Speaking of getting into the car, the levels of equipment and the quality of fit in the GS430's interior were what we've come to expect from Lexus. We appreciated thoughtful storage solutions like the double-scissor hinge on the center console and the door pockets that fold out. The seats were comfortable, the high-quality leather showed very little wear, and the controls were intuitive, although headroom was in short supply even for drivers of average height and the interior lighting was far too dim.
Several people complained about the drop-down panel to the left of the driver's knee, which contained mirror adjustment buttons, trunk and fuel-filler releases, and various other secondary controls. Not only was it positioned in a location hidden behind the steering wheel, but several drivers banged their knees on it when entering or exiting the vehicle. However, it did serve to unclutter the dashboard, and if this were a single-driver car, the panel would likely remain in the stowed position most of the time, alleviating the complaints our multiple-driver pool cited.
There was some disagreement over the polished walnut trim, which one staffer described as coming from "a disco-era love den" and another likened to a material from an even earlier era, saying it looked like Bakelite plastic. Copy editor Adrienne Newell begged to differ, saying that she "liked the drama" of the deep reddish color.
The GS430's exterior styling didn't elicit many mentions in the logbook, but it did get a second look from a fellow loiterer in the airport pickup lane who exited his vehicle and slowly circled the car while seemingly memorizing its shape. And one staff member went so far as to say it looked "taut and ready to pounce on its massive wheels." In the end, for all the talk of Lexus's new L-Finesse design language, which is supposed to fuse Italian design-house style with Japanese simplicity, we didn't find the GS430's lines particularly compelling.
While not 100 percent trouble-free, for the most part the Lexus lived up to its reputation for reliability. We brought the GS430 in for regularly scheduled maintenance every 5000 miles, with the most expensive visit totaling $344 at the 15,000-mile mark. The only other out-of-pocket expenses were for the purchase and mounting of winter tires and the replacement of a damaged wheel and tire (our fault). The headliner also was replaced under warranty.
The only other problem was what we thought was a faulty tire-pressure indicator. After double-checking the pressure in all four tires, we tried to figure out how to reset the light. Having no luck locating a reset switch, we took the car to the dealership, where we were informed that a two-position switch located under the glove box allows you to register two sets of tires. The toggle had been inadvertently switched to the secondary mode, triggering the faulty indicator warning. If only the owner's manual had contained that information, we could have saved a trip to the service department.
So, after 365 days and 24,327 miles, do we still think the Lexus GS430 is "a great car"? Perhaps great isn't the proper adjective. The GS430 is a car that's perfectly enjoyable to drive both around town and on a long trip, with a very satisfying powertrain and a good reliability record. Like the Audi A6 we reviewed three months ago, the Lexus GS430 is a luxury sport sedan that leans more heavily toward the luxury side of the equation than the sporting side. For most buyers, that's all right. For us, though, it's not quite good enough. We'll continue to look for a car in this category that perfectly blends the two.