2017 Lexus GS 350 Review

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The Car Connection
2019
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Kirk Bell Kirk Bell Senior Editor
June 23, 2017

Buying tip

The GS 200t is the most affordable choice, but its turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder can't match the competition; opt for the GS 350 instead.

The 2017 Lexus GS offers excellent handling, handsome looks, and a variety of powerplants, all at prices generally lower than its German competition.

Unlike Lexus's ES sedans, which appeal to comfort-oriented buyers, the GS is a sport sedan, first and foremost. Offered in GS 200t, GS 350, GS 350 AWD, and GS 450h hybrid models—each with its own available F Sport treatment—the mid-size GS four-door serves as sharper-edged competition for luxury heavyweights like the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, BMW 5-Series, and Audi A6. The hybrid's most direct rival might be the Acura RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD.

Lexus added a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine for the 2016 model year, but 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.

In our updated rating system, we give the GS a 7.2. It's strengths include handsome styling, agile handling, a wide range of engine choices, and a quality interior. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

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Styling and Performance

With the characteristic Lexus "spindle" grille, the GS asserts its identity among sport sedans in a refreshing way. We like the voluptuous, organic side sheet metal matched with the somewhat conservative roof profile, and the way that the exterior pairs with the Nakamichi-minimalist interior, which is outfitted with quality materials and LED lighting. As for the GS 450h hybrid, it gets the usual blue hybrid badges, a choice of unvarnished bamboo, and hybrid-specific information screens.

All versions of the GS sport electric power steering and independent, multi-link suspensions for the front and rear. Thanks to some impressive tuning, light-weight suspension, and a stiff body, the GS offers nimble handling. The well-executed power steering keeps the base car pleasant, nimble, and communicative, while offering a composed ride.

Opt for an F Sport, and you get an adaptive suspension as well as active steering with variable gear ratios. Those features combine with other performance bits to set a new benchmark for the brand. The only drawback? Low tolerance for potholes and bad pavement junctions.

The GS 200t features a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 that makes 241 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. It comes only with an 8-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive, and Lexus claims it will reach 60 mph in 7.2 seconds. Acceleration is reasonably strong once underway, but stomping on the gas pedal under any circumstance results in a significant delay while the transmission and turbocharger decide what to do. Even drivers who aren't performance-minded might find themselves defaulting to the paddle shifters. With a starting price in the mid-$40,000s, the GS 200t is less expensive than the GS 350 by several thousand dollars, and fuel economy is better at 22/32/26 mpg, though the F Sport equipment lowers that to 24 mpg combined.

The GS 350, with a 311-hp 3.5-liter V-6 mated to an 8-speed automatic, is more satisfying. While all-wheel-drive variants continue to use an older 6-speed automatic transmission, those with rear-wheel drive have the newer 8-speed unit. Lexus defies the traditions of its brand by piping engine and exhaust notes into the cabin. With rear-wheel drive, a base GS 350 will hit 60 mph in 5.7 seconds, and return 20/28/23 mpg.

The hybrid isn't slow either. Accelerating up to 60 mpg takes just 5.5 seconds, and it earns impressive fuel economy ratings of 29 mpg city, 34 mpg highway, 31 mpg combined. The rear-wheel drive GS 450h hybrid pairs a special Atkinson-cycle version of the GS 350's 3.5-liter V-6 with a 147-kw motor and 30-kw nickel-metal-hydride battery pack—altogether making 338 hp. This hybrid delivers strong acceleration, as well as comfortable and quiet low-speed all-electric operation.

There's also a quite sporty Lexus GS F sedan, which we cover separately.

Interior, Safety, and Features

In comfort and spaciousness, the Lexus GS feels warm and inviting. The standard 10-way power seats are comfortable, and buyers can get 18-way power front seats with heating and ventilation and semi-aniline leather in the loveliest of shades. But what makes the GS a little less appealing are its tight back-seat leg room and rather shallow trunk. It's a matter of priorities, you see.

The base set of features in the 2017 GS is impressive in itself, wrapping in dual-zone automatic climate control, Bluetooth connectivity, LED ambient lighting, a 12-speaker AM/FM/DVD audio system, HD radio, a USB port, an auxiliary input jack, faux leather upholstery, 10-way power front seats, LED headlights and turn signals, an auto-dimming rearview mirror with a universal garage door opener, heated auto-dimming exterior mirrors, a sunroof, and alloy wheels.

