By Jim MacPherson
By nearly any measure, Lexus has been phenomenally successful. The brand is synonymous with luxury, comfort and dependability. It’s not, however, thought of being overly sporty, or ranking high on the fun-to-drive scale. The now-available 2013 Lexus GS350 is out to change that.
The GS350 has an all-new body and chassis. Styling is bolder and it’s frontal styling signature, a broadened hourglass front grille that flares out and top and bottom, is quickly becoming common on Lexus models. Accenting the new frontal look are LED running lights.
Appearance is one thing. Performance is another matter. Handling is quite good, with a markedly improved steering feel. This GS has some sporty moves.
“It’s a total redesign,” says Paul McAbee, a sales consultant at Hoffman Lexus in East Hartford. “It shares nothing with the previous design, except the engine. But that has been updated and is more powerful.”
The suspension handles rough pavement quite well. It doesn’t isolate the passenger cabin from the broken pavement beneath the car, but it does manage to smother any harshness from bumps.
The optional F Sport package features a variety of upgrades, including a sport tuned adaptive variable suspension, 19-inch wheels (17-inch wheels were standard on our all-wheel drive GS 350), and variable ratio steering and upgraded brakes. Inside, the GS F Sport will have a 16-way power driver’s sport seat and unique trim.
For now, the only engine available is a 3.5-liter V-6 that delivers 306 horsepower. Working through a six-speed automatic transmission, it propels the rear-wheel-drive GS350 to 60 miles per hour in 5.7 seconds, according to Lexus. Our all-wheel drive model was a little heavier and a tad slower, reaching that mark in 6.3 seconds. Lexus claims the rear-wheel-drive GS450h hybrid, available in May, will take 5.6 seconds to reach 60 miles per hour.
The interior is comfortable, featuring the kind of quality design, materials and assembly that premium luxury car buyers expect.
Our review car included the navigation package for $1,735, which includes Lexus’ Enform, a system that “leverages the customers’ mobile phone technology to provide a new level of connectivity and information management,” Lexus says, and also provides action the search engine Bing. Here, you can search weather, traffic, sports, and stock reports. You can also make restaurant reservations and purchase movie tickets. It also includes a highly legible 12.3-inch screen that can be split, displaying navigation information on one side while showing audio, climate system or other vehicle information on the other.
Lexus was so eager to have me try the new smart phone interface that they established an account for me to coincide with the loan of the car. Alas, I have yet to embrace smart phone technology, ownership or pricing, worried in part that any such device would probably turn out to be smarter than I am.
In adopting a state of the art communications interface, Lexus is recognizing that these systems are becoming more and more important in selling cars. Fortunately, and for customers who still aren’t into smart phones, the new GS has plenty more to offer.
Engine 3.5-liter V-6 3.5-liter Hybrid
HP 306 338 (gas + electric)
Torque 277 254
EPA RWD: 19/28 N/A
EPA AWD: 19/26 19/34
Starts at: $46,900