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Lexus GS 2018 review

Is the Lexus GS a luxury sedan contender?
EXPERT RATING
7.3
Lexus has a distinct positioning in the new car luxury segment, with design-led offerings across a broad range. The full-size GS sedan is aimed at the German big three.

Ah, yes, the Lexus GS. Toyota's luxury off-shoot had high hopes for the new big boy when I first saw it a few years ago. Not thousands-of-sales high hopes, but the company thought a rear-wheel drive luxury sedan stacked with gear you didn't even know you wanted would be a dead-set winner.

And to be fair, they were right. I ran a GS as a long-termer and it was impeccably-mannered. In hybrid form. It wasn't sparkling, but my goodness, it used barely any fuel; especially impressive given its size.

As the sun is surely setting on the GS, it's time to have a look and see if it's a match for the BMW 5 Series or the Mercedes E.

Lexus GS 2018: GS350 F Sport
Safety rating
Engine Type3.5L
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency10L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$64,020

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   8/10

We had the pleasure of the GS 350 F Sport for the week, which is well over $10,000 cheaper than the Luxury and is therefore the 'default. If you're not sure what F Sport means, it's Lexus' answer to an M Sport or AMG pack, without all the high-powered engine shenanigans to go with it. If that's what you're after, the V8-powered Lexus GS F is definitely for you.

The F Sport has a spectacular standard features list. The F Sport has a spectacular standard features list.

Starting at $95,300, the F Sport has a spectacular standard features list - 17-speaker stereo, 19-inch alloys, variable-geared four-wheel steer (!), adaptive suspension, dual-zone climate control (with moisturising function), hectares of leather trim, head-up display, electrically-operated heated and ventilated front seats, rear sunshade, F Sport instrument screen, auto LED headlights, keyless entry and start, sat nav, front and rear parking sensors with around-view cameras and a space-saver spare.

The media system is run from Lexus' 12.3-inch screen embedded in the dashboard and controlled from an infuriating console-mounted mouse-clicker with a couple of shortcut buttons. It really is spectacularly irritating and made worse by the rotary dial stationed next to it that acts as the drive mode selector. Why not use that instead? 

As ever, the system is mildly baffling to use and hard to look at, but the sound is absolutely lovely from the Mark Levinson-branded speakers. Lexus is persisting with a DVD player but it also has DAB+.

Is there anything interesting about its design?   7/10

The GS is ageing well, but it's still a bit heavy-handed around the headlights and a little on the slabby side along the flanks. It doesn't look poised for action, even with the F Sport additions, but nor does it look frumpy, mostly due to the whopping blacked-out spindle grille, a Lexus signature. 

It doesn't look poised for action, even with the F Sport additions. It doesn't look poised for action, even with the F Sport additions.

The rear end is good looking but a bit bluff, again neither surprising or delighting.

Little has changed inside, but it's still a very nice cabin, and always will be apart from a couple of clangers (the gear shifter looks super-cheap). 

What's more, it's welcoming, lots of very nice materials, comfortable, seats - it's exactly what it needs to be. Whatever you might think of the looks, one thing is absolutely certain - if anyone builds cars better than Lexus, it's a very, very short list.

How practical is the space inside?   7/10

Being a big car, there's plenty of room inside. Four passengers will be very comfortable although rear legroom was a bit on the skinny side given the car's size.

Rear legroom is on the skinny side given the car's size. Rear legroom is on the skinny side given the car's size.

The cabin contains a good-sized console bin, four cupholders and each door pocket into which you could conceivably slot a bottle.

The 520-litre boot is a useful shape, with a sensible load height and a space-saver spare under the floor. The 5 Series and E Class both best the Lexus by 10 litres, so the GS isn't far off the norm.

The BMW 5 Series and E Class both best the GS by only 10 litres. The BMW 5 Series and E Class both best the GS by only 10 litres.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   8/10

Lexus fits a 3.5-litre (2GR-FKS) naturally-aspirated V6, delivering 232kW/380Nm to help shift the 1745kg GS. Power goes to the rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic. Lexus claims the sprint from 0-100km/h is completed in just six seconds.

How much fuel does it consume?   6/10

A real world 13.7L/100km is a solid miss of the claimed 9.3L/100km, which itself is hardly earth-shattering. It's a big heavy car and that's the penalty. It drinks fuel fast, so the 66-litre fuel tank does drain quickly and it's worth knowing you have to fill it with the 95 RON or better.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   7/10

The GS scores 10 airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, forward AEB, active cruise, auto high beams and lane departure warning with lane keep assist.

