The 2016 Lexus GS F performance sedan and the 2016 Lexus GS 200t are new models that join the GS 350 and GS 450h. The Lexus GS models are rear-wheel-drive sports sedans, unlike the front-wheel-drive Lexus ES family sedans, that compete with the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, BMW 5 Series, Audi A6, and Infiniti Q70.
The current-generation Lexus GS was introduced as a 2013 model, and it is available with a range of engines that change its character, from V6 to V8 to hybrid.
The 2016 Lexus GS 200t comes with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 241 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque and uses an 8-speed automatic transmission. Lexus says the GS 200t can accelerate from zero to 60 in 7.2 seconds, which isn’t particularly quick. However, we found that there’s a delay when you step on the gas pedal, as apparently it needs a moment for the transmission and turbocharger to decide what to do. Fortunately the 8-speed has paddle shifters, so if you flick a lower gear, that snaps the transmission out of it.
The Lexus GS 350 uses 3.5-liter V6 that makes 306 horsepower with the paddle-shifting 8-speed automatic, and feels more like a sports sedan. It can hit 60 mph in a quick 5.7 seconds, and is EPA-rated at 23 miles per gallon Combined city and highway. The GS 350 is available with all-wheel drive, which uses an older 6-speed automatic.
The Lexus GS 450h hybrid is quicker and more fuel-efficient than either the GS 200t or GS 350. With 286 horsepower and 257 pound-feet of torque, the GS 450h accelerates to 60 in 5.5 seconds, and is rated 31 mpg Combined. It doesn’t feel sporty, the way the GS F does. Its main competitor might be the Acura RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD. Others include the Mercedes E-Class Bluetec or BMW 528d, diesels that get better highway mileage than the 450h’s 34 mpg Highway.
Finally there is the hot one, the GS F that competes with the BMW M5, Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG, Cadillac CTS-V, and Audi RS 7. It uses a 467-horsepower 5.0-liter V8 with 389 pound-feet of torque. With both direct injection and port injection, running on both the Otto and Atkinson cycles, it gets an EPA-rated 19 mpg Combined, pretty darn good for 467 horsepower.
The 2016 Lexus GS lineup includes the GS 200t ($45,615), GS 350 ($50,000), GS 350 AWD ($50,470), GS 450h ($63,080) GS F ($84,440). (Prices are MSRP and do not include destination charge.
Features include 10-way power seats, leather, rearview camera, satellite radio, Bluetooth with audio streaming, and Remote Touch, the mouse-like controller. For 2016, there’s an infotainment upgrade with streaming audio and iHeartRadio, as well as improved map views. There’s also a Siri EyesFree mode for use with iPhones. Options include active cruise control with emergency braking, head-up display, and night vision.
We think the GS is the best looking Lexus sedan. It asserts its identity, with its spindle grille framed by a boomerang shape. The sides are square and voluptuous, undulating rearward, and the roofline is calculated to match minimalist interior.
It’s upright, with a greenhouse that recalls the BMW 7 Series from 2002 to 2010. The details in front are challenging and bristle with excitement.
The styling of the GS F models is more aggressive, mostly for cooling and aerodynamics. The front fenders are wider, with outlets that vent air from under the hood. The spindle grille is bolder, flanked by air intakes for the transmission and oil coolers. The LED headlamps are L-shaped, with LED turn signals, daytime running lights, and taillamps. Big rocker panels lower the sides, while a carbon-fiber spoiler and quadruple exhaust outlets coming from a diffuser make the car look mean as it races away.
The Lexus GS feels spartan inside, especially around the dash with its horizontal lines and cool ambient lighting at the perimeter. Still, it’s elegant, warm and inviting, with excellent fit and finish. The materials are a step better than the German luxury sedans, with padded leather panels in rich shades and wood trim bringing back the softness. In the GS F there’s metallic plastic that looks better than that sounds.
The GS goes against the Lexus luxury grain by piping engine and exhaust sounds into the cabin.
A massive 12.3-inch high-resolution display draws your eyes away from big gauges that are crisp and clear. It’s like a live performance versus a CD library. Quality plastic trims the dash and console, with metallic highlights around an analog clock that’s a Lexus trademark but hard to read. The leather seams are carefully stitched, so many seams it feels like overkill.
Remote Touch uses a haptic joystick on the console to control functions on the screen. We noticed that it fits poorly, with a gap at the side. For 2016 there’s a new thumb button for Enter, that improves the function, but the necessary dexterity might be a trick for some.
