The Car Connection Lexus GS 350 Overview
The lexus GS is a mid-size four-door sedan slotted just below the benchmark LS sedan in the Japanese luxury brand's lineup. The GS four-doors span the spectrum of powertrain offerings: the family includes inline-4, V-6, V-8, and hybrid models.
There's also a choice between rear- and all-wheel-drive sedans, and for the new model year, there's a performance model—the 2016 Lexus GS F. It's the first time the full F treatment has been visited upon the Lexus mid-sizer. It also gains a turbocharged four-cylinder model, the GS 200t.
The GS is a competitor for cars like the Audi A6, BMW 5-Series, Cadillac CTS, and the Mercedes-Benz E-Class.
MORE: Read our 2016 Lexus GS review
The new Lexus GS
Lexus skipped the 2012 model year with its mid-size sedan and hybrid, introducing a brand-new GS for the 2013 model year. With a 306-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6, paddle-shifted 6-speed automatic, and a somewhat sportier setup than before—along with an updated wood- and leather-trimmed cabin—the latest GS 350 hit all the marks for performance and features in a high-end sport sedan. A huge 12.3-inch widescreen system was front and center, and could enable split-screen views for the navigation system, or connectivity to apps such as Pandora or Facebook. Lexus also brought back the GS 450h hybrid in 2013, but initially chose not to build another V-8-powered GS.
For 2015, Lexus upgraded the GS's infotainment setup to include an app suite. That included updates to iHeartRadio and the addition of streaming from the Slacker app. Cars with navigation get the same system that was fitted to the IS, which has improved map views, predictive traffic routing, voice recognition, and the ability to pause and rewind live radio within a 15-minute window. A touchpad controller replaces the previous mouselike infotainment interface piece, which was not well-liked.
Today's GS performs well in safety testing. It is also the best-performing GS yet on the road, especially in the GS 350 F Sport, which uses a tuned suspension and chassis make driving more fun. Enhancements include 19-inch wheels, bigger brakes, and subtle styling tweaks. Lexus added an F Sport version of the GS 450h hybrid for the 2015 model year as well.
Lexus introduced the first GS F at the 2015 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The new model marks the return of a V-8 to the GS lineup and brings the first performance variant to the model, helping it take on the extra-powerful sedan offerings from Mercedes-AMG, BMW M, and Audi's Quattro GmbH. Similar to the smaller RC F coupe, the Lexus GS F combines a high-powered engine with chassis tweaks and a more aggressive appearance, producing a sportier version of Lexus's sportiest mid-size sedan yet.
For the 2016 model year, there's also a new turbocharged 2.0-liter four in the GS lineup, which puts out 241 hp and can accelerate the sedan to 60 mph in about seven seconds.
The Lexus GS first bowed in 1993 with an evocative shape penned by the Italian design firm Giugiaro. Dubbed the Aristo in Japan, the first GS sedan had an independent suspension, an in-line six-cylinder engine with normal aspiration or a twin-turbo version shared with the Toyota Supra (in Japan only), and an option for a V-8. The sleek sedan was paired with the new SC300 and SC400 coupes, and brought Lexus accolades for expressive design and performance. A Nakamichi sound system and walnut trim were among the high-dollar features installed in the GS.
In its second generation, the 1998-2005 Lexus GS added more performance options to its portfolio. Along with its six-cylinder and V-8 engines, it added four-wheel steering and a manual-shift mode for its automatic transmission, but four-wheel drive was not offered. Notable design features included egg-shaped headlamps that were echoed on the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, and Lexus's special "Optitron" white-lit gauges. Minor changes were made during this model's tenure, and sales dropped off as Lexus previewed the current GS range in a 2005 concept car.
The third-generation Lexus GS went on sale as a 2006 model. It came in V-6 and V-8 versions, with a hybrid variant added as well. The third-generation GS was also the first model to feature Lexus's L-finesse styling upon its introduction.
The GS 450h was introduced at the 2005 New York Auto Show. It teamed the 3.5-liter V-6 from the GS 350 with batteries and motors and a continuously variable transmission for what Lexus calls a "performance hybrid." While it accelerated strongly, the hybrid version lacked steering feel, carried a price premium, and reduced trunk space—already a shortcoming of the GS. Fuel economy was also a lightning rod for criticism; many test outlets didn't observe any gas-mileage increase with the hybrid.
With either the 303-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 in the 2010 Lexus GS 350 or the 342-hp, 4.6-liter V-8 engine in the GS 460, these sedans moved authoritatively. The six cylinder was teamed with a 6-speed automatic; the V-8 got an 8-speed automatic shared with the larger LS. The GS 350 was additionally available in an all-wheel-drive version. Performance was strong in this generation, but limited headroom in front and a compromised rear-seat space marred the experience. Refinement was a strong point, and the GS scored well in front-crash tests, though side-impact scores were not as good.