The GS slides into 2017 with great stance, racy handling and serious value.
The Lexus transformation into a performance-car brand is firmly ON TRACK with this new GS. So smooth and easy… but handles and hustles in Sport+?
Even without the F Sport package, our tester drew stares like the GS-F during its week in the speed fleet.
We thoroughly enjoyed its performance and luxury, with a special nod to some amazing options that make a good car into a great car.
Standard article headings and a quick drive video of the fresh-faced Lexus GS here to share.
HD Drive Video
All GS variants have strongly aggressive details for this latest generation.
A sharply evolved new nose and tail meet a familiar mid-section in the GS — with mixed results.
The new nose wears radically slimmer headlamps and new bumper shaping versus pre-2016 GS sedans. The deep three-dimensionality of the bumper edges up front bend light into a sharp point. Creases and flow angles originate in the new singleframe piece. Now with lower intake scoops even without the F Sport package. Horizontal grey slatwork in this GS350 Luxury grille versus F-Sport mesh. Subjective, sure. This more mellow face blends well in traffic as a stealth speeder.
The rest of the looks are greatly tweaked with options. The optional triple-beam LEDs run $1.5k while the upgrades 19’s need Lux pack too.
As it stands, this GS350 is a damn near GS-F clone from most angles! Nightfall Mica paintwork is effectively black, and the wheels have a dark finish too. All menacing and cool looks — even with bright chrome window edges.
The tail is very familiar but has new bumper, pipe finishers and LED brake lights for this GS generation.
As always, the great thing about GS is its proportions. Wide, low and long with no front overhang and sporty fenders. GS still scores in profile, but could benefit from an even sportier roofline, a la the 2018 LS sedan.
We’d give the GS350 Luxury a B+ on style with the wheel and LED options, but a B- without.
The cabin of the GS opens up like an old friend for a hug. This drive position is stellar even before you start working the seat and wheel to make it perfect. You can really sit low and eveloped in the machine. Then you start to notice the freshness all around. New steering wheel, dashboard details and trims nicely evolve what is a wide cabin.
Our car greatly benefited from the Luxury equipment package. To the point where the standard GS might feel a little pedestrian? Perhaps.
But with Lux included, the normal 10-way seats bump up to 18-way wonders. Extendable seat base squab lacks that big dip seen on Germans with the base extended — and is ultra comfortable as a result. Power adjustable side bolsters and upper seatback complement the normal positions in the best way. We absolutely love the seat comfort and confidence GS350 brings.
The Lux pack adds embossed, semi-aniline leather all around and a special sapelle pinstriped wood trim. It looks clean and elegant, if a bit glossy for 2017.
Lux pack also adds rear climate and sunshades — which feel like a must-have with pricing above $50k.
There are a few stand-alone options that helped the interior plushness and equipment levels too: the $900 heads-up display that feels like second-nature for its ease of use in real life. Second is the $400 power trunklid that will be helpful in real life.
The GS in its latest form brings an ultra-wide-screen 12.3-inch display for its central screen. Unlike most auto testers, we quite fancy the Enform toggle control versus a touchscreen. The mouselike controller snaps to whatever setting options are available and feels super easy to use (to a Toyota-familiar person, at least!)
The nav with real-time traffic is also better than the traffic systems on Cadillac, BMW or Infiniti rivals. Those only seem to list traffic ‘events’ versus a realtime color code on even small roads. The Lexus also includes remote concierge to input nav destinations — a surprisingly well-liked feature among owners.
Our only gripe with the widescreen nav — or POTENT $1800 Mark Levinson stereo with 835-watts of power — is that it lacks satellite-based imagery. It is just hard to love any stock nav unit once you have witnessed the glorious Audi Google Earth displays. (Even Audi’s revert to boring old maps once subscription expires….)
One place the Lexus needs updating is for secondary controls. Little buttons for things like the mirrors and cruise control feel absolutely ancient. Easy to use, yes. But very dated.
In terms of comfort and refinement, the GS is still exceptionally good. This is a car that delivers big smiles when in the mood. But can also coast like a dream in calmer traffic.
The GS350 runs a retuned version of the 3.5-liter V6 that originally debuted around 2006-ish in this model, but now cranked up to 311HP and paired with an eight-speed automatic that was new for 2016.
We were curious — how much power did the very-exciting-at-the-time GS400 of 1998-ish make? A round 300 from that heavy V8.
That the V6 can put out more power while weighing 200 pounds less is very promising.
Sprint pace is around 5.8 seconds to 60-mph, which is not a headline, class-leading number. But does have strong in-gear and realworld urge.
The nose of GS350 is always alive in your hands. This is pure, direct and heavy steering feel with an ultra damped nature over bumps. But a purity on lock that is nice to enjoy.
The GS350 Luxury package lacks the adaptive variable ratio of the F Sport cars, and also lacks their active intake sonics on full throttle.
The Lux package does bring an additional Sport+ drive mode versus normal GS sedans. This holds gears quite aggressively and brings instant kickdown when you are in the throttle.
Adaptive Variable Suspension is included in the Lux package too, keeping the big GS flat around big corners in a nice way.
In all, this GS firmly rests on the Lux side of the Sport/Lux coin. But even so, it is a fun drive that never forgets its rear-drive balance and frisky turn-in.
Of course, our rear-drive GS is only of almost a dozen variants: GS200t, F Sports, AWDs and Hybrid GS450h models also live in this GS family — below the GS-F big daddy.
Our GS350 test car stickers from about $51k as standard. Many options as detailed in the window sticker below brought the total up t o$60,700 out-the-door (before taxes.)
The GS350 in 2017 keeps its core virtues intact and greatly enhanced. GS-F looks and sweet handling come standard across the board. For the first time in a while, the GS’s main selling point seems to be its stellar value equation. Even loaded up, we barely crossed the $60k mark. More-modern rivals like the alloy Jag XF, ultra-modern Volvo S90 and of course the new 540i are all significantly more expensive when similarly specced.
But at the same time, there is the Genesis G80 5.0 that packs all this — plus a big 420HP V8 — for less cash than the Lexus V6.
Sheer thrust would help justify the Lexus a bit more. A more-modern take on cabin controls and interfaces would also help the GS feel more current and less Toyota-ish.
As it stands, however, the GS350 is still a sweetheart of a car. The new eight-speed maximizes power nicely, and those legacy buttons and controls do make the GS exceedingly simple to learn and love.
For us, the scowling new face and core excellence of the drive keeps the GS a strong contender for owner cash in 2017.
Tom Burkart is the founder and managing editor of Car-Revs-Daily.com, an innovative and rapidly-expanding automotive news magazine.
He holds a Journalism JBA degree from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Tom currently resides in Charleston, South Carolina with his two amazing dogs, Drake and Tank.
Mr. Burkart is available for all questions and concerns by email Tom(at)car-revs-daily.com.