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Lexus GS: Fun Facts, History, Photos, Generations, and Specifications

A brief history of the sporty Lexus GS, along with some fun facts, buying tips, FAQs, and more.

Lexus GS Essential History

Conceived as a more exclusive, sharper driving, and better-appointed alternative to the existing Lexus ES, the first-gen Lexus GS eschewed the primarily Japanese-forward design language, and it tapped design legend Giorgetto Giugiaro to create a sleek, European profile. The result was the 1993-1997 Lexus GS, a car that launched one of the core models in the Lexus lineup.

Although it shared a platform with the Japan-only Toyota Aristo, the first-gen Lexus GS 300 offered only the legendary 2JZ-GE 3.0-liter inline-six, good for 227 horsepower and 210 lb-ft of torque through a four-speed, and later five-speed, automatic transmission. In keeping with traditional Lexus values, the original GS was built to a level of quality and attention to detail not generally seen elsewhere in the industry. With a plush interior and incredible reliability, the GS was instrumental in establishing Lexus in the U.S.

After only modest sales of the first-gen, the second evolution of the Lexus GS arrived for the 1998 model year with an all-new Japanese-forward design that incorporated a distinctive and controversial quad-headlight layout. Compared to the preceding car, the second-gen GS is loaded with tech, glossy surfaces, and for the first time, a V-8. The 3.0-liter 2JZ remained for the GS 300, with 225 hp and 225 lb-ft, offset by the GS 400's 1UZ 4.0-liter V-8 with 300 hp and 310 lb-ft. Regardless of engine, power is shipped to the rear wheels through either a four- or five-speed automatic transmission. The 2001 model year saw a mid-cycle refresh, with the most significant change levied onto the V-8 model, with the prior 4.0-liter punched out to 4.3-liters for an extra 15 lb-ft of torque.

The third-gen Lexus GS launched for the 2006 model year, offering an array of V-6 and V-8 engines during its five-year tenure. The Lexus GS 300 offered for just one year, in 2006, packed a 3.0-liter V-6 with 245 hp and 230 lb-ft of torque, quickly supplanted by the GS 350 for 2007, with a 3.5-liter V-6 rated at 272 hp and 254 lb-ft. Rear-wheel drive was still standard, with all-wheel drive offered for the first time on the GS family with the third-gen.

Also a first for the GS family was the third-gen's hybrid GS 450h, adding an electric motor to the V-6 powertrain that resulted in a strong combined figure of 339 hp and 362 lb-ft. However, any trees saved by the hybrid program were nullified by the fuel slurping GS 430 and GS 460 and their V-8s. The GS 430's 4.3-liter V-8 is good for 290 hp and 319 lb-ft, soon replaced by the 2008 and later GS 460 and its 4.6-liter V-8 that jumped to 342 hp and 339 lb-ft, good for a surprising 0-60-mph sprint in the low 5-second range.

Finally, there is the fourth and last (as of now) Lexus GS. Unveiled for the 2012 model year, the aggressively styled GS retained rear-wheel drive and the sharper driving attitude than its sibling ES, but it dropped the V-8 in favor of a lineup of V-6s and eventually turbocharged four-cylinders. At launch, the GS 350's 3.5-liter V-6 featured 306 hp and 277 lb-ft, handled by a six-speed automatic transmission. The hybridized GS 450h is capable of 338 combined hp, and a later GS 200t added a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder rated at 241 hp and 258 lb-ft.

Of course, we can't forget the enigmatic and alluring Lexus GS F sold between 2016 and 2020. The first and last true performance-oriented GS, Lexus' fabulous 5.0-liter, naturally aspirated V-8 screamed out 467 hp and 389 lb-ft to the rear wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission. Launched properly, the GS F cracked 0-60 mph in around 4.4 seconds on its way to a top speed of 168 mph.

Outside of the new hot-rod heart, the GS F folded in a whole warehouse of hardware to offset the newfound performance. Suspension, chassis structure, brakes, tires, wheels, and differential were all massaged in the name of speed. Visually, the GS F wears more aggressive front and rear fascias inspired by the concurrent RC F.

