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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Disclaimer: Lexus Provided The GS, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas.
Model: GS 350
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)
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