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    2013 Lexus GS 350 F-Sport


    • The German automakers' worst nightmare has come to fruition.


    William Maley

    Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com

    October 16, 2013

    Last year, I had the great fortune of going to the Midwest Automotive Media Association's Spring Rally. The rally brings automotive media and manufacturers together for a couple days of driving new vehicles. During my time there, I had the chance to slip behind the wheel of the recently launched Lexus GS 350. But this wasn't any ordinary GS 350. It happened to be the new GS 350 F-Sport model. When I wrote my wrap-up of the event, I said this about the GS:

    "Has Lexus created a vehicle that can give everyone in the midsize luxury sedan class something to worry about? Oh very much so."

    Bit of a bold proclamation. I wanted to find out if that would hold true after an extended stay on the roads I drive on and Lexus obliged by handing over a 2013 GS 350 F-Sport for a week's stay.

    gallery_10485_700_1469074.jpg

    Polarizing. That's the word I would use to describe the GS 350 F-Sport's exterior design. To start, there is Lexus' spindle grille in the front. This is either a love it or hate it relationship. Personally, I love the spindle grille on the GS, especially when it has the mesh-grille insert. There is also a set of LED daytime running lights running along the inner edge and a more aggressive front bumper with vents to feed air to the massive brakes. Along the sides are a high belt line, side skirts, and a set of nineteen-inch alloy wheels in a graphite finish. Towards the back, a rear lip spoiler and valance finish off the sporty touches. It's shock and awe in one complete package.

    Heading inside, the GS 350 F-Sport looks and feels like a sporty sedan. You have loads of black leather and soft-touch materials that contrast very well with the grey trim pieces used in the dash. The front seats are well-bolstered and provide a wide range of adjustments such as adjustable side bolsters and power thigh support for the driver. Heat and ventilation are included for both seats. The ventilation was much appreciated during the week as it was pretty warm.

    gallery_10485_700_79828.jpg

    The back seat isn't as big as you might think. A large transmission tunnel means it's only really comfortable for two passengers. Also headroom comes at a premium due to a sloping roofline.

    Techwise, the GS 350 comes with a large 12.3-inch screen that houses Lexus' Enform infotainment system. The screen is divided up into two parts. The majority of the screen is dedicated to navigation, media selection, climate and information. The remainder of the screen is used for telling you what's playing and a overview of the climate system. I like this layout since I can have the navigation and what's playing on my iPod at the same time. Well done, Lexus!

    To move around the system, there is Lexus Remote Touch. The system uses a joystick to navigate around the menus and select functions. I'm not a fan of Remote Touch since the system is a bit touchy and you have to take your eyes off the road to make sure you are going into the selection you want.

    Enough about the design and seating arrangements, lets dive into how it drives.


    Powering the GS 350 F-Sport is a 3.5L V6 with 306 horsepower and 274 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission is the sole choice. The 3.5L is very Lexus-like at the low end, quiet and smooth. Surprisingly, it also packs a bit of punch as well. Keep the revs climbing the 3.5L emits a very lovely engine note. The six-speed automatic never put a gear cog wrong. It somehow knew what gear the vehicle needed to be in.

    gallery_10485_700_1173403.jpg

    The GS also comes with Lexus Drive Mode Selector which offers four different configurations for the powertrain and suspension. The modes are as followed:

    • Normal: Standard throttle mapping and suspension tuning, gearshifts tuned for comfort.
    • Eco: Slower throttle mapping, reduced operation of the climate control
    • Sport: Quicker throttle mapping, stiffer suspension tuning
    • Sport+: Much quicker throttle mapping, even stiffer suspension tuning, heavier steering, number of powertrain enhancements

    During the week, I found myself cycling though all of the modes and using them for their respective needs. Normal worked very well in the city and in the suburbs. Eco did great on the freeway and the long rural roads of Northern Michigan. Sport and Sport+ were left to the curvy roads as the engine could be worked.

    The GS 350 F-Sport comes with Adaptable Variable Suspension (AVS). The suspension can be adjusted by a driver via the Drive Mode Selector to either be stiff or soft. The same is true for the steering as it can be adjusted to provide a heavier feel. Do they work? In short, yes.

    Flicking the Drive Mode Selector into Sport and Sport+ transforms the GS into something of a road demon. Moving along on one of the test roads I use, the GS felt much more agile than I was expecting. Body lean was kept to a minimum. Steering was excellent with good feel and weight when it was being pushed.