In addition to the new Lexus Safety System +, the GS comes standard with 10 airbags altogether—front, side, curtain, and knees—as well as active headrests, a rearview camera, parking sensors, and blind spot monitors with rear cross traffic alerts. It has performed well in the crash tests it has been subjected to, but it hasn't undergone all crash tests.

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2017 Lexus GS 350

Styling

The spindle grille may turn off some, but the 2017 Lexus GS is a handsome sedan.

The Lexus GS isn't just the most handsome sedan in the Japanese automaker's lineup, it's one of the best-looking sport sedans in the mid-size luxury market. At first glance challenging and bristling with detail and surface excitement, the Lexus GS settles down quickly and comfortably into your brain.

We give the GS a 8 for styling, adding two points for its exceptionally handsome exterior design and another for its elegant, tech-laden interior. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Of all the GS sedans we've seen flow out of Lexus' studios, this one's the least soft and the most upright. The overall design is at once squared-off and voluptuous, with sheet metal that undulates rearward from a corporate "spindle" grille to a tail characterized by strong, horizontal lines. Atop it all is an conservative roofline with a greenhouse that strongly recalls the the 2002-2010 BMW 7-Series.

Front-end details are striking. Lexus' spindle grille can be somewhat controversial, but we like how it works on the GS. However, the tucked-away fog lamps and LED eyeliner for the headlights add up to a bit too much complexity in the F Sport models.

The cabin isn't as soft as Lexuses past. There's a spartan vibe underneath that emanates from the horizontally themed dash, something akin to a Nakamichi sound system, all work while it plays, while cool LED ambient lighting glows around the perimeter and a high-resolution display sucks in all the attention, away from beautiful, big gauges.

Materials quality is excellent, but the GS is beginning to fall behind the German luxury benchmarks—not because Lexus is pulling back, but because the Germans are constantly improving. Real wood trim softens the cabin up well, while F Sport cars wear metallic-printed plastic that sounds less appealing than it looks. Padded leather panels in rich, deep hues keep the subtext alive: we're looking at something that's more live-performance studio than traditional Lexus library.

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2017 Lexus GS 350

Performance

Agile handling teams with a trio of engines to make performance a priority for the 2017 Lexus GS.

We rate the 2017 Lexus GS a 7 for performance, giving it strong marks for the agile handling and the power and responsiveness of the V-6. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

All versions of the GS sport electric power steering and independent, multi-link suspensions for the front and rear. Thanks to some impressive tuning, light-weight suspension components, and a stiff body, the GS extracts a lot of performance from its standard 17-inch, 50-series tires. We'll also give some kudos to relatively well-executed power steering that keeps the base car pleasant, nimble, and communicative, while offering a composed ride.

Opt for the Luxury package, and you get an adaptive suspension, a pricey option for subtle differences in ride and handling, we think. Choose an F Sport, though, and you get the adaptive suspension as well as active steering with variable gear ratios. Those features combine with other performance bits to set a new benchmark for the brand. While rivals from Germany struggle in their own ways to elevate electronic driving controls to their high standards of driving feel, the F Sport delivers a driving experience that doesn't at all feel remote or "digital."

In all, the F Sport adds stiffer springs, roll bars and bushings; adaptive shocks; variable-ratio steering; wider and larger wheels and tires; an available limited-slip differential; and bigger front brakes. Active rear steering is available, and it can dial in up to 2 degrees of steering angle at the rear wheels opposing the fronts, to help slice off apexes, or steer in tandem with the front wheels at high speeds for better stability. Managing it all atop 19-inch wheels and tires, Lexus has dialed up instantaneous steering response, tightly damped ride control, and crisp handling. The only drawback? Low tolerance for potholes and bad pavement junctions.

There's a wide gap in ride and handling with the hybrid. Lexus has opted to make its semi-active suspension standard, along with electric power steering and a drive-mode selector that programs the electronic continuously variable transmission to behave in Eco, Normal, Sport, Sport+, and EV modes. It has eight programmed gearing ratio steps. The different driving modes adapt well enough to the GS 450h's demeanor, though it's still saddled with the lower end of the GS's performance abilities. The smaller tires, lower rolling resistance for better fuel economy, and a lighter touch to its steering all remove the feedback that's been carefully dialed into the GS 350, especially the GS 350 F Sport. The brakes are the usual hybrid sore point, with lots of regenerative stiffness and little real braking sensation. This is the GS to drive if you're strictly concerned with a planet-friendly statement.

