Finally, after years of half-hearted attempts, Toyota’s high-end division, Lexus, has a luxury sport sedan that can challenge the Germans at their own game.
With the 2013 GS 350, such icons as BMW’s 5-Series and Audi’s A6 now have a worthy Japanese adversary.
Other than a couple of specialty models, Lexus has generally tilted toward the luxury side of the equation, while the sport aspect took a back seat. But for 2013, the GS 350’s sport is baked in — and it’s pretty tasty.
Derived largely from the previous GS generation, Luxus has lavished a number of revisions on the midsize sedan to virtually transform it into a class-leading challenger.
Most obvious is the dynamic styling, sporting Lexus’ aggressive new “spindle” grill design. The new car appears much more hunkered down and athletic than the old one did (even though it’s slightly taller and wider), a look borne out by the extensive under-the-skin modifications.
The revised and retuned suspension system delivers on the promise proffered by the sharp styling. Lexus’ vaunted highway ride is still smooth as silk and nearly silent, but the previous floatiness is tempered with a newfound, firm-but-compliant approach that also delivers a confident level of road-hugging handling .
Our test sedan came with the optional all-wheel drive, a system so transparent you’d never know it was there. Which, in fact, I didn’t until I glanced at the trunk lid and noticed an indiscreet “AWD” badge after having driven the car for a couple of days. No doubt the AWD contributes to the GS’ athletic prowess.
Powering the midsize sedan is a supersweet, twin-cam V-6 that delivers its power through a six-speed autobox. Its 306 horsepower propels the 3,800-pound car with a luxury car’s hushed ease — until your foot issues a demand for full-on acceleration. Then the engine comes alive with a snarl accompanying the rapid rise in revs, revealing the sporting side of this drivetrain.
The GS’ interior is a near-masterpiece of comfort, ergonomics and top-flight assembly. Thanks to a pricey ($6,530) Luxury Package, virtually every convenience feature imaginable was crammed into our tester’s leather-lined, wood-trimmed cabin, from heated and cooled 18-way adjustable front buckets to rear-seat heaters to an Adaptable Variable Suspension with Sport mode.
Additional options included a navigation system and a killer Mark Levinson surround-sound audio system with seventeen (!) speakers.
Those of you fortunate enough to be able to consider a car in this category should not hesitate to comparison-shop the GS 350. One drive will make your decision just that more difficult.