    Switching back into Normal and Eco mode, the GS 350 F-Sport becomes a very sensible luxury sedan. The suspension softens up and provides a very smooth ride. Sound deadening is excellent with wind and road noise kept to a minimum.

    gallery_10485_700_1193579.jpg

    Fuel Economy for the GS 350 F-Sport is rated at 19 City/28 Highway/23 Combined. During the week, I got an average of 26 MPG.

    Going back to beginning of this review, I was wondering if I could stand behind the verdict I gave to GS 350 F-Sport when I briefly drove it last year. The answer is a resounding yes. I don't how Lexus was able to pull this off, but somehow it has created a midsize luxury sedan that is very much fun to drive and provides many luxuries for its occupants.

    The GS 350 F-Sport should make everyone in midsize luxury sedan class a bit nervous and worried. Especially if Lexus engineers take what they learned from the GS F-Sport and applies it onto a GS-F.

    gallery_10485_700_1573756.jpg

    Disclaimer: Lexus Provided The GS, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas.

    Year: 2013

    Make: Lexus

    Model: GS 350

    Trim: F-Sport

    Engine: 3.5L DOHC 24-valve VVT-i V6

    Driveline: Rear-Wheel Drive, Six-Speed Automatic Transmission

    Horsepower @ RPM: 306 @ 6,200

    Torque @ RPM: 274 @ 3,600

    Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 19/28/23

    Curb Weight: 3,795 lbs

    Location of Manufacture: Tahara, Aichi, Japan

    Base Price: $46,900.00

    As Tested Price: $55,869.00* (Includes $875.00 destination charge)

    Options:

    F-Sport Package - $5,690.00

    Navigation Package - $1,735.00

    Blind Spot Monitor System - $500.00

    Trunk Mat - $105.00

    Cargo Net - $64.00

    William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.comor you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster.

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    excellent article again!

    this car deserves props and Lexus is improving a lot. But I can't help but think I would pick the new CTS over this car 99 times out of 100, even as good as it may be.

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    The Toyota Camry of Mid-Size Luxury Cars..... It has everything it needs to have on paper, but fails to excite me in any way.

    At $55k, I would pick any of the Germans, the 2014 CTS or even XTS, the Infiniti Q70 (M45), the Jaguar XF 3.0 AWD.... or if I was feeling particularly American that day, the 300C John Varvatos and still have change in my pocket for another classic Oldsmobile.

    The only cars I can think of that the GS would beat on my "buy" list would be the Genesis, MKS and the RLX.

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    WOW, this was a great write up but the car leaves me dead on arrival. Just a rebadge of the Toyota and non inspiring. So many other auto's that are far more inspiring than this is.

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    The Toyota Camry of Mid-Size Luxury Cars..... It has everything it needs to have on paper, but fails to excite me in any way.

    At $55k, I would pick any of the Germans, the 2014 CTS or even XTS, the Infiniti Q70 (M45), the Jaguar XF 3.0 AWD.... or if I was feeling particularly American that day, the 300C John Varvatos and still have change in my pocket for another classic Oldsmobile.

    The only cars I can think of that the GS would beat on my "buy" list would be the Genesis, MKS and the RLX.

    I would be with you before I drove the GS. But after driving it, I would be my top pick. The XTS is too soft (although I do love it), Q70 is getting up there age, XF gets pricy (though that would be my alternate), 5-Series has gotten dull, E-Class has gotten ugly, and the A6 looks like a stretched A4.

    300 and Genesis are in a different category for me. Also, I need to get my hands on a CTS for review (still not sold on the styling though).

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    The XTS V-Sport would be my first choice, but that is over $55k and without the turbos, I would default back to a V6 CTS or even just save a bunch of money and go with the 300c Hemi

