The first season of NBC's Fashion Star has ended...
With its 2013 GS 350, Lexus hopes to take its mid-size luxury design zeitgeist to a whole other level.
No harping on this end except, alas, I'm none to enraptured with the sedan's super-aggressive front end, which appears to be framed by a mean Fu Manchu. Now, I know for a fact that there are fans; many guys, in particular, think I protest too much. In any case, Lexus certainly gets propers for the bold approach. It will be interesting to gauge gender crossover appeal. I do truly appreciate the ride's way-broad stance, however.
That outta the way, gold stars all around for this, the GS's fourth generation. Built to rival the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and BMW's E Class, the 350 serves up top-shelf luxe and performance, beginning with the uber-robust 3.5-liter V6 plus dual Variable Valve Timing. the powerplant makes 306 fully grown and aggressively potent horses. What's more, its 277 ft.-lbs. of torque hustles one energetically away from the line. Fun times, when due pressure's applied to the metal. We tested that on the track out here.
And even when it isn't, that is, during normal tooling, driving is potent but refined, what we've come to expect from Lexus. These are delightful driving dynamics, marked by on-point handling and a new suspension system that really helps with corners. Lexus is convinced, after all, that this segment's shoppers want a more visceral driving experience.
And don't let the brawn fool you; this is one nimble whip, helped, for one thing, by a tranny with speedier shifts. The 350 zips around playfully, but with the gravitas of a statesman. Polish and joy ... a rare combination. A stiffer structure built on a whole new platform makes for precise, heady driving, all to the tune of growly exhaust notes. Did I mention that GS braking's also been bettered? And that the ride, overall, is pretty darned quiet?
Inside, the Lexus is a Lexus, offering all the niceties one expects, including plenteous wood and metal touches and a rather elegantly sculpted dashboard that features a new high-resolution display on which drivers can track, among others, an efficient, energy-saving automatic climate control system; Remote Touch, which allows operation of the audio; navigation (optional); telephone and other units. Also standard are a backup camera and Bluetooth capability.
Other innovative whistles include Lexus Enform, a system that uses mobile phone technology to offer beefed-up connectivity and information management. It's pretty awesome, I must say. Bing can be used for searches, and voice-enabled apps are there for dinner ris-vips, or to, say, buy flowers for your mate if you know you're running late. Can even check Facebook. Nifty technology, for sure.
Options include a kick-tail Mark Levinson audio system, radar-operated pre-collision system, Night Vision system, Heads Up display, and Lane Keep Assist. Airbags abound throughout the 350. No dearth of bells, and the whistles ain't bad either.
Lexus touts a newly spacious interior but, sitting next to my drive mate, the car felt somewhat snug. The trunk, however, is decidedly more roomy. (No, I didn't get in it).
Available in all-wheel drive and rear-wheel drive, the GS 350 presents a lot of technology and, yes, edgy design. Give Lexus credit for upping the ante on the design and more-engaged driving front.
Available starting for around $46,900. One thing's for sure with this entry: Lexus ain't standing pat.