2013 Lexus GS 450h
For three generations, Lexus has attempted to recreate the driving experience found in the lauded BMW 5 Series
and Mercedes E-Class
for its GS. And for three generations, it’s failed to do so. Hampered by performance that seemed an afterthought, the GS’s sales were slumping so badly that the company was considering ending its production.They didn’t. And we’re pleased to say that this new generation of the Lexus GS is the best one yet. We’d go so far as to say that it’s closer to BMW than it’s ever been with this model. The new 2013 GS now has a dynamic undercurrent running from headlights to rear bumper, especially with the addition of the F Sport package. Even the new GS 450h hybrid model is more of a performer.
2013 Lexus GS 350
For 2013, the GS also features one of the most tech-friendly cabins in the industry with a standout 12.3-inch central screen. If that's not enough, a host of safety systems – from the standard rearview camera to the optional lane keep assist, with which it guides the GS back into its lane should you accidentally drift – protect you and your occupants. Lexus has created a luxury sedan for the future.
What's to Like
The optional 12.3-inch screen is the biggest on the market today, but the runner-up eight-inch screen isn’t exactly a slouch either. The information system's layout is intuitive and user-friendly. Available all-wheel drive and snow mode make the GS a viable option for Snow Belt dwellers. Improved sound deadening made an already quiet cabin near silent, and interior quality is high.
What's Not to Like
That optional screen we mentioned above? It should be standard in this price range. Driving enthusiasts will want Sport+ mode to be standard, a V-8 option, and for the steering to have more feel. Visibility is an issue – though the standard rearview camera helps. The hybrid’s extra power is hampered by the heavier curb weight, and all-wheel drive is only available on the standard GS 350.
Lexus countered the German offerings with an improved GS across the board. The cabin is even quieter than the previous generation, and the suspension is compliant and forgiving. Steering unfortunately bears the typical markers of electronic steering – it's a bit too vague. Performance and the general demeanor of the drive change dramatically depending on your choice of drive mode. The drive select knob located near the shifter allows you to switch between three different modes: Eco, Normal, and Sport (Sport+ can also be equipped). Eco's gear changes improve fuel economy and dull performance, while Sport mode tightens up steering, stiffens the suspension, and improves throttle response time. Shifts in Sport+ are faster too. Stiffer suspension and tightened wheel ratios are what the F Sport package primarily delivers, and we highly recommend it for the enthusiast. Even equipped with it, the GS is still a smooth traveler.
Engine and Drivetrain
The company's 3.5-liter V-6 is used once again in the GS 350, and it produces a healthy amount of power – 306 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque. Because the V-8 engine was dropped, the hybrid now delivers the most power in the GS lineup at 338 horsepower. A six-speed automatic gearbox sends power to the wheels, with paddle shifters for manual control. Rear-wheel drive is standard across the models, and the optional all-wheel drive system, which can split power 50/50 between the front and rear wheels, is only available with the GS 350. And even more disappointing – the F Sport doesn’t add any extra power to the mix.
Green Evaluation/Gas Mileage
In rear-wheel-drive guise, the GS returns 28 mpg highway and 19 city. That drops to 26 highway, 19 city with all-wheel drive. You’ll see similar numbers from both the Mercedes and BMW. Expect better fuel economy from the 450h; its hybrid drivetrain reduces consumption and emissions.
Features and Technology
The Remote Touch controller debuted in some 2010 Lexus models, and we found that it was an innovative and surprisingly easy to use system. The GS features the 2.0 version, which uses more mouse-like actions. The available widescreen is split so you can view the navigation while also browsing audio choices or climate settings.
Taking a cue from a similar Toyota system, Lexus' Enform introduces iPhone, Android, and Blackberry apps to the cabin space. Through the Enform app, you'll have voice-activation access to seven apps, including Pandora, Yelp, Facebook, and Bing. Even if you pass on the options, it's still plenty luxurious in the cabin with the eight-inch screen, Bluetooth connectivity, 10-way power front seats, and a 12-speaker surround sound system with USB and auxiliary input jacks.
The dash is dominated by the well-integrated 12-inch screen, should you opt for it. A less distracted person might also notice the soft-touch leather, supremely comfortable available 18-way front seats, contrast stitching, and a good amount of leg and headroom in the rear. Take a peak in the trunk too – it's plenty spacious. The luxurious interior is made more aggressive with the inclusion of the F Sport package, which adds unique trim and black headliner.
The exterior design is a bit dichotomous. Up front there's an aggressive, pinched grille that you’ll soon see on most of the Lexus lineup, but the strong styling drops away from there. The view of the GS from the side is uninspiring and the rear reads the same. Still, great paint colors make a big difference, and we had a particular fondness for the Fire Agate brown.
Market Segment and Pricing
Pricing has yet to be announced for the GS, but it should settle slightly above the 2012 price of $47,000 to put it in line with the competition. Prices for the AWD and hybrid models will surely be closer to $50,000. Besides the Mercedes-Benz E350
and BMW 535i, buyers will also want to cross-shop the Audi A6 3.0T
and Infiniti M37
.The Infiniti M Hybrid
and Mercedes E350 BlueTec
are worthy competitors of the GS 450h.
What We Think
The GS 350 has some winning elements that we're really into. The extra large screen is a marvel, and the interior styling is fantastic. Technology is integrated brilliantly within the interior, and the 'choose your own adventure' drive modes will suit a variety of drivers as well. But the catch is whether the Lexus offers enough improved performance to convince buyers not to go for the Mercedes or BMW. The jury’s still out on that one.