2010 Lexus GS 350 Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
February 6, 2010

Respectable performance and top technology make the 2010 Lexus GS 350 and GS 460 worthwhile sport sedans, but low points include a cramped backseat and a GS 450h hybrid model that fails to wow for fuel economy.

To bring you a conclusive review that helps you make sense of whether the Lexus GS 350, GS 460, or GS 450h is right for you, TheCarConnection.com has first compiled excerpts of some of the Web’s leading reviews in this full review. Then the editors of TheCarConnection.com have brought their firsthand experiences driving each of these models and top rivals to a definitive Bottom Line that will help you make the best choice for a new luxury vehicle.

The 2010 Lexus GS is a series of V-6- and V-8-powered mid-size sport sedans. Primarily rear-wheel drive, the GS models aren’t as roomy inside as the comfort-oriented, front-wheel-drive Lexus ES 350. Instead, the GS models’ strengths are performance, along with convenience- and safety-oriented tech features.

The GS hasn’t changed significantly in many years, though a restyled front, integrated side-mirror turn signals, and new wheel designs were introduced last year. Inside, the GS has a curvier, more cockpit-like theme than the comfort-oriented ES and LS models, with an overall feel that’s a little more European inspired.

With either the 303-horsepower, 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 move authoritatively. With either automatic—the 350 and 450h get six speeds, the 460 picks up eight—the transmission has a silky, unobtrusive demeanor in normal driving, but paddle-shifters allow you to manually access all those ratios. The 2010 Lexus GS 450h has a full-hybrid powertrain pairing a 292-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 with an electric motor system, propelling the rear wheels and charging its battery pack when coasting and braking. Altogether, the hybrid powertrain makes 339 horsepower and can push the 450h to 60 mph in just 5.2 seconds—faster than the V-8-powered GS 460. According to Lexus’ usually conservative numbers, the GS 460 is capable of hitting 60 mph in only 5.4 seconds. The GS 350 is additionally available in an all-wheel-drive version. Whichever way you have them, the GS sedans handle well, with impressive stability even over rough surfaces, thanks to a double-wishbone front suspension and multilink rear setup. The electric-assist power steering is well weighted, but the lack of road feel could be an issue for hard-core sport-sedan aficionados.

Review continues below

People will likely select the hybrid for its greener reputation and the promise of significantly higher fuel economy, but TheCarConnection.com doesn't manage to achieve the 450h’s EPA ratings of 22 mpg city, 25 highway in real-world driving. As such, it’s not much better than the GS 350’s EPA figures of 19/27 mpg.

The otherwise inspiring performance in the 2010 Lexus GS sedans, however, is marred by limited headroom inside the cabin and a surprisingly tight backseat. Some will also find the ride a little too firm; it can be rough on pitted pavement. But the GS models are extremely well put together, and the brushed-aluminum and dark gray bird's-eye maple wood trim are at once classy and stylish. Refinement is top-notch as well; there’s not nearly as much road noise in the GS compared to other sport sedans, and the engines are just as refined and smooth as they are powerful and responsive.

Safety features are well represented in the 2010 Lexus GS sedans. Standard features include front side bags, side curtain bags, and dual front knee airbags; Lexus’ more sophisticated VDIM stability control system and anti-lock brakes are also included across the line. Among the available electronic aids that might also help improve safety is the Pre-Collision System (PCS) included with the optional laser cruise control, which prepares safety systems for an anticipated collision. The Variable Gear Ratio Steering is both a safety feature and convenience—bringing quick response at low speeds or when it's needed, as well as stability at high speeds. Overall, crash-test safety is good but not quite perfect; federal results aren’t available, but in insurance industry-supported IIHS tests, the GS earns top "good" ratings in both frontal and side impacts, with a "marginal" rating in the seat-based rear-impact test.

