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June 3, 2012

Lexus GS 350 AWD

by Mark Savage
Lexus GS 350, car review, Lexus GS 350 review,

Photos courtesy Lexus

Let the coddling begin!

Luxury cars make you feel special; they coddle you.

After a week in a gorgeous “mercury metallic (dark sparkling metallic blue)” 2013 Lexus GS350 I consider myself sufficiently coddled. The redesigned full-size GS comes as both a rear-drive and all-wheel-drive model, this being the latter.

All come with a strong 3.5-liter direct-injection V6 that delivers 306 horsepower via a seamless 6-speed automatic that allows you to shift manually via the console shifter or paddle shifters located behind the power tilt/telescope steering wheel. Everything feels silky smooth, belying the GS AWD’s $49,450 base price.

The test car added a $6,530 luxury package that should be called the ultimate coddle package. Here’s a short list of what that adds: heated rear seats, heated and ventilated front seats, rain-sensing wipers, a power rear sunshade, Adaptive Variable Suspension, Sport S+ Drive. Then there’s a wood and leather trimmed steering wheel that also is heated, along with Espresso (that’s black and gray) wood interior trim and semi-aniline (super soft) leather.

Where some luxury cars are content with 12-way power seats, the Lexus goes to 18-way power front seats with a Lexus memory system that gives you three memory settings. And then there’s a 3-zone climate control system that allows back seat folks to control their temperature, plus manual rear door sunshades to keep them from glare.

The luxury package also upgrades the standard 17-inch tires with 18-inch all-season tires on alloy wheels.

One could argue that a few of those niceties should be standard on a car costing nearly $50,000, and that’s true. But it’s not like you’re getting a buckboard with plastic seats without adding that package.Lexus GS 350, car review, Lexus GS 350 review

The GS comes with perforated leather seats and a driver’s seat memory system. The package simply adds memory to the passenger’s seat. The standard seats are 10-way power units and overhead there’s a large power sunroof, white LED interior lighting and a HomeLink system. The steering column automatically powers away when you turn off the car’s ignition and the GS comes with a premium audio system with voice recognition, Bluetooth and satellite radio.

For safety there are airbags all around the cockpit, including side curtains, headlight washers and the now increasingly standard traction and stability control.

Traction already was good in the test car because of its all-wheel-drive system. That and the traction control gave it sure footing on slippery rain-soaked streets. That CAN be a problem at times in some rear-drive luxury cars with 300+ horsepower, a tendency to spin the tires upon acceleration. No problems here.

But you know you’re in a big 112.2-inch wheelbase car because the Lexus feels big and heavy. It does tip the scales at 3,970 lbs., but some comparable cars exceed the 4,000-lb. mark, so that’s not out of line with the market.

While those 306 horses will push the Lexus to highway speeds smoothly and relatively quickly, you won’t feel racy in the GS. There’s an electronic Sport S+ system that allows you to dial in the shift points for the car, from Eco to Normal to Sport S. The Eco shifts early to save gas and the Sport S holds gears longer for torque to boost acceleration. Even on that sporty mode you don’t blast away from stoplights though. The Lexus is so luxury oriented that the power simply feels steady.

Handling is heavy and steering effort is on the top side of firm. GS handles well, but there is some body lean in turns, again pushing the luxury feel over the sport. At all times the ride is smooth and controlled. Gas pressurized shocks and an independent multi-link suspension in back help that. Plus the car’s interior is extremely quiet. I like that!

Braking is excellent from four-wheel discs and ABS, plus those traction/stability systems.

Gas mileage is good for this sized car too. I managed 20.7 mpg in about 60% highway driving. The EPA rates this one at 19 mpg city and 26 highway. Premium unleaded is required.

Lexus GS 350 leather interior, car reviews, Lexus car review

Lexus provides a soft leather interior with giant video screen.

Naturally the interior is slathered in leather, all black, and the trim is a black and gray wood accenting the dash, doors and steering wheel. That heating element only works in the leather portions of the wheel though, basically at 9 and 3, not 10 and 2 where we’re trained to hold a steering wheel.

Everything is handsome and well laid out inside with a huge 12-inch split-screen mid-dash housing the navigation ($1,735 option) and stereo system controls. It’s fairly easy to use with a mouse on the console.

Lexus computer, Lexus GS 350, Lexus review

Here’s the computer control knob, easy to turn, but not so easy to use and keep your eyes on the road.

Unlike some German makes, this one is fairly intuitive and sort of snaps to the main selection points as if snapping to a grid.

Seating is extremely comfortable with velvety feel leather and all those power controls allow you to find whatever driving position you want. Side bolsters power against your hips, if you so desire, and the headrest can be powered forward too along with multiple lumbar supports.

Certainly four adults will ride comfortably here, especially with the climate and seat controls, along with radio controls on the rear seat’s center armrest. I did not like the giant A pillars in front though that can make some forward side views awkward. And the trunk while reasonably sized is smaller than you might expect for a large car at just 14 cubic feet.

While I’d like to see blind spot monitoring systems standard on all cars, I really expected it to come with the GS, but it’s a $500 option, and worth it. Not sure why you have to pay $105 for a trunk mat or $64 for a cargo net though.

After all its options, the test car hit nearly $60,000, checking in at $59,759. That’s amid the large luxury car market, so in line with several other premium choices. The base, if we can call it that, rear-drive GS350 starts at $46,900, while the rear-drive GS350 Sport starts at $52,590 and the AWD Sport at $55,145.

If premium coddling is what you seek, the GS is a fine spot to begin.

Fast Stats: 2013 Lexus GS350 AWD

Made in: Japan

Engine: 3.5-liter DI V6, 306 hp

Transmission: 6-speed automatic w/ECT-i & paddle shifters, Drive Select Mode

Weight: 3,970 lbs.

Wheelbase: 112.2 in.

Cargo: 14.0 cu.ft.

MPG: 19/26

Base Price: $49,450

Dealer’s Price: $46,619

Major Options:

Intuitive Park Assist, $500

Blind spot monitor, $500

Luxury Pkg. (heated rear seats, rain-sensing wipers, heated/ventilated front seats, power rear sunshade, 18-inch alloy wheels/all-season tires, Adaptive Variable Suspension, Sport S+ Drive, wood/leather trimmed steering wheel, Espresso wood interior trim, semi-aniline leather, 18-way power front seats, Lexus memory system, 3-zone clcimate control, manual rear door sunshades, heated steering wheel, windshield deicer, water-repellent front door glass, high-intensity heater), $6,530

Navigation Pkg. (HHD nav. w/12.3-inch high-resolution split screen multi-media display, NavWeather, NavTraffic, Sports, Stocks for 1 year), $1,735

Trunk mat, $105

Cargo net, $64

Delivery: $875

Test vehicle: $59,759

Sources: Lexus, www.autos.yahoo.com

Hits: Handsome sedan with super quiet interior and comfortable highly adjustable seats. Good acceleration, premium ride with seamless shifts and three shift modes. Heated steering wheel plus 3-speed heated/cooled seats, blind-spot warning system, huge split-screen monitor and power tilt/telescope wheel and rear sunshade.

Misses: Car feels heavy and has giant A pillars that affect visibility.

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