2013 LEXUS GS 350
Lexus fixes a car that ain’t broke
This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!
Published on Wed, Feb 29, 2012
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
By John Grafman How many times have we heard the saying, if it’s not broke, don’t fix it? Car companies are well aware of this. When you have a winner on your hands, the last thing a company wants to do is mess with a success. BMW a number of years ago had this very issue with the 7-Series. There was certainly an outcry to Chris Bangle’s controversial rear end styling, but in the end the redesigned 7 sold more cars than before. Lexus has a to deal with the same risks with its tried and true GS sedan. However, at some point it becomes necessary to update a model that’s becoming long in the tooth. Rolling out a new model is a challenge, especially when the outgoing model was a solid contender. Lexus shows how advanced this new GS is by designating this as a 2013 and bypassing a 2012 model completely. Criss Angel, David Copperfield and even Houdini would like to know the secret of this trick.
Well, here’s the good news: The 2013 GS 350 is a heavy hitter in the sport sedan market. This is more than just a little impressive. Aside from the controversial inverted trapezoid-shaped upper and bottom-wide lower grille which Lexus calls a “spindle grille”, this is easy on the eyes. And even the grille is pretty cool, but it takes some getting used to. This has classic good looks, which should hold up well over the years. Having a design that ages slowly is music to the ears of a car buyer, and in a roundabout way good for the car company. While the manufacturer would love consumers to flock to new cars every three years, that isn’t always possible. Also, car companies lease out lots of vehicles, and if those retain strong residual values it can be a profitable scenario. The 2013GS 350 is .7 inches longer, .7 inches wider and 1.2 inches taller than the outgoing model. Yet, in spite of that and the wild front end, this car still achieves a very clean path through the air with a drag coefficient of 0.26, a slight improvement over the old GS. The 2013 grows marginally inside as well. Most notable gains are .8 inches in rear headroom, 2.7 inches rear hip room, and a generous 1.6 cubic feet of cargo room.
As for the build quality, the doors close with a reassuring sound that rings of advanced engineering. Yes, I know, so do other cars, but this is really solid, and quiet. Considering that this is a pre-production car, this is impressive. While Lexus and other premium brands would like to indulge us in just how amazing each companies’ doors are, and we could go on for hours on the subject, I can safely say the doors are just one of many parts to crow over. Touch the ignition button and the smooth 3.5-liter engine comes to life. No doubt, many will be dismissive of a V6 in a luxury car, however those individuals have no clue about just how refined this motor is. Cranking out 306 horsepower, this is no pretender. It leaps to life with a slight tip in of the throttle. This is smooth and capable at any speed encountered on the streets and freeways. Along the 101 and 405 from Los Angeles to Orange County, the GS performed flawlessly. At nearly 400 pounds lighter than the GS 450H, GS is still not a small car at 3,795 pounds, but the motor is able to able to bring this from a standstill to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds. There are faster cars, but in the real world this is more than enough for all but the most demanding enthusiasts. The top speed as stated by the manufacturers is a respectable 142 mph, and fuel economy is 19 city and 28 highway. As usual, there are trade-offs in mileage and performance. The driver still has the option as to what the priorities are. I never feel the car wants for more power, but even at it’s very best the fuel economy is not what one would one see in a hybrid. On the flip side, this offers near V8 performance without the penalty at the pump.
The transmission is simply seamless. The top notch shifting sets the bar for luxury cars. The automatic also provides paddle shifting and a manual shift using the center console shifter. This particular 6-speed sequential-shift has options for ECO, Normal, and Sport modes. The knob on the center console isn’t always easy to find without looking. However, it isn’t meant to be used as frequently as other functions. This also has a button for snow as well, which didn’t get any use due to our summer in January conditions. The sport mode changes both the transmission shifting mapping, and it also stiffens the suspension. Unfortunately, you can’t firm up the suspension unless you also change the shift points in the transmission. Also, the seats could use a bit more side bolster to keep everyone planted when pushing the car harder around corners. The interior is a restyled in a contemporary blend of wood, leather and plastic. The most questionable change is the display screen operations. Previously, the operations of the functions, such as map or climate, would be activated by a push of a button flanking the center-mounted screen. The 2013 requires using a mouse mounted on a track on the center console. This is what Lexus calls the Remote Touch Interface (RTI). This isn’t as easy as it should be. In fact, I have troubles moving the cursor onto specific icons on screen.