Technology features remain one of the main emphases for this sport sedan. On the 2010 Lexus GS 460 and GS 450h, ventilated seats and adaptive lighting are among the standard features, with an intuitive park-assist system and an active stabilizer system—which provides the advantage of a heavier stabilizer bar almost instantaneously without sacrificing ride quality—among the options. Standard features on all the models include keyless entry, Bluetooth, and an excellent navigation system, but that's not even scratching the surface. Options include an Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) system, which gets four different firmness settings, plus laser cruise control, adaptive front lighting, ventilated cooled front seats, a power rear sunshade, and a DVD audio/video-compatible, 14-speaker Mark Levinson sound system.

8

2010 Lexus GS 350

Styling

The 2010 Lexus GS models are handsome, though maybe not as exciting as you might expect from a sport sedan.

The GS hasn’t changed significantly in many years, though a restyled front, integrated side-mirror turn signals, and new wheel designs were introduced last year.

Kelley Blue Book says "the GS brings a legitimate sense of design passion to its sleekly flowing sheet metal that arguably qualifies it as the best-looking Lexus sedan." Cars.com notes the "long side glass and a steep back window” enhancing the “performance image" of the GS 460. These comments of course would also apply to the GS 350, which is almost identical cosmetically.

Autoblog points out the very subtle changes that the GS 450h hybrid model brings, such as a different 18-inch alloy wheel design, adding that "the badge on the trunk will also reflect the hybrid powertrain." Beyond this, "all other features, including dimensions,” match up with the V-8 GS, Autoblog says. The 2010 Lexus GS 450h is "virtually identical to the GS 350 and GS 460 sedans,” remarks Cars.com, with “Lexus' now-familiar face with its steeply raked headlights and thick C-pillars."

Inside, the GS has a curvier, more cockpit-like theme than the comfort-oriented ES and LS models, with an overall feel that’s a little more European inspired. However, the instrument panel itself is quite conservative in appearance, with a new brushed-aluminum shift plate and dark gray bird's-eye maple wood. The clean look of the instrument panel overall is surprising in a tech-focused luxury car—it's made possible by keeping seldom-used controls out of the way in a drawer.

Edmunds describes the interior in glowing terms: "genuine wood and aluminum trim complements the rich leather seating surfaces," though "the highly polished wood can reflect glare annoyingly at times."

ConsumerGuide says that "cabin decor blends high-grade plastics and leather...other trim bits are genuine wood,” but the review is critical about the effect, adding that “the reddish color used to stain those pieces makes them look fake." Cars.com notes particular elements, including how the "perforated leather comes in a choice of three colors.” Car and Driver comments that "like other Lexuses, this one features a beautifully finished interior."

8

2010 Lexus GS 350

Performance

Great straight-line performance, stability, and poise are hallmarks across the 2010 Lexus GS lineup, but drivers might not always find the tactile driving experience satisfying.

With either the 303-horsepower, 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 move authoritatively; the Lexus GS 460 models can reach 60 mph in only 5.4 seconds, according to Lexus' usually conservative numbers. Cars.com says, "[GS] 350 buyers aren't likely to find the V-6 wanting for power," while ConsumerGuide attests that the Lexus GS 460's "4.6-liter V8 engine gives GS 460 lots of go."

The 350 gets a six-speed automatic, while the 460 boasts eight speeds; in either case, the transmission has a silky, unobtrusive demeanor in normal driving, but paddle-shifters allow you to manually access all those ratios. ConsumerGuide observes that the eight-speed automatic transmission "changes gears frequently, but [is] smooth overall and a good match to the engine." Six-cylinder models make do with the six-speed automatic.

The 2010 Lexus GS 450h has a full-hybrid powertrain pairing a 292-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 with an electric motor system, propelling the rear wheels and charging its battery pack when coasting and braking. Altogether, the hybrid powertrain makes 339 horsepower and can push the 450h to 60 mph in just 5.2 seconds—faster than the V-8-powered GS 460. The GS 350 is additionally available in an all-wheel-drive version.

