- Aggressive but conservative styling that should age well
- Very satisfying acceleration from either engine
- Great dynamic stability for fast driving
- Tight back-seat
- Limited headroom all around
- Steering doesn't feel as direct as other sport sedans
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.
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.
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.