2003 Lexus GS430 Review


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SEE ALSO: Lexus Rover Buyer's Guide

DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD WITH CAREY RUSS

    The Lexus GS series marks its tenth anniversary in 2003. Not 
only has it been a successful line for Lexus, the GS's influence can 
be seen and felt in some of its competitors as well.
    When the GS 300 debuted for the 1993 model year, it put Lexus 
into the mid-luxury sedan segment in a serious way with Italian-
inspired styling, more interior space than most competitors, and a 
high-performance inline six-cylinder engine. When it was unveiled 
for the 1998 model year, the second-generation GS had some 
surprises. The styling, while an evolutionary development of the 
original's, was much bolder than expected from Lexus at the time, 
and the 4.0-liter 300-horsepower, V8-powered GS400 served 
notice to the European sport-luxury manufacturers that Lexus was 
seriously after the sport portion of the market as well as the luxury 
side. In 2001, the V8 GS became the 430, with a 4.3-liter V8. 
Horsepower, never a problem, stayed the same, and torque 
increased. There was joy in Lexusland, if not in Germany.
    Changes since then have been minor. For 2003, the power 
moonroof, CD changer, and heated front seats with perforated 
leather upholstery that were formerly optional are standard 
equipment. I've been reacquainting myself with the GS430 for the 
past week. Immediately comfortable and well balanced, it combines 
style,  Lexus luxury comfort, serious power, and sport sedan 
handling in its own unique way. 

APPEARANCE: The GS's exterior styling has aged well, with only 
minor trim changes since 1998. Its distinctive four-eyed face 
descends from the original Lexus SC400 coupe, and its shape, with 
its long, prominent passenger cabin, relatively short front and rear 
decks, and short overhangs, is very different from the sports or 
luxury sedan norm. The gently-rounded near-fastback design of the 
car is complimented by sharp character lines, and looks more like a 
coupe than a sedan. Discreet chrome trim gives a contemporary 
luxury look, while the bright reflective surfaces of the headlights 
give it an interesting character.

COMFORT: Interior space has been a hallmark of the Lexus GS 
since its inception. If its place in the Lexus lineup is between the ES 
and LS, it is closer to the LS in size, and larger than many 
competitors. The interior features the Lexus trademark dark-over-
light design with leather upholstery and genuine walnut trim. The 
10-way power-adjustable front seats - with driver's side memory - 
compare very well with those of the GS's European competitors. It 
is a driver's car, with a tilt and reach power-adjustable steering 
wheel allowing the perfect driving position, and a well-placed shift 
lever for drivers who wish to over-ride the automatic transmission's 
computer. ``Optitron'' backlit analog gauges are easily visible in all 
circumstances. Despite the sleek roofline, there is first-class head 
and leg room for the two outboard rear passengers. As is usual in 
contemporary sedans, the center rear position is best-suited for 
small people and short distances. The CD changer is found in the 
top of the glovebox, which still has useful space. The optional DVD 
navigation system is now bundled with the Mark Levinson 
audiophile-quality sound system. The nav system has a useful split-
screen display; the Levinson audio system combined with the GS's 
soundproofing and acoustics is simply amazing.

SAFETY: All 2003 Lexus GS models have a strong passenger 
compartment with three-point safety belts for all occupants, and 
front and rear crumple zones, dual front and front side airbags, and 
front side curtain airbags. The Brake Assist system engages the 
four-wheel antilock disc brakes more fully in emergency stops, and 
the Vehicle Skid Control (VSC) stability system aids control in 
difficult and low-traction situations.

ROADABILITY: Sport and luxury get equal billing in the GS 430. 
Its fully-independent double-wishbone suspension is tuned firmly 
enough for spirited driving on scenic backroads, yet is compliant 
enough for long distances on the Interstate. It is never harsh or 
tiring for the driver or passengers, even with the optional 45-profile 
sport tires. There is enough feedback through the steering and 
suspension so that while the driver and other occupants are 
insulated from major road shocks, they are not isolated from the 
driving experience. While it's not as nimble on a tight road as the 
smaller IS 300 - remember Physics 1A, especially the part about 
mass and inertia, and the GS is a fairly large, heavy car - it's 
definitely as happy on a tight and twisty road as it is on the 
Interstate.

PERFORMANCE: The smaller IS 300 may be the premier Lexus 
sports sedan these days, but big brother still is the undisputed 
performance king. With 300 horsepower and 325 lb-ft of torque, 
the GS 430's namesake 4.3-liter V8 can move the car from a stop to 
60 mph in under six seconds. VVT-i variable valve timing helps 
broaden the torque curve, improve efficiency, and lower emissions. 
Although there is no manual shift mode, the five-speed automatic 
transmission has regular, sport, and winter modes that do make a 
noticeable difference in response. And, with the engine's strong 
torque, shifting is not often necessary. When it is, the transmission 
performs with all of the smoothness and refinement expected in a 
Lexus.

CONCLUSIONS: The Lexus GS430 combines style, power, and 
prestige.

SPECIFICATIONS
2003 Lexus GS430

Base Price			$ 47,825
Price As Tested		        $ 54,199
Engine Type			dual overhead cam 32-valve V8 with 
                                 VVT-i variable valve timing
Engine Size			4.3 liters / 262 cu. in.
Horsepower			300 @ 5600 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)			325 @ 3400 rpm
Transmission			5-speed multi-mode electronically-
                                 controlled automatic
Wheelbase / Length		110.2 in. / 189.2 in.
Curb Weight			3715 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower	        12.4
Fuel Capacity			19.8 gal.
Fuel Requirement		91 octane unleaded premium gasoline
Tires				P235/45 ZR17 Bridgestone Potenza RE030
Brakes, front/rear		vented disc / solid disc,
                                 antilock and brake assist standard
Suspension, front/rear		4-wheel independent double wishbone
Drivetrain			front engine, rear-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		18/23/20
0 to 60 mph				5.8  sec
1/4 mile (E.T.)				14.3 sec
Coefficient of Drag (cd)		0.29

OPTIONS AND CHARGES
Mark Levinson Audio/Navigation System - includes:
  Mark Levinson 10-speaker, 240-watt premium
  audio system, Lexus DVD-based navigation 
  system					$ 3,250
Rear spoiler with integrated brake lamp	        $   440
17-inch chrome wheels with summer tires	        $ 1,915
Cargo net					$    59
Trunk mat					$    69
Wheel locks					$    66
Delivery and processing			        $   575

Complete specifications on the 2003 Lexus GS 430 (basic) and other vehicles are available at the New Car Buyers Guide!

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