The GS F Sport feels like a serious sport sedan. All the Jello has been squeezed out of the suspension and steering, leaving an athlete that responds instantly to your inputs. In fact, it’s a bit too twitchy: It tends to dart left or right in response to seemingly slight steering inputs, bolt forward at the tap of the gas pedal, and stop in its tracks if you so much as brush the brakes. The steering isn’t as heavy as I’d like, though it does communicate rather well. Overall, the driving experience is not quite as fluid as in a Jaguar XF or an Audi A6. But, then, a Jaguar XF or Audi A6 will probably be nowhere near as reliable as a Lexus GS, so nobody’s perfect.
The interior is the best designed I’ve seen in a Lexus. The red highlights and flat-bottomed steering wheel may be a bit hot dog, but it’s a marked improvement over the dour, takes-itself-too-seriously cabin in the smaller IS-F. My one gripe is with the center display. I love that it’s so large and easy to read, but I wish the graphics weren’t reminiscent of Windows NT.
David Zenlea, Associate Editor
Don’t be mistaken – this is an F-Sport GS, not a full balls-to-the-wall GS F, in the vein of the IS F performance sedan. The upgraded suspension is welcome here, but the Sport+ transmission setting exclusive to the F-Sport car turns the throttle from responsive to overly sensitive, and the brakes are hard to modulate because they’re so grabby.
The 306-hp V-6 is strong and throaty and paired with a six-speed automatic that smoothly executes downshifts, but – unless you’re in Sport+ — it hasn’t been tuned for enthusiastic driving due to the fact that it rushes to sixth gear and will stay there unless the throttle is given a good prod. In true Lexus form, the steering is devoid of feedback; at least here it’s not feather-light, although the weight feels utterly artificial. Also a return to form for the brand is the luxurious and inviting cabin – it’s serene and isolating with the softest leather hides, the most precisely milled metal trim, and beautifully crafted interior panels that are the benchmark for fit and finish. Sadly, in what appears to be a cost-cutting move, the Lexus “L” badge on the steering wheel is no longer silver metal, but a dull plastic dark bronze.
Donny Nordlicht, Associate Web Editor
My first few minutes behind the wheel of the 2013 Lexus GS F-Sport were confusing. Small impacts could be really harsh while the bigger undulations in the road resulted in the typical floating sensation that has become synonymous with the Lexus name. I couldn’t tell if this was supposed to be a sportier sedan that still let in a bit of wallowing or a comfortable sedan that happened to be a bit too stiffly sprung. I still don’t know the answer to that question, but I found myself wishing for the ride quality I’ve come to expect from Lexus. Perhaps the confusion is a result of the F-Sport package’s sport suspension. I want to try a regular GS to see if the standard model retains the trademark comfort.
Even though Lexus isn’t leading the class in ride and handling, the integration and calibration of the powertrain is as good as it gets. BMW would be wise to examine the way a Lexus GS can authoritatively leave a stoplight without tossing the passengers around. The primary objective in a car of this size is luxury with sportiness coming in second and the GS does a much better job filling the luxury role than BMW does.
I always appreciate a Lexus cabin because it’s so quiet and the materials used throughout are high quality. In this car, however, I cannot get past the mouse-style controller and the dated graphics on the navigation system. It was incredibly awkward to input the destination in the navigation system with the mouse controller. I much prefer the iDrive/MMI/COMAND control functions offered by BMW, Audi, and Mercedes, respectively, or a touch screen for inputting a destination. An owner would probably get used to it, though.
Lexus has done a great job catering to the sizeable crowd that prefers luxury over sportiness. I hope they haven’t forgotten about all the people who just want to be comfortable.
Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor
It didn’t take long for me to find an environment in which this Lexus GS really shines. It was my mother’s birthday over the weekend, so we drove up to Grand Rapids to celebrate with her, and the GS turned out to be the perfect vehicle for the trip. The trunk of the Lexus easily carried two golf bags, two overnight bags, a large dog bed, and a couple other bags of miscellaneous items. When we departed, the gas gauge showed half a tank, and I figured I’d probably want to stop and fill up somewhere on the road before we reached our final destination. I was happily surprised that the 140-mile stint on I-96 only used a quarter tank, thanks to the GS’s 28-mpg highway mpg.
The GS’s highway driving manners are superb. The ride is smooth and composed but not floaty, the car effortlessly cruises at 80 mph, and the interior amenities – supportive seats, satellite radio, navigation, adaptive wipers (a boon on that rainy day) – made for a stress-free trip. Yes, the mouse controller is somewhat fiddly, but there are still manual knobs and buttons for the climate control and some of the radio functions so you can forego the mouse.