Variety of powertrains

The GS lineup offers three powertrain options: a turbocharged 4-cylinder, a V-6, and a V-6 hybrid. 

The GS 200t features a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 making 241 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. It's mated to an 8-speed transmission and available only with rear-wheel drive. As in other Lexus models we've sampled, this powertrain has an unfortunate characteristic of responding to full throttle inputs with a moment of indecision before the transmission kicks down and the turbocharger engages. This happens whether accelerating from a stop or at speed, and isn't mitigated even by Sport+ mode. The transmission can also be fussy in uphill driving, quick to upshift, and prone to noticeable downshifts with the slightest pressure on the gas pedal. Even drivers who aren't particularly performance oriented may find themselves paddle shifting to avoid the commotion. Perhaps the addition of direct injection—a feature found in most other 4-cylinder turbos, especially from luxury brands—would help. The 200t isn't a fast car—0 to 60 mph takes more than seven seconds—but power is reasonably good once underway.

The situation is better with the GS 350, which mates an 8-speed transmission to a 3.5-liter V-6 that produces 311 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque. It's a fully modern engine, with direct injection, four valves per cylinder and four cams, plus variable valve timing. This engine is definitely stronger on torque from about 3,000 rpm and above, and its 8-speed automatic transmission works well with the engine to make this model fully competitive on the numbers.

With the V-6, the 8-speed offers quicker shifts, and that helps give this car a sportier character. All-wheel drive GS models use an older 6-speed transmission, and their acceleration times are fractionally slower than the rear-wheel-drive's 0-60 mph time of 5.7 seconds. The GS defies ultra-quiet Lexus tradition by piping engine and exhaust notes into the cabin; with the V-6, the sound is great.

The rear-wheel drive GS 450h hybrid pairs a special Atkinson-cycle version of the V-6 with a 147-kw motor and 30-kw nickel-metal-hydride battery pack—altogether making 338 hp. This hybrid delivers strong acceleration, as well as comfortable and quiet low-speed all-electric operation, but its driving experience feels more detached—though this is somewhat mitigated with the F Sport package.

Lexus now builds a very quick GS F sedan, which we cover separately.

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2017 Lexus GS 350

Comfort & Quality

Comfortable seats, quality finishes, and excellent fit and finish contribute to an elegant cabin.

The 2017 Lexus GS boasts generally excellent fit and finish. The gauges are big, crisp, and clear, and high-grade plastic trim dominates the dash, from the console coverings to the metallic highlights that surround an analog clock that is stylish but difficult to read at a glance. Padded leather surfaces are stitched together with care—though they add up visually, making the dash look busy, seam by seam.

Space and comfort are also strengths. Finding the right driving position is simple with 10-way power-adjustable seats, a power tilt/telescoping steering wheel, and power-adjustable rearview mirrors. The premium-upgrade 18-way seats are wonderfully supportive and include heating and ventilation, a feature we've grown to appreciate for almost year-round seat comfort. The sport seats in F Sport cars could use additional bolstering, though, for spirited maneuvers.

We give the GS a 7 for comfort, adding points for the front seat comfort and materials quality. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Though rear head room is reasonable for adults of average height, knee room is at a premium for a mid-size sedan. The center seat won't be of much use to anyone but a small child as its head room and leg room are both severely limited. Large rear doors do ease access, however. Heated rear seats and rear-seat climate control are available as options.

The trunk's opening is wide, and while the cargo area is somewhat shallow, there is a pass-through for longer items. Inside the cabin, smaller items find a home in door pockets, in a fairly deep glove box, and in a console bin with a lid that slides backward to expose audio ports. A big pair of cupholders sits at the front of the console under a lid.

One annoyance we noticed is the Remote Touch controller's housing and its poor fit on the console: On the right side, it doesn't match the shape of the console, leaving a gap where all sorts of detritus is doomed to gather.

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2017 Lexus GS 350

Safety

The Lexus GS boasts a wide array of advanced safety technology as standard, but it has incomplete crash test scores.

The 2017 Lexus GS comes with a full complement of standard safety features. There are 10 airbags altogether—front, side, curtain, and knees—as well as active headrests, a rearview camera, parking sensors, and blind spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alerts.

Newly standard for 2017 is the Lexus Safety System+. It comes with forward collision warnings with emergency braking and pedestrian detection, radar cruise control, intelligent high beam headlights, and lane departure warnings with active lane control. A head-up display is also available.

