system “to create a far richer feel.”
RAPID DECELERATION, FAST CORNERING: The hybrid offers fine times with its manual-style paddle shifters and heightened responsiveness in SPORT S mode. But I confess to enjoying the gas version slightly—only slightly—more in this section.
On this part of the track, I begin by engaging the car in SPORT S+ mode along a 90-plus mph straight before dropping to 50 and then 40 in the apex of a corner. The vehicle holds firm right through the bend, no auto upshift or downshift to spoil the fun.
It gets better. In a second time through, I select the manual paddle-shift control, like a race driver. As I power into the corner, I give the right paddle a gentle pull, the car downshifts with a throaty growl, aka “blip,” and the car decelerates under engine-braking into the corner. It’s a thrill. Likewise with the super-quick upshifts.
“This is technology that shows what we’re trying to achieve with the new GS,” Ito tells me. “It’s a new kind of dynamism, heightened responsiveness, more enjoyment.”
HIGH-SPEED S-TURNS: In this section of the track, I keep both vehicles in SPORT S+ mode and approach the track’s S-turns at around 85 mph. In both cars, and in equal measure, my line holds true as I sweep through the bends. Crucially, I can “feel” the road through each car’s steering wheel. I’m connected, but it’s quiet. Very Lexus.
“The Electronic Power Steering helps to ensure this sense of directness and security,” Ito explains. “Greater body strength also plays a part. The new GS is 14 percent more rigid, and we used human senses, via test-driving, to determine the ideal rigidity for the best driver experience. We’ve also maximized the effectiveness of the Adaptive Variable Suspension while also making progress with the articulation index [the ability to hear speech in the car], thanks to a new A-pillar design and revised door seals.”
DOUBLE-LANE CHANGE: Here, the hybrid is the most memorable for me. Driving the GS 450h down the track, I switch to normal mode, drop my speed to 45 mph and then power up to 90. Acceleration is again impressive. Then it’s into a series of fast but well-controlled double-lane changes. The turn in is sharp but smooth, with well-poised body control. Another lap, this time in SPORT S+ mode, and the sense of precision is even better.
Again, Ito provides the back story: “‘Passing acceleration’ in the GS Hybrid wipes away any idea that eco means compromised performance. In the U.S., passing acceleration is measured between 30 to 50 mph, which the GS Hybrid dispatches in 3 seconds.”
HIGH-SPEED STRAIGHT: My take on this section of the course was pretty simple: Accelerating through the track’s long straightaway, both the GS 350 and GS 450h show exceptional control as I power up to 110 mph to test out what Ito calls Lexus’ concept of “aerodynamic handling.”
“We’ve worked ‘with’ the wind,” Ito explains. “You can see it in the sculpted lines of both cars’ exteriors but also sense it through their road-hugging drives and quiet cabins at high speeds, thanks to their aerodynamic underbodies and special stabilizing fins.”
-F SPORT Package Features 19-Inch Staggered Width Wheels
-Dynamic Handling with F SPORT Tuned Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS)
-Stopping Power with New Larger Front Brakes with High Friction Pads
Lexus will reveal the all-new 2013 GS 350 mid-size luxury sedan with F SPORT package at the 2011 Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show in Las Vegas.
The Lexus press conference to reveal the 2013 GS 350 with F SPORT package will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 1 at 1:30 p.m. PDT at the outdoor Lexus exhibit tent, located between the Central and South Halls of the Las Vegas Convention Center. Following the press conference, media will have an opportunity to experience track rides in the all-new GS 350 with F SPORT package.
The GS 350 with F SPORT package will be on display at the Lexus tent from Nov. 1 – 4.
JT Grey Racing Lexus LX 570 Team driver, Joe Bacal and race car driver, Scott Pruett will be on hand signing autographs on Tuesday, Nov. 1 from 10:00-11:00 a.m. and 12:00-1:00 p.m., respectively, at the Lexus tent. Joe Bacal will also be available to sign autographs throughout the day on Nov. 2.
Building on the excitement of the fourth-generation GS 350 which was revealed at Pebble Beach in August, the GS 350 with F SPORT package was designed to engage driving enthusiasts with factory engineering and the ability to take performance to an entirely new level. Unique to the F SPORT package will be aggressive 19-inch wheels, F SPORT-tuned Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS), thicker anti-roll bars, bushing changes, and new larger front brakes with high friction pads. In addition, rear-wheel drive (RWD) models will be equipped with 19-inch staggered width wheels and Variable Gear Ratio Steering (VGRS). Inside, the all-new package also features a sporty attitude with a new 16-way power driver’s sport seat, unique interior design treatment and available F SPORT exclusive Cabernet Red leather interior.
“The all-new GS 350 with F SPORT package will offer our customers more agility and a sportier appearance,” said Mark Templin, Lexus group vice president and general manager. “The
racing-inspired F SPORT components were precision engineered for this vehicle, providing quality performance without compromise.”
As with the GS 350, the GS 350 with F SPORT package is powered by an advanced 3.5-liter V6, with four cams, and four valves per cylinder and dual Variable Valve Timing with intelligence. At 306 horsepower, it is one of the most powerful base engines in the segment, as well as the only one with both port and direct injection. It propels the car from 0-60 mph in 5.7 seconds and at the same time, fuel economy has been improved.
Acceleration from 30 to 50 mph can take just 3.0 seconds, and improved engine sound characteristics complement the bolder, more energetic personality of the new GS. The six-speed sequential shift automatic transmission has paddle shifters and sport driving functions as standard equipment.
The transmission incorporates many features adopted from the Lexus IS F high-performance sedan — including faster shifts, and downshift throttle blips — to support four driving modes that can be operated by toggling the Lexus Drive Mode selector. In addition to the Normal mode, the driver can customize the driving experience using ECO, Sport S and Sport S+ modes.
An optional electronically controlled all-wheel-drive system is designed to enhance traction in a variety of driving conditions. The system can vary front-to-rear torque balance from 50/50 to as much as 30/70, depending on driving conditions, for exceptional control.
To provide a more engaging driving experience, including a new aerodynamic body, a completely new platform with a wider stance and stiffer structure, a transmission with quicker shifts, distinctive engine sound and exhaust notes, and better seat support, Lexus engineers looked to the Lexus LFA supercar for inspiration.
The new platform has been designed to be more rigid. Engineers conducted extensive platform testing, ultimately increasing the number of spot welds and adding laser welds in very specific locations. The track, wider by almost two inches, works in combination with a revised suspension design to help ensure a more solid stance and superior cornering performance.
The new suspension system is designed to help guide the 2013 GS through corners with precision. In the front, upper and lower control arms are made from aluminum and employ larger bushings. The rear subframe has been completely redesigned to accommodate an all-new multi-link rear suspension, using improved suspension geometry that helps retain tire cornering force and enhances rear control. With the stiffer platform and lighter components, the shocks can use lighter-viscosity oil, so they move easily and respond to small inputs more quickly.
The use of front and rear aluminum control arms helps reduce unsprung weight and results in significant improvements in agility, roll damping, ride comfort, body control and steering precision. Overall, the suspension is lighter and stronger, allowing it to react to driver input readily, and ride quietly without harshness.
The GS 350 with F SPORT package will offer an optional newly developed Lexus Dynamic Handling (LDH) system with Dynamic Rear Steering (DRS) for those seeking more agility. This leading edge platform technology offers Lexus’ first integration of DRS; Electric Power Steering; and Variable Gear Ratio Steering. Monitoring vehicle speed, steering direction and driver inputs, the system calculates the optimum angle for all four wheels. LDH helps to optimize the vehicle slip angle. Using VGRS in the front and DRS in the rear, 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.
The latest generation of Lexus’ unique Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management system coordinates Lexus Dynamic Handling; the Anti-lock Braking System; Traction Control; Vehicle Stability Control; and Adaptive Variable Suspension. Adaptive Variable Suspension helps front and rear wheel control and provides agile, sharp and confident driving behavior with a more direct response to the driver’s actions. The LDH system monitors vehicle speed and yaw rate, steering angle and speed, and lateral G to calculate the required rear wheel steering input, to a maximum DRS angle of 2.0 degrees. At most speeds below 50 mph the front and rear wheels turn in opposite directions. In certain conditions at speeds over 50 mph the front and rear wheels turn in the same direction.
Further coordinating DRS with VGRS and AVS, the Lexus Dynamic Handling system will automatically customize the adaptive suspension tuning and active safety systems to suit road conditions, vehicle speed and driving style, giving drivers the confidence to fully utilize the exceptional driving performance of the GS with F SPORT package.
The GS 350 RWD with F SPORT package will be exclusively equipped with 19-inch staggered width wheels paired with 235/40/19 front and 265/35/19 rear tires, the widest rear tires ever on a Lexus sedan. The wider width wheels allow for a sportier look, and will also help provide added traction. All-wheel drive (AWD) models will be paired with 235/40/19 all-season tires in the front and rear.
As with the GS 350, the GS 350 with F SPORT package will be standard equipped with 10 airbags, including a knee airbag for both front driver and passenger. Rear seat occupants have seat-mounted side airbags, and all four outboard occupants are equipped with side curtain airbags. Also standard are new Whiplash Injury Lessening front seats designed to help limit excessive head movement, and help decrease the severity of whiplash-type injuries in certain types of rear-end collisions. Standard seatbelts with pretensioners with force limiters used for front and outboard rear seats further assist occupant protection.
Available options to help further enhance occupant safety include a Pre-Collision System, which uses the Dynamic Radar Cruise Control System to provide early warning of certain objects traveling directly ahead that might result in a front-end collision. The system also uses a Lexus-first infrared camera with new scanning technology to monitor the driver’s eyes. In the event that the driver does not appear to be looking forward when a collision appears imminent, the system will initiate the warning at an earlier threshold. If the driver still does not respond and make the appropriate maneuver, the system will initiate braking intervention up to 1.2 seconds prior to impact, helping to lessen the severity of the collision. With available Lexus Dynamic Handling, PCS will help further mitigate the occurrence of a collision.
Other available safety systems include a Night Vision System that enhances driver visibility at night; Heads Up Display; a Blind Spot Monitor that helps detect vehicles in rear/side blind spots; and Lane Keep Assist (LKA) with Lane Departure Warning (LDW). GS is the first in its segment to offer LKA with active steering torque to provide a small amount to assist in maintaining course, while the LDW feature alerts the driver if the system detects that the vehicle is beginning to drift out of the lane.