ConsumerGuide notes that the "hybrid powertrain lacks immediate kick of V8, but does surge ahead with dispatch," an impression confirmed by Car and Driver: "when all the ponies and volts are online, the 450h is capable of respectable haste." According to Cars.com, the "direct-injection, 3.5-liter V-6 engine is shared with Lexus' smaller IS 350 sedan," which teams up "with two electric motors—one providing power during startup, the other boosting acceleration—for a combined 339 hp."

Nevertheless, reviewers had plenty of positive comments about the hybrid powertrain’s performance. Autoblog reports that the GS 450h is "tuned for even more performance and has the rear-wheel drive to handle it." Automobile Magazine points out "gasoline and electric propulsion units really do work as a single entity."

The Lexus 450h has, instead of a conventional automatic transmission, a continuously variable unit. Automobile notes that "the continuously variable transmission acts more like a standard automatic in its engine-braking abilities—just slide the lever over into 'S' and toggle down through six 'gears.'" This source adds that the "faux downshifting doesn't help with acceleration, but the GS doesn't need it." Car and Driver doesn’t like it, complaining that "the continuously variable transmission never stopped hunting."

People will likely select the hybrid for its greener reputation, and the promise of significantly higher fuel economy, but TheCarConnection.com hasn’t managed to achieve the 450h’s EPA ratings of 22 mpg city, 25 highway in real-world driving. As such, it’s not much better than the GS 350’s EPA figures of 19/27 mpg.

Whichever way you have them, the GS sedans handle well, with impressive stability even over rough surfaces, thanks to a double-wishbone front suspension and multilink rear setup. The electric-assist power steering is well weighted, but the lack of road feel could be an issue for hard-core sport-sedan aficionados.

Each of the 2010 Lexus GS sedans offer "various supplemental handling assists," according to Kelley Blue Book, most of which 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 steering system 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." Other options include an Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) system, which gets four different firmness settings.

ConsumerGuide notes that the 450h is "comfortably unruffled on smooth pavement" but points out "minor float over large humps." On the 450h, Car and Driver complains of "numb steering," adding that "the total absence of feel in the electric power steering reminded one tester of an early-'80s Lincoln Town Car."

Brakes provide "strong stopping control, but...pedal action is either too mushy or too sensitive," according to ConsumerGuide. Edmunds also complains of a touchy brake-pedal feel, adding that it’s “quickly taken in stride, however, and the regenerative braking system otherwise stops the 2-ton GS 450h quickly and with reassuring authority."

7

2010 Lexus GS 350

Comfort & Quality

Build quality and trims are impeccable, but tight backseat space and the 450h model’s sacrifices in space and refinement are a few of the reasons why the 2010 Lexus GS isn’t a high scorer in this category.

The otherwise inspiring performance in the 2010 Lexus GS sedans is marred by limited headroom inside the cabin and a surprisingly tight backseat.

Kelley Blue Book says that the “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." Cars.com reports that "up to five can fit comfortably,” while Edmunds counters that "it accommodates four more comfortably, as the elevated rear center cushion makes for a tighter fit in the middle position."

Cars.com reports that "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.

Edmunds adds 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 touch screen"; 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."

Some will also find the ride a little too firm; it can be rough on pitted pavement. ConsumerGuide says that while the Lexus GS 460 "equals most any class rival for hushed refinement," there is an annoying "coarse-surface tire thrum." Kelley Blue Book, though, gushes that the Lexus GS 350's "finely crafted cabin always maintains Lexus levels of isolation from wind and road noise."

The Lexus GS 450h appears to be a different situation altogether. Several reviewers point out that noise levels aboard the 450h are unacceptable for a luxury car in this price range. ConsumerGuide says that this Lexus "equals most any class rival for hushed refinement," but it also notes "coarse-surface tire thrum." Car and Driver reports that "with the waxing and waning of the power system, the [CV transmission] created a sonorous racket described by another chronicler as 'somewhere between a gas turbine and a vacuum cleaner.'"

