2008 Lexus GS 350 Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
July 22, 2008

The 2008 Lexus GS sport sedans have their flaws--most notably, a cramped interior--but like no other, they wrap edgy performance with some of today's top technology.

To assemble this extensive review covering the 2008 Lexus GS 350 and 2008 Lexus GS 460, TheCarConnection.com’s car experts included information from a variety of reviews. Then TheCarConnection.com’s editors added their firsthand driving experience of the GS to create an especially useful review.

Last year, a new V-6 GS 350 model and some new technology features spiced up the Lexux GS line of mid-size sport sedans for 2007. Now the 2008 Lexus GS receives an upgrade with a new 342-horsepower, 4.6-liter V-8 and eight-speed automatic transmission, as the GS 460 replaces last year's 290-horsepower GS 430. The GS 350 remains available with all-wheel drive, while both models otherwise get rear-wheel drive. The lineup fills out with the more responsible 2008 Lexus GS 450h hybrid, which is covered in a separate review. For 2008, the GS models pick up a slightly restyled front end, integrated side-mirror turn signals, and new wheel designs.

Whether in V-8 or V-6 form, the GS sport sedans have very satisfying acceleration. 2008 Lexus GS 460 models are now capable of hitting 60 mph in only 5.4 seconds, according to Lexus's usually conservative numbers, and the all-new eight-speed automatic, which was first offered in the LS 460 flagship, promises quick downshift responses. Six-cylinder models make do with a six-speed automatic.

The 2008 Lexus GS performs almost perfectly, with engines that are just as refined and smooth as they are powerful and responsive. It also shows off great stability in corners, even when the road surface turns rough, thanks to the double-wishbone front suspension and multilink rear. The electric-assist steering has great weighting and just the right amount of effort, though it's not as communicative as some other sport sedans.

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That's all thanks to a host of electronics that works mostly transparently on the 2008 Lexus GS models. The Variable Gear Ratio Steering is a complex system that aims to bring quick response at low speeds or when it's needed, as well as stability at high speeds. Furthermore, it functions with the Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM) system, an all-encompassing electronic stability control that wraps it all together, safely.

That awesome dynamic performance isn't mated with a perfect package, however. The 2008 Lexus GS is inadequate in backseat space, and headroom is tight even for front-seat occupants of average height. The ride isn't always perfect either; it can be harsh on rough patches and railroad crossings. The GS's instrument panel is quite conservative in appearance, with a new brushed-aluminum shift plate and dark gray bird's-eye maple wood for 2008, while seldom-used controls are kept out of the way in a drawer.

Inside the 2008 Lexus GS, there's technology galore. Standard features include an excellent navigation system, keyless entry, and Bluetooth, but that's not even scratching the surface. Options include an Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) system, which gets four different firmness settings, laser cruise control, adaptive front lighting, ventilated cooled front seats, a power rear sunshade, satellite radio, and a 14-speaker Mark Levinson sound system with DVD audio/video capability. The ventilated seats and adaptive lighting come standard on the 2008 Lexus GS 460, along with the AVS system, but an intuitive park-assist system and active stabilizer system--which provides the advantage of a heavier stabilizer bar almost instantaneously without sacrificing ride quality--are among the options.

Both 2008 Lexus GS models come with the expected airbags, including front side bags, side curtain bags, and dual front knee airbags. The VDIM stability control system and anti-lock brakes are also standard, along with many other electronic aids that may help improve dynamic safety. Included with the optional laser cruise control is the Pre-Collision System (PCS), which prepares safety systems for an anticipated collision. The insurance industry-supported IIHS has tested the GS and given it the top "good" rating in both frontal and side impacts, with a "marginal" rating in the seat-based rear-impact test.

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2008 Lexus GS 350

Styling

Most will find the 2008 Lexus GS a handsome, well-trimmed sedan.

The 2008 Lexus GS offers great, if not superior styling inside and out.

Kelley Blue Book says "the GS brings a legitimate sense of design passion to its sleekly flowing sheetmetal that arguably qualifies it as the best-looking Lexus sedan." Edmunds assures loyal Lexus owners looking to replace their aging vehicles that the 2008 Lexus GS 350 and 2008 Lexus GS 460 sedans both offer "the same rakish styling."

