Mercedes-Benz E-Class coupe 2009 review
Zoom along the centre lane on the autobahn out of Stuttgart in Mercedes new coupe and glance at the...
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If Lexus is synonymous with anything it is refinement. Nobody to blame but themselves for that one. Ever since the first Lexus emerged from the back door of the Toyota garage, determined to make its own way in the world the key performance target is `how quiet can we be'.
The measure of how good the NVH boys at Lexus really are is in the level of criticism the badge receives for isolating the driver from the rest of the environment. At the pinnacle of that refinement evolution is the super-smooth LS460. Drifting along in its own little cocoon of silence, the LS is the current ultimate expression of no-fuss motoring. A little pricey for the average buyer, but what price such peace and quiet.
Trouble is, as Lexus has found, not everybody wants to experience the world from behind layers of laminated glass and sound-deadening foam.
For those with only moderately large budgets, Lexus offers the rather more sporty IS range. But what about those who like the idea of luxury — and have the budget to indulge it — but also feel the need for just a little bit of the `rough'. For those particular few there is the GS range, or — to be more precise — the GS460.
The range-topper in the latest generation of GS cars has picked up much of what makes the LS a segment-leader but in a guise that promises a more visceral experience.
It snorts and snarls a little more than would be acceptable for an LS, hunkers down a little more and transmits a little more of what is going on outside the cabin. But don't be fooled. It's no sporting hero, rather it's a gentleman athlete, and paradoxically, not quite the athlete the LS is. It is what it misses out on in coming to market some $50,000 more affordable — cheaper doesn't seem the right expression — that defines the GS460's ultimate athleticism.
While it gets the same 4.6-litre V8 coupled to the same breakthrough eight-speed gearbox packaging the engine into the different body has taken a toll. The need for a different manifold and exhaust has stripped the GS460 of a degree of punch. Power is down 25kW while the torque has been trimmed by 33Nm over the 493Nm in the LS. The upshot is that despite less weight and a more aggressive nature, the GS is a touch less “sporty” than big brother in the Savile Row suit.
While the GS can put the 0-100km/h sprint behind in a none-too-tardy 5.8 seconds, the LS can get to the same mark in 5.7s with even less fuss.
Punch the GS along and the impression belies the raw figures. The car feels a little more lively, a touch more engaging than the LS.
On its variable suspension the GS rides with either a comfortable firmness or a broken-surface absorbing plushness. The sportier ride actually suits the feel of the car better but neither is unpleasant.
As with the LS the steering is light and less communicative than a true sports car, yet the car turns in nicely and the suspension does a grand job in controlling the considerable weight shifts at play during enthusiastic pedaling. A switchable stability control takes care of those moments when ambition overtakes ability but such is the giving nature of the system that there is little reason to turn it off outside a track environment.
The classy sportsman theme continues inside the cabin, with an oddly pleasing mix of brushed aluminium and wood trim. A soft blue glow from the instrument panel is both easy on the eyes and easy to read. Lexus claims the system to be unique, relying on variable-transparency glass to minimise reflections from the gauge faces and help optimise visibility in all lighting conditions.
The GS shares the wonderful Mark Levinson 14-speaker sound system from the LS along with a new arrangement of audio and telephone controls on the steering wheel.
The GS460 also features 10 airbags, dual-zone climate control with pollen filter, heated and ventilated front seats with 10-way power adjustment, one-touch power windows, smart entry and start (keyless), Bluetooth mobile phone capability, rear-view camera with eight parking sensors, power moonroof, and active cruise control.
The GS460 is an interesting exercise in maximising pioneering and expensive engineering. It takes much of what makes the LS an impressive unit and repackages it to embrace a small but well-heeled segment not ready to shake off the last vestiges of youth — yet not young and foolish enough to want to spend more time than necessary being uncomfortable.
|GS450H Hybrid||3.5L, Hyb/ULP, CVT AUTO||$10,100 – 15,180||2008 Lexus GS 2008 GS450H Hybrid Pricing and Specs|
|GS300 Sport||3.0L, PULP, 6 SP SEQ AUTO||$7,000 – 10,780||2008 Lexus GS 2008 GS300 Sport Pricing and Specs|
|GS460 Sport Luxury||4.6L, PULP, 8 SP SEQ AUTO||$12,300 – 17,820||2008 Lexus GS 2008 GS460 Sport Luxury Pricing and Specs|