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      Verdict:
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    • By William Maley
      Summertime means something different for everyone. For some, it’s time to enjoy the sunshine and warm weather. For others, it is the time to take that trip you have been thinking about for awhile. If you’re an automotive writer like myself, summertime means convertible season. The feeling of having the roof down and enjoying the expanded view of the sky is something quite special. This summer saw two of GM’s latest convertibles roll into the Cheers & Gears’ Detroit garage, the new Buick Cascada and recently redesigned Chevrolet Camaro SS convertible. How did these two droptops fare in the summer heat?
      Exterior:
      There is no denying the Opel/Vauxhall roots of the Buick Cascada as it is just basically the Cascada sold in Europe with Buick basing. But that isn’t a bad thing since the Cascada is handsome for the most part. The front features a new grille design and headlights with LED accents. The side profile reveals short overhangs for the front and rear. These overhangs make the side look somewhat oddly proportioned. A set 20-inch wheels come standard. Around back, a long chrome bar runs along the trunk lid into the taillights. 
      On the opposite end is the Chevrolet Camaro. If you’re looking for something quiet and doesn’t bring attention, then maybe you should pass on it. Redesigned last year, Chevrolet retained the Camaro’s basic profile with its sharp lines and rounded corners. But major work was done on the front and rear ends. The front features a narrow top grille and slim headlights. A massive grille sits underneath between a set of deep cuts into the front bumper. The back has been cleaned up with a new trunk lid design, rectangular headlights, and quad-exhaust tips. 
      One item both the Cascada and Camaro share is a fabric top. Putting the top down or up takes under 20 seconds for both vehicles. With the tops down, both vehicles look quite good. But put the tops up and the Cascada is the better looking of the two. I can’t put my finger as to why, but I think it deals with how the Cascada has a little bit more glass than the Camaro. 
      Interior:
      Unfortunately, both the Cascada and Camaro fall on their face when it comes to the interior for different reasons.
      In the case of the Cascada, it features the dash from the outgoing Verano and Encore. This reveals that the Cascada is older despite what Buick may have you think. For example, the center stack is laden with buttons and it will take you a few moments to find the specific one you’re looking for. Not helping is the Cascada using GM’s last-generation infotainment system. While the system is easy to use, the interface is looking very dated. It would have been nice if Buick could have slipped in the dash from the updated Encore into the Cascade, but that would have likely introduced more problems than solutions.
      On the upside, the Cascada’s interior is well-built and features decent quality materials. A fair amount of dash and door panels feature some soft touch material. The front seats are comfortable for short and long distance trips. Power adjustments for the driver’s seat make it easy to find a position that works. One touch Buick deserves applause for is the seat belt presenter. The front seat belts are nestled away when the Cascada is turned off to make it easier to get in and out of the back seat. But when you start it up, the presenter extends for both the driver and passenger to buckle in. The back seat provides enough space for kids or small adults. Taller folks like myself will find minimal legroom. With the top up, anyone sitting back here will feel very confined. With the top down, this feeling goes away. 
      Step into the 2016 Camaro Convertible’s interior and you’ll find the same retro ideas from the previous model such as the shape of the dash and circular vents. But Chevrolet improved the overall usability of the Camaro’s interior. For example, the retro-inspired engine information gauges that were placed ahead of the shifter in the previous generation are gone. In its place are a set of air vents that also control the temperature of the climate control system. 
      Our tester featured the optional Chevrolet MyLink system with navigation. We know we’re beating a dead horse with our complaints with MyLink such as a slow response when going from various screens and recognizing devices plugged into the USB ports. But you would think that GM would maybe issue an update or something by now to fix some of these issues? Like other Chevrolet models we have driven this year, the Camaro’s MyLink system comes with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility. We tried CarPlay and found it to be easier to use than most automaker’s infotainment systems. But, we had issues with apps crashing and the system not always recognizing our phone.
      The front bucket seats are quite comfortable and will hold you in if you decide to tackle that special road aggressively. A set of power adjustments makes it easy for anyone to find a comfortable position. The back seat is best reserved for small kids or extra storage as legroom is nonexistent. You would think that the Camaro Convertible wouldn’t feel as claustrophobic as the coupe since you can put the top down, but it isn’t. Sitting in the Camaro convertible with the top down, I felt like I was being contained in a small box. Blame the high belt line for this.
      Powertrain:
      Power for the Buick Cascada comes from a turbocharged 1.6L four-cylinder with 200 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with a six-speed automatic. The figures are impressive for this engine. But drop it into the Cascada and it is quite disappointing. Performance is very lethargic as the engine has to overcome the nearly two tons of Cascada. It feels like an eternity getting up to speed and you’ll find yourself putting the pedal to the floor to get the vehicle moving at a sufficient rate. EPA figures for the Cascada stand at 20 City/27 Highway/23 Combined. My average for the week landed at 21 mpg. 
      The Camaro’s engine lineup includes a 3.6L V6, turbocharged 2.0L four, and our SS tester’s 6.2L V8. The V8 pumps out 455 horsepower and 455 pound-feet of torque. We had the optional eight-speed automatic, but you can get a six-speed manual. The V8 makes the Camaro Convertible stupidly fun. I found myself wanting to roll down the window at a stop light to tell the vehicle next to me “let me play you the song of my people” before stomping on the accelerator and having the V8 roar into life as the light turns green. The engine will pin you in your seat if you floor it and there is a never-ending stream of power throughout the rev range. A nice touch is the optional dual-mode exhaust system that only amplifies the noises of the V8. The eight-speed automatic is ofine around town and on the highway but stumbles somewhat in enthusiastic driving where it takes a moment to downshift when slowing down. Fuel economy for the Camaro SS Convertible stands at 17 City/28 Highway/20 Combined. I got about 19 mpg during my week-long test.
      Ride & Handling:
      Describing the ride and handling characteristics of the Cascada can be summed up in one word; smooth. Buick’s engineers tuned the Cascada’s suspension to deliver an almost magic carpet ride. Even with a set of twenty-inch wheels as standard equipment, the Cascada is able to deal with rough roads with no issues. Around corners, the Cascada feels planted and body roll is kept in check. But don’t plan on doing anything enthusiastic with it. The steering is a little bit too light for it. Drive it like a relaxed cruiser and you’ll enjoy it. Wind buffeting is minimal with either the windows rolled up or down.
      The Camaro Convertible is shocking as to how well it handles. Part of this comes down to optional Magnetic Ride Control (MRC) system which limits body roll. Chevrolet engineers also worked on improving the structural rigidity of the Camaro. The combination makes the convertible just as good as the coupe in corners. Direction change is fast and there is plenty of grip coming from the meaty tires. Where the Camaro Convertible falters is the ride quality. The SS comes with a set of twenty-inch wheels. While they do look sharp, it makes for a somewhat unbearable ride. Bumps of any size are clearly transmitted to those sitting inside. MRC does its best to provide a comfortable ride, but it might be worth considering going down to a smaller wheel to improve the ride. Wind buffeting is kept in check with the windows up or down.
      Price:
      The 2016 Buick Cascada starts at $33,065 for the base model. Our up-level Premium starts at $36,065 and comes to an as-tested price of $37,385 thanks to the vehicle being finished in an optional blue color. You really don’t get much in terms of additional features when compared to the base Cascada aside from some additional safety features - front and rear parking sensors, lane departure warning, and forward collision alert - and automatic wipers. Also for that amount of cash, you could with the Audi A3 cabriolet which offers a slightly more premium interior. But you would lose out on the larger back seat of the Cascada. You would be better off with the base Cascada.
      If you have your heart set on a Camaro Convertible, be ready to shell out the cash. The 2016 Camaro 2SS Convertible carries a base sticker of $48,300 - $6,005 more expensive than the coupe. Add on the list of options fitted to our tester such as the eight-speed automatic, magnetic ride control, and dual-mode exhaust system and you’ll end up with an as-tested price of $54,075. I’ll give you a moment to pick yourself up from the floor due to the price shock. The Camaro is nice car all-around, but is it really worth dropping $54,000?! We’re not so sure. 
      Verdict:
      Both of vehicles have issues that don’t make them as appealing. The Cascada’s engine either needs to be kicked to the curb or head off to the gym to get a bit more power. It would nice if Buick could also figure how to put in the dash from the updated Encore into the Cascada, although that might prove to be an engineering nightmare and something that would be better suited for the next-generation model. The Camaro Convertible’s price tag will make a number of people and their bank accounts cry. Also for being a convertible, the Camaro still feels as claustrophobic as the coupe.
      But when you drop the tops in both models, you forget all about the issues. Instead, you begin to take in the sky and rush of the wind. This makes you remember why you bought a convertible, to enjoy the feeling of openness. It is only when you put the top back up that makes you wonder if you can live with the issues. In the case of the Cascada, the answer is no. The Camaro is a maybe.
       