Cars.com reports that "the GS is more futuristic than its predecessor, touting its long hood and set-back cabin...featuring uncluttered sheet metal, the 2008 Lexus GS 460 has a very short rear deck and wide tapered C-pillars that flow back toward the rear of the car." They also say that "long side glass and a steep back window enhance the 2008 Lexus GS 460's performance image." These statements also apply to the 2008 Lexus GS 350, which differs only in what's under the hood.

The GS's instrument panel is quite conservative in appearance, with a new brushed-aluminum shift plate and dark gray bird's-eye maple wood for 2008, while seldom-used controls are kept out of the way in a drawer.  Edmunds reports that the 2008 Lexus GS's interior features "genuine wood and aluminum trim complements the rich leather seating surfaces," while Kelley Blue Book praises the "supple leather, brushed aluminum and bird's-eye maple." Cars.com reports the 2008 Lexus GS 460's interior decor options as such: "perforated leather comes in a choice of three colors...The dashboard is trimmed with genuine bird's-eye maple or California walnut wood." ConsumerGuide, however, is a bit critical: "cabin decor blends high-grade plastics and leather...other trim bits are genuine wood, but the reddish color used to stain those pieces makes them look fake."

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2008 Lexus GS 350

Performance

In terms of performance, the 2008 Lexus GS sedans live up to their mission with hard-charging power and supple handling.

Whether one prefers the V-6-powered 2008 Lexus GS 350 or the V-8-powered 2008 Lexus GS 460, the experts at TheCarConnection.com wager no one will be disappointed.

The number of cylinders is the only substantial difference between the 2008 Lexus GS 460 and the 2008 Lexus GS 350. Cars.com says, "[GS] 350 buyers aren't likely to find the V-6 wanting for power," while ConsumerGuide attests that the 2008 Lexus GS 460's "4.6-liter V8 engine gives GS 460 lots of go." Edmunds reports that the latter engine "produces 342 hp and 339 pound-feet of torque." Whether in V-8 or V-6 form, the GS sport sedans have very satisfying acceleration, in TheCarConnection.com’s experience; 2008 Lexus GS 460 models are now capable of hitting 60 mph in only 5.4 seconds, according to Lexus's usually conservative numbers.

Both models come with an eight-speed automatic transmission, which ConsumerGuide reports "changes gears frequently, but [is] smooth overall and a good match to the engine." Edmunds says "it drives the rear wheels through...with automanual shift control"--meaning guys who have to do their own shifting can. It was first offered in the LS 460 flagship, with quick downshift responses. Six-cylinder models make do with a six-speed automatic, though. Six-cylinder Lexus GS sedans also may be outfitted with all-wheel drive.

The 2008 Lexus GS 460 offers surprisingly good gas mileage for a V-8; EPA estimates are 17 mpg city and 24 mpg highway, which Edmunds says are "above average compared with other V8-powered cars in its class." Obviously, with its slightly smaller engine, the 2008 Lexus GS 350 does somewhat better; according to Cars.com, EPA estimates for this V-6-powered vehicle are "21/30 mpg (city/highway),” but the EPA lists the vehicle at 19/27 mpg.

The Lexus GS has great stability in corners, even when the road surface turns rough, thanks to the double-wishbone front suspension and multilink rear. The electric-assist steering has great weighting and just the right amount of effort, though it's not as communicative as some other sport sedans. Both 2008 Lexus GS sedans offer "various supplemental handling assists," according to Kelley Blue Book, and they can "be switched off completely by anyone who really does want to press to the edge of the envelope." One of these is "electronically-boosted variable power steering," which they say is "both quick and precise." Cars.com reports that the 2008 Lexus GS's steering actually "changes the steering ratio for tighter or wider steering depending on the speed of the car." ConsumerGuide acknowledges that "cornering lean is modest, and grip and balance are both good," but while "stopping control is strong...to some testers, the pedal action is either too mushy or too sensitive." Options include an Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) system, which gets four different firmness settings.

Edmunds says that while "some drivers find [2008 Lexus GS brakes] non-progressive and a bit touchy at first," the braking system "otherwise stops the nearly 2-ton [2008 Lexus] GS 460 quickly and with reassuring authority."

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2008 Lexus GS 350

Comfort & Quality

The 2008 Lexus GS sedans offer peace and quiet, with exceptional build quality, but the backseat and trunk are far from utopian.

The 2008 Lexus GS offers superior comfort in its front seats, but the backseats are compromised by the roofline, and storage is only so-so.

