The Lexus GS 350 is a performance luxury sedan that is aimed at the consumer who wants a few lavish touches in their daily driver. Someone who’s kids might be getting a little bigger and who might have some upscale passengers on occasion too. Perhaps that owner still wants a sporting vehicle but doesn’t want the neighbors to know what his car is capable of.
So why is it then that the GS 350 elicits such an enthusiastic response from the youth on the street? This sleek, classy looking machine drew an uncommon amount of attention from the hip hop crowd during our week with the car. Getting gas yesterday afternoon even the young gas station attendant informed me how sick my car was.
It has been close to two decades since Lexus appeared on the market and they have done an incredible job of marketing to one crowd, while keeping the interest of future owners. The brand marketers really ought to be proud of themselves.
So, does the GS 350 live up to all this hype? Well, in a word: Yes.
On approach to the GS, one notices the quality of trim. Brightwork that is actual brushed metal rather than plated plastic. Lamps that glisten like jewels. Then, there is the paint. Lexus finishes their cars in paint that looks so deep that it almost looks liquid. More than a few passersby commented on the depth and shine of the GS 350’s coat.
Behind the wheel, it is apparent that the fit, finish and material quality are every bit as nice as the exterior. The seats in our tester were covered in a creamy soft leather with eurostyle perforated inserts to keep things cool. The front seats use those tiny openings to channel nice cool air to the occupant’s posterior to keep things comfy on a warm day in addition to the requisite (here in Ontario anyway) bun warmers.
Our tester was so well equipped, that one would be hard pressed to come up with any gadgets that have been missed. Perhaps the only problem is that one might be hard pressed to find the ones that are there. You see, the designers have put together a beautiful space that seems aimed at people who hide every part of their life behind doors so they can enjoy the beauty of the space. While that may make for an uncluttered, serene environment, it can be a bit of a challenge if your car is a rolling office. For example, there is no console top place to sit a phone or iPod. Of course they should be conveniently stored in the center console where they belong, but that makes it tough to skip songs while driving. I know, we shouldn’t be choosing music on the road, but that is reality isn’t it? I suppose it goes without saying that the 14 speaker Mark Levinson audio system will keep the most discerning listener happy, while keeping the teenagers interested.
The designers have taken the clean lines concept seriously by hiding several controls in out of the way places behind unseen doors on the dash. Nice once you know where they are, but it took me 5 minutes to figure out how to adjust the mirrors before I headed out. That’s not to say that the controls are difficult to operate, just that us stubborn car guys who hate to use an owner’s manual need to break the habit the first time out.
On the road, the GS 350 is so quiet and comfortable that it is easy to forget that a 3.5 liter V6 is pumping out 303 horsepower and 274 ft/lb of torque through the rear wheels. That means that this not so small luxury sedan can really hustle down the road if one wants it to. Informal testing using our new Dynolicious equipped iPod showed the GS 350 blasted from zero to sixty miles per hour in only 6.1 seconds. On a windy country road, the big sedan is stable and composed. During our time with the car we averaged 12.1 L/100 km (19.35 mpg) in combined city and highway driving. Not bad for a four door people mover with a real back seat and 300 plus horsepower.
Fall is here and for many Canadians that means the kids are playing hockey again. That also means the return of our signature 3 hockey bag test. Many Canadian buyers are trading their gas guzzling SUV’s for nice sedans, so it seems like an appropriate test. Can the upscale hockey parent drag both kids to the rink along with all of their gear and Dad’s too? We were able to fit two large hockey bags, a water bottle carrier and a very big first aid kit, but a third bag would be too much. As large as the GS’s trunk is, it won’t be replacing a land tank any time soon.
In the GS 350, Lexus has created a unique vehicle. The family executive can be confident that their peers will be comfortable on the way to that important function and return home to the family, where the teenagers think that Mom or Dad’s ride is the coolest thing on the street.