Sport Sedan Supreme
Jim Powell, Fri, 24 Feb 2012 04:12:06 PST
2013 Lexus GS 350: Sport Sedan Supreme
While most sports sedans are trying to fly around tracks like the Nȕrburgring in Germany, with carmakers designing suspensions that are stiff and unforgiving on freeways, most of us are looking for a comfortable luxury car that performs better than an economy sedan. Many manufacturer engineers have to compensate for vehicle weight with larger springs and larger engines to get the performance defined as sporty. With some extra dollars, Lexus has started completely over with their impressive GS series and designed a lighter, wider, aluminum and high-strength steel platform and suspension.
After the first 40 miles, I was convinced the 2013 Lexus GS 350 has the best driving characteristics of any sedan I have drive in recent years, even before adding the electronic strut adjustments and four-wheel steering which are options. The new 2013 Lexus GS 350 comes to dealer showrooms in February 2012 and was introduced during the Super Bowl with swimsuit models and lots of splash.
The new GS uses aluminum upper and lower control arms with larger bushings. The rear subframe has an all-new multi-link rear suspension that rivals BMW's 5-series for cornering and stability on corners. All this is possible due to Lexus paying attention to use of high-strength steel and laser welding. The shocks are more responsive due to lighter-viscosity oil and bumps are absorbed instead of beaten down with higher spring rates. Overall, this sedan has a great ride.
The standard ventilated disc brakes (four-piston aluminum front calipers) are larger and very quick to respond. The brake pedal has to be used gently or the car stops too quickly. There are also new electronic enhancements to help provide braking balance and control. In addition, the GS 450h's Electronically Controlled Braking system characteristics have been modified to provide greater responsiveness from the first touch of the pedal.
The GS 350 and GS 450h feature standard 17-inch alloy wheels that are rapped with 225/50R17 tires. This is a good rubber patch for the road for most drivers. The optional 18-inch alloy wheels with 235/45R18 tires take some of the smooth ride away. With the optional all-wheel drive, traction is rarely a problem. The rear-wheel drive architecture is wonderful for sporty driving but will not suffice if you live in Michigan.
Bottom line, the GS sedan really just needs to be driven with its 3.5-liters, four cams, four valves per cylinder, and dual Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (VVT-i). The 306 horsepower with a "Sport" setting on the six-speed transmission feels like 350 hp. The six-speed sequential shift automatic transmission comes with paddle shifters and gear changes come fast and furious in the "sport" mode. The difference between "ECO" and "Normal" can be felt more than the difference between "Normal" and "Sport" but still noticeable if the sedan is pushed hard.
An optional "Sport S+" mode is available on the F Sport and the Luxury packages. SPORT S+ mode engages an adaptive variable suspension using hydraulic fluid, electronic adjustments to the steering system, and something called Vehicle Dynamic Integrated Management (VDIM) to beef up the ride and throttle mapping. The GS transmission incorporates features from the Lexus IS F high-performance sedan which result in much faster shifts, earlier torque converter lockup and downshift throttle blips.
Similar to other manufacturer's drive selectors, the new Lexus Drive Mode selector gives the driver a choice. I used the ECO mode for LA freeway driving and never felt the need for more power, even with revised throttle mapping, timed seat heating, and de-powered climate control systems. Mileage was 26.5 mpg on my GS 350 with only 100 miles on the odometer. A cool blue instrument glow reminded me to stay cool and easy on the gas. The SPORT S mode revises throttle mapping and transmission shifting priorities to fully exploit the capabilities of the powertrain. In SPORT S mode, meter lighting changes to red.
In the "Normal" setting, this large sedan jumps from 0-60 mph in 5.7 seconds. Lexus uses their intake system to increase the torque curve right where most drivers will want continuous power. I enjoyed the acceleration from 30 to 50 mph (3.0 seconds) knowing that most will never take this car over 100 mph and very few will reach a top speed of 150 mph. The staged intake and exhaust characteristics are music to my ears thanks to an intake sound generator and new chamber.
The 2013 Lexus GS 350 carved up the Angeles Crest Highway with no problem. This is one of the best public mountain roads in the world and perfectly matched to the GS sedan's capabilities. I also averaged 24 mpg on this 4,800 foot climb. Projected EPA-estimated ratings of 19 mpg city, 28 mpg highway should be exceeded with some driver's care.
I also like the multi-media 12.3-inch split-screen display with the mouse pad control. However, with all the internet and satellite "infortainment" hookups available, it is tempting to play with this screen while driving- and driving is what this car wants to do. The interior is beautifully appointed, quiet, and the seats are supportively comfortable. The use of wood, leather, and brushed aluminum is attractive.
The new GS introduces the next-generation version of Lexus Enform with Safety Connect. This multimedia system connects to the user's smart phone and access Bing search engine, OpenTable, MovieTickets.com, Pandora, iHeartRadio, Facebook and Yelp. An SMS text-to-speech feature allows the driver to be read text messages and send preset responses. And if this was not enough distraction for the driver, Lexus adds DVD audio and video compatibility, along with HD Radio with iTunes tagging.
The 2013 Lexus GS 350 is available in rear-wheel drive (RWD) with a base MSRP of $46,900 or all-wheel drive (AWD) with a base MSRP of $49,450. The configurations are available as F SPORT models or can be equipped with the available Premium or Luxury packages for greater personalization. It seems like premium dollars but the drive is worth it.