The Lexus GS is a rear-wheel-drive sports sedan, unlike the front-wheel-drive ES near-luxury family sedan. The Lexus GS competes with the Mercedes-Benz E Class, BMW 5 Series, Audi A6, and Infiniti Q70. Last redesigned for 2013, it has come with a range of engines that change its character, from V6 to V8 to hybrid.
The 2017 Lexus GS lineup includes a new model, the GS Turbo, sometimes referred to as the GS 200t, with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that Lexus uses in the RC sport coupe and NX crossover. The GS Turbo costs a bit less and gets a bit better fuel mileage than the other GS models.
The GS Turbo is EPA rated at 29/34 mpg City/Highway, or 31 mpg Combined. All GS models require Premium gasoline. The new engine makes 241 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, uses an eight-speed automatic transmission, and isn’t particularly quick: zero to 60 in 7.2 seconds, just okay. We found quite a bit of turbo lag when we stepped on the gas pedal, as apparently the Turbo needs to spin up to speed and the transmission has to decide what to do. Fortunately the eight-speed has paddle shifters, and a flick of the wrist snaps the transmission into gear.
The GS 350 uses 3.5-liter V6 that makes 311 horsepower with the paddle-shifting eight-speed automatic, and feels more like a sports sedan. All-wheel drive is available, which uses an older six-speed automatic. The GS 350 can hit 60 mph in a quick 5.7 seconds, and gets 23 miles per gallon Combined.
The GS 450h hybrid is quicker than either the GS Turbo or GS 350, as well as being more fuel efficient. With 286 horsepower and 257-pound feet of torque, the GS 450h accelerates to 60 in a very quick 5.5 seconds, and gets 31 miles per gallon Combined. It doesn’t feel particularly sporty, but the F Sport model ups the game a bit. Its main competitor might be the Acura RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD. Others include the Mercedes-Benz E-Class Bluetec or BMW 528d, both diesels that get better highway mileage than the GS 450h’s 29/34 mpg City/Highway.
F Sport versions of these models include a sports suspension, upgraded features, and special interior and exterior trim.
Finally there is the hot one, the Lexus GS F sedan that competes with the BMW M5, Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG, Cadillac CTS-V, and Audi RS 7. GS F 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 miles per gallon Combined, pretty darn good for 467 horsepower.
Since it is a Lexus, after all, the list of standard equipment is rich, with things like 10-way power seats, leather in lovely shades, 10 airbags, rearview camera, satellite radio, iPod, Bluetooth with audio streaming, and Remote Touch, the mouse-like controller. Options include active cruise control with emergency braking, a head-up display, and night vision.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gives the GS Good ratings for roof strength, and side and moderate-overlap frontal impacts.
The 2017 Lexus GS Turbo ($46,310) and GS Turbo F Sport ($53,980) come with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, 8-speed automatic, and rear-wheel drive. (Prices are MSRP and do not include destination charge.)
GS 350 ($50,695) and GS 350 F Sport ($54,810) use a V6 and 8-speed automatic. The GS 350 AWD ($50,365) comes with all-wheel drive and 6-speed automatic.
GS 450h ($63,635) and GS 450h F Sport ($68,680) come with a hybrid gas-electric powertrain, CVT, and rear-wheel drive.
GS F ($83,940) features a 5.0-liter V8, 8-speed automatic with Sport Direct-Shift and rear-wheel drive.
The Lexus GS asserts its identity with its large spindle grille shaped like an hourglass, framed by boomerang shapes on each side. The front bristles with the latest in LEDs around the headlamps.
The styling of the F Sport 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.
Inside, the GS seems spartan by Lexus standards, 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.
F Sports use metallic plastic that looks better than that description sounds. The GS goes against the Lexus luxury grain by piping engine and exhaust sounds into the cabin, and not just the F models.
A giant 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. High-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, with so many seams it feels like overkill.
The 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.
The 10-way power seats are comfortable and supportive, while the available 18-way power seats have heating and ventilation. The F Sport seats have more bolstering for hard cornering.
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 but the opening is wide and there’s a pass-through for long objects like skis. Cubby storage is provided in the form of a deep glove box, a center console with a sliding top, and door pockets.
The GS F model 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 GS models differ in character depending on drivetrain.
The GS Turbo powertrain has that unfortunate pause when you floor it. Even Sport Plus mode doesn’t make it go away. The new eight-speed transmission can also be fussy going uphill, too quick to upshift and downshift; sometimes you have to shift yourself with the paddles, just to get it to stop shifting too much in the normal mode.
All is better in the GS 350 with its 306-horsepower V6. With direct fuel injection, 24 valves, double overhead cams, and variable valve timing, it’s got excellent strong power above 3000 rpm. Sport mode is well-named on this model, neatly working that eight-speed transmission. It’s all in the programming.
The all-wheel-drive GS 350 with its older six-speed transmission is a bit less quick.
The 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. However there’s an F Sport package that brings back some attachment.
The GS models have electric power steering that’s nimble and communicative, and a lightweight multi-link suspension front and rear. With its stiff chassis, the GS 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 F Sports, but we don’t think the GS needs it. The GS actually feels within its element on the track.
The F Sport 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, one rear. You’ll hear it for 4.5 seconds from zero to sixty. That’s not as much power or speed as that of the Cadillac CTS-V, BMW M5, or E63 AMG, 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 front and 13.5-inch rear.
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+ mode, and put the differential in Slalom or Track mode, the F is happy to grip and rotate for you.
The GS 450h hybrid is another story. It has a semi-active suspension and a continuously variable transmission, with eight programmed steps so it feels like an automatic. The modes of Eco, Sport, sport+, and EV each further re-program the CVT and light-touch electric power steering. The brakes have regenerative rigidity with not much braking sensation. The GS hybrid is not as much fun to drive as the non-hybrid gas-powered model.
The Lexus GS is a luxury sports sedan based on a rear-wheel-drive layout that makes it a sporty, enjoyable car to drive. A range of models is available at different price points offering a range of performance and character.
Sam Moses contributed to this report.