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New Car/Review


Lexus GS400 (2000)

SEE ALSO: Lexus Rover Buyer's Guide

By Matt/Bob Hagin


     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 46,005
     Price As Tested                                    $ 50,276
     Engine Type              DOHC 32-valve 4.0 Liter V8 w/SMFI*
     Engine Size                                 242 cid/3969 cc
     Horsepower                                   300 @ 6000 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               310 @ 4000 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                  110.2"/70.9"/189.2"
     Transmission                           Five-speed automatic
     Curb Weight                                     3729 pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  19.8 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                              235/45R17 Z-Rated
     Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
     Drive Train                   Front-engine/rear-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                       Five-passenger/four-door
     Domestic Content                                        N/A
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.29


     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            17/24/21          

     0-60 MPH                                        6.0 seconds
     1/4 (E.T.)                          14.5 seconds @ 97.5 mph
     Top-speed                                           149 mph
                * Sequential multi-point fuel injection

(The Lexus GS400 changed the company's image from that of the maker of solid but unexciting luxury cars to one that makes very classy hot- rods says Matt Hagin. Father Bob says less leather and wood, please.

MATT - We've had lots of Lexus cars and SUVs since the brand sprang to life 10 years ago but the GS400 is the most exciting ride so far. It showed up in 1998 as the sports-sedan for the Lexus lineup and was designed to target the hot sedans from Europe and it did a good job. It even looks rather Germanic. And in keeping with the world-wide perception that performance in a sedan means an engine in front that drives the rear wheels, the GS400 adheres to those parameters. It has a 4.0-liter all-aluminum V8 engine that puts out an impressive 300 horses and an even more impressive 310 pound/feet of torque. This makes the car incredibly fast as well as quick with a 0-to-60 time of six seconds flat and a top speed of 149MPH. And at that, the engine is electronically limited to that speed so it could conceivably go faster.

BOB - Not too many places around here we can go that fast, Matt, but I guess is titillating to know that much speed is available. The relatively small size of the engine in the GS400 makes its horsepower and torque rating all the more outstanding. It uses what Toyota considers an infinitely-variable valve timing system that keeps the engine in a maximum possible power range at all engine speeds. The only transmission available is a five-speed automatic but it uses an interesting dual-mode system. It can be left in the conventional Drive position but for more spirited driving it can be put into its "E-Shift" position which allows the driver to shift up and down by using the buttons on the steering wheel. It's very "Formula One-ish" and lets the pilot play Grand Prix Driver on a challenging country road.

MATT - The GS400 has some interesting chassis and driveline characteristics too. The suspension front and rear is unequal-length A-arms with sway bars on both ends of the car. The brake system has a electronically controlled device that senses a panic stop by the driver and if the pressure isn't enough to activate the ABS, it applies more brake pressure up to the point of brake lockup. This works in conjunction with an anti-wheelspin traction control system and the combination makes sure that the driver would have to work hard to get into trouble. While the standard wheels on the GS400 are 16-inchers, the wheels on our test car are an optional alloy set that are 17-by-eight inches and they mount low-profile 245/45R tires that are Z-rated which means that the are good for 149-plus MPH. That doesn't mean that they'll last any longer or stick any better. It only signifies that they won't blow out from high-speed heat buildup. And if the owner is into heads-up vehicle maintenance, the spare tire and wheel matches the other four so that all five can be used in a periodic tire rotation.

BOB - Despite its hot-rod performance, the GS400 is nonetheless a very fancy luxury machine. All the upholstery is leather, of course, and that's a lot of polished wood trim on the dash and side panels. The seating is ultra-comfortable for four passengers, but if five people are to be transported for any distance, they'd better take another vehicle unless they are pretty narrow. It has a remote controlled door unlocker, of course, but the driver can not only unlock the car with it but open the windows and the moon roof as well. This is a handy item on hot summer days and allows the driver to cool off the interior a bit rather than jumping into an oven. The heating and air conditioning system is automatically controlled both front and rear and the incoming air is filtered for smog and pollen.

MATT - An GS400 option that we would have found handy is the navigation system that is positioned by satellites. It doesn't rely on inserting compact disks into it for various areas of the country and it has the voice-prompted system houses a map database for nearly 90 metropolitan areas around the country.

BOB - Matt, with a system like that, I'd never have to take your mother's advice to ask the gas station attendant where we are.