When I completed my Lexus IS 300 review, I stated that I’d been let down by Toyota’s luxury brand’s compact offerings of late. The NX crossover and RC coupe also miss the mark but, as you’ll find out in this review, the GS is brilliant. These thoughts brought the RX to mind, which is without a doubt Lexus’ best product and has been for nearly 20 years.
I’m going to try and explain to you how it felt getting out of the IS and dropping into the GS. Actually, it’s quite simple: This car is a true Lexus and a reflection of the company’s know-how and talent. The IS 300 is a compromised, reverse-engineered car that was created to fill a gap. The Lexus GS 350 AWD holds its own against the likes of the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, BMW 5 Series, and Audi A6.
The sum of all the GS’ parts makes sense and defines a sedan that gently pushes the styling envelope while cajoling its occupants and keeping the driver fairly entertained. My only regret with the GS is that I did not put more mileage on it to fully appreciate its abilities.
GS needs more love
While I’m a big fan of the RX, as many of you luxury CUV buyers out there are, I think the Lexus GS deserves more attention. I won’t pretend to say I would buy one over the Germans, but if only to be different from the others, I would not feel ashamed to call one my own.
I love subtlety, and this is one reason why I can picture an A6 in my driveway. By the same token, the GS’ revised outer skin is bold enough to be noticed without being striking or really drawing attention to it. That is, unless you really dislike the brand’s spindle grille, which I must say has grown on me.
With its redesigned front and rear ends, the 2016 Lexus GS looks lower and squatter ― everybody likes a little stance. The F SPORT package on my tester added an enlarged mesh grille, a tasteful decklid spoiler, and unique 10-spoke 19” staggered wheels. This is the stance I was talking about. My only complaint here is that an actual colour, as opposed to a shade of grey, would have been nice.
The cabin is very inviting. There’s a lovely flow from one corner to the other, the best aspect being the dashboard and its mammoth, centre-mounted 12.3” display. It is well recessed but properly integrated into its environment. Fit and finish are exemplary while the materials are top drawer. There is no doubt that this is a luxury car.
The seats in the 2016 Lexus GS 350 AWD are firm and supportive; the driving position is excellent thanks to the multiple available power adjustments. This car will accommodate four adults with room to spare, however I would have liked a little more storage room up front for more than a coffee and my phone.
Technology abounds here, as it does in all vehicles competing in the midsize luxury segment. A navigation system is standard, but unfortunately includes Lexus’ Remote Touch Interface, which is far from intuitive. Despite the updates over the years, I still have a hard time not being distracted when using it. Hooking up a phone via Bluetooth proves much easier and less befuddling.
Sport, with or without an F
The 2016 Lexus GS 350 is equipped with AWD as well as Toyota’s much utilized 3.5L V6. Under the GS’ bonnet, it produces 311 horsepower at 6,400 rpm and 280 lb-ft of torque at 4,800 rpm. Also included in the mix is a 6-speed automatic transmission.
Keep in mind that “sport” doesn’t necessarily mean a 0-100km/h sprint of less than five seconds and a pull of over 1 g on a skid pad. The GS 350 won’t knock your socks off like the 467-horsepowever GS F might (which I’d love to try), but because of its transmission’s gearing and programming, it will rapidly up- or downshift when prodded. The wheel-mounted paddles are useful, although I found leaving the car to its own devices to be best. The V6 is eager to flex its muscles and so rises freely and quickly through the rev range.
The Drive Mode Select dial controls the adaptive variable suspension, but as with most of these getups, leaving the damping in “normal” is the smartest alternative. Besides, the GS’ chassis is uber-tight, devoid of flex and ensuing rattles. Ride comfort is good, however “taut” best describes the overall feeling. Such type of tuning limits body roll and improves steering response. This is sporty enough for me.
Exciting enough, like Lexus
My review of the 2016 Lexus GS 350 AWD does not read as a glowing endorsement. On the other hand, I love pork, and every time I have some, I’m reminded of the fact.
With a base price hovering just above $56,000, the GS sticks it to the A6 and 5 Series (both with a 2.0T engine). On the surface, the V6 sounds like a bonus, but in reality these 4-pots are very good and efficient ― expect better fuel economy than with the Lexus. My tester returned an average of 12L/100km, while the others should prove at least 10% more frugal.
The bottom line, though, is that the GS 350 AWD is an excellent product, just the way Lexus knows how to make them.