The 2013 GS expresses a new generation of Lexus’ design philosophy with its precisely sculpted exterior and will lead the rest of the lineup in an entirely new direction. When designers shaped the GS they visualized the flow of air around it and, like the LFA supercar, maximized aerodynamic efficiency for low coefficient of drag.
Following the inspirational design cues of the IS line-up and CT 200h, the F SPORT package separates itself from the GS line-up with distinctive exterior details. To display its aggressive attitude, the GS 350 with F SPORT package will be outfitted with a sport front bumper and rear lower valence, rear lip spoiler, unique F SPORT mesh grille inserts and F SPORT badging.
The GS fuses distinctive style with engineering functionality. The signature spindle grille with its trapezoidal contours fully integrates into the aggressive front bumper allowing for efficient airflow. Air inlets located on the outer edges of the lower grille serve as cooling ducts. This distinctive Lexus design feature combined with the deep-set, high-tech headlamps and L-shaped LED daytime running lamps further express the vehicle’s confident and dynamic character. The headlamps use a projector beam design, adding a strong, chiseled appearance and excellent illumination. Fins incorporated into the side of the tail lamps and the design of the trunk area all help direct air over and past the car. The rear bumper underbody area was designed for reduced wind resistance to help keep the car firmly planted on the ground.
From the side, the GS projects the image of a spacious sport sedan with a road-hugging wider stance. The tapered lower rocker panel and the short front overhang give the vehicle a sense of motion. Width-enhancing front and rear wheel arches add an athletic stance-enhancing the vehicle’s dynamic presence.
The rear bumper features a distinctive exhaust diffuser and centered aero fins to help control underbody airflow. Combined with the L-shaped LED tail lamps, a Lexus design cue, these rear bumper features lend a high-performance appearance. Overall, the new GS sheet metal represents a significant extension of the Lexus L-finesse philosophy that is the core of all Lexus product design.
The GS 350 with F SPORT package will feature two new colors: Riviera Red and Liquid Platinum, and also be available in Starfire Pearl, Nebula Gray Pearl and Obsidian. Vehicles in Riviera Red will benefit from glass flakes incorporated into the coating that adds a high level of brilliance to the paint. Lexus engineers developed a new advanced coating process for Liquid Platinum exteriors. The GS 350 will be the first Lexus to adopt this new coating technology. Vehicles with the Liquid Platinum exterior will appear more radiant as an additional metallic texture gives both strong shading and defined, sharp highlights. This metallic effect makes subtle and defined bodylines more noticeable and the surface appears finely polished.
To complement the aggressive-looking exterior of the F SPORT package, the interior will feature an exclusive design treatment with smooth striated aluminum trim, unique perforated leather trim, black headliner and aluminum pedals. Distinctive F SPORT badging will be showcased on the steering wheel. Focusing on the driver, the F SPORT package will feature a new 16-way power sport seat for increased lateral support. The driver’s seat will include a Lexus-first with power side bolsters, thigh support, adjustable seatback and four-way lumbar. To complete the uniqueness of the F SPORT package, a striking Cabernet Red leather interior will also be available.
Painstaking attention to detail was applied to the GS cabin as well, to create a balance of luxurious and technological amenities and emotional design. The new layout of the long, sculpted dash gives the driver and front passenger a sense of roominess through its clean center stack and new, large high-resolution center control display placed deep near the front windshield. Most of the comfort and convenience controls, such as audio and climate, were relocated to provide a cleaner and more sophisticated dash layout.
The interior includes a number of embedded premium upgrades as standard equipment. A new energy-saving auto climate control system called S-Flow uses the occupant-detection system to focus airflow only to the front area where passengers are actually seated, a first-in-class technology. A next-generation Remote Touch with one-push confirmation is standard on all models and enables smooth, intuitive operations control.
The Remote Touch allows the user to operate the climate, audio, phone controls, optional navigation system and more. The screen menus are selected with the controller, eliminating the need to reach out. Remote Touch also reduces eye movement and helps users operate functions with reduced effort and distraction. A standard rear back-up camera helps add convenience.
The finely crafted cabin detail is complemented further by ambient lighting that unobtrusively welcomes and guides the user into the vehicle, providing a carefully designed experience. New white LED lights are sequentially lit to illuminate the areas around the doors, center console and footwells. A new analog clock with LED indicators, carved from an ingot, adds a unique touch, at once both modern and traditional.
“The GS 350 with F SPORT Package will be a distinctive offering of luxury and excitement,” said Templin. “With its dynamic handling, stopping power and true sporty feel this F SPORT package will be sure to please our enthusiasts.”
Take a look at what Five Axis has prepared for the SEMA Show next week.
Troy Sumitomo's tuning company has taken the new GS 350 with the F Sport package to the next level with a custom wide bodykit that beefs up the wheel arches and adds several new components such as the side skirts and wraparound rear spoiler.
Finished in a Glacier White paint with custom Slate Gray accents, Five Axis' G3 350 F Sport rides on larger 20-inch alloy wheels wrapped around in Yokohama tires size 245/35ZR20 at the front and 285/30ZR20 at the back.
The tuner also added a high-performance brake system, a custom fabricated exhaust and an AirRunner TC-5 air suspension system.
Lexus has dropped a few serious hints that it is planning a coupe version of its all-new GS350. While attending the launch of the luxury sedan (we’ll have driving impressions once the embargo lifts November 23rd) we spoke to Lexus Corporate Manager of Product Planning Ben Mitchell, pushing him for details on a possible GS-F to sit as a rival to the BMW M5.
As though Mitchell’s question didn’t reveal enough about Lexus’ intentions, he also commented that with the demise of the SC430, there is now a space in the automaker’s lineup that needs filling.
Of course, this isn’t an official confirmation, but considering the legendary silence that greets most questions regarding future products, this is a very strong hint that there will be another two-door Lexus joining the lineup beyond the current IS250C and IS350C models. And judging by our time spent behind the wheel of the new GS, this is one to wait for.
Lexus is considering launching a BMW M5-rivalling version of its new GS – but there are still no plans to launch a volume-selling diesel version.
Insiders revealed to Autocar on the new model’s Los Angeles launch last week that the firm “would love” to launch a high-performance GS. It is also said such a car would offer the M5 a genuine rival for both performance and dynamic ability given the driver-focused developments in the all-new GS’s chassis.
Autocar has previously learned that the new GS-F would be powered by a detuned version of the LFA’s 4.8-litre V10, reduced in capacity to 4.6-litres and in power to around 450bhp.
“We’ve been vanilla long enough,” he said. “If some buyers don’t like the new GS’s design, that means we’re doing the right thing. The re-starts of Lexus as a strong brand in the marketplace is kicking off with this car.”
Luxury car maker Lexus is developing a small hybrid engine to allow new GS to rival efficient diesels from Audi and BMW
Lexus is developing a small hybrid engine to allow its new GS luxury car to compete with more economical European rivals.
Speaking to Auto Express, Koji Sato, deputy chief engineer, product planning said: "We are working on a number of solutions to offer low CO2 emissions and these include a small hybrid."
The new GS launches in the UK in the summer but the only models will be a range-topping GS450h with a 338bhp 3.5-litre V6 hybrid and an entry-level GS250 with a 206bhp 2.5-litre V6.
A small economical and low-emissions hybrid would allow the new GS to compete against big-selling models like the BMW 520d and Audi A6 2.0 TDI, as Lexus has no plans for a diesel version. "Lexus has a strong association with hybrid and we want to continue to develop this," Sato added.
Although there are no details on the new powerplant, it is likely to sit at the entry point to the range and is likely to be a four-cylinder petrol engine mated to an electric motor.
Just the Facts:
-A smaller V6 powers a new version of the Lexus GS sedan in China and other global markets.
-The 2.5-liter V6 makes 206 horsepower and 187 pound-feet of torque.
-The engine is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with sequential manual shift function.
Competing in the heavyweight heart of the luxury market, the Lexus GS has often stood in the shadow of rivals like the BMW 5-series, the Mercedes-Benz E-class, and the Audi A6. More so than the upper end of the market, where the LS does well, or the entry-luxury segment, where the ES is quite popular, the mid-luxury market prizes driving dynamics. Thus, for Lexus GS chief engineer Yoshiko Kanamori, who was attempting “to move the GS into the heart of the luxury market,” the number one way to do that was to give the new car an “emotionally intriguing driving experience.”
Increasing the emotional appeal of the GS was also the impetus behind the new styling. Like it or not, it does stand out more than any previous GS. The pinched grille, which Lexus refers to as a “spindle” grille, is a key element of the new face of Lexus; expect it to quickly spread throughout the company’s lineup. A new F Sport package further turns up the visual wattage with more aggressively styled lower front and rear fascias, a rear spoiler, a unique grille texture, and nineteen-inch wheels.
The car’s overall length and wheelbase remain the same, but width has increased by two inches. That has led to a noticeably wider cabin, and the horizontally oriented dashboard plays up that fact. The new interior is much more modern-looking than its dowdy predecessor. Cars with navigation -- which is optional but is expected to be in nearly all cars -- get a huge, twelve-inch split screen. (Cars without navigation have an eight-inch multi-function screen instead.) A raft of newly available options brings the GS into the modern age; they include a head-up display, night vision, blind-spot warning, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist, and a driver-drowsiness monitor. The interior is notably richer than before, and there are padded surfaces covered in stitched leather on the dash, the sides of the console, the center armrest, and the door panels. LED ambient lighting is standard, three two-tone color schemes are available, and the trim bits are matte wood, bamboo (for the Hybrid, naturally), or wavy-textured aluminum (in the F Sport). Highly comfortable, multi-function power seats, with extendable under-thigh support and articulating backrests, are included with the luxury and F Sport packages (the F Sport seats add adjustable lateral support). The overall effect is luxe and modern, and nudges up against Audi and Infiniti at the top of the class.
The ultrawide screen has great resolution and, smartly, is split asymmetrically, with the larger portion usually given over to navigation and the smaller side still able to show audio info, HVAC details, or hybrid system monitoring. The Lexus Remote Touch mouse controller has been improved, in that you now simply push down on it to select “enter” rather than pushing a button on the side, although it still requires more concentration to use than most knob-style controllers. There are a few physical buttons, for the climate control and for some audio functions, with knobs for volume and tuning, but we’d still like to see more functions outside of the screen, such as navigation zooming and audio presets. The large center console houses the heated and cooled seat controls; two cup holders under a dampened lid (which, strangely, doesn’t sit flush when closed); a knob to select drive modes; the nicely shaped gear lever; and a wide center armrest. Order the luxury package, and rear-seat passengers get their own audio controls (which can be locked out from the front) and climate controls. Rear-seat space has improved slightly and offers good headroom and generous knee clearance, but footroom under the front seats is tight.