Sacrifices to storage and space are necessary due to the battery placement in the Lexus GS 450h. Cars.com warns "due to intrusion from the hybrid system's two battery packs, trunk volume shrinks from 12.7 cubic feet in non-hybrid GS models to 7.5 cubic feet in the GS 450h." In addition, "bulky rear wheel arches intrude," and the "small opening makes for awkward loading," according to ConsumerGuide. This Lexus' harshest critic, Car and Driver, nonetheless concedes that "damped lids ease open to reveal small nooks, [and] hinged panels enhance the usefulness of door pockets."

But the GS models are indisputably well put-together, and the brushed-aluminum and dark gray bird's-eye maple wood trim are at once classy and stylish. The Lexus GS is "luxurious and well-crafted," confirms Edmunds, saying that the GS 460 is "put together with flawless fit and finish." Refinement is top-notch as well; there’s not nearly as much road noise in the GS compared to other sport sedans, and the engines are just as refined and smooth as they are powerful and responsive.

Edmunds reports that the Lexus GS's interior features "genuine wood and aluminum trim complements the rich leather seating surfaces." Additionally, Kelley Blue Book praises the "supple leather, brushed aluminum and bird's-eye maple."

9

2010 Lexus GS 350

Safety

The 2010 Lexus GS sedan offers superior safety, bolstered by some useful electronic active-safety features.

Safety features are well represented in the 2010 Lexus GS sedans. Standard features include front side bags, side curtain bags, and dual front knee airbags; Lexus’ more sophisticated VDIM stability control system and anti-lock brakes are also included across the line. Among the available electronic aids that might also help improve safety is the Pre-Collision System (PCS) included with the optional laser cruise control, which prepares safety systems for an anticipated collision. The Variable Gear Ratio Steering is both a safety feature and convenience—bringing quick response at low speeds or when it's needed, as well as stability at high velocity.

Along with a full complement of airbags, reports Cars.com, the 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." Additional options include "run-flat tires [and] Lexus Link communications."

Cars.com points out for the Lexus GS 450h, "Adaptive cruise control can sense impending collisions and alert the driver," and "an adaptive front lighting system swivels the headlights several degrees during turns to better illuminate corners.”

Overall, crash-test safety is good but not quite perfect; federal results aren’t available, but in insurance industry-supported IIHS tests, the GS earns top "good" ratings in both frontal and side impacts, with a "marginal" rating in the seat-based rear-impact test.

"All-around visibility is good despite moderately shallow side and rear windows," due to the fact that 2010 Lexus GS seats are "set fairly high," says ConsumerGuide.

9

2010 Lexus GS 350

Features

The feature set for the 2010 Lexus GS models, offering an especially extensive list of tech options, is vast.

Technology features remain one of the main emphases for this sport sedan. On the 2010 Lexus GS 460 and GS 450h, ventilated seats and adaptive lighting are included among the standard features, with an intuitive park-assist system and an active stabilizer system—which provides the advantage of a heavier stabilizer bar almost instantaneously without sacrificing ride quality—among the options.

Standard features on all the models include keyless entry, Bluetooth, and an excellent navigation system, but that's not even scratching the surface. Edmunds notes that the 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." Cars.com reports "a power tilt/telescoping steering wheel is standard" on the 2009 Lexus GS 460, but it's by far not the only standard feature.

Options include an Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) system, which gets four different firmness settings, plus laser cruise control, adaptive front lighting, ventilated cooled front seats, a power rear sunshade, and a DVD audio/video-compatible, 14-speaker Mark Levinson sound system. Edmunds calls the Mark Levinson audio system "phenomenal."

According to ConsumerGuide, the touch-screen control system seems as if it "governs too many functions, muddling what should be simple adjustments." It is the one flaw for which TheCarConnection.com takes a point off what might otherwise have been a perfect score for the Lexus GS.

Edmunds also states that "conventional summer (performance) tires are standard," but remarks that buyers "have the option of getting either summer or all-season run-flat tires"—a reminder that some will want two sets of tires.

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