After the 2020 model year, the Lexus GS was discontinued, with only vague hints at what—if any—GS might follow in the future.

Lexus GS Highlights

During its nearly 20-year residency in the States, the GS was always the underappreciated gem of Lexus' lineup. It wasn't nearly as sharp or tactile as its direct competitors from the Germans and even from Cadillac, but it offered excellent value for money, unmatched comfort, and superb high-speed, long-range cruising if you specc'd it out correctly with one of the many V-8 models offered through the years.

Unsurprisingly, the first three generations of the Lexus GS have enjoyed a bit of a renaissance in popularity, as their rear-wheel-drive platform and wicked combination of either the tuner-favorite 2JZ inline-six or meaty 1UZ V-8 made older, beaten-down GS models sleeper drift stars, despite arriving exclusively with an automatic transmission.

Of course, the later Lexus GS F proved to be one of the more interesting ways to have fun on your daily commute, and relatively low sales figures might turn the GS F into a future collector car, provided you can find a clean one once depreciation hits in full.

Lexus GS Buying Tips 

What type of Lexus GS you pursue is all down to what you're looking for in a car. If you're considering a GS from the first three generations as a generally nice and reliable commuter, consider skipping rotten first-gen examples and early third-gens with all-wheel drive, as the latter proved to be somewhat problematic compared to the rest of the GS family. As GS models are some of the more dependable and well-built cars on the road, we wouldn't shy away from a high-mileage example, provided it had a reasonably clean bill of health from a dealer or marque specialist. These cars are not particularly expensive to maintain, but deferred maintenance is the enemy of any wallet.

If you're envisioning smokey drifts and slip-sliding down forested backroads in your new-to-you GS drift-missile, skip the first generation and go right for any second-gen or the V-8 powered third-gens. The second-gens are particularly receptive to forced induction and ass-out antics. Here, you don't need to worry about mileage or condition, as the car is likely going to receive its fair share of track scars and bruises. Most enthusiasts add outrageous levels of boost to their GS' inline-six or V-8, either upgrading the automatic transmission for improved durability or swapping the whole thing entirely for a manual transmission.

Our pick? If you've got the cash, seek out one of the very last Lexus GS Fs to ever hit the dealers; there's a solid chance these will go for what you paid for it in the near future.

Lexus GS Stories on Automobile

Lexus GS Quick Facts

  • First year of production: 1993
  • Last year of production: 2020
  • Base price: $85,375 (2020 GS F 10th Anniversary model)
  • Lexus's more driver-centric offering for the past two decades
  • Reliable commuter, drift missile, or backroad bomber
  • Discontinued, but still may return in the near future 

Lexus GS FAQ

You have questions about the Lexus GS, and Automobile has answers. Here are the responses to some of the most frequently asked Lexus GS queries.

Is Lexus discontinuing the GS?

Yes, the 2020 model year was the final year for the GS.

What is a Lexus GS?

Interesting way to frame a question. Simply put, the Lexus GS is the Japanese automaker's mid-size, rear-wheel-drive competitor to the BMW 5-Series, Audi A6, and Mercedes-Benz E-Class.

Is the Lexus GS a good car?

If you can find a clean, mid-mileage example, absolutely. Even secondhand examples are some of the more reliable and robust cars prowling the roads today.

What is the difference between a Lexus ES and a Lexus GS?

The ES is the large, cushy, front-wheel-drive  couch-on-wheels analog to the Toyota Avalon, while the GS is the more driver-focused, German-chasing mid-sizer.

2019 Lexus GS F 10th Anniversary Edition Specifications

ON SALE Discontinued
PRICE $85,375 (base)
ENGINE 5.0L DOHC 32-valve V-8/467 hp @ 7,100 rpm, 389 lb-ft @ 4,800 rpm
TRANSMISSION 8-speed automatic
LAYOUT 4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, RWD sedan
EPA MILEAGE 16/24 mpg (city/hwy)
L x W x H 193.5 x 83.1 x 56.7 in
WHEELBASE 112.2 in
WEIGHT 4,034 lb
0-60 MPH 4.5 sec
TOP SPEED 168 mph