Whir the power seat into place, then do the same with the power-adjustable steering column, and you’ll find that the seating position is very good, with a large dead pedal and good forward visibility. (Rear visibility is not great, but of course a backup camera can be had, as can cameras that provide a top view). The meaty, three-spoke steering wheel encourages you to grab hold at nine and three.
Punch the ignition button in the GS350 and the carryover 3.5-liter V-6 fires up. Revised engine management has yielded a token improvement in output, to 306 hp and 277 lb-ft of torque. A drive select knob alters throttle response, although the differences are subtle. The engine intake has been altered to channel more sound to the cabin, and indeed, there is a notable growl at mid and high rpm. Lexus has elected to stick with a six-speed automatic transmission (with standard shift paddles) despite the fact that seven- and eight-speeds have become common in this class. Even so, engineers were able to eke out a 1 mpg improvement in fuel economy, to a respectable 19/29 mpg.
We can’t talk about fuel economy without mentioning the GS450h. The hybrid’s engine is still 3.5 liters, but it’s now a more efficient, Atkinson-cycle V-6, and that helps the new GS hybrid realize a major improvement in fuel economy. Whereas the previous GS450h got a rather embarrassing 22/25 mpg, the new car is rated at 29 mpg in the city and 34 mpg on the highway. Compared with the standard GS, then, the hybrid provides an additional 10 mpg in the city and a 6-mpg improvement on the highway, making it a much more credible proposition than the previous version. Its also demands fewer tradeoffs, with regenerative brakes that are far easier to modulate than before -- they still don’t feel as natural as conventional brakes, but they’re not bad for regenerative brakes. Also, a repackaged battery eats up less trunk space.
Despite Lexus’s goal to make the GS more of a driver’s car, the V-8 offering has been dropped. The hybrid, with 338 total horsepower, is now the most powerful GS, and Lexus executives express the hope that it might satisfy buyers who come looking for a V-8. We doubt it. Admittedly, we’re not talking about a lot of people (the take rate for the V-8 was in the single digits), but throttle response with the CVT and the fact that you can’t get all-wheel drive or the F-Sport package with the hybrid mean that it’s not likely to satisfy a V-8 intender. Also, the GS450h’s greater horsepower is offset by its 400 extra pounds, so acceleration is really no better than with the standard V-6 (5.6 seconds to 60 mph, according to Lexus, versus 5.7 for the GS350).
Unfortunately, the F Sport also offers no additional performance -- it has the same powertrain as any GS350 -- although Lexus is giving F Sport greater credence than it used to. Previously, F Sport performance bits were available on a piece-by-piece basis, with eye-watering price tags ($3025 for the front brake upgrade, anyone?). Now, F Sport is a package, and while it has no powertrain changes, its mechanical upgrades include adaptive dampers, variable-ratio steering, staggered eight- and nine-inch wide wheels with high-performance tires (eight-inch-wide wheels and all-season rubber with AWD), and larger front brake rotors with higher-friction pads. Also exclusive to the F Sport -- as an option -- is four-wheel steering.
With a base suspension, an adaptive suspension, and a firmer adaptive suspension (in the F Sport) -- the latter two offering standard and sport modes -- there’s a lot of different permutations to the new GS chassis. But on our drive through the Orange County suburban sprawl, on a short section of the twisty Ortega Highway, and even on an autocross course, our overall impression was that the bandwidth of the various suspension iterations was in fact pretty narrow. With the adaptive suspension, for instance, the difference between the two modes was discernible, but just barely. Commendably, however, even the F Sport’s firmer setting delivered a comfortable ride over what little bad pavement we could find; and in the standard setting the car still felt tied down on the Ortega Highway switchbacks. Four-wheel steering, which can be off-putting because it creates a second yaw moment for a given steering input, instead was well-integrated and made the car slightly more agile through the slalom course. In real life, however, its more useful benefit may be its fractionally shorter turning circle.
All GS iterations use electric power steering, and it’s improved over the previous version. Cars equipped with active suspension also have selectable steering effort. Unfortunately, the higher steering effort and the firmer damping are called up together, with Sport-plus mode, so you can’t combine the higher-effort steering (which you might want all the time) and the mellower suspension (which would be preferable on bad roads). That said, the steering is fairly quick and it does load up as you add more lock, but it’s still somewhat artificial feeling and muted in its feedback. Again, we were happy that the variable-ratio system in the F Sport does not call undue attention to itself, à la BMW’s available active steering. Speaking of BMW, though, there was a 5-series on hand at the autocross course, and its steering did feel more natural -- and the 5-series hardly provides the ultimate in BMW steering -- and the BMW chassis, although more tail-happy, also seemed more progressive when it let go.
“We’re not trying to make a BMW,” insists Lexus U.S. boss Mark Templin. Which is good, because they haven’t. The new GS, however, does notably improve what was one of the brand’s most confused offerings. The GS350, particularly the F Sport, shows real progress in making a more rewarding driver’s car. And the GS450h is a far more efficient and less compromised hybrid. There is, however, room to take the GS further in the sports direction, with turbocharging or supercharging, additional gears, and a still more focused chassis. But Lexus insiders insist that the 2013 GS is the beginning of a journey for the brand, not a destination, so we’ll just have to see where it leads.
Back in the Game: Mid-Level Sedan Becomes Relevant Again
Through October 2011, sales of the Lexus GS luxury sedan were a paltry 3346 units, less than half that of the crosstown rival Infiniti M (8813) or the slowest-selling German, the Audi A6 (7890). Worse yet, compared with the big boys, the BMW 5 Series (43,040) and Mercedes-Benz E-Class (52,340), the GS was barely a blip on the radar. Lexus' onetime prominent player, which debuted back in 1993 and won our Import Car of the Year award in '98, has become a forgotten entry. That's a trend Lexus is aiming to reverse.
Enter the fourth-generation 2013 Lexus GS, restyled and reengineered to jump-start that reversal when it goes on sale in February. But "restyled" seems an inadequate description, as the highly evolved L-Finesse design language, with its prominent "spindle" grille, LED light treatment, and 7 Series-esque rear end, is such a radical departure from the previous car. But given current GS sales numbers, Lexus needed radical.
Controversial for sure, the grille, which resembles that of Schwarzenegger's Predator, looked even more extreme on the LF-Gh concept. It's been toned down for production, now appearing -- dare I say? -- cool.
The GS' chiseled body is made of a mix of aluminum, high- and ultra-high-strength steel, and hot-pressed steel, the last boasting a tensile strength so high that it can't be cold-stamped. (HPS is used in the B-pillar and roof for increased side-impact and rollover protection.) All in all, Lexus claims the body is stiffer (up 14 percent in torsional rigidity) and lighter, which helps keep curb weights to what they were before. Better still, the body's clean shape, along with such aero tricks as undertrays with longitudinal ribs, nets a Cd improvement from 0.27 to 0.26. Dimensionally, the new GS is 0.7 inch wider and 1.2 inches taller (1.4 for AWD), although wheelbase (112.2) and overall length (190.7) remain the same.
Step inside the GS, and the interior's transformation is as great as the exterior's. Utilizing a new wiring system and electronics, Lexus was able to construct an all-new dash, center stack, and console, all trimmed in richer wood, aluminum, leather, and soft-touch plastics. The result is Lexus' most appealing and advanced interior to date. Of note are a redesigned gauge cluster with a 3.5-inch TFT display; momentary-type wiper and signal stalks, the latter offering the three-flash lane change; a console-mounted remote-touch controller for infotainment a la the RX and CT 200h; a head-up display; and a huge 12.3-inch multi-information screen that shows navigation, audio, HVAC, and Enform 2.0 functions. If the display doesn't sound that big, consider that it's the same size as the entire gauge cluster on the new Cadillac XTS. As for Enform 2.0, it connects through a smartphone, allowing passengers to use such apps as Yelp and Facebook. And lest I forget, the cabin boasts sizeable bumps in headroom, hiproom, and rear shoulder room (legroom is down slightly).
The volume seller will be the rear-drive GS 350, which is fitted with a 3.5-liter, 306-horse V-6 and six-speed automatic, and priced from around $48,000. Unlike its predecessor, the new 350 is available in Luxury and F Sport trims - the former piles on the full luxe treatment (wood and leather steering wheel, rear audio controls, 18-way power front seats, adaptive suspension), while the latter brings the complete sport suite (redesigned fascias, 19-inch wheels with staggered summer tires, larger brakes, perforated-leather interior, aluminum trim and pedals, and dynamic handling with variable-gear-ratio steering).
All-wheel-drive variants, using a center differential with multiplate clutch pack that can vary the torque split from 50/50 front/rear to 30/70, will bridge the sales gap between the RWD 350 and the GS 450h hybrid. Speaking of the 450h, it ups the ante with 338 horsepower (total output from 3.5-liter Atkinson-cycle V-6 and two electric motors) channeled through a high-tech CVT, delivering combined fuel economy of over 30 mpg - all from a sedan that can hit 60 mph in about 5.6 seconds. And what about the V-8-powered GS? Gone. Lexus feels the hybrid is plenty peppy to satisfy power-mongers, and cites that 95 percent of segment buyers opt for a V-6 anyway. If anything, Lexus may eventually bring to the U.S. a 2.5-liter, 207-horse V-6 available in other markets.
At the GS press preview in Southern California, I began with back-to-back stints in rear- and all-wheel-drive preproduction 350s. On dry roads, both felt decidedly similar, with each delivering nice, linear action and decent feedback from the new electric power steering system. The revised front control-arm and rear multilink suspension, both of which feature more aluminum pieces, kept body motions well in check and provided a composed, comfortable ride. The 3.5-liter is pleasingly powerful -- supplying enough gusto for 0-60 in around 6.0 seconds -- hybrid-quiet at idle, yet makes itself known under WOT, thanks to an "intake sound creator" that sends mid- to high-rpm music directly into the cabin. The carryover six-speed now comes with standard shift paddles, so accessing manual control is easier than ever. That said, shift speed and smoothness seemed a little behind that of today's top seven- and eight-speed boxes, including the Lexus LS'.
