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 is a competitor for cars like the Audi A6, BMW 5-Series, Cadillac CTS, and Mercedes-Benz E-Class.
The GS four-doors span the spectrum of powertrain offerings: the family includes the GS200t, with its turbo inline-4; the GS 350 with a V-6, and the hybrid GS 450h. Lexus also offers a performance-oriented F Sport edition for every model, as well as the high-performance GS F.
MORE: Read our 2017 Lexus GS review
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 6-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 6-cylinder and V-8 engines, it added four-wheel steering and a manual-shift mode for its automatic transmission, but all-wheel drive was not offered. Notable design features included egg-shaped headlamps that were echoed on the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, and Lexuss' special "Optitron" white-lit gauges. Minor changes were made during this model's tenure, and sales dropped off as Lexus previewed the next-generation 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 called 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 6-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.
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 (now up to 311 hp), 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 hits all the marks for performance and features in a high-end sport sedan. A huge 12.3-inch widescreen system sits front and center, and it enables 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. It 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 replaced the previous mouselike infotainment interface piece, which was not well-liked.
Today's GS performs well in the limited safety testing is has undergone. 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 to 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 Detroit auto show. Marking the return of a V-8 to the GS lineup, the GS F takes on the extra-powerful sedan offerings from Mercedes-AMG, BMW M, and Audi's Quattro GmbH, though with less power. 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, Lexus added a new turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder. It puts out 241 hp and can accelerate the sedan to 60 mph in 7.2 seconds.
The 2017 changes mostly revolve around added equipment. The Lexus Safety System+ becomes standard. It includes forward collision warnings with emergency braking and pedestrian detection, radar cruise control, intelligent high beam headlights, and lane departure warnings with lane departure prevention. Also new this year are a standard navigation system on the GS 200t and a limited slip differential for models with the F Sport package.