2020 Lexus GS 350 F Sport: Still Fun, Still Old
This may be the last year to put a new GS in your garage
Way back in 2011, Lexus unveiled its then-new LF-Gh concept (standing for Lexus Future Grand Touring Hybrid) at that year's New York auto show. The design, while certainly more contemporary than the outgoing third-generation GS sport-luxury sedan, was polarizing primarily for its large "spindle" style front grille—a look that continued on the all-new, fourth-generation GS sedan that launched in production form later that year. Today, in 2020, that spindle design is a well-known feature of the Lexus lineup, for better or worse, but how has the GS that started it all fared in the intervening years? To find out, we asked Lexus for a 2020 GS 350 F Sport for a week of rainy Pacific Northwest driving.
Heavily refreshed in 2015 with an updated 3.5-liter V-6 engine, new exterior lighting and infotainment, and added safety tech, there's little new for 2020. The Ultrasonic Blue Mica GS 350 F Sport showed up at our door with all-wheel-drive and a fairly extensive feature list—and a Monroney to match. That look-at-me blue paint is a $595 option, and other extra-cost features include the All Weather Package ($290), a heads-up display ($900), triple-beam LED headlights ($1,160), a Mark Levinson premium stereo ($1,380), power trunk lid ($400), Intuitive Park Assist ($500) and an F Sport heated leather steering wheel ($150). All told, this GS rang in at $60,905 after the mandatory $1,025 destination fee.
Still, there's quite a bit of standard equipment-a power moonroof, power folding mirrors, 10 airbags, navigation with a 12.3-inch display, rain-sensing wipers, adjustable suspension, the Lexus Safety System + (pre-collision alert with pedestrian detection, radar-based adaptive cruise control, auto-high beam headlights, blind-spot monitoring, lane departure alert, lane-keep assist), and 19-inch wheels are all no- cost items. If you can be content without the optional extras (or even just find a GS 350 F Sport that doesn't have any), you could pay as little as $55,530.
Maybe we've become desensitized, but the spindle grille doesn't look quite as objectionable as it once did to our eyes, and the rest of the GS design, while no standout, is fairly tidy. Sit yourself inside and things look more dated. That atrocious joystick-style display controller is still to be found on the center console (and is still among the worst interfaces on the market), the navigation and audio display graphics are a far cry from the newest high-resolution systems, and the sheer volume of buttons just about everywhere takes you back to the days before large, vertical touch screen interfaces became just about the only occupant interface.
Material quality is premium, but barely so, with too much uninspiring plastic and leather that looks and feels average. Still, we were immediately able to get comfortable behind the wheel of the GS 350 F Sport, with plenty of interior space in both the front and rear seats. Despite the roominess, it doesn't feel oversized driving around town-very good for a sporting four-door.
Sporting? Well, sort of. The GS 350 F Sport is arguably in its most dynamic configuration with optional rear-wheel-drive. Not only does that configuration allow for a more playful chassis, it also includes an eight-speed gearbox, limited-slip differential, and an optional Lexus Dynamic Handling system that includes trick rear-wheel steering similar to the Porsche 911 GT3 and Ferrari 812 Superfast. The rear-drive GS is also over 100 pounds lighter, quicker to accelerate, and has a higher top speed by some 13 mph. Our AWD test car instead made do with a six-speed automatic, another obvious sign of its advanced age, especially for a vehicle in this luxury segment.
While the six-speed auto doesn't have any particularly bad habits, it's not quite able to make the most of the limited power on tap. The 3.5-liter V-6 produces 311 hp and 280 lb-ft, enough to make passing slower traffic a fairly simple task even in this portly, near-5,000-lb sedan. Of course, even a V-6 Camry has 301 hp these days-and an eight-speed transmission. In other words, the GS 350 doesn't exactly wow anyone when you floor the throttle, but nevertheless the car is still located on the fun-to-drive end of the specturm. Those looking for a more performance-oriented car will likely opt for the GS F, a 467-hp special that rips off 4.5-second 0-to-60-mph times. Flatfoot the GS 350 F Sport from a stop and it'll take nearly six seconds to do the same. The GS's all-wheel-drive does make driving in soggy conditions a mostly point and shoot affair, with excellent stability and little wheelspin even on aggressive take-offs.
Rumors of the GS sedan's discontinuation have been circling for the better part of a year with no mention of a replacement in line and the entry-level GS 300 has already been canceled for the 2020 model year. That means if you want a GS, it'll have to be a GS 350 or a GS F, the latter being dramatically more expensive with a starting price in the mid-$80,000 range. For that much money, buyers could be looking at the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio, which has far sharper dance moves and a 505-hp twin-turbocharged V-6. If we had to have a GS before the model likely goes away, you can bet we'd be shopping around for the best price-dealers surely will be dealing.
|2020 LEXUS GS 350 F SPORT|
|PRICE||$55,530/$60,905 (base/as tested)|
|ENGINE||3.6L DOHC 24-valve V-6; 311 hp @ 6,400 rpm, 280 lb-ft @ 4,800 rpm|
|LAYOUT||4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, AWD sedan|
|EPA MILEAGE||19/26 mpg (city/hwy)|
|L x W x H||192.1 x 72.4 x 57.9 in|
|0-60 MPH||5.8 seconds|
|TOP SPEED||130 mph|