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Review : Lexus GS430 - 2003


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SEE ALSO: Lexus Rover Buyer's Guide

THE AUTO PAGE By JOHN HEILIG

SPECIFICATIONS

MODEL: Lexus GS430

ENGINE: 4.3-liter DOHC V8

HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 300 hp @ 5,600 rpm/325 lb-ft @ 3,400 rpm

TRANSMISSION: 5-speed automatic

WHEELBASE: 110.2 in.

LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT: 189.2 x 70.9 x 56.7 in.

STICKER PRICE: $52,799

I've been looking forward to driving the Lexus GS430 for quite a while. This is a sedan that's smaller than the big LS470 and larger than the entry-level ES300. It compares to the Mercedes-Benz E-Class or BMW 5-Series in size and overall performance, since the engines in all three are approximately the same size.

Our tester was powered by a double overhead cam 4.3-liter V8 engine that delivered a healthy 300 horsepower, and drove the rear wheels through a five-speed automatic transmission. This was more than enough power, even for an auto writer who's always seeking more power. We merged well with traffic and maintained speed with all the other cars on the highway with ease. All this was accomplished, as in standard Lexus manner, quietly and with minimal fuss.

A 3.0-liter 220 hp V6 is also available. Actually, I would have liked to have tried the GS300 as well, because the 430 was so nice, I couldn't imagine how anything could be less nice.

As with many of the cars we driver, the GS430 was loaded with standard goodies as well as options. The biggest ticker option was a Mark Levinson Audio/Navigation system at $3,250. I'm not necessarily a connoisseur of great sound, although I do like good music, so I thought the audio part of the equation was okay. There was a CD changer in the glove box and a cassette player in the dash, along with the AM/FM stereo.

But what saved us more than once was the navigation part.

As I have said often enough, I qualify navigation systems by their ability to find my town, my street, and if I'm lucky, my house. All were attainable with this system without the use of additional CDs that use up audio space. Most of the streets in my town were labeled with their names (oddly, mine wasn't, even though it's a more major street than some of the ones that were named). But we knew that we could find our way if circumstances forced us off the tried-and-true routes we knew.

And this is exactly what happened. We were in Lancaster County at the train museum on a day when a monsoon hit Pennsylvania. It rained all day. On the way home, we encountered serious flooding, which the Lexus handled with little fuss. All we had to do was drive sensibly through the big puddles and streams on the roads and there were no problems. My son-in-law, on the other hand, had a big 4WD Suburban, so he followed for safety.

But one road home was closed due to flooding. I thought I knew an alternate route, and the navigation system confirmed my memory. If I didn't know the route, it would have helped me home by a good back road (that also had streams and lakes on the pavement).

The suspension system in the GS430 offered a comfortable ride that wasn't too harsh. At times, though, it was almost boat-like in its softness and I might have preferred something firmer.

The seats were comfortable. After a ride like the one we had, we often emerge from a car with serious aches and pains, thanks to tension and poor seats. These seats were great. They were also heated, and while our trip was in summer, the heat reduced the probability of back pain.

Our tester was painted "blue onyx pearl," a great color. The interior had just the right amount of wood trim on the dash, console and steering wheel, as well as the shift knob.

The trunk was a good size, listed at 14.8 cubic feet. A more serious estimate of size, though, was that it would hold four golf bags (for when the rain finally stopped).

The bottom line on the GS430 was a steep $52,799, from a base price of $47,825. Besides the Mark Levinson audio/nav system, other additions were a rear spoiler with integrated brake lamp ($400), 17-inch alloy wheels ($215), the wood and leather steering wheel ($300), wheel locks ($66), trunk mat ($69) and cargo net ($59) plus delivery charge of $575.

The GS430 was a great car, and we enjoyed all it had to offer. We tested it in circumstances we've never tried before, and it did well. The price is high, but if you can't go for the full LS package, the GS isn't much lower down the line.

2003 The Auto Page Syndicate