Next up, the F Sport, Lexus' answer to BMW's M Sport package. Although the front-end treatment is arguably a bit much, the overall appearance is stealthy and mean, a facade that should make many Euro-brand enthusiasts take notice. With 265/35R19 rear tires - the widest ever for a GS - and 235/40R19s up front, the F Sport felt firm, planted, and crisper than the base 350. For a small dose of adrenaline, dial the drive-mode selector to Sport, which heightens throttle response and turns the meter display from blue to red. Want a big dose? Select Sport Plus, and the variable suspension, transmission, and steering all amp up accordingly, delivering the tautest, most agile GS. Unsurprisingly, the ride suffers in Sport Plus, but not so much that it tarnishes the handling gains on a twisty road. Expect pricing to come in around $55,000.
Last, but certainly not least, is the 450h, which I found to be the most significant GS. Smoother, quieter, quicker, and more seamless than its predecessor, the 450h is an impressive engineering feat, offering the power and speed of the previous V-8 GS 460 combined with the fuel economy of the current 1.8-liter Corolla. Fuel economy, estimated at 29/34 city/highway, is better than that of the Infiniti M35h and the Mercedes E350 BlueTEC. The GS 450h also feels the most special of the lineup, due in part to an exclusive bamboo-trimmed interior that's about as elegant and green as a Japanese garden. Bottom line? About $60,000 to start and pushing $70,000, if equipped with such options as Mark Levinson audio, navigation, and Luxury Package.
Active safety features on the GS include an available blind-spot monitor, Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning, night vision, and a precollision system. Ten airbags, including dual front knee bags, provide passive protection.
In light of the previous gen, the new GS represents advancements in refinement, performance, fuel economy, technology, and luxury. Further, the hybrid positively raises the bar among premium hypermilers, as it's a deftly executed best-of-both-worlds four-door. Yet, with a standard V-6 that puts out mid-class power, a behind-the-curve six-speed, and a front end that some will deem scary, the GS is a sizeable step forward, not a huge leap. At the very least, Lexus can count on double, maybe even triple, the sales as well as an entry that will not be soon forgotten.
If This Is The New Lexus, We Can Stop With The Pejoratives
So Lexus wants to be taken seriously now. Certainly the brand is a heavyweight – and has been since the moment it launched 22 years ago, changing the luxury market almost overnight. It's just had trouble garnering the respect of the cognoscenti, the car enthusiast types, the sorts of people who can see a pair of taillights flash by and identify year, make and model.
Lexus representatives are not shy about the issue, in part because it's hard to ignore years of critics calling your cars bland and soulless, while smirking, self-avowed "car guys" trade their BMW sedans in on new BMW sedans, even as they grumble about electronic nannies, iDrive and Chris Bangle.
That's why Lexus built the LFA supercar, say the company's flacks, who seem unnaturally willing to admit that previous models were lacking a certain something, having settled upon the word "emotion" as the politically correct way to describe what was wrong with this last generation of Lexus products. But the real reason behind such refreshing, if specious hindsight, is that the Lexus braintrust thinks it has the solution to winning over its detractors in the 2013 Lexus GS 350.
The redesigned midsize luxury sedan goes on sale in February 2012, so Lexus saw fit to invite us out to Orange County, California, to spend a few hours behind the wheel. But first it wanted to emphasize just how important the GS is to the brand, as it will be introducing the new face of Lexus to the world – in a Super Bowl spot, no less.
Yes, that pinched, hollow stare you see from the so-called "spindle grille" of the GS is, indeed, it. Serious? Yes. Aggressive? Check. Mean? Pretty much.
If the Lexus GS doesn't look like the sort of car that slows down to let you merge, that's because the self-important drivers of the competition's products probably wouldn't either. While the Lexus folks might blush at putting such a fine point on it, they describe their prototypical customer as someone who wants it all, without compromises. In other words, not the sort of guy you'd want to work for, but exactly the kind you might choose to perform surgery – or represent you in court if you want to sue the doctor afterwards.
But before we get too caught up in the idea that Lexus is embracing an edgier look, let's be honest: It's not like they've gone Juggalo here. Indeed, the GS now wears a sharp and scowling face, but there's little about the rest of the GS's styling that's shocking or screams for attention. In fact, while tooling around the OC, we were ruthlessly ignored, just one more in a seemingly endless succession of midsize luxury cars.
Even if we're not sold on the new grille, the rest of its lines are smooth and elegant. You can see plenty of traces of the old GS in the new one, especially in the greenhouse and the curved forward edge of the C-pillar, which carries over since the original. But Lexus has lengthened the rear deck a bit, while sloping its sides down to meet the character line that extends forward from the front fender along the side of the car. This, combined with a two-inch increase in width, makes the new GS look lower to the ground and better visually balanced than the old model, despite being over an inch taller. The rear fascia of the GS looks more like its baby brother now, and the family resemblance will only increase once the IS acquires its own spindle grille. In total, the GS is an attractive car, and similar enough to the BMW 5 Series that nobody will mistake it for a Toyota Avalon.
Inside the GS, it becomes even clearer that Lexus has been studying the Bavarians. The instrument panel – hell, the whole interior – not only resembles the 5 Series, it feels like it when you're behind the wheel. Except it's better. Everything in the Lexus is pretty much in the same place as in the BMW, from the LCD screen that dominates the center of the dashboard, to the HVAC vents and controls, to the Lexus Remote Touch Interface right where BMW's iDrive knob would be. Even the GS steering wheel seems like a Bimmer knock-off. But the cowl height in the GS is low, which allows for a seating position high enough that the driver doesn't feel buried in the cockpit and visibility is excellent as a result. We also like that the instrument panel lacks all the strange contours of the 5er.
The materials in the GS are much improved, with lots of stitched leather upholstery and new mood lighting. That said, some of the metal-look plastic in the GS is, indeed, plastic – likely a price that engineers felt was worth paying to achieve an overall 10 percent reduction in the weight of the interior trim. You won't notice any skimping elsewhere, however, as the car is as quiet and comfortable as you'd expect of a Lexus. Optional 16- or 18-way adjustable seats seem like overkill, until you climb out of them and sit in the standard 10-way seats. Yes, we really have become that spoiled. We expect an on-board chiropractor next.
Lexus says the new GS tips the scales at exactly the same 3,795 pounds as the outgoing model, and while the length and wheelbase of the GS have not changed, the new model does have a 1.6-inch wider front track and a two-inch increase in the rear. Lexus claims the torsional rigidity of the GS has been improved by 14 percent thanks to the use of high strength steel and new welding processes. We'll take all this – and a redesigned multilink rear suspension that enables four-wheel-steering – as a down payment on further evaluation.
During our day with the GS we were mostly stuck puttering around So. Cal., without much opportunity to test the dynamics. To complicate matters, Lexus will be selling four different trim levels that carry some radically different equipment, not to mention an all-wheel-drive option and the GS450h hybrid. We're going to write up the hybrid separately, as it's truly a different car altogether – although we could almost say that about the F Sport model.
Positioned as the halo of the range, the F Sport carries quite a bit of equipment not offered on the other models, including 19-inch wheels, 14-inch front brake rotors, a firmer suspension with a special calibration for its adaptive system and a variable gear ratio steering system. It's also the only way you can put your hands on the optional Lexus Dynamic Handling System, which is how you get the rear steering actuator, capable of turning the wheels up to two degrees to improve turn in and handling.
The base GS, Premium and Luxury trims are more similar than they are different, with the Luxury package getting the adaptive part of the F Sport's trick suspension, but not the rest. A whole host of safety equipment is available, including a collision mitigation system with an infrared camera mounted behind the steering wheel to scan the driver's eyes. Lexus has also seen fit to introduce a head-up display that's functionally identical to the system General Motors has been using for years in such vehicles as the Chevrolet Corvette and Cadillac CTS. The company's Enform telematics system is also offered alongside an optional navigation system with a massive 12.3-inch screen.
Certainly, Lexus has loaded up the GS with a whole bag of new tricks, but its core is largely carryover. The optional V8 engine is gone – nobody bought them, apparently. So the 3.5-liter V6 remains, improved to make it a bit more powerful. It's now rated at 306 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque, an increase of just three horses and three lb-ft. However, Lexus estimates a fuel economy improvement of two miles per gallon on the highway and one combined when compared to the 2011 GS. The new car's 0-60 mile-per-hour time remains at 5.7 seconds. The 2013 GS uses the same six-speed, sequential-shift automatic, but with paddle shifters in addition to a standard shift lever. Shifting with the paddles is fast and satisfying, and we like that they are small and well positioned unobtrusively behind the wheel.
Complementing the paddle shifters is a new three- or four-position Drive Mode, selected by a knob that sits below the shifter on the center console. This allows the driver to select either Eco or Sport S mode, in addition to the default normal mode. Eco mode attempts to save fuel by decreasing throttle response, while Sport mode does pretty much the opposite. The fourth setting, Sport S+, is tied to the adaptive suspension system that's standard on the Luxury and F Sport models, and optional on other trim levels.
Driving even the base car in normal mode feels more engaging than past Lexus models, with good road feel and feedback through the steering wheel. We'll mention that Lexus seemed to have all the cars on hand equipped with at least 18-inch wheels, despite spec-ing undersized 17-inchers as standard. The brakes slow the car with authority and the pedal feels nice and firm. Throttle response is great, and the sound under full-bore acceleration is sonorous. A new Helmholtz resonator in the engine compartment and a revamped muffler produce some pretty nice music, and it is refreshing to see Lexus embrace the idea that its cars can be quiet and loud at the same time – just as long as the noises are the right ones. Really, Lexus has hit on all the right notes (ahem) with its redesign of the GS.
Introducing a new design direction for the brand on the GS is pretty gutsy on the surface, because if there's one market segment where the pursuit of perfection has caught nothing but scorn, it would be this one. In 2009 and 2010, the GS was the worst selling sedan in the Lexus lineup, with sales of just over 7,000 per year. By comparison, the one-size-smaller IS sells about five times that number. Yet Lexus thinks it can move about 24,000 units of the new GS each annum, gung-ho on wooing buyers from other luxury marques. Lexus officials are claiming they expect about half of GS sales to come from the competition, which to hear them tell it means Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
Trebling sales would seem to require a historic European emigration, even if the segment grows some five to seven percent next year, as Lexus predicts. The good news is that there are plenty of customers out there: Mercedes and BMW combined to sell over 100,000 E-Classes and 5-Series last year. By that measure, perhaps this bold new Lexus is actually vintage Toyota – in other words, pursuing a conservative strategy designed to test the waters on a lower volume vehicle before applying the face paint to the more lucrative parts of the lineup, like the ES sedan and RX sport utility.
