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Lexus GS 2012 review

Frontal styling of the new Lexus GS signals sporting intentions.

Until now the Lexus GS has been a smaller edition of its big brother, Lexus LS. With a big emphasis on quietness, smoothness and refinement, the just superseded GS, but no real sporting ambitions, it was steadily losing sales to the German luxury marques.

All that has changed and we have just stepped out of a pair of the all-new, fourth-generation GS sedans with big smiles on our faces. In the manner of the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes E-Class and Audi A6, the upmarket Japanese sedan provides plenty of driving pleasure.

Cleverly, the Japanese engineers have managed to give the GS 250 and GS 350 twin desirable attributes –it’s smooth and quiet in the Lexus manner when cruising gently but becomes a true sports sedan when you push it along hard. The engine has great induction and exhaust note and the transmission sharpens its actions to get the best torque on tap moment by moment.

This truly is an excellent grand tourer, or GT, in the true sense of that often misused acronym. You could travel at high speeds in the Australian bush all day and come back feeling relaxed and refreshed.

The styling has taken a new direction at the front and back, though the profile still carries cues of the just superseded GS. At the front the designers have come up with what they call the ‘spindle-grille’. This sees a tightening of the sides of the area to create a most distinctive shape that makes the mid-sized Lexus stand out from crowd.

Our only criticism is that the lower areas of the bumper/spoiler look as though they will be vulnerable in carparks and over poorly designed gutter ramps. Lexus is not alone in this – but that won’t reduce the size of the bill from your favourite panel repairer.

We love the interior styling of the all-new Lexus for its elegant simplicity. It could be mistaken for an Italian machine in the way the primary instruments are large, clear and easy to read at the fastest glance.

The stitching of the leather on the dashboard adds to the Italian theme, as does the centrally mounted analog clock, a feature Maserati has used with great effect for generations.

The integration of the centre information and entertainment screen into the central region of the dashboard is brilliant. Too many other marques have satellite navigation screens that look like an afterthought, the Lexus’s is just right. As well as being aesthetically pleasing, the central screen is well shielded from light.

We don’t like drivers taking their attention off the road, but in many cases they will do so even when it creates danger, so Lexus has done the right thing in helping people minimise distraction.

Lexus GS 250 is powered by a 2.5-litre V6 petrol engine that’s a heavily revised unit installed in the now superseded model. It produces more power and torque (the peaks are 154 kW / 253 Nm) than previously, but the official fuel consumption has been significantly reduced.

It’s a similar story with the 3.5-litre powerplant in the GS 350, with 233 kW and 378 Nm it gives the keen driver plenty of sporting flair, yet using less fuel and producing fewer emissions than in the superseded unit.

We tested both engines on demanding roads in and out of Albury and up into the Snowy Mountains and found the 2.5 is probably best described as adequate in its performance. Compensating for that is the fact that it’s well mated to its six-speed automatic transmission. The auto is quick to sense the need for more grunt and change down gears at a moment’s notice.

As revheads we would go for the 3.5-litre V6 any day, but saner drivers will be more than happy with the 2.5-litre.

Up to four modes are offered on the auto and on the sporting models with adjustable suspension and steering the sportier the mode, the more the driver feels in control of the GS. Four-wheel steering on topline models adds further to the sporty feeling of this bid sedan.

A hybrid version of the new Lexus GS, tagged the 450h, will be introduced on May 15th. As before, the number 450 doesn’t indicate engine capacity, but the fact that Lexus considers it provides the sort of driving feel that would normally demand a 4.5-litre engine.

With a staggering array of passive safety features to help you stay out of trouble, as 10 airbags should things still go badly wrong, the Lexus must be one of the safest cars on our roads.

Lexus is currently importing the GS to Australia in no fewer that six grades. Rather than filling in about 10 pages with all the details, may we suggest making an appointment with your local Lexus dealer and you can work together to tailor the best car for your needs.

What we will say is that there numerous body and interior colour choices; driver’s seats with as many as 20 electrically adjustable settings; Mark Levinson topline audio systems with 17 speakers; air conditioning that moistens your skin - and much, much more...

Lexus’s stunning change of direction with its GS series is a bold move. But we feel it will be immediately successful.


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Range and Specs

GS250 F Sport 2.5L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $16,700 – 23,210 2012 Lexus GS 2012 GS250 F Sport Pricing and Specs
GS450H Hybrid 3.5L, Hyb/PULP, CVT AUTO $17,700 – 24,640 2012 Lexus GS 2012 GS450H Hybrid Pricing and Specs
GS450H Hybrid F Sport 3.5L, Hyb/ULP, CVT AUTO $18,600 – 25,850 2012 Lexus GS 2012 GS450H Hybrid F Sport Pricing and Specs
GS450H Hybrid Luxury 3.5L, Hyb/ULP, CVT AUTO $16,600 – 23,100 2012 Lexus GS 2012 GS450H Hybrid Luxury Pricing and Specs
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