The GS doesn't have an ANCAP or Euro NCAP rating while the USA's IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) rating is good for each key crash-worthiness measure. The IIHS suite of tests is quite rigorous but differ from our ANCAP/Euro NCAP standards.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

4 years / 100,000 km warranty

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   8/10

There's one area where Lexus smashes the Germans and that's after-sales. While the warranty is hardly ground-breaking at four years/100,000km and service intervals are reasonable at 12 months/15,000km, it's how it all comes together.

For the duration of the warranty, when the car needs a service, Lexus will either come and get it then return it to you, or give you a loan car. Anecdotal evidence suggests this continues long after the warranty runs out. Like, 10 years after the warranty runs out. 

This is a small thing, but if there's one thing I hate about car ownership, it's the servicing experience. If I was a betting man, I'd dare you to find someone who genuinely has a problem with Lexus after-sales care.

On top of that, you get a generous roadside assist package for four years. 

What's it like to drive?   7/10

There are things you expect in a Lexus. Quietness. Composure. Smoothness. The GS delivers all three of those things effortlessly. But it has a few extra things in its bag that I can't say I was expecting.

For a start, the 3.5-litre V6 moves the car without any carry-on and in doing so, I was constantly amazed at how quickly the speed in the head-up display reached the posted limit. It just doesn't feel or sound like a six second car, but there you are. The transmission is virtually faultless, the engine sound distant and refined, the power impressive.

It's a heavy car, no question, but two things work to make it feel much lighter. First - and it doesn't matter which mode you choose - the adaptive suspension somehow knocks about 200kg out of how heavy the car feels. The brakes, while a little soft on pedal feel when you first step on them, are very effective and again help to make the car feel lighter than it is.

The four driving modes are quite distinct. As usual, Eco makes everything soft and doughy or as I prefer to say, unpleasant. Normal is great for every day, with just the right throttle response and steering weight.

Moving to sport ups the aggro slightly while Sport+, while never harsh, firms everything up to the point where it starts to feel like a different car. Sport+ makes the car feel race-car pointy, the suspension holds the body in check and the power seems readily available without jerky progression

The all-wheel steer is a big part of the change in feel. It's is especially sharp in Sport+ mode. The steering's gearing changes up quite a bit, meaning a lot less steering lock required for your favourite hairpin bend. Of course, at real speed it all calms down because neither you nor Lexus are fond of sneezy lane-changes or Armco-swiping. At first I thought it just made the big car feel a bit too nervous but as I got used to it (and was able to dial it down by switching back into a less racy mode) I found it fun but a little bit out of character with the car itself.

And just because it's the F Sport, that doesn't mean it can't do all the things you'd expect from a Lexus. You can still waft, you can still creep up on people and it's really very comfortable when you're cruising or stuck in traffic. 

Verdict

Weirdly, given all the good things I've had to say about the GS F Sport, it doesn't quite hang together. It's missing that certain something the Europeans have in their chassis, particularly the BMW 5 Series, and with ageing interior tech, it's struggling to keep up.

It's a car built for specific tastes, and they're more California than Straya. And that's perfectly okay, but unfortunately, that doesn't translate to a stampede of buyers. Having said that, none of its German rivals (or its beleaguered Japanese counterpart, Infiniti) could claim wild sales success either.

The GS is a terrific car, underrated but also just not quite there for my taste. The GS F, though, that's another thing altogether.

Does Lexus even register on your big luxury sedan radar? If it does, what stops you from taking the plunge?

Pricing Guides

$98,010
Based on third party pricing data
Lowest Price
$57,420
Highest Price
$138,600

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
GS-F ALCANTARA 5.0L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO $110,990 – 127,600 2018 LEXUS GS 2018 GS-F ALCANTARA Pricing and Specs
GS-F ANILINE 5.0L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO $120,560 – 138,600 2018 LEXUS GS 2018 GS-F ANILINE Pricing and Specs
GS350 F Sport 3.5L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO $64,020 – 73,590 2018 LEXUS GS 2018 GS350 F Sport Pricing and Specs
GS450h Hybrid F Sport 3.5L, Hyb/PULP, CVT AUTO $82,610 – 94,930 2018 LEXUS GS 2018 GS450h Hybrid F Sport Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7.3
Price and features8
Design7
Practicality7
Engine & trans8
Fuel consumption6
Safety7
Ownership8
Driving7
Peter Anderson
Contributing journalist

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Pricing Guide

$64,020

Lowest price, based on third party pricing data

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