While we can say with some certainty that the GS has the right aesthetics and a pleasant enough cabin to compete with its European adversaries, the hardware is what's really going to make or break the new model. From our initial impressions, Lexus is right there, offering a compelling package with enough serious go-fast bits to warrant consideration from all but the most slavish fans of Teutonic motoring. Now we just need to find the right roads.
The new Lexus GS range is the fourth generation of the company's luxury sport sedan that competes against cars such as the BMW 5-series and Mercedes-Benz's E-class. In this iteration, the GS previews new design language that eventually will carry over to the rest of the Lexus range. Reactions to the new look have diverged, but it's clearly not bland.
The model will be available with available premium, luxury and F-Sport packages, powered by a revised version of the 3.5-liter V6 that now combines direct and port fuel injection. The V6 produces 306 hp and 277 lb-ft of torque, three more of each than before, while also improving fuel consumption to 19 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway.
All-wheel-drive versions of the GS 350 are available, as is the standard rear-drive format. While the GS loses a V8 variant for 2013, it gains an F-Sport model, which is equipped with firmer springs, a three-level variable-damping suspension, thicker antiroll bars, variable-speed steering and a rear-wheel-steer mechanism for optimal handling characteristics. The F-Sport car also has front and rear styling revisions, larger brakes and 19-inch wheels with summer tires.
As before, the GS will feature a hybrid variant, the GS 450h, which employs an Atkinson-cycle version of the V6 in combination with an electric motor to produce a combined maximum of 338 hp with 29/34mpg fuel consumption. The electric motor is mounted at the rear axle, and drives the rear wheels, so GS 450h models are rear-drive only.
The use of extra spot welds, increased use of high-strength steel and the adoption of a bolted-in triangular engine-box brace in the new GS body shell increases torsional rigidity by 14 percent. But weight has not increased beyond the previous car's mass, despite a full complement of technologies and luxury equipment, because of an intensive exercise to pare weight in every area--right down to hose-clamp widths!
What is it like to drive?
Because of the aforementioned advances in design and materials, the new GS is as solid, quiet and refined as one might hope. Intensive aerodynamic simulations and the adoption of a flat underbody and numerous surface tweaks reduce wind noise significantly, adding to the car's admirable road-going refinement.
So, to add some sporting flavor to the new GS, Lexus fitted a Helmholtz-type resonator that pipes the engine's induction noises into the cabin. The contrast to an older GS 350 that we had on hand was startling. While not really noisy, the new GS 350 provides a fantastic aural accompaniment to performance driving while retaining the hushed atmosphere of a luxury car when operated at modest speeds.
Of all the new models in the range, the F-Sport is one to make Lexus's rivals take serious note. The combination of ride and handling technologies provides the new GS with fast turn-in, brilliant roll control, amazing stability and a scintillating turn of speed. Its extraordinary range was perfectly showcased by a long autocross course laid out on the old air base at El Toro in Orange County, Calif. Since the rear wheels can steer in either direction, they can be used to speed turn-in by steering in the opposite direction to the fronts, then to stabilize the car by steering in the same direction.
The variable-steering gear massively speeds response in slaloms and chicanes, and none of the motion is lost to wayward body roll. Meanwhile, forces felt inside the car are easily contained by the excellent new seats. If chassis tuning was the way that rival companies' sport sedans built their reputations in the past, then technology is what might knock them off the perch today.
All of this clever technology hugely broadens the GS's bandwidth. Even the sport-optimized F-Sport version will tour suburbia with suave serenity, catering to its occupants' every need with the latest telematics package, connecting them to Internet radio or allowing them to make a reservation at a restaurant, then directing them to that location.
Everything one expects of a luxury car is available. High-end stereo? There's an 835-watt Mark Levinson system so tight and clean it is hard to describe in words. The navigation display is a 12.3-inch monster. There's a night-vision system and a precollision system. The seats are heated and ventilated. There is a blind-spot monitor and a heads-up display.
Not all of these things are standard, but all of them are available. Short of power doors, it's hard to think of anything not offered in one or another of the optional packages. Lexus always had the luxury part down. Now the company wants to inject some sporting essence into the experience. Some of the technology that makes the cars work so well is like that used by recognized sport superstars such as Ferrari.
With the LF-A proudly stationed on the Lexus stand at auto shows these days, maybe the two brand names aren't as far apart as they once were.
Do I want it?
It's hard to knock the idea of a refined ride for everyday activities, particularly if it comes courtesy of a beautifully made product. When Lexus first appeared, hard-nosed auto writers complained of too much isolation and not enough involvement. Now all of the rival luxury brands are more like Lexus than they were like themselves in the old days.
So, when you add performance bandwidth to a polished product such as the GS 350, allowing it to strafe a canyon road like a sports car as well as glide serenely to the office, it makes a fine argument for what the company has done here. All that's left to debate is the controversial new styling.
Lexus Finally Builds a Serious Midsize Sport Sedan
What Works (pros):
Handles as well as anything in the class, improved interior styling and materials, V6 sounds good when it's working hard, doesn't beat you up to deliver the numbers.
What Needs Work (cons):
Transmission automatically upshifts in Manual mode, styling is less distinctively GS, a few awkward interior controls
The most driver-oriented GS yet is now fully capable of taking the fight to Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz — provided they're not packing V8s.
One run through our slalom course was all it took to feel just how different the 2013 Lexus GS 350 F Sport is from the previous three generations of GS. "Damn!" was how our incredibly eloquent test-driver put it.
An early prototype drive had given us an indication of the GS 350's improvements. But we didn't have any performance data to back it up. Now we do.
It Runs the Numbers, Good Ones
A few runs later and the 2013 Lexus GS 350 F Sport had done nothing less than tie the smaller and more singularly focused 2011 Lexus IS F with a speed of 69.7 mph through the slalom. That's 4.5-mph quicker than the last GS 350 we tested in 2008. The new car also generated 0.88g on the skid pad.
Bear in mind that the F Sport package is a step more aggressive than the standard GS 350. It adds quicker steering, adjustable shocks, stiffer springs, thicker antiroll bars, staggered-width Bridgestone Potenza summer tires, optional rear-wheel steering and larger 14-inch front brakes. It's the serious sport package the GS has been in need of for years.
On slalom times alone, mission accomplished, as the Germans have nothing on the GS F Sport's ability to change directions. Then again, there's more to a proper luxury sport sedan than slalom times.
Old Engine, New Sounds
The GS 350's engine remains a 3.5-liter V6 with variable valve timing and both port and direct injection. Output is up, but only slightly to 306 horsepower at 6,400 rpm and 277 pound-feet at 4,800. Minor efficiency enhancements bring fuel mileage up to a projected EPA rating of 19 city/28 highway/23 mpg combined (that's a 2 mpg highway improvement and 1 mpg in the combined).
More importantly, this engine now has some character thanks to a sound generator mounted on the air intake between the air cleaner and the throttle body assembly. Yes, it's contrived, but it's better than nothing. The GS remains perfectly silent on the highway at cruising speed, but get hard on the throttle from 3,500 rpm on up and there's a pleasingly enthusiastic growl.
Not surprisingly, the 2013 Lexus GS 350 F Sport puts up similar acceleration numbers to the 2008 GS 350 we last tested. Zero to 60 comes in 5.8 seconds (5.6 seconds with a 1-foot rollout as on a drag strip) and it does the quarter-mile in 14.1 seconds at 99.9 mph. That keeps it on par with the 2011 BMW 535i (zero to 60 in 5.7 seconds) but a good bit slower than the supercharged 2012 Audi A6 Quattro at 5.2 seconds.
The GS 350's six-speed automatic has been updated for quicker shifts and an earlier torque converter lockup. Plus, all GS 350s now come standard with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters, which give nice throttle blips on downshifts. Unfortunately this system shifts for itself at 6,400 rpm even in Manual mode, made annoyingly obvious during an autocross when the GS would upshift to 3rd right before you were about to brake for a chicane.
The Essence of F Sport
The suspension is the same basic setup as the outgoing third-gen GS — double wishbones up front, multilink at the rear — but new designs. The front sees an increased use of aluminum and the rear gets a redesigned toe link that also serves to increase luggage capacity (a GS sticking point) to 14.3 cubic feet.
The F Sport package includes a stiffer version of Lexus' Adaptive Variable Suspension as well as electric-assist Variable Gear Ratio Steering. Our test car also featured the optional Dynamic Rear Steering system.
Toggle the Lexus Drive Mode selector between Normal and Sport (there's also an Eco mode which we didn't bother with) and the F Sport offers a comfortable, although certainly not plush, ride. Turn the controller knob to Sport Plus and two things happen: First, an outline of the GS shows up on the display screen, with the shocks, steering wheel and engine highlighted, indicating sportier settings. Second, the GS 350 F Sport comes alive.
The electric-assist steering becomes performance-car-quick and the GS F Sport goes exactly where you point it. There's some degree of body roll for a forgiving nature, but the F Sport is exceptionally planted, no doubt the active rear steering (which turns the rear tires up to 2 degrees in the opposite direction of the fronts below 50 mph, the same direction as the fronts above that) is playing a part here.
Nothing fazed the brakes either. We measured a 60-0-mph stop of 112 feet and it came on the last of seven tests. The pedal travel is short with a nice, firm feel, but the front end exhibits a little more dive than we'd prefer.
Although the GS's overall length and wheelbase remain unchanged at 190.7 and 112.2 inches, respectively, the new car is 2 inches wider and 1.2 inches taller, together increasing interior room and widening the track. The all-new sheet metal serves as "the new face of Lexus," but the body is also 14 percent stiffer thanks to additional reinforcements and an increased number of spot welds.
While Lexus asked the chassis guys to make the new GS stiffer, the interior designers were told to scrape out as much weight as possible, especially since weight would be added back in with more luxury features. The engineers lightened the interior door trim by 21 percent, the headliner by 14 percent, trunk trim by 20 percent, trunk lining by 28 percent and the carpet by 3 percent. The end result: 3,832 pounds as-tested, just 39 pounds heavier than the GS 350 from 2008.
The interior itself is an all-new design. Most materials are of a higher quality than before, with yards of soft leather and real brushed aluminum. We especially appreciate the supremely padded leather on the edge of the center console at the exact point where the driver's right knee rests, although we're not big fans of the BMW-like turn signal stalk.
The F Sport's front seats feature 16-way adjustability, including power-operated side bolsters and thigh support. Although Lexus lowered the driver seat and steering wheel slightly, the seat still feels just a tad too high even at its lowest setting. The 12.3-inch display screen for the optional navigation system is brilliant and there's a new version of Lexus' computer-mouse-like Remote Touch controller that feels more natural than before.