I also find the exterior styling of the new GS attractive. I know that it came in for some rather harsh criticism when the concept car appeared last year, but the production version is toned down and gives the Lexus a recognizable face, although the large air intakes on the lower corners are a little off-putting.
Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor
The new GS is a car I’ve been anxiously awaiting to check out in person. I was impressed that Lexus went as far as they did in the aggressive, athletic styling of the concept, and was surprised how much of that was retained in the production model. Our test car looked sharp dressed all in black with dark graphite 19-inch wheels. It’s got a little 5-Series in it, particularly from the rear-three-quarter view, but for the most part the GS is original unto itself, and if this is the new style direction for Lexus, it’s a good one.
The interior is also extremely well tailored. Materials and fit and finish are very good, and in this F-Sport model, lean toward sport over luxury. Glossy black and patterned metallic trim nicely accent the black leather and soft plastics elsewhere. The steering wheel is particularly handsome and nicely shaped. A huge video screen dominates the stitched-leather dashboard, and the Lexus mouse/joystick control on the console navigates the user around the screen. I find the system awkward, but I imagine an owner would quickly adjust to it. The resolution is superb and graphics nicely done, and the sheer size of the screen allows for more information to be simultaneously displayed than in most cars. A map can coexist side-by-side with route or exit information at a readable size and still display entertainment and climate info. A smaller screen is centered between the speedometer and the tach in the instrument cluster and Lexus again did a beautiful job with the details here; from the bezels to the fonts on the info screen, everything in front of the driver is elegant and clear.
I didn’t have a chance to really put the car through the paces on the road, but in my brief time behind the wheel, I was impressed. In Sport+ mode, the car is extremely responsive and feels more powerful than 300 hp. And when you stomp on the throttle, the exhaust note from the V-6 roars like a brawny V-8 — it sounds awesome.
Matt Tierney, Photographer
This was my first time driving the new Lexus GS, and it is considerably better in every way than the 2011 GS450h I drove last summer. The interior is especially nice, with a much more attractive design and far higher-quality materials than in the outgoing GS. However, as others have noted, the haptic-feedback “mouse” interface is an awkward and distracting way to use the infotainment system.
Overall, the new Lexus GS is a great car — but don’t be fooled into thinking it’s a sporty car. Even with the F-Sport package, our GS350 felt very much like a floaty executive cruiser. The throttle pedal has a ridiculously gentle tip-in, meaning you have to push quite far before the car really starts to accelerate. This makes it easier to drive smoothly but is not very sporty. The electric-assist steering likewise disappoints because it feels loose and vague. Those qualities, although antithetical to enthusiastic driving, make it easy to drive the GS350 smoothly and comfortably.
Jake Holmes, Associate Web Editor
2012 Lexus GS350 F Sport
MSRP (with destination): $47,775
PRICE AS TESTED: $55,869
3.5-liter DOHC V-6
Horsepower: 306 hp @ 6400 rpm
Torque: 277 lb-ft @ 4800 rpm
WHEELS AND TIRES:
19-inch aluminum wheels
235/40YR-19 Bridgestone Potenza front tires
265/35YR-19 Bridgestone Potenza rear tires
FUEL ECONOMY (city/highway/combined):
Cargo: 14.3 cu ft
Legroom (front/rear): 42.3/36.3 in
Headroom (front/rear): 38.0/37.8 in
17-inch aluminum wheels
Stability and traction control
LED daytime running lights
Keyless entry and ignition
Automatic dual-zone climate control
Leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob
10-way adjustable power front seats
Premium audio system
HD radio w/iTunes tagging
SiriusXM satellite radio w/3-month subscription
White LED interior ambient lighting
Power tilt-and-telescopic steering column
OPTIONS ON THIS VEHICLE:
F Sport package- $5690
16-way power sport driver seat
19-inch staggered width split five-spoke wheels
Sport-tuned variable suspension
Larger front brakes w/hi-friction pads
Rear lip spoiler
Sport interior, front bumper, and rear lower valence
Unique mesh grille inserts
Variable gear ratio steering
Navigation package- $1735
Hard-drive navigation w/ traffic and weather updates
12.3-inch split-screen display
Blind spot monitoring system- $500
Trunk mat- $105
Cargo net- $64
KEY OPTIONS NOT ON THIS VEHICLE:
Lexus Dynamic Handling System
For 2013, Lexus has brought out an all-new GS. The V-8 model is no longer available.