Lexus understands luxury like professional football coaches know their Xs and Os.
Lexus nails it, again, with its GS 350 sport sedan that offers a near perfect blend of luxury and sport. It starts with a bold exterior, aggressive nose and mammoth grille with chins spoiler, blended with a muscular, but mainstream profile.
Power in the dark metallic blue (Nightfall Mica) test car, the GS 350 with all-wheel-drive and a six-speed automatic transmission, comes from Lexus’s 3.5-liter V6 that creates 311 horsepower and 280 lb.-ft., of torque. The power comes on smoothly, no turbos to lag or to jerk the car to speed. The six-speed is a couple gears short of most other luxury makes today, but you’ll barely notice as it’s so well mated with the V6.
Lexus also offers three power modes, Eco, Normal and Sport to deliver the power and handling you prefer. In sport the steering is firmed slightly and power increases a bit at low end. The change won’t wow you, but if you prefer a little more oomph from the accelerator, this is your mode. Normal will do 90% of the time and Eco is there simply if you need it.
Ride is well controlled, but firmer than one might expect in a Lexus sport sedan. The GS boasts a lightweight aluminum suspension system and while Lexus usually leans more to luxury than sport, the GS’s ride goes the other way, but always remains comfortable. A 112.2-inch wheelbase helps tame the ride too.
Handling remains on the luxury side, good and fairly responsive, but a tad heavy, despite the car weighing in at just less than 3,900 lbs. The sedan certainly feels as substantial as any German make in this class.
Braking is solid too and Lexus delivers its full bevy of safety systems, including pre-collision warning, smart cruise control and automatic high beam headlights. There’s also lane departure alert and a lake keeping assist feature to pull the car back toward the lane’s center from either line alongside the road.
AWD comes on this model, but rear-drive models also are available.
There’s also a blind-spot warning system and rear cross-traffic alert, along with rearview monitor. Those are now standard on most mid- to upper-level sedans, crossovers and utes.
Inside the Lexus is masterfully luxurious, yet not ostentatious. The test car had black leather seats, dash, console, and steering wheel, all trimmed in gray stitching. There’s a little analog clock mid-dash and a gray wood-look console in front of the console-mounted shifter. The same graces part of the dash and everything, including knobs, are trimmed in brushed metal.
Naturally the sedan is large and roomy with space for five adults to fit comfortably with ample head and legroom front and rear. Plus the power tilt/telescope steering wheel automatically moves up and back once the ignition is off, allowing the driver easier entry and exit.
Three memory settings are available for the driver’s seat and both front seats are 10-way power adjusted. They offer good back and side support and a well-formed butt pocket. Lexus excels at seats. The front seats are automatically heated and cooled so you normally would not have to fiddle with settings for them. That feature and the sun shade are part of a Premium package that adds $1,760 to the price. Rain-sensing wipers are part of the deal too, but oddly not a heated steering wheel
Back seat riders praised the seats’ comfort and everyone liked the overhead sunroof, a plus when Milwaukee is suffering through another long rainy spring/summer. Nice to let a little light into the car’s dark cabin.
Likely the biggest hit of the car’s dash and interior features is the giant 12.3-inch screen for the navigation, radio and other onboard features. It also allows for easy viewing of the backup camera. Sadly Lexus sticks with the console-located mouse to operate the screen’s functions, something I don’t recommend when you’re driving, as it can be distracting. There are volume and tuning knobs alongside the screen though. And the mouse is easier to use than the little touchpads that Lexus sometimes uses on its consoles. More on that in next week’s review.
The GS 350 also has a large storage box between the seats and it will slide back and forth. When back it reveals the box and several power and auxiliary outlets inside. The test car also added lighted kick plates, a nice for night entry and exit. That costs $425 extra.
Gas mileage is typical big luxury sport sedan with an EPA rating of 19 mpg city and 26 mpg highway. I got 23.9 mpg in about 70% highway driving. Premium fuel is preferred.
Ah, luxury has its price and for the GS, of which there are several models, the base GS 300 starts at $47,535 and features a 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo that makes 241 horsepower. Gas mileage is considerably better than in the test car too at 22 mpg city and 32 mpg highway.
If hybrids are more your bag, then the GS 450h with 338 horses and a 31 mpg combo rating may be more to your liking. It lists at $64,600. But folks who need the maximum power (price be darned), should look at the GS F with its 405-horse V8. Sticker is $85,380.
It’s your 401k you’ll be raiding, but at any level the GS will satisfy with its quiet luxurious interior, nice handling and edgy (for a large luxury sport sedan) looks.
FAST STATS: 2018 Lexus GS 350 AWD
Hits: Quiet, comfy large sedan with good power, ride and handling, plus AWD. Automatic heated/cooled seats, sun roof, rear sun shade, 3-memory driver’s seat, big screen. Sport setting gives it a bit sportier performance.
Misses: Big sport sedan gas mileage, no heated steering wheel and no rear seat side sun shades.
Made in: Japan
Engine: 3.5-liter V6, 311 horsepower
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Weight: 3,891 lbs.
Length: 192.1 in.
Wheelbase: 112.2 in.
MPG: 23.9 (tested/mostly highway)
Base Price: $51,360 (includes delivery)
Premium package (rain-sensing wipers, heated/cooled front seats, power rear sunshade, $1,760
Leather steering wheel and gray sapele trim, $650
Illuminated door sills, $425
Body side moldings, $199
Test vehicle: $54,394
Sources: Lexus, www.kbb.com
Photos: Mark Savage