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New Car Review: 2013 Lexus GS By Marty Bernstein


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2013 Lexus GS 350

LEXUS LOOKS FORWARD
WITH GREAT NEW RIDE

by Marty Bernstein
Senior Editor-at-Large
The Auto Channel

Lexus, the luxury division of Toyota had a terrible 2011. Japan’s disastrous earthquake, resultant tsunami, then a nuclear meltdown, followed by floods in Thailand that crippled production and sales of America’s reining best selling luxury brand for months. The luxury competitors, BMW and Mercedes, turned Lexus’ adversity to their advantage and now BMW is the number one luxury selling vehicle.

But don’t count Lexus out. The factory and supply problems have been solved. They’re back, at the top of their game and very aggressive. A terrific new vehicle, the 2013 GS 350 was just introduced but this more than a new model. This is the beginning of a new Lexus that may again change the luxury car business to the chagrin its competitors.

Two decades ago when the first Lexus automobile was introduced to American buyers, the luxury car market changed forever. Detroit’s luxury vehicle leaders of that time -- Cadillac and Lincoln – were bloated barges of dubious quality that floated down the highways. Most of their dealerships were haughty, disdainful and patronizing. BMW and Mercedes were perceived as more Euro-niche than luxury with limited distribution and not yet juggernauts.


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Lexus’ objective was to establish a new hallmark in automotive luxury. Their vehicles, while not cutting edge, were smartly styled with unequaled, unparalleled and exceptional manufacturing quality, comfort and refinement. Obsessive customer service at every dealer was the rule, not the exception. This dedication changed consumer perceptions of luxury cars expectations and in the process created legions of satisfied fans. Result? While other luxury brands played catch-up Lexus became the luxury car leader for all the second half of its two decade history.


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Lexus’ new 2013 GS 350 sports sedan will lead the parade. It’s a significant departure from what most think of as a Lexus; serene, soothing, sedate, but never sporty. Fuhgedaboutit. This is sporty, cutting edge styling that sets a new direction for all future Lexus vehicles. The new GS 350 is a real sports sedan with all the aggressive styling that signals agile, quick, responsive, nimble and sporty from every angle.


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The very nice base model GS 350 sedan can be upgraded to premium and sumptuous luxury versions. There’s an F-Sport package option turns the GS into a stealth racecar. Later this year there will be a hybrid, the Lexus GS450h. Rear wheel drive is standard but there’s an AWD option too. Under the hood is a 3.5-liter V6 engine generating 306 horsepower engine and 277 lbs of torque that does 0-60 mph in 5.7 seconds. EPA-estimated ratings of 19 mpg city, 28 mpg highway are reasonable. The new exhaust produces a sound that is certain to resonate with sportscar fans. There’s a silky smooth six-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters and a drive mode selector to change settings Eco, Normal, Sport and a SportS+ option.


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The media preview and test drive was staged at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway on special courses. This alone signifies a new approach for the brand known for its serene gentility not the glamour, glitz and glitter of The Strip. What I learned in Las Vegas is not going to stay in Vegas. Two challenging layouts tested and pushed both drivers and vehicles to authenticate the new GS handling, responsiveness and performance characteristics while demonstrating its new sporty driving bona fides. Checkered flag for all the GS attributes, especially the scintillating F-Sport option package.


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The new Lexus GS sets a new standard in spacious luxury vehicle interiors again by defining quality, comfort and unpretentious elegance through its use of handsome materials, colors and attention to the smallest detail. The seats are very comfortable and adults can sit in back seats comfortably. Adding to the driving experience are the intuitive, easy to use high tech infotainment system and devices. One-push of a button operates the climate, audio, phone controls, an optional navigation system with a gigantic 12.3’ screen and a terrific audio system from Mark Levinson.

One of the best things about the new Lexus 2013 GS 350 is the price. There’s no price increase over the previous model, it remains the same, $46,900. In dealers now. The future of Lexus seems bright, doesn’t it?