Dissatisfied with the old GS 300, Lexus decided to start over, almost from scratch. The result is not one but two new cars: the GS 300, powered by an in-line six-cylinder engine, and the V-8 equipped gs 400. Both are mid-sized 4-door sedans whose declared mission is to upset the BMW-Mercedes applecart.
The inviting, easily accessible cabin has very comfortable seats upholstered in leather and equipped with power lumbar support. The driving position is very good, and the tilt- telescopic steering wheel retracts when the ignition key is removed to facilitate entry and exit. The driver’s-side seating memory (seat, mirrors and steering-column) can only be activated with the transmission in Park.
The rear bench can comfortably accommodate two adults, as long as they are not too tall — head room is tight.
The trunk is bigger than before but still just average in size, with a dual-level floor that adds nothing to practicality. The rear seat back does not fold and does not have a port to accommodate long objects.
Convenience and safety
The GS is impeccably fitted and finished but can get a bit noisy on rough pavement. Of the many storage compartments, the glove compartment is especially impressive; it houses a six-CD disc changer as well as a pollen filter.
Everything in the GS bears the stamp of quality. The various controls have a solid feel, and all are ergonomically perfect. Our one small complaint concerns the click of the turn signals, which is practically inaudible.
Comfort and convenience features include an excellent dual-zone climate system with separate driver- and passenger-side controls, and a powerful audio system.
The analog dashboard information is projected into deep dials. The projection is clear and easy to read, never tiring for the eyes.
Safety features include dual front and side air bags, anti-lock brakes, traction control, stability control, and lockable head restraints. Xenon headlamps turn night into day; other headlamps pale in comparison. The view to the rear is limited by the rear head restraints, spoiler and small window.
Engine and transmission
The silky-smooth engine is lively and progressive through most of the rev range, thanks to Lexus’s VVT-i (variable valve timing with intelligence) system. Acceleration, both standing and passing, is adequate but timid compared to the gs 400.
The six-cylinder engine is melodious, if not spirited. More work is required to make the accelerator more progressive and communicative, and to rid it of its artificial fee.
The transmission is normally very smooth, but it can be slow to downshift in quick stop-and-go driving or when slowing almost to a stop, then re-accelerating. Combined with the jerky accelerator, this can generate abrupt, annoying shifts, inconsistent with Lexus’s “Relentless pursuit of perfection”.
The GS 300 offers a very smooth ride, occasionally firm, never uncomfortable and perfectly compatible with its sport sedan status. The 300 has a very firm grip, a solid feel, and is agile and easy to handle on winding roads. When it detects a skid, the VSC (vehicle skid control) system applies the brakes selectively at one or more wheels while reducing engine power. Despite the feeling of safety, drivers should ignore the temptation to override the laws of physics.
Quick and precise, steering is a bit heavy at slow speed and should provide more road feedback. The brake pedal requires a firm foot to obtain full braking power.
The GS 300 is impeccably built underneath, an examination at the CAA-Quebec inspection showed.
Lexus classes its GS vehicles as luxury sport sedans. While the six-cylinder engine may not fully merit the “sport” label, the GS 300 is nonetheless a finely balanced car offering inspiring handling. Careful construction, quality materials and generous standard equipment are an added appeal in a vehicle built by a company recognized for the reliability of its products.