Lexus GS line offers lots of sporty options

Posted Friday, Jun. 13, 2014  comments  Print Reprints
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Lexus introduced the GS line to give consumers a sporty option in the midsize luxury class, and for 2014, there are four gasoline-only models, called the GS350, ranging from $47,700-$55,535, and a hybrid version, the GS450h, starting at $60,430.

The GS350 comes in base front- and all-wheel-drive models, and F Sport front- and all-wheel-drive versions.

For this report, I tested the rear-drive GS350 F Sport, which essentially is the base GS with a $6,130 options package that brings more sport to the car.

All-wheel drive adds $5,510 to the price of the base model, and $5,585 to the F Sport.

The F Sport option on my test vehicle included the Cold Weather Package, along with rain-sensing wipers, heated/cooled front seats, a power rear sunshade, 19-inch alloy wheels with summer tires, F Sport-tuned adaptive variable suspension with driver-controlled damping, variable gear-ratio steering, 14-inch front brakes, 16-way driver’s seat, aluminum interior trim, exclusive black headliner, and last but not least, F Sport exterior styling.

Also offered is the Luxury Packages – $6,240 without heated rear seats, or $6,680 with heated rear seats. It now also includes an updated rear armrest control panel, LED fog lights and chrome-finish wheels.

A Cold Weather Package is available separately for $290, and includes headlight washers, a heated steering wheel, a heavy-duty heater, water-repellant front door glass, and a wiper deicer.

Also available are a blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert ($700), full-color Heads-Up Display ($900), and flush-mounted sensors for the Intuitive Park Assist option ($500).

The GS350 is powered by a 306 horsepower 3.5-liter V-6, mated with an eight-speed automatic transmission with manual-mode shifter paddles on the steering wheel.

A Drive Mode Select knob on the front center console allows performance to be fine-tuned by selecting Normal mode to provide a balance of power, economy and ride comfort for everyday driving; Eco mode to save on fuel and reduce emissions; and Sport mode for enhanced drive-train performance. My tester also had Snow mode for better traction on acceleration in slick driving conditions.

The F Sport package provided a little stiffer suspension – when desired.

My car had plenty of get-up-and-go without much exertion. Acceleration was smooth, although not record-breaking (or neck-snapping). Lexus does provide a little growl with a sound chamber from the intake manifold, but overall the ride was quiet.

There is also a start/stop feature that activates when the vehicle is stopped for an extended time, allowing the gasoline engine to spend less time idling, thus reducing fuel consumption and emissions.

EPA ratings for the front-drive GS350 are 19 mpg in the city and 29 on the highway with an average of 23. Driving mostly around town, in Normal drive mode, I averaged 22.7 mpg.

The low-profile tires were mounted on pewter-finish 10-spoke wheels. The front fascia on the F Sport is more prominent and aggressive than the base model, with the familiar spindle grille in a pewter-finish zigzag pattern that echoes the chrome Lexus “L” badge. The scoop under the grill and the faux-scoops on each side of the bumper are bolder, in a black zigzag pattern.

The rear fascia features trapezoidal chrome exhaust tips, black diffuser-style lower bumper, and a trunk-lid spoiler. The F Sport model also has F Sport badging on the front fenders and the black leather steering wheel.

My car’s exterior was Liquid Platinum, with black perforated-leather sport bucket seats in the front and bucket-style seats in the rear, contrast stitching in strategic places, aluminum race-inspired pedals, and aluminum trim on the doors, dash and center console.

The back seat had enough room for teenage passengers to be comfortable in the rear outboard seats. The middle seat could be used if necessary, but was not comfortable, with the floor hump, hard seat, and less headroom.

Front passengers had 42.3 inches of legroom and 38 inches of headroom. The rear outboard passengers had 36.8/37.8 inches. The outboard seats reclined slightly (permanent, not adjustable), making the rear passenger area seem even more roomy.

Rear passengers had cupholders on the pull-down armrest, stretchy seat back pockets, small pockets on the doors, two speakers on each door, adjustable air vents and a power outlet on the back of the center console, and reading lights over the doors. The pull-down armrest also opened a pass-through to the trunk.

The trunk was large enough for several suitcases, a couple of golf bags, a large stroller, or lots of groceries. With 14.3 cubic feet of space, lots of tools or DIY supplies would fit nicely, with four tie-downs available and a cargo net option for $64. A temporary spare, on an eye-catching yellow-orange rim, was stored under the cargo floor, along with changing tools.

Standard safety equipment on the GS350 includes 10 air bags; backup monitor; and Safety Connect with automatic collision notification, stolen vehicle location, emergency assist button (SOS), and enhanced roadside assistance. A universal garage/gate opener, LED daytime running lamps, and tire pressure monitor are also standard.

Lexus Enform comes in the Navigation Package, a $1,735 option that includes a 12.3-inch screen under a deep overhang that literally eliminates glare. Enform brings destination assist, satellite radio, NavTraffic and NavWeather.

Enform App Suite works with your wireless smartphone technology to allow you to order movie tickets, make dinner reservations and more on the fly, using the split-screen multimedia display. Enform is subscription-free and has lately been joined by Siri Eyes Free to allow a more-personal relationship with the Lexus infotainment system using selected smartphones.

On-screen functions are controlled using a joystick-style button on the center console (with a wrist support provided). Three buttons -- menu, up/down, and map -- assist with quickly selecting the desired function.

I prefer controls in one place within arm’s reach, over controls on a touch screen. But the controller on my Lexus was sloppy and somewhat annoying, as it would move too quickly and skip over the icon I wished to select.

Otherwise, the navigation system was relatively intuitive and easy to use, although time-consuming.

My tester came with the Blind Spot Monitor package, with power folding exterior mirrors. Intuitive Park Assist added another $500. Total sticker price was $57,675, including options and $910 freight.

The automotive columns of Emma Jayne Williams appear weekly in the Star-Telegram. Contact her at emmajayne1948@gmail.com. 

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