The F Word
The 2013 Lexus GS 350 will be available in rear- and all-wheel-drive models when it goes on sale in February, with the new GS 450h following in the spring. The V8 GS 460 has been dropped altogether.
Prices haven't been set, but the GS 350 will likely come in under $48,000. Which means the GS will undercut the Audi A6 3.0T Quattro ($49,900), BMW 535i ($52,250) and Mercedes-Benz E350 ($50,490). Getting the full goodness of the F Sport package will probably run you another $4,000, and tack on about a grand more if you want rear steering.
The 2013 Lexus GS 350, F Sport in particular, is an impressive redesign. It's a Lexus that driving enthusiasts can get excited about. More than just promises, it's actually fun to drive. And unlike the IS F, the GS 350 F Sport's adjustable suspension won't punish you for the performance it brings. It can do smooth and quiet, or serious and sporty: your choice.
Which makes us wonder: What about a GS F? Despite our best efforts to wrangle a commitment out of a Lexus official at the press launch, they still wouldn't admit one is coming. No one denied it, though, either. And if the GS 350 F Sport is this capable with a V6, just think what kind of a performance sedan a true GS F would be with a stonker of a supercharged V8 under the hood. It could be good. Very good.
The new Lexus GS 450h delivers a better compromise between fuel mileage and straight-line speed than before while bolstering its credentials as a true luxury sport sedan.
The first-generation Lexus GS 450h didn't make sense to a lot of people.
Lexus promised V8 performance with V6 fuel economy. But hybrid geeks were thrown off by a combined mileage rating of only 23 mpg, while driving enthusiasts were put off by its lifeless steering, portly curb weight and intrusive stability control system.
It didn't help that the GS hybrid cost some $3,000 more than the V8-powered GS 460. Yeah, we woulda had a V8 for sure.
With the 2013 Lexus GS 450h, Toyota's luxury brand is taking a different approach. This time the emphasis is on fuel mileage, as in an estimated 35 percent improvement over the 2011 model. And this time around the GS hybrid is taking the place of the V8 model, so it's hybrid or nothing. Bold move.
The GS 450h continues as a series-parallel hybrid, which means it's capable of operating in electric-only, gas-only, or a combination of the two modes. Its 286-horsepower 3.5-liter gasoline V6 now uses the Atkinson cycle for greater fuel efficiency.
There's also an increased compression ratio (13.1:1, up from 11.8), a new mid-port intake tumble generator and Lexus' combo of direct and port injection, which Lexus calls D-4S. Although the Atkinson cycle is more efficient, the downside is that it has a narrower power band. No problem when you have a second power source on-board.
In the GS 450h the extra power comes from a water-cooled 30kW (41-hp) permanent electric motor powered by a nickel-metal hydride battery pack. In Sport mode, the system voltage is bumped up, which raises the battery power to 52 hp (39 kW) for a total combined hp of 338. The gas engine and electric motor drive the rear wheels independently or in tandem, depending on what's needed.
Also helping to reduce fuel consumption is better cooling of the hybrid's power control unit. The GS's Eco mode takes it a step further by limiting the electric motor to a maximum of 500 volts. And lastly, the regenerative braking operation range has been expanded.
The result? An estimated 29 city, 34 highway and 31 combined mpg, a colossal improvement over the previous GS hybrid's numbers (22 city/25 highway/23 combined mpg). Even more impressive is the fact that Lexus claims that the new 2013 Lexus GS 450h will hit 60 mph in 5.6 seconds and carry on to a top speed of 131 mph. It may be more efficient, but it's certainly not any slower.
Stiffer and Lighter
Just like the 2013 GS 350, the new GS 450h carries over an identical wheelbase and overall length, but is 2 inches wider and 1.2 inches taller in an effort to gain some interior space. It worked, as head-, knee and foot room are all reasonable now for slightly above average-size adults. That goes for the backseat as well. Lexus engineers also created more trunk room by vertically stacking the battery pack, so cargo room is up by nearly 3 cubic feet.
The 2013 Lexus GS 450h has more than just all-new sheet metal. The body is also 14 percent stiffer due to an increased number of spot and laser welds. Meanwhile, the interior was put on a strict diet, with the engineers told to lighten every material possible to make up for the car being slightly larger and stuffed with more features.
We were told at the car's press launch that the 2013 model is in fact 14 kilograms (31 pounds) lighter than the 2011 model, but a quick check of Lexus' own specs lists the 2011 model's curb weight as 4,134 pounds versus the 2013 car's 4,190 pounds. Maybe it's new math.
The interior of the previous GS 450h was hardly its weak point, but Lexus sought to improve it for 2013 anyway with an all-new design and a higher grade of materials.
A couple of things stand out: First, Lexus lowered the comfortable driver seat a small amount so that you sit more in the GS, not on it. Second, the GS 450h comes with a bamboo steering wheel and trim pieces, which Lexus says "reinforce the sustainability of the GS 450h." Whatever, it's cool, especially because it's left au naturel, without the usual wood clearcoat.
The materials generally are a step up from the previous GS, although a few of the plastic buttons (particularly for the HVAC controls on the center stack) feel a little cheap and don't quite match the tactility of the rest of the cabin.
Order the optional navigation system and you'll get a gigantic 12.3-inch display screen, controlled via a second generation of Lexus' Remote Touch controller, a device that looks and acts like a computer mouse. You'll also have the handiness of the Lexus Enform App Suite, which lets you access your mobile phone apps through the display screen, for searches with Bing, OpenTable (restaurant reservations), MovieTickets.com, Pandora, iHeartRadio, Yelp (restaurant/business reviews) and of course Facebook.
The 2013 Lexus GS 450h shares its updated chassis with the standard GS 350. That means a wider track, increased use of aluminum for the front double wishbones and a multilink setup in back that uses a new rear subframe and more aggressive geometry.
But the big news is that Lexus' Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) system comes standard on the hybrid model. It's a softer setup than on the GS 350 F Sport, but the principle is the same: The shocks are constantly adapting to road and driving conditions and they're driver-adjustable.
Toggling the Drive Mode selector lets you choose among Eco, Normal, Sport and Sport Plus. The first three mostly deal with throttle calibration, but Sport Plus dials back steering boost and firms up the shocks, while raising the stability control's intervention point (a Lexus official told us it could be fully defeated, but no amount of button pushing/holding did the trick).
On a fast and twisty back road, the 2013 Lexus GS 450h felt heavy and a bit ponderous through turns in the Sport setting. There's a definite feeling of some major weight being thrown over to one side as you enter high-speed bends. But cue up Sport Plus and there's a big difference in terms of body roll, precision and confidence, and the weighting of the steering is heavier and more precise.
Driving around town, the first thing you notice is that, well, it simply doesn't have the smooth, supple feel and sound of a V8. In other words, it's not a great replacement, at least if you're more than an A-to-B type of person.
The electronically controlled continuously variable transmission (CVT) still rubberbands a bit and there's still some steady-state throttle surge. The brakes are far from linear, too, as they have an abrupt initial tip-in, then become difficult to modulate for a smooth stop.
Drive it casually, though, and the GS 450h is reasonably quiet and seamless. Floor the throttle and, although the CVT hangs the revs up high, it surprises you with how deceptively it gets up to speed, and the force with which it keeps pushing forward.
The Bottom Line
The 2013 Lexus GS 450h will begin production at the Tahara, Japan, plant in late April/early May of next year. Pricing is a long ways off from being set, but a reasonable guess is around $60,000 (the current model begins at $58,950).
This is an improved GS hybrid for sure, if not in pure drivability then in terms of interior quality, design and definitely handling due to the standard-issue adaptive suspension. Lexus isn't expecting the GS 450h to set the world on fire with sales numbers. It's guessing that the GS 450h will account for less than 10 percent of the total GS mix.
Sales expectations aside, the 2013 Lexus GS 450h at least makes sense this time around. It's still got the sauce to back up its rep as a performance hybrid, but now it gets the kind of fuel economy for which owners could actually be smug about. And isn't that the point of hybrids anyway?
New GS well equipped to steal mid-size luxury crown
For all of Lexus' success with its RX, ES and IS models, the company's GS mid-luxury sedan has never been able to keep pace with their other models, let alone major competitors like the BMW 5-Series or Mercedes-Benz E-Class. For the 2013 model year, Lexus has completely redesigned the GS, with a 180 degree departure from the dowdy GS of years past.
ALL-NEW LOOK OUTSIDE, SHOCKINGLY GOOD INSIDE
Starting with a new design language that Lexus calls "L-Finesse", the new GS makes a clean visual break from the almost fastback proportions of the old car. The new GS looks more like a stretched out IS, and while the smaller car's stubby proportions make this look work, the larger GS loses some of the elegance, with the rear view strongly resembling a Hyundai Sonata.
Inside, the GS is leaps and bounds above the previous car, as well as the BMW and Mercedes that were on hand for comparison. Natural looking wood, high quality leather and a large 12-inch LCD screen are the highlights of the cabin, while the driver and passenger are swaddled in plush bucket seats with available 18-way adjustment. The rear seats are significantly roomier than the outgoing car, which was a longtime minus against the GS among consumers and critics alike. Plus, hybrid models get a redesigned battery pack that allows for more trunk space.
PLENTY OF NEW TECH
The GS also has a new built-in app suite as part of the Entune system, with integration via the driver’s cell phone that allows for one to access popular apps like Pandora, Yelp and MovieTickets.com without leaving the car. A cloud-based voice recognition system saves users from having to scroll through endless menus, but transactions cannot be completed unless the vehicle is in park. The app suite, as well as other functions like climate controls, the stereo system and the GPS navigation system, are operated by a revised version of Lexus' computer mouse-style control “Touch Tracer” stick. We found this to be rather difficult to use, as the unit lacks precision and adequate tactile feedback. Accurately selecting one of the functions is difficult while stationary, and can be borderline dangerous while driving. There are buttons and knobs to use as well, but the control stick is clearly the focal point of the cabin, and its lack of intuitive use is a sore spot for the GS.
A Lane Departure Warning System is also available, and uses the Variable Gear Ratio Steering system to keep the car in its designated lane, similar to what Infiniti and some German automakers offer – unfortunately the packed 405 Freeway in Los Angeles at rush hour wasn’t the ideal time to see what the system was made of.
