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2015 Lexus GS 350 F-Sport Review

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Review By Steve Purdy
Senior Editor
The Auto Channel
Michigan Bureau

This Lexus GS350 fit into our schedule as we returned from a trip to Arizona where we did a travel story on the Toyota 4Runner exploring the Sonoran Desert. We picked up the GS350 at the airport and we had not gone 20 miles before my pretty wife declared, “I want one of these!” She didn’t say that about the 4Runner.

She was not even behind the wheel but it is clear she felt the solid silkiness and sensed the luxurious nature of this wonderful sport sedan. Unfortunately, I only had four days with the car instead of the usual week, but having reviewed it before and having had some track time with it at a launch event a few years ago, I can confidently give it high marks in just about all categories, including price.

Sixty grand may sound like a lot of money for a mid-size, rear-wheel drive, four-door sedan but you get a lot for your money. Actually, the base price is fifty (including all-wheel drive, $48,600 with just rear-wheel drive) but we have ten grand in options on our test car. The main option is the F-Sport Package that includes cosmetic enhancements inside and out and a ton of performance goodies like: 19-inch split 5-spoke alloy wheels with summer tires, adaptive sport suspension, sport drive modes, variable gear ratio steering, performance brakes and sport seats. We also have the Pre-Collision and blind spot warning systems, heads-up display and a couple other extras.

The GS line includes two hybrids, the GS450h and the GS450h F-Sport starting at $61,330 and ‘$69,130 respectively, and a model called “The Crafted Line” starting at $55.070. The latter is the F-Sport with lots more trim and 8-speed automatic.

Exterior styling is a few years old now with a modest version of the bold spindle grille the brand has become known for along with LED lighting, deep cheek cutouts, short overhangs, big wheels and tires, and enough character lines to look modern. We expect a redesign before too long that will certainly bring much more brash styling details reflecting the Lexus brand’s new design language.

The most recent update of the GS resulted in some interior design upgrades as we expect in all automotive redesigns. It seems interiors are where the manufacturers get the most bang for the buck. With an analog clock in the center of the dash, a large navigation and mulit-function screen, premium materials and impeccable fit and finish there is no question we are in a seriously high-end car. Sliding into the generous and firm driver’s seat we’re surrounded by an ambiance that fits the refined character of the car. The rear seat looks and feels larger than something from the mid-size category. Trunk space is decent at something over 14 cubic-feet but the opening is quite limited making it difficult to load big suitcases.

The Lexus acoustic engineers have done a marvelous job of managing the sounds this car shares with us. It is dead silent inside under normal highway conditions even at extra-legal speeds on less than ideal pavement, like sections of I-94. But when we put our foot in it a throaty roar reminds us of the significant power we have at our disposal. In fact, I’d say it even exaggerates the sound as if we had a barely contained V8 under the hood.

The power comes from a 3.5-liter, quad-cam, four-valve, V6 making 308 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque. I must say it feels like more. The six-speed automatic can be manually managed either by the shifter on the console or paddle shifters on the steering wheel. The EPA estimates we can get 26 mpg on the highway, 19 in the city and 21 mpg combined using premium fuel. Our experience was mostly urban and suburban with no long highway jaunts and we averaged 21.9. Three driver-selectable modes allow us to calibrate engine, transmission and chassis dynamics to maximize efficiency or performance – Eco, Normal and Sport. The sport mode triggers, among other functions, a brash ambient red light at the top of the instrument cluster.

Our test car also has the “Driver Attention Monitor,” a little censor mounted on the steering wheel looking right into the driver’s face that can ostensibly tell when we get drowsy at the wheel. It did not catch me paying too little attention to the road but similar systems have in the past as I spent too much attention on my surroundings.

Compare the Lexus GS line to German competitors - BMW 5-Series, Audi A-6 and Mercedes E-Class - and you’ll be impressed. Lexus’ reliability and quality scores may tilt the equation their way a bit. If you compare this F-Sport to the Germans’ high-performance models you’ll find the Germans will offer you lots more horsepower with bigger engines in most cases, but not necessarily more overall performance if you compare 6-cylinder versions.

This GS350 F-Sport is for folks with a taste for power and sophistication. While there are many mid-size, rear- and all-wheel drive luxury sport sedans from which to choose you’ll find many more pricey than this one, and some faster but you would do well to put this one on your shopping list.

ęSteve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved

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