As many of the operations, such as the radio, have multiple features to click on, it takes time and attention to properly work this. That’s fine when parked, but a tad tricky on the go. The monster size HDD Navigation System with 12.3-inch High Resolution Screendoes make it easier to see everything. The System comes with Lexus Enform® with SafetyConnect®: Automatic Collision Notification, Stolen Vehicle Location, Emergency Assist Button (SOS), Enhanced Roadside Assistance, Destination Assist, eDestinationand APPS function which allows the driver to enjoy various mobile phone applications on the navigation screen. The gloss piano black plastic on the door panel switches, and on the center console looks great, but might not hide damage from rings or jewelry as well as some other materials. Nevertheless, these add a rich touch to the interior. The seating is comfortable, yet this particular car didn’t have the 18-way power seats often found in Lexus vehicles. With the upgrade option any driver should find the perfect configuration. Like the rest of the car, the seats are conservatively styled, yet functional and modern. There are a few details that could use some polishing. The voice recognition system is anything but that. Trying to get the correct name recognized is like a trying to find a business in the yellow pages while blindfolded. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. Okay, it really isn’t that bad, but it definitely could use better software or something.
The graphic layout for the radio and satellite radio is very dated looking and isn’t really the most functional on the market. Given the attention that most companies now place on electronics and the interface, I am really surprised this isn’t more modern, especially from Lexus. I have to confess, the dead quiet cabin, and roominess can make even bumper-to-bumper traffic seem less painful. The audio is capable of the usual AM/FM and satellite, along with plug in USB and Bluetooth. The system, while offering clear sound, doesn’t provide the loudest, or most adjustable sound contouring, but it gets the job done. Many of the systems using the onscreen menu take some playing with in order to get the desired results, but everything from the audio to climate can be accomplished with a small amount of effort. Given that focusing on the on-screen menu features takes attention away from the road, integrating a speed sensitive cruise control should be mandatory. This would allow the driver to use the features with added safety. This isn’t a jab at Lexus, but at the auto industry as a whole. On the subject of safety, the side collision warning system is a nice touch on this and works well. I have to give kudos to Lexus for designing this with A-pillars narrow, which allows for much better forward visibility than numerous other cars from other OEMs.
The GS does have other niceties such as Lexus Personalized Settings (LPS) allowing certain electronic settings to be tailored to owner preference. Lexus Memory System controls the driver’s seat (except lumbar), outside mirrors and steering wheel. Push button engine start, S-flow auto climate control to focus air flow only to areas where passengers are seated. Options include treats like Lane Keep Assist (LKA) with Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Lexus Dynamic Handling (LDH) System with Dynamic Rear Steering (DRS), Mark Levinson® audio with 17 Green Edge speakers, Class D Digital amplifier with ultra-low crossover distortion, 835 watts of continuous power at less than 0.1 percent Total Harmonic Distortion (THD), 7.1- channel speaker architecture, and DVD audio/video capability. Night Vision System, Pre-Collision System (PCS) with Driver’s Eyes Monitor and Adaptive Cruise Control, and even a F SPORT Package are possible additions. It’s important to keep in mind that all the details can add or detract from the impression one has of a product, but when you get down to it, it's still a matter of does this dog hunt or not? As one might guess, Lexus is a class leader for good reason. The GS 350 is no exception. This delivers in most aspects, and the drivability of the GS is on par with the best. This isn’t an AMG or M Class competitor, but that’s not its mission in life. This simply provides the 99% of us an exceptional blend of performance and day-to-day usability that most drivers want. It also is a pleasure to drive in all other respects. That’s hard to argue with. With the exception of a few electronic controls and graphics, this is a car that’s a pleasure today, as it will be a decade from now, providing petroleum is less than five dollars a gallon. But, even if we can’t afford the fuel, this will still look great in the driveway. Think of that as the added bonus. For more information about Lexus products, go to www.lexus.com
SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2013 Lexus GS 350 Price: Base TBD EPA mileage estimates City/ Highway: 19/28 miles per gallon Engine type: 3.5 liter, V6, aluminum block and cylinder heads, DOHC 24 valve with dual continuously variable valve timing, with intelligence (VVT-i) Horsepower: 306 @ 6,400 rpm Torque: 277 pound-feet @ 4,800 rpm Drive configuration: Front engine / rear-wheel drive Transmission type: 6-speed sequential-shift with paddle shifters; ECO, Normal, Sport S, Sport S + (some models) and Snow modes Suspension Front: Double wishbones with high-mount upper arms, coil springs, gas-filled shock absorbers, stabilizer bar Rear: Multi-link, coil springs, gas-filled shock absorbers, stabilizer bar Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) with driver- selectable shock absorber damping (Optional on GS 350 AWD/RWD, standard on available F SPORT and Luxury packages) Wheels and tires: Front: Standard: 17x7.5 in., 225/50R17, 18x8 in. (optional), 235/45R18 (optional) Rear: Standard: 17x7.5 in., 225/50R17, 18x8 in. (optional), 235/45R18 (optional) Brakes: Front: Vented discs 13.1 in./1.2 in. Rear: Vented discs 12.2 in./0.7 in. ABS 4 channel, 4 sensor Dimensions Overall length: 190.7 in. Overall width: 72.4 in. Overall height: 57.3 in. Curb weight 3,795 lbs. 0-60 mph: 5.7 Top Speed, mph: 142