V6 OR HYBRID
Lexus has never been known for dynamic handling or blistering acceleration, but the GS performed admirably on our Southern California test loop that included canyon roads, the Pacific Coast Highway and an autocross course at the now defunct El Toro air base. The GS350 has a lovely, melodic engine note past 3000 rpm, thanks to a series of enhancements made by Lexus engineers for this purpose alone. Two powertrains, a direct injection 3.5-liter V6 making 306 horsepower is the standard engine, while a revised hybrid powerplant featuring a 286 horsepower V6 and a 52-hp electric motor (338-hp combined) acts as the top end model, replacing the outgoing V8.
While the power may be there on paper, the character of the two cars is starkly different. The hybrid's CVT gearbox produces the typical "motorboat" effect of holding a constant rpm, but depressing the accelerator at highway speeds produces ample thrust for even the most velocity hungry driver. The standard V6, by contrast, works well in conjunction with its standard 6-speed automatic gearbox to deliver a relatively rapid pace.
Both vehicles suffer from the usual Lexus ailment of poor brake pedal feel, with the hybrid in particular suffering from the double affliction of requiring regenerative braking capabilities to be factored in as well. The GS450h's pedal is difficult to modulate - there is only a few millimeters of travel before the pedal goes rock hard. GS F-Sport models are equipped with 14-inch monobloc front calipers, but we didn't notice any improvements in performance from them.
DYNAMIC, BUT A DRIVER’S CAR?
While the steering lacks the tactile magic of the BMW 5 Series, the chassis does a good job of communicating what the car is doing, giving the driver clear indications of understeer or oversteer (a rare but satisfying occurrence). Excellent ride quality is another Lexus hallmark that's carried over to the new GS, but we found that models with more aggressive tire packages sent far too much road noise into the cabin.
We tried using the Drive Mode Select feature – a rotary knob that allows for normal, sport or economy-minded driving modes – and found that the changes largely came in terms of throttle response in the sport modes. Gear changes and throttle responses are sharpened but the differences are hardly enough to justify fiddling around with the knobs for any extended period of time.
On the El Toro handling course, we were able to put the F-Sport against the previous GS, the BMW 535i and the Mercedes-Benz E350 (Lexus strongly discouraged us from taking one of the standard cars onto the makeshift track). Notably absent were the Infiniti M37, Jaguar XF and Audi A6. We found that the F-Sport was more than a match for the previous GS and E-Class, but the 535i, with mediocre all season tires, still felt superior. We wonder how a base GS350 would have fared on the course, let alone a 535i with a sport package.
Lexus touts its Lexus Dynamic Handling (LDH) technology as the driving force behind the F-Sport’s performance. LDH is novel in that in addition to co-coordinating the car’s steering system and braking functions, it also uses a rear-steering feature to turn the rear wheels as much as two degrees in either direction. Lexus claims that qualities like maneuverability, high-speed stability and overall handling are enhanced, but the effect was imperceptible to us – although perhaps that’s the idea. The best automotive technologies do tend to work silently in the background, but we weren’t given an adequate opportunity to truly judge the system’s effectiveness for ourselves.
The Lexus brand has always had a strong premium image, but for one reason or another, the GS has failed to catch on. The new GS, with a full suite of trims including hybrid, AWD and luxury package models should help the car blanket all corners of the market.
At the time of our drive, Lexus didn't announce pricing for the GS, but did say that it would undercut German rivals by an aggressive margin. It's worth noting that in addition to our heavily choreographed drive route, the vehicles tested were pre-production prototypes, but still extremely close to what will be offered in showrooms in 2012. Based on our seat time with other rivals (save for the new A6), we can surmise that the GS offers excellent value, a beautiful cabin and enough performance for all but the hardcore BMW faithful for whom anything less than the Ultimate Driving Machine is unacceptable.
This Lexus GS 250 F Sport shows the manufacturer likes to do things a bit differently. While most rivals to the new GS offer a four-cylinder diesel engine at the range's entry point, Lexus has equipped the base GS 250 with a normally-aspirated 2.5-litre V6 petrol engine.
The model sits alongside the staple GS 450h hybrid in the all-new model's line-up, with sales of the two expected to be split 50:50.
What’s it like?
Our first sample of the new GS came in the F Sport version, which gets some BMW M Sport-style visual upgrades plus an Adaptive Variable Suspension system, which helps turn the new GS into a much greater dynamic proposition that its predecessor.
The ride is supple and composed when driven at low speeds in Normal model. It can be a bit fidgety at higher speeds and more abrasive surfaces, but select the driver-focused Sport S + mode and body control is much improved and it makes the GS 250 a rewarding car when you want to push on and attack corners.
The steering is also nicely weighted and provides decent feel if a little light, although again this can be rectified by selecting the Sport S+ mode which adds an extra 10 per cent of weight the to the electric system.
Perhaps the real highlight of this car is the engine. It's got a suitably rorty exhaust note and revs nicely throughout its powerband. But while the engine is the high, the six-speed automatic it is mated to is the biggest disappointment.
It's fine for gentle driving around town or long-distance cruises, but somewhat blunts progress for those wanting to have some fun. Its biggest problem is holding the gear too long and causing an uncomfortable sounding strain on the engine. It's better when manually controlled with the steering wheel-mounted paddles, however.
Should I buy one?
It feels genuinely refreshing to drive a naturally aspirated V6 petrol engine in a car in the GS's class, especially at the range’s entry point.
While Lexus may suffer in the market with no diesel as the decision to offer no engine smaller than this one will prevent many potential sales, those who still crave a genuinely good-to-drive saloon with a part-time sporty edge - and a V6 petrol engine under the bonnet - should add the new GS to their shopping list.
What is it?
The outgoing Lexus GS 450h was a car you bought with your head and not your heart. But with this all-new model, Lexus if promising much greater levels of driver reward and performance to go with the mightily impressive – and equally improved - economy figures its petrol-electric hybrid drivetrain provides.
The all-new Lexus GS 450h sits atop a two-model range that will reach the UK in summer 2012, the entry-level GS 250 sitting below it. Its bold new design eschews the white-goods looks that have plagued recent Lexuses and will be rolled out across the next-generation of models.
The new GS is slightly wider (20mm) and taller (30mm) than before, but its length remains the same. Interior room is increased, and a change in the installation of the nickel-metal hydride battery pack has resulted in a 60 per cent increase in boot capacity.
Dynamically, Lexus is promising increased rigidity, agility and ride comfort from the all-new platform and double-wishbone front/multi-link rear suspension set-up. Additionally, F Sport models get an Adaptive Variable Suspension system to offer even greater control to the enthusiast driver. These range-toppers can also be specced with the Lexus Dynamic Handling package, essentially a four-wheel steering system.
The 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine has been retained and updated and is mated to Lexus’s second-generation hybrid system, which incorporates an electric motor and battery pack that can power the GS 450h for short bursts on its own or in tandem with the efficient Atkinson cycle engine. Combined power is 338bhp and torque is 254lb ft.
For those who ask why Lexus doesn’t do diesels, the firm will direct you to the performance and economy figures of this hybrid drivetrain. It can crack 0-62mph in 5.9sec and reach 155mph, yet still return 47.9mpg and 137g/km. Impressive stuff.
What’s it like?
What’s instantly striking about this car is how remarkably smooth and refined it is. It runs off stealth-like electric power alone at start-up and when the petrol engine kicks in at higher speeds, it’s seamless. Certainly, it is a very relaxing car to drive both around town and on the motorway, a pre-requisite for most GS 450h buyers.
Those looking to steal a march at the traffic lights will also not be disappointed. The performance claims seem genuine, and the GS 450h possesses an overtaking ability not normally associated with cars equipped with CVT gearboxes. The GS 450h is more than fast enough for almost all everyday situations, and you’ll rarely be found wanting more power.
The new suspension set-up and increased rigidity to the body shell have resulted in impressive ride quality and body control, both of which feel much improved over the old GS 450h. One niggle was the ride being prone to fidgeting at low speeds on the 19-inch F Sport alloys of our test car, but this wouldn’t be a deal-breaker.
Our go in the GS 450h included a trip to a test track to see if those claims of new-found levels of driver involvement were genuine. And the four-wheel steering system succeeds in making the GS 450h feel nimble and more stable at higher speeds. Very little input is required to the steering such, something which can make the car seem lacking in feel at first, but ultimately results in much sharper turn-in.
The extra involvement can be heightened by selecting the most focused Sport S+ mode from the four on offer with the Drive Model Select (Eco, Normal, Sport S and Sport S+). The engine speed is increased, along with a sharper throttle response and manual control of the gearbox using the steering wheel-mounted paddles.
Inside, it’s hard not to find a good driving position with the 18-way adjustable electric front seats. The quality is as you’d expect from a Lexus, and the large display screen is a welcome addition at being a one-stop-shop for everything from the sat-nav, to minute-by-minute economy.
But despite the boasts of extra space, the interior does feel a touch cramped. Whether this is down to the disappointing visibility, dark materials of our test car or the sheer amount of buttons and controls on the dash and centre console was hard to precisely pinpoint in this initial test.
Should I buy one?
However much Lexus improves the dynamic ability of the GS 450h to appeal to the enthusiast buyers, the car is still likely to be snapped up by wealthy private individuals who are more drawn by the hybrid drivetrain than its ability on a track. They will be pleased to hear the economy figures, like the performance and handling claims, are no gimmick and were largely achieved on our test drive.
That’s not to say the enthusiast should overlook the new GS 450h. It successfully builds on the performance and refinement of the old model and throws in extra agility and responsiveness. It’s unlikely to be cheap to buy, but the particular type of buyer who the GS 450h appeals to is unlikely to be disappointed.
New hybrid luxury car promises more thrills than before. Does the new GS deliver?
The latest GS marks the opening of a new chapter, says Lexus. From now on, Toyota’s luxury brand claims it will build cars that are exciting to look at and to drive, as well as being faultlessly reliable and brilliantly equipped.
The new GS gets a more stylish body and rear-wheel-drive chassis with lots of gadgets aimed at making it more fun. There is no diesel option as yet – the range kicks off with the petrol- engined GS 250 – but there’s talk of a more affordable small hybrid, as well as the flagship GS 450h driven here.
So could this be the car to worry Audi, BMW and Mercedes?
It gets off to a good start. The latest GS is more angular and sporty than before, and stands out next to rivals such as the Audi A6 and BMW 5 Series. The new grille gives the front end some much needed aggression and the LED daytime running lights look smart, too. Sadly, however, the rest of the shape is a little bland.