The 10-way power seats are comfortable and supportive, while the available 18-way power seats have heating and ventilation. The GS F seats have more bolstering. The rear has good head room, but knee room is lacking; forget about the center rear for anyone but small children. But at least the big rear doors make it easy for adults to climb in and out. Heated seats and climate control in the rear are available.
The trunk is shallow for a midsize car, but the opening is wide and there’s a pass-through for skis and other long items.
GS F gets aluminum pedals, carbon fiber trim, sport seats exceptional for their comfort and support (in perforated leather along with the steering wheel), and Alcantara leather bits round the cabin.
The new GS 200t powertrain has that unfortunate pause when you floor it, which we’ve felt in the NX 200t. Even Sport Plus mode doesn’t make it go away. The new 8-speed transmission can be fussy going uphill, too quick to upshift and downshift; we found ourselves shifting with the paddles just to get it to stop shifting too much in the normal mode.
It’s better in the GS 350 with its 306-horsepower V6. It’s a fully modern engine, with direct injection, four valves per cylinder, four cams, and variable valve timing. It’s got excellent torque above 3000 rpm, and gains a definite sporty spirit in Sport mode, neatly working that 8-speed transmission that we just complained about in the 200t. It’s all in the programming. The all-wheel drive GS with its 6-speed transmission is a bit less quick.
The rear-wheel-drive GS 450h hybrid uses an Atkinson-cycle version of the V6, mated to a 147-kilowatt motor and 30-kilowatt nickel-metal-hydride battery pack, for a total of 338 horsepower. It’s fast, comfortable and quiet, while feeling more detached, but hybrids always do. There’s an F Sport package that brings back some attachment.
The GS has electric power steering that’s nimble and communicative, and a lightweight multi-link suspension front and rear. With its stiff chassis, it handles well on standard 17-inch, 50-series tires, while the ride is more composed than most of its rivals. An adaptive suspension and active steering are available, and they do set a new benchmark on the GS F, but we don’t think the GS needs it. The GS actually feels within its element on the track.
The GS F adds 19-inch wheels and tires; stiffer springs, roll bars and bushings; adaptive shocks; variable-ratio steering; and bigger front brakes. Active rear steering is available; it turns the rear wheels a tiny bit, in the opposite direction of the fronts, to pivot the car, adding stability in quick moves. The result is crisp handling, with quick steering and a tight ride, but low tolerance for bumps.
The 5.0-liter V8 in the GS F revs to 7300 rpm with a throaty howl, piped into the cabin and heard like background music through two speakers, one front and rear. You’ll hear it for 4.5 seconds from zero to sixty. That’s not as much power or speed as the Cadillac CTS-V, BMW M5, or E63 AMG offer, but those engines have superchargers or turbochargers, the Lexus V8 is normally aspirated, and sweetly so.
At 4034 pounds, the GS F weighs 111 pounds less than the lightweight Cadillac, and 356 pounds less than the fat German M5. It drives small (which is good). Its dynamic personality is small, thanks also to torque-vectoring that makes the car respond better in turns. The chassis is stiffened with four underbody braces, the suspension is double-wishbone front and multi-link rear. Two front arms and two rear links are aluminum, reducing unsprung weight. Stiffer shocks, springs and bushings, geometry at both ends changed. Brembo brakes, 15-inch front and 13.5-inch rear, are designed to resist fade.
The ride is reasonable, and it’s a fairly comfortable cruiser. The 8-speed automatic transmission is crisp, smooth and responsive, although not as sharp as a good dual-clutch like the BMW. In Normal mode, the steering is light and delightfully quick. If you push it past the grip of the sticky Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires, the stability control will save you. If you switch to Sport S or Sport S Plus mode, and put the differential in Slalom or Track mode, the GS F is happy to grip and rotate for you.
The GS 450h hybrid is another story. It has a semi-active suspension and a CVT continuously variable transmission, with eight programmed steps so it feels like an automatic. The modes of Eco, Sport, Sport Plus, and EV each further re-program the CVT and light-touch electric power steering. The brakes have regenerative rigidity with not much braking sensation. If saving the planet is more important to you than driving fun, it’s the Lexus to buy.
Four distinctly different Lexus GS models are available to suit the needs and wants of different types of buyers. These are nice, enjoyable cars, though each has a different character depending on the powertrain selected.