2011 Lexus GS350 AWD

The Lexus GS is a car that's goes largely unnoticed in today's market. Only about 7000 of them sold last year, but way back when (1998), Lexus had more lofty goals for the car. That year, the company redesigned the GS in an attempt to create a luxury performance car that would compete with the best from Europe, using the BMW 5-series as a benchmark. The GS made Car and Driver's 10Best list and was named Motor Trend's Import Car of the Year in 1998. (It never managed to make any Automobile Magazine All-Stars lists.) Unfortunately, the GS never could match the dynamic performance levels of its German competitors, and instead of selling on performance, it sold on the attributes that make all Lexus cars desirable, namely impeccable build quality and competitive pricing.

Today, the GS probably still sells based on those qualities. The styling is neither eye-catching nor hideous, the interior is neither super-luxurious nor downmarket. The engine is quite good, but overall, the GS's dynamic performance level falls short of other mid-size luxury sport sedans, such as the 5-series, the Mercedes E-class, and the Cadillac CTS. On the plus side, the ergonomics of the interior are pretty good. The control buttons are big and well-labeled. My first thought when I looked at them was that they'd be very easy to use for people (especially older folks) who don't want to be overwhelmed by modern technology. There are a few buttons on the steering wheel, but not so many as to be confusing.

Still, this is a car in need of some updating. The new model is being unveiled at the New York auto show this spring, and I'm looking forward to seeing how it has evolved.

Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor

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