The previous GS was the first Lexus to sport the L-finesse styling motif that both the IS and LS subsequently echoed. With its new GS, the automaker has introduced another design theme, labelled “next generation L-finesse”. Its key feature is the combined upper-and-lower grille, which has a prominent “waist” that gives it a spindle shape.
Reinforcing this striking visual signature are the obligatory LED DRLs (daytime running lights). This so-called new face of Lexus looks aggressive and takes some getting used to, but it certainly helps differentiate the GS from its continental competitors.
The saloon’s overall size is almost identical to its predecessor’s save for the extra height. The silhouette remains largely the same, although the sheet metal at the C-pillars and behind the rear fenders is aesthetically heavy. Those trapezoidal-shaped exhaust outlets are “shared” with the LS.
The first and lasting impression of the cabin is the effort gone into making it a top-grade affair. The quality of the trim, materials, fittings and equipment in the GS has taken a quantum leap over that of its predecessor.
A mouse-like Remote Touch Interface (or RTI) for the large 12.3-inch “widescreen” manages the vehicle settings, navigation, entertainment, telephone and air-con. Bluetooth and the usual digital media support are, of course, standard.
The seats are well-padded and supportive. Room for legs and heads is better than before, but it’s still neither generous nor class-leading. All the occupants will find the S-Flow climate control very effective, with the two seated in front also enjoying cooled cushions.
On-board gadgets include a head-up display and a Blind Spot Monitor, with all GS models having 10 airbags plus a variety of active driving aids to avoid the deployment of said supplemental restraint systems.
In the range-topping F Sport version of the GS350, there is also Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) combined with Dynamic Rear Steering (DRS). The Drive Mode Select offers a choice of four settings – Eco, Normal, Sport S and Sport S+. Like most other cars similarly equipped, the default setting delivers the best all-round balance on the go. Sport S gives more spirited throttle response and sharper gearchanges, whilst Sport S+ also stiffens the suspension and steering.
The ride is a vast improvement over that of the old GS. It feels a bit firmer than before, but the damping is spot-on. With Sport S+ selected, the stiffer suspension provides even greater confidence around corners. The chassis’ basic balance is excellent, with extremely quick turn-in response for a vehicle of this size. The rear-wheel steer definitely enhances the car’s agility.
Unsurprisingly for a modern Lexus saloon, the GS is very quiet at cruising speeds. But rev it above 4000rpm and it develops an entirely different character. Acoustic engineering has given the GS a sporty persona when needed, with a suitably stirring soundtrack. The new 3.5-litre V6 revs energetically and smoothly to its 6400rpm redline, with no rough patches.
With 316bhp and 378Nm at its disposal, the GS350 is fast, flashing to 100km/h in 6 seconds flat. Gearchanges by the 6-speed automatic are snappy yet virtually seamless. It makes us wonder whether having seven or even eight forward ratios is really necessary in an auto transmission.
The GS boot measures 530 litres. To regular golfers like myself, however, the shape of the boot is even more important than its quoted capacity. In the case of the GS, it can carry golf bags transversely instead of diagonally or longitudinally, saving me from potential back strain.
Primary rivals to the new GS350 are the BMW 535i, Audi A6 3.0T and Mercedes-Benz E350. This German trio offer greater cabin space and more prestigious branding, but they cost considerably more and cannot quite match Lexus’ legendary reliability and service standards.
Another rival is the Jaguar XF 3.0, which is more affordable but falls short in refinement and performance. Much closer to the GS350 in dynamics, positioning and pricing is the Infiniti M37, but it’s a brand-new luxury brand in the Singapore context, so the “infinite Nissan” is a dark horse at best.
The technological thoroughbred that is the new Lexus GS350 F Sport is helping Lexus to recover lost ground in the executive segment. With that fierce “new face” at the front, the GS is also helping to clear road hogs in traffic!
This story was first published in the July 2012 issue of Torque.
Lexus GS350 F Sport 3.5 (A)
ENGINE 3456cc, 24-valves, V6
MAX POWER 316bhp at 6400rpm
MAX TORQUE 378Nm 4800rpm
GEARBOX 6-speed automatic with manual select
0-100KM/H 6 seconds
TOP SPEED 235km/h
CONSUMPTION 10.3km/L (combined)