The 2017 Lexus GS has not been crash tested. However, the 2016 model earned "Good" ratings in tests for roof strength and side and moderate-overlap frontal impacts from the IIHS. It wasn't rated in the tough small-overlap frontal test, and therefore it couldn't earn the Top Safety Pick or Top Safety Pick+ awards. The NHTSA hasn't tested the Lexus GS.

We haven't rated the GS for safety, pending complete crash data from both agencies. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

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2017 Lexus GS 350

Features

Well equipped to start with and more affordable than the German competition when optioned up, the Lexus GS is a luxury value.

Though priced like its rivals from Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz, the 2017 Lexus GS tends to come with more standard features and fewer options that can send its price into the stratosphere. While a fully loaded GS 350 F Sport AWD will approach $63,000 when loaded, a comparably equipped 5-Series or E-Class can get even more expensive.

The 2017 Lexus GS is offered in 200t, 350, 350 AWD, and 450h hybrid model, with an F Sport package available for each. 

We rate the GS an 8 for features, giving it points for its generous standard feature set, available options, and overall value. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Standard features on all models include dual-zone automatic climate control, Bluetooth connectivity, LED ambient lighting, a 12-speaker AM/FM/DVD audio system, HD radio, a USB port, an auxiliary input jack, synthetic leather upholstery, 10-way power front seats, LED headlights and turn signals, an auto-dimming rearview mirror with a universal garage door opener, heated auto-dimming exterior mirrors, a sunroof, and alloy wheels.

Lexus' Remote Touch control system is also standard. It's a mouse-like device on the center console that operates climate, audio, and phone functions via an 8.0-inch display. Ordering the optional navigation system includes a huge 12.3-inch widescreen that's wide enough to split in half to simultaneously show information for the navigation system and for audio tracks. Although the controller is generally intuitive to operate, it can be oversensitive and may take a few tries to place the cursor with precision. Its menu structure can be maddening, too.

Siri EyesFree mode enhances iPhone compatibility with the vehicle interface. A subscription-based service adds things like remote locking and unlocking, a vehicle finder, status reports, and a "guest driver monitor" that could be used as a parental safety net.

F Sport models add a 16-way power sport driver's seat, 19-inch staggered width wheels and tires (single width with all-season tires for AWD), F Sport badging, F Sport-tuned Adaptive Variable Suspension with Sport S+ mode, larger front brakes (RWD only), a limited slip differential (GS 350 RWD only), a rear lip spoiler, aluminum interior trim, aluminum pedals and door scuff plates, unique perforated leather trim, a black headliner, variable ratio steering (RWD and 350 only), a unique front bumper and rear lower valence, mesh front grille inserts, and aluminum exterior trim.

Upgrading to the Enform App Suite gets Slacker app-based streaming audio and iHeartRadio; and navigation-equipped cars get the larger infotainment system that brings improved map views, predictive traffic, voice recognition, and even a 15-minute buffer feature for radio listening.

More conventional luxury options include a 17-speaker Mark Levinson audio system with 835 watts of power; a Premium Package with heated and ventilated front seats and rain-sensing wipers; heated rear seats; and a Luxury Package with adaptive headlights, adaptive suspension, unique leather, 18-way power front seats, rear climate controls, and a wood-trimmed steering wheel. 

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2017 Lexus GS 350

Fuel Economy

The 2017 Lexus GS may offer a turbo-4 and a hybrid, but it isn't particularly fuel efficient.

Lexus added the GS 200t last year as the most efficient GS model without the aid of electrification. However, it isn't that much more efficient than the V-6-powered GS 350. In its base form, the GS 200t carries EPA fuel economy ratings of 22 mpg city, 32 highway, 26 combined. In F Sport guise, it drops to 21/30/24 mpg.

The EPA rates the GS 350 with rear-wheel drive at 20/28/23 mpg. Those numbers drop to 19/27/22 mpg for the GS 350 F Sport. When it's outfitted with heavier all-wheel drive components and the 6-speed automatic, the GS 350 AWD is rated at 19/26/22 mpg.

The GS 450h is the most obvious choice for the eco-conscious. Its hybrid powertrain is rated for 29/34/31 mpg.

As the volume engine, the V-6 determines the GS's fuel efficiency score, which is a 5 on our scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

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7.2
Overall
Expert Rating
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Styling 8
Performance 7
Comfort & Quality 7
Safety N/A
Features 8
Fuel Economy 6
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