Cars.com reports that "up to five can fit comfortably in the 2008 Lexus GS 460's leather seats," although Edmunds counters that "though spacious enough for five passengers, it accommodates four more comfortably, as the elevated rear center cushion makes for a tighter fit in the middle position." Kelley Blue Book says the 2008 Lexus GS 350's "Nicely formed power front buckets are the best seats in the house," acknowledging that "even the 'bucketed' rear bench has sufficient head and legroom to handle a pair of adults and the occasional smaller child in the less-hospitable center spot."

Storage space is an issue; Cars.com reports that the 2008 Lexus GS sedans' "trunk space totals 12.7 cubic feet." ConsumerGuide contends that the lid "swings on noninvasive strut-type hinges, but its small opening makes for awkward loading," and "small-item storage is limited" inside the cabin.

That 2008 Lexus GS cabin is nonetheless "luxurious and well-crafted," according to Edmunds, which says that the 2008 Lexus GS 460 is "put together with flawless fit and finish." They add that "the optional navigation system features high-resolution graphics that make it easy to operate at a glance," but "the audio controls lose some functionality as they become integrated into the touchscreen"; in addition, "the highly polished wood can reflect glare annoyingly at times, and the control-oriented drop-down dash panel to the left of the steering wheel can get in the way of the driver's exit if left open." ConsumerGuide comments that "one test GS suffered from an annoying dashboard rattle."

Kelley Blue Book gushes that the 2008 Lexus GS 350's "finely crafted cabin always maintains Lexus levels of isolation from wind and road noise." ConsumerGuide, on the other hand, says that while the 2008 Lexus GS 460 "equals most any class rival for hushed refinement," there is an annoying "coarse-surface tire thrum."

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2008 Lexus GS 350

Safety

The favorable IIHS ratings and extensive list of safety features indicate good crash safety in the 2008 Lexus GS sedan, but the NHTSA hasn’t completed its tests.

There is no shortage of good safety equipment available for the 2008 Lexus GS 350 and the 2008 Lexus GS 460.

TheCarConnection.com found no crash-test data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), but notes that the demanding Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the 2008 Lexus GS its highest rating of "good" in both front and side impact tests. The IIHS tests were performed on a 2006 model, but are considered applicable to both the 2008 Lexus GS 350 and 2008 Lexus GS 460.

Edmunds reports that the 2008 Lexus GS has "a total of 10 airbags, including front and rear seat-mounted side airbags, driver and front passenger knee airbags and full-length head curtain airbags...standard [2008 Lexus] GS 460 safety equipment includes antilock brakes with brake assist and stability and traction controls." Additional optional equipment includes "run-flat tires [and] Lexus Link communications."

Cars.com notes that in addition to a full complement of airbags, the 2008 Lexus GS's "optional pre-collision system incorporates active braking, which can trigger the brakes automatically under certain conditions...[an] advanced stability system anticipates instability or skidding before it occurs, monitors actual versus intended action, and helps correct problems using a mix of braking, throttle and steering control."

ConsumerGuide remarks that "all-around visibility is good despite moderately shallow side and rear windows," due to the fact that 2008 Lexus GS seats are "set fairly high."

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2008 Lexus GS 350

Features

The 2008 Lexus GS already has standard features by the ream, but the touchscreen system is a bit of overkill.

The 2008 Lexus GS 350 and 2008 Lexus GS 460 have features aplenty--including a few they could do without.

Cars.com reports "a power tilt/telescoping steering wheel is standard" on the 2008 Lexus GS 460, but it's by far not the only standard feature. Edmunds notes that the 2008 Lexus GS "comes with a long list of standard amenities that include 18-inch wheels, adaptive HID headlights, automatic dual-zone climate control, 10-way power front seats with heating and ventilation, a sunroof, keyless ignition and a 10-speaker premium audio system."

The one problem, for which TheCarConnection.com took a point off what might otherwise have been a perfect score for the 2008 Lexus GS, was the touchscreen control system. ConsumerGuide feels that it "governs too many functions, muddling what should be simple adjustments."

Optional equipment on the 2008 Lexus GS 350 and 2008 Lexus GS 460 includes a "7-inch dashboard screen, [which] can work with the optional navigation system," according to Cars.com. Audiophiles will be glad to know that a Mark Levinson "surround-sound system with 14 speakers is optional" as well. Additional 2008 Lexus GS options, according to Edmunds, "include satellite radio, parking assist, rain-sensing wipers [and the] the Active Power Stabilizer suspension system."

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