Chris Miller road tests and reviews the 2013 Lexus GS 350 F Sport.
Lexus has long been regarded as the benchmark for build quality.
Technology and luxury also feature highly as the hallmarks of Lexus’ to date, but in the areas of performance and handling they always seem to play second fiddle to the likes of BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi.
Lexus seem to be trying to reverse that stereotype, and the latest Lexus GS 350 F Sport goes a long way to putting those perceptions to rest.
Whilst it’s not at the cutting edge of sports car handling and power, what it does possess is an inherently balanced chassis with sharp steering, and a crisp, free revving V6 engine mated to a lightning fast 6-Speed automatic gearbox that results in an enjoyable, spirited driving experience.
Priced at $99,900 before on roads, the GS 350 F Sport could never really be called a bargain, but when stacked up against its German competitors it does seem to represent pretty good value.
Endowed with a lusty, powerful 3.5-litre quad cam 2GR-FSE V6 engine, you can expect 233kw and 378Nm on tap, which effortlessly propels the big Lexus to 100km/h in just on 6 seconds.
It makes a beautiful noise thanks to the LFA-inspired sound-amplifying engine resonator, and spins smoothly all the way to the 6400rpm red line.
It’s also happy to potter around town and is only highly strung when you want it to be.
Out on the open road at 100km/h it ticks along at a smidge over 1500rpm thanks to a nicely matched 6-Speed auto that has mostly imperceptible changes except for when you really want to get moving in a hurry.
The gearbox is a couple of cogs short of its 8-Speed rivals which could have something to do with the rather average fuel consumption of the Lexus.
Over about 800km, most of which was done on freeways, the best result we could manage was 12.2 litres per 100km of premium unleaded.
A disappointing result for city commuting, let alone being out on the open road. A surprising economy omission is the lack of a stop-start system; standard fare in the German brigade.
Fuel consumption aside, everything else the Lexus GS 350 F Sport does, it does well.
The ride is compliant, and in normal mode, quite luxurious.
It does tend to show up a bit of body roll in the corners if you attack with any pace, but the simple solution is to flick over into Sports+ mode, which along with improving throttle responses and holding gears longer, sharpens the reaction to steering inputs by changing the ratios and reducing the electric assistance.
It also increases damper force in the suspension package while relaxing the stability and traction control parameters for less intrusion.
The drive is also enhanced with the standard Lexus Dynamic Handling System, Variable Gear Ratio Steering (VGRS) and Dynamic Rear Steering (DRS).
Sure it all sounds impressive, particularly the dynamic rear steer, but it is almost impossible to pick it in action from behind the wheel. The combination of all this technology however is a drive that is sharp, fluid and cohesive.
It’s pure Lexus inside the cabin. There is acres of head, shoulder & legroom both upfront and in the back.
Every element of the cabin (and body for that matter) fits perfectly, everything feels expensive and the driving position has you cocooned in swathes of high-quality leather with everything at your fingertips.
Vision is excellent, the electric seats are endlessly adjustable and it is very easy to get comfortable quickly.
The interior is dominated by the largest screen in the business, a 12.3-inch widescreen display.
Sat-nav, audio, climate and vehicle settings are all accessed by what can be best described as a built in mouse on the central console, Lexus call it the Lexus Remote Touch (LRT).
It’s easy to navigate around with the mouse, figuring out how to work everything though does take some effort.
In fact if anything the controls are over complicated, and I’d suspect the typical purchaser of the Lexus GS 350 F Sport will give up on trying to figure out how to use a lot of the functions, which essentially has them go to waste.
There are plenty of features which are easy to use like the head up display and adaptive cruise control.
One of the stand-outs is the Mark Levinson audio system, featuring a 17-speaker, 835-watt audio system.
Lexus could never be accused of lack of attention to detail, best demonstrated by the nanoe technology-enhanced air conditioning system, which is designed to be gentler on skin and hair by adding moisture ions to air inside the cabin.
As you’d expect at this price point, a five star ANCAP safety rating has been awarded thanks to blind spot and fatigue monitoring systems, and high performance Bi-Xenon HID headlights with Adaptive Front-lighting System, Automatic High Beam and LED Daytime Running Lights.
There’s also a suite of 10 SRS air-bags and the active safety features of ABS brakes, Electronic Brake-force Distribution, Brake Assist, Traction Control and Vehicle Stability Control – all controlled by the advanced Lexus Vehicle Dynamic Integrated Management (VDIM) system.
There is a lot to like about the Lexus GS 350 F Sport.
It boasts the now signature, aggressive Lexus face, has all the luxury you could want, and now, is good fun to drive.
There are a couple of areas where it is outshone by its direct competitors, but also plenty of areas where the Lexus shines bright.
At the end of the day it will all come down to personal taste between the E Class Mercedes, 5 Series BMW, A6 Audi’s and Jaguar’s XF.
The good news is with the new generation GS models from Lexus, there are now five worthy competitors in the premium saloon class. Whatever you choose, you can’t lose.
NUTS and BOLTS
Engine: 3.5 litre V6 developing 233kW and 378Nm
Transmission: 6-Speed automatic
Safety: Five stars
Price: From $99,900