       
      Disclaimer: General Motors Provided the Cascada and Camaro; Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2016
      Make: Buick
      Model: Cascada
      Trim: Premium
      Engine: Turbocharged 1.6L SIDI DOHC with VVT
      Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, Six-Speed Automatic
      Horsepower @ RPM: 200 @ 5,500
      Torque @ RPM: 207 @ 1,800 - 4,500, 221 @ 2,200 - 4,000 (with overboost)
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 20/27/23
      Curb Weight: 3,979 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Gliwice, Poland
      Base Price: $36,065
      As Tested Price: $37,385 (Includes $925.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Deep Sky Metallic - $395.00
      Year: 2016
      Make: Chevrolet
      Model: Camaro Convertible
      Trim: SS
      Engine: 6.2L VVT DI V8
      Driveline: Rear-Wheel Drive, Eight-Speed Automatic
      Horsepower @ RPM: 455 @ 6,000
      Torque @ RPM: 455 @ 4,400
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 17/28/20
      Curb Weight: 3,966 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Lansing, MI
      Base Price: $48,300
      As Tested Price: $54,075 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Magnetic Ride Control - $1,695.00
      Eight-Speed Automatic - $1,495.00
      Dual-Mode Exhaust - $895.00
      Chevrolet MyLink with Navigation - $495.00
      20" 5-Split Spoke Aluminum Wheels - $200.00
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