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New Lexus GS350 first drive review

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    Lexus offers GS350 petrol V6 and GS450 Hybrid each available with the F-Sport package. Photo Gallery

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Peter Barnwell road tests and reviews the new Lexus GS350 and GS450h.

You wouldn't think Lexus was into its fourth generation of the GS model, mostly because it's been the sleeper in the local line-up. Those days could be over with the arrival soon of a bolder new model developed in the US but benchmarked against medium large European prestige sports sedans.

Design cues from the new GS including its "spindle" grille will flow through to other models in the Lexus range as they are updated or replaced. It's a new "design language" for the premium Japanese brand.

VALUE

Lexus offers GS350 petrol V6 and GS450 Hybrid each available with the F-Sport package that includes four wheel steering among a raft of enhancements. Prices are tipped to start at $79,990 for the GS350 rising to the early $100K mark for the 450h with F-Sport.

TECHNOLOGY

Drive Mode Select is a control system with four modes Eco, Normal, Sport and Sport+ selectable by dial on the centre console. Eco prioritises fuel efficiency while Sport+ optimises performance of both chassis and power train. Four wheel steering is active via an actuator on the rear axle that moves the rear wheels by two degrees of steering to enhance cornering, drive feel and stability. 

The new 3.5-litre direct injection engine features Atkinson cycle technology that delays combustion for better fuel economy on the GS450h. The new six-speed automatic on 350 offers paddle shift and throttle blip on down change in manual mode. Hybrid's battery pack now vertically stacked to provide more boot space.

DYNAMICS

The new, rigid platform offers solid base for all chassis functions steering, brakes, suspension ride and handling and even noise and vibration suppression. The power steering is electric, the brakes have electronic control and wheel sizes are 18-19-inch. 

The sporty GS350 with F-Sport package is unequivocal leader in the ride and handling department offering drive feel on par or better than anything from Europe. The four wheel steering system transform the car's feel into a sharp handling sports sedan.

SAFETY

GS is designed to meet five star safety standards with a pre-collision system, 10 air bags, stability control, anti whiplash head restraints, increased use of high strength steel in the body/chassis and driver alert monitor among a suite of primary and secondary safety features.

TECHNOLOGY

Both models use a 3.5-litre direct injection petrol V6 with Atkinson cycle on the hybrid. The petrol 350 is good for 233kW/378Nm while the 450h is good for 252kW and an estimated 400Nm combined from the petrol and electric engines.

The hybrid runs a nickel-metal hybrid battery pack mounted behind the rear seats. Transmissions are a six speed auto on the petrol and a six speed CVT on the hybrid which is capable of an incredible 6.2-litres/100km. The petrol does 9.7.

LUXURY

As expected, the GS is well endowed in the luxury department with a feature rich interior and soft leather upholstery in a wide colour range. Buyers can also chose from a range of fascia materials. And there's an optional 850 watt Mark Levinson audio system though the one fitted standard is excellent. 

The car gets Bluetooth phone and audio, ample rear seat legroom, smart key button start, multi wheel controls and numerous electric adjustments to the driving position and steering wheel. The F-Sport package brings bigger wheels, different bumpers and grille, rear boot spoiler as well as the four wheel steering and other performance and handling enhancements.

DRIVING

We must admit that this is the most performance oriented hybrid we've ever driven it really honks if you chose to drive it hard. But the 350 with F-Sport package is the one we prefer because it fulfils the role of sports sedan extremely well offering strong engine performance, rapid acceleration and excellent handling (particularly steering) in a good size package.

The brakes are strong and you can wick the GS350 right up and revel in its sporty prowess. Rear wheel drive is a big plus because of the drive feel. An engine sound generator under the bonnet enhances the whole driving experience (not on the hybrid).

VERDICT

Gets a big tick from us, certainly a move in the right direction on a whole lot of fronts particularly styling and performance.

NEED TO KNOW

  • A GS250 is under consideration.
  • Slightly bigger than outgoing model.
  • Has a skin rehydration system built into the aircon.
  • Chassis laser welded.
  • Low aerodynamic drag at 0.26Cd.

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