Inside, better packaging frees up more front and rear seat space. It has a 482-litre boot, too – a 60 per cent improvement over the old car, thanks to the more compact rear suspension – which has allowed the hybrid’s batteries to be repositioned.
The interior looks much more modern. The cabin is simpler, with a mix of wood, leather and metal. There are fewer switches, and neat touches such as a Maserati-style clock on the dash.
The gadget count on our range-topping car was sky high. It boasted a huge optional 12.3-inch central colour display with sat-nav, and a truly stunning 835-watt, 17-speaker Mark Levinson stereo. Safety equipment includes collision mitigation (which alerts the driver of approaching objects that may cause a crash), and lane-keep assist.
On the road, the GS 450h is every inch the luxurious limo, floating over bumps in almost total silence. With 338bhp on tap from the electric-assisted 3.5-litre V6, 0-62mph takes 5.9 seconds and in-gear response is strong. The electric motors and petrol engine combine to rocket the car up to motorway speeds and beyond. So it’s a shame that the six-speed CVT box hurts refinement.
At full throttle, the transmission maintains high revs as the CVT’s gear ratio rises, which makes the engine drone. At least it’s more economical than its predecessor, returning 47.8mpg (up from 36.7mpg). CO2 emissions have been slashed, too – dropping from 179g/km to only 137g/km.
Can the new GS give sporty executives such as the A6 and 5 Series competition on a twisty road? Thanks to wider tracks, with double-wishbone suspension at the front and a new multi-link rear set-up, the GS is more stable and composed.
There’s little in the way of body roll, and the steering has more weight than before. Thanks to adaptive dampers, the ride is generally very good, too. Choose an F Sport model and, as well as a bodykit and larger alloys, you can get Adaptive Variable Steering, which includes an optional rear-wheel steering system for extra agility.
The GS 450h still doesn’t engage the driver enough, though. Yes, you can put the car in Eco, Normal, Sport or Sport+ driving modes, which tweak throttle, suspension and steering response, but while the GS feels more agile in its racier settings, it doesn’t like being hustled. The steering never has much feel and the CVT gearbox is slow to respond.
But the new GS is definitely an improvement. Unfortunately, it’s not quite the big leap forward we were hoping for.
We've driven the new 2012 Lexus GS450h F-Sport, which is claimed to use its petrol electric powertrain to deliver near diesel economy
What is it?
Believe it or not, you’re looking at the fourth generation of Lexus’s mid-sized GS; a car whose predecessors have played perpetual underdog to the BMW 5-series and Mercedes E-Class. So, the big question is, can the new car (and its slashy styling) get any closer to the executive pack?
We drove the range-topping GS450h F-Sport hybrid, which combines a 285bhp 3.5-litre V6 engine with assistance from a 39kW electric motor. Although prices haven’t been confirmed it will cost around the £50,000 mark. A basic V6-powered GS 250 will also be available when the car goes on sale in the UK next spring.
Where to start? As always, the Lexus is absolutely packed with tech. The powertrain is mostly familiar, in principle at least, with the petrol/ electric power blended by a CVT gearbox and delivered to the rear wheels. The engine uses an Atkinson cycle – effectively over-compressing the mixture to boost economy. As before, the car can also operate for brief periods, and at low speeds, in pure electric mode.
F-Sport trim also brings the option of a ‘dynamic handling’ package that incorporates variable ratio steering with electric assistance and active rear-wheel steering. This uses an electric servo ‘rack’ to turn the rear wheels in the opposite direction to the front wheels at low speeds, and in the same direction at higher speeds.
Other kit includes active everything – from collision avoidance to a night view system – plus a 12.3-inch wide LCD dashboard display screen that’s claimed to be the biggest ever fitted to a production car.
What’s it like to drive?
It starts off well, with the low-down boost of the electric motor giving strong off-the-line acceleration. We drove cars both with and without the dynamic handling package, and the rear-wheel steering certainly sharpens cornering responses, especially at low speeds. But although the GS450h feels keener than its predecessors, it’s no sports saloon – throttle response is – depending on how kind you’re feeling - either leisurely or hesitant and the CVT gearbox responds to requests for serious acceleration with the usual noise of a (muted) food blender on high speed.
On the plus side, it’s good at wafting with air suspension and excellent noise insulation making it a very relaxing place to spend time.
How does it compare?
Lexus acknowledges that its failure to offer a diesel engine will affect sales in Europe. The company’s relatively modest ambitions are to sell 2500 a year in the UK – a fraction of what BMW, Merc, Audi and Jaguar manage with their equivalent models. The official line is that the GS 450h’s combination of combined 40mpg economy and CO2 emissions of 137g/km allows it to be fairly compared to big-engined diesel rivals, although we’ll need to drive the car properly in the UK to see how close it can get to its official mpg – something hybrids always struggle to do.
Set to be more expensive than rivals like the BMW 535D M-Sport – although with more standard kit – the GS450h looks set to have what could be termed an ‘exclusive appeal’.
Anything else I should know?
The hybrid battery pack has been relocated to live between the boot and the rear seats, increasing luggage space by 60 percent compared to the previous-gen GS450h.
Ron Kiino and I were staring at the 2013 Lexus GS 350 F Sport's ferocious "spindle grille" snout prior to its test session at the track, and after a silence, he said in a James Earl Jones baritone: "Luke" -- followed by a heaving exhalation -- "I am your father." That sizzling sound you hear is the F Sport/Lord Vader association being branded onto my brain. No matter what else I might say about this car -- such that its recalibrated 3.5-liter engine offers better mileage, its suspension has been completely overhauled, and there's available active rear steering, adjustable shocks and 0.91 g's of grip -- it's all overshadowed by that menacing mug. Why didn't its grille remind Ron of elegantly folded origami?
The problem is that when a car starts out with a Darth Vader face, what follows it better be able to swing a pretty good lightsaber. And the density of visual misanthropy that follows in this case rapidly dwindles until, by the car's stern, it's as innocent-looking as a Camry. Dynamically, the F Sport -- a package of primarily handling and appearance enhancements -- is a lot more consistent, however.
While the fright mask suggests it's looking to quarrel with a BMW M5, its appropriate eye-to-eye opponent would be the duller-fanged, 300-hp 535i. The GS's upgraded 303-hp engine and paddle-shift six-speed transmission are carried into the F Sport largely unaltered, providing 0-60-mph dashes in 5.5 seconds and delivering 19 city mpg and 28 highway (the latter number is up from 26 mpg).
5-point-5seconds is brisk. But not sizzling. Trust me, though, that this is one of those rev-oriented mills that makes a much better impression on the road than at the dragstrip, despite the absence of a de rigueur seventh gear cog. However, where the GS 350 F Sport really, really clicks is when the asphalt bends. Turn-in is very precise (thank you, rear steer), its stance is firm (particularly in the 'Sport+' suspension setting, though its ride is a bit shaky on the straights), and there's a nice little drift available if you press matters exiting the corner.
Active rear-steering is a rare technological bird, and like its sporadically appearing predecessors, this vehicle aims its rear wheels oppositely than its fronts at lower speeds (here, 50 mph) for sharper cornering, while slightly mirroring the front wheels at higher speeds for increased stability. Lexus says the rear's maximum angle is 2 degrees; we say it's a well-implemented solution, offering noticeable agility without the handling fishiness these things can sometimes invoke. Yet, even without the system (it's an F Sport option), the GS' handling game has clearly been elevated. Both the front and rear tracks have been broadened by about 2 inches; the rear suspension is an all-new multilink affair; larger bushings are employed up front; and the entire suspension is aluminum, lowering unsprung weight. The F Sport package takes this goodness even further with fatter anti-roll bars, stiffer springs, variable-ratio steering, bigger brakes clamped by more aggressive pads, and staggered 19-inch tire sizes - 235/40s up front and 265/35s in back. There's also that variable damping (Sport+ being its apex of aggression), which locks down the car's body motions, though the jiggly ride that ensues is enough to reserve the switch for sporadic amusement only. Sport+ also dials up the throttle's response, but that's completely overwhelmed by its teeth-gritting chassis dynamics. (Have I mentioned the ride enough?)
Other GS 350 pleasantries include its thin, vision-enhancing A-pillars, its rich interior surfaces (ours was detailed with brush aluminum), and a giant, high-resolution 12.3-inch display screen. Because of the screen's extraordinary width, there's enough real estate to show multiple things at once. It typically displays a navigation map on a large portion, and either sound system or climate control info on a smaller one. It's awfully nice not having to flip between screens as is necessary with smaller, conventionally sized units, and its resolution is absolutely crystalline. Beautiful, in fact. Mark my words, in-dash car displays are heading the way of America's living room TVs -- they're going BIG SIZE and HI RES. Another gold star goes to the very supportive seats, which provide a mesmerizing 12 means of adjustment (heavens, a Porsche GT3's seatback can't be raked at all).
Is there a dark side, Luke? No. But maybe some shades of grey. While the F Sport's variable-rate steering enables X-Acto-knife handling sharpness, its light-effort weighting seems mismatched with the F Sport's seriousness and scale. Beefy, menacing car; light, delicate steering. It's like Claude Van Damme with Truman Capote's voice.
Climb into the backseat and you'll find plenty of headroom. Nevertheless, your knees wind up high and your butt low, and worse, the GS' tall, rear-wheel-drive center hump effectively renders it a four-seater, unless your fifth passenger is Yoda-sized. And although the trunk space theoretically has been expanded by 25 percent to a promising 14.3 cubic feet, don't image it as some simple, rectangular cavity. It's badly violated by that wonderful rear suspension, and most effectively filled with lots of smaller suitcases.
But let's walk back to the front end of in car. Behind the grille of the GS 350 F Sport -- after you remove the scary Darth Vader mask -- is a reality its wearer would prefer not to reveal. Darth Vader was Luke Skywalker's father. This F Sport is a large Lexus sedan claiming to burn up backroads like a 5 Series BMW. It does a remarkably good job of it. But it also asks buyers who are naturally in the BMW camp to write a Lexus check. That may not be so easy.
The 2013 Lexus GS went on sale in Japan earlier today, and newly developed TRD parts were revealed as part of the launch — here’s a look at the aero kit, which is made up of a front under-spoiler, side skirts, a trunk spoiler and a rear diffuser, along with a quad-exhaust sports muffler.
Also released were 19″ forged aluminum wheels and a complete sports suspension.
As to be expected, TRD parts are not cheap (set of four wheels: $6,574 USD), but I can’t help but be impressed with how well the parts integrate with the overall look of the GS. At this time, North American availability is unknown.