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Having driven the Lexus LFA supercar at Sandown Raceway last year we were well aware of the stunning capabilities of this aristocratic Japanese automobile manufacturer.
Noted initially for superbly built but somewhat bland vehicles, Lexus has shown its LFA to be the harbinger of a whole range of raw-edged premium product. Now comes the subject the car that’s the next step in the Lexus line-up, the GS 350.
Our car was an F Sport, which, at $107,497, falls in the middle of the new GS 350 range and it let us relive the sheer delight of our LFA track time. Information - there is a stack of this - is presented to the driver on an 8-inch LCD colour screen on the central dashboard. A cursor can be navigated around the screen by means of a joystick on the centre console to seek out the info required.
A high resolution image is also projected from the rear-view camera to which reversing guidance is added, while driving information such as speed, gearshift position, tachometer, navigation instructions and pre-collision warning can be shown by a new vertically adjustable head-up display projected onto the lower windscreen directly in the driver’s line of sight.
All passengers can ‘plug in’ to entertainment from a Pioneer 12-speaker, 299-Watt Lexus premium audio system, while all the latest connectivity kit - USB and AUX inputs for iPods or USB flash drives to play MP3/WMA files - are at their disposal.
The 3.5-litre engine of the GS 350 produces 27 per cent more power (233 kW) and 22 per cent more torque (378 Nm) than the previous Lexus GS 300, plus improved fuel economy and lower carbon dioxide emissions.
Mated with a six-speed sequential automatic transmission with steering wheel-mounted paddle shift the GS 350 is capable of reaching 100 km/h from rest in 6.0 seconds on the way to a top speed of 235 km/h. Expect F Sport fuel consumption to drop under 8 litres per 100 km cruising on the open road. But in built-up areas the V6 can take care of close to double that volume of fuel.
It’s easy to spot the Lexus LFA supercar DNA in the GS 350 F Sport jigsaw - large mesh side grilles, with central upper and lower grille helping to gulp cooling air into the engine compartment. That, and the daytime running lights, present an aggressive face to oncoming traffic.
Airflow is put to work in other ways with ‘aerodynamic damping’ in which air is brought closer to the body to help control vehicle stability and enhance handling. A clever design of rear spoiler, narrow panel gaps and minimal protrusions add to aerodynamic efficiency.
As well as the exclusive front grille and bumper, and F Sport badging, the GS 350 F Sport models feature a grey metallic paint finish to the rear diffuser, providing a backdrop to large dual exhaust outlets. The sporty look is finished off by dark coloured 10-spoke, 19-inch alloy wheels incorporating black Lexus ‘L’ logo centres.
The Lexus F Sport is a four-door, five-seat sedan/coupe, whose interior includes matching door and seat upholstery that can be optioned in Garnet (red), along with textured aluminium highlights.
While occupants settle into 20-way electrically adjustable front bucket seats, the driver can take advantage of an LFA-inspired dimpled steering wheel and gear knob, and aluminium pedals and dashboard trim. Exclusive F Sport decor is completed by black logo scuff plates and steering wheel badging.
All Lexus GS models have 10 airbags and take advantage of the active safety features of ABS anti-skid brakes, Electronic Brakeforce Distribution, Brake Assist, Traction Control and Vehicle Stability Control all controlled by the advanced Lexus Vehicle Dynamic Integrated Management system.
Other safety aids include a blind spot monitor and radar warning of other vehicles in the vicinity, plus auto high-beam headlights which automatically dip when detecting an oncoming vehicle or rounding a bend. A further system keeps an eye out for driver fatigue.
Lexus’ advanced ride and handling were augmented on the test vehicle by a couple of high-tech systems which contribute greatly to safety, driving satisfaction and convenience. Drive Mode Select allows the driver to choose between ‘Eco’, ‘Normal’, ‘Sport’ and ‘Sport+’ putting emphasis on the car's environmental efficiency or dynamic abilities.
In ‘Eco’ even the climate control temperature, airflow volume and seat heater activation are regulated, further reducing fuel consumption; in ‘Sport’ the powertrain is geared towards more responsive driving inputs, including throttle response and engine characteristics; ‘Sport+’ works on steering and chassis control for an even more sporty drive.
The Eco mode, as expected, was as economical with driving excitement as it was with fuel use, Sport and Sport+ being the mode of choice for more direct contact with the GS 350’s driving style. After all, this was the F Sport.
The new F Sport also has rear-wheel steering for the first time on a Lexus in Australia. The Lexus-devised Dynamic Rear Steering turns the rear wheels the opposite way to the front wheels at speeds up to approximately 80 km/h, for tighter turns and increased cornering performance. The turning circle is cut by almost half a metre at parking speeds.
Above approximately 80 km/h, the front and rear wheels turn in the same direction for increased high-speed stability and a more natural-feeling vehicle posture in high-speed corners. The tendency to oversteer is also avoided.
In Sport and Sport+ this steering function really came into its own with sharp turn-in and reduced body roll on fast bends, while the GS 350 - at nearly five metres long and two metres wide – backed up the confidence to tuck in to some tight parking spots.
Paddle shifting, using the Sports Program Direct Shift from the Lexus IS F, produced a particularly pleasing fast shift pattern with throttle blipping on the downshift. The paddles work in both manual and automatic modes.
Such is the all-new Lexus GS 350 F Sport’s comprehensive set-up it allowed driver (and passengers) to experience many facets of travel – from that of stately luxury sedan to out-and-out raw-edged sportscar rush.
Lexus GS 350 F Sport
Price: from $107,497
Warranty: four years/100,000 km
Engine: 3.5-litre 6-cylinder, 233 kW/ 378 Nm
Transmission: six-speed sequential automatic transmission
Thirst: 9.7 L/100km, CO2 emissions 225 g/km
0-100 km/h: 6.0 seconds
|GS250 F Sport||2.5L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO||$22,550 – 27,830||2012 Lexus GS 2012 GS250 F Sport Pricing and Specs|
|GS450h Hybrid||3.5L, Hyb/PULP, CVT AUTO||$26,070 – 32,120||2012 Lexus GS 2012 GS450h Hybrid Pricing and Specs|
|GS450h Hybrid F Sport||3.5L, Hyb/ULP, CVT AUTO||$26,510 – 32,780||2012 Lexus GS 2012 GS450h Hybrid F Sport Pricing and Specs|
|GS450h Hybrid Luxury||3.5L, Hyb/ULP, CVT AUTO||$23,650 – 29,260||2012 Lexus GS 2012 GS450h Hybrid Luxury Pricing and Specs|