More taut than sport
Lexus took on the big German brands with build quality but rivals have a lively edge
Look around you on the road and you’ll see heaps of Benzes, BMWs and Audis, standing out with their distinctive threepointed star, blue-spinner and interlinked ring badges.
By rights you should also see Lexuses but sadly they don’t stand out like the big three Germans. This is ironic, given that Lexus, the Japanese prestige brand, was conceived to compete with the German luxury car brands if not beat them at their own game.
Lexus build quality certainly shook the Germans up and obliged them to lift their game. They still dominate the luxury end of the market.
Lexus remains a bit player, held back by its close relationship with Toyota, the car for the common man.
When new, the rear-wheel drive GS had the qualities normally associated with the Lexus brand — build quality, refinement and comfort — but it also brought a level of sportiness not previously associated with the brand.
There were two six-cylinder GS300s, the Sports and the Sports Luxury, and the V8 GS430.
Inside the well-appointed cabin, the front seats were luxuriously proportioned and padded, and there was plenty of travel for tall occupants.
For rear access, you needed to duck a little to avoid hitting the coupe-like roofline and seating could be tight if the front passengers slid their seats back. Tall passengers could find the headroom limited.
The 3.0-litre V6 was a new, direct-injection engine. It had plenty of torque across a broad rev range, which delivered great driveability and miserly fuel consumption.
The 4.3-litre V8 was smooth, refined engine shared with the LS luxury sedan.
Both engines were used in conjunction with smooth, seamless six-speed sequentialshift automatics.
Despite the attempt at sportiness, the GS came up short for some when measured against rivals, but in comfort and refinement terms the new model was streets ahead. In a used car, quality is paramount. A car that is well designed, engineered and wellbuilt should give less trouble.
This is where the GS300/ GS430 — designed and engineered to the highest standards and built to a quality level unseen before — comes into its own. It still surpasses German rivals even though the Germans have improved in response to the competition.
As owners we have spoken to confirm, you can buy a used GS300 or GS430 with confidence that it will give you good trouble free motoring even after accumulating quite high mileage.
The engines and transmissions are bulletproof, the chassis stands up well, and you’re hard-pressed to find a squeak or rattle in the body.
Indeed, if you do hear a squeak or rattle you should be suspicious that the car might have been involved in a crash.
Even though the GS300/ GS430 is a high quality car you should still check for crash repairs, careless driving in the form of bumps and scrapes as well as a regular service record.
I’ve been buying Lexus cars, new and used, for more than 10 years. My latest is a 2011 GS300 Sports Luxury I bought with low kilometres. As with the others, this is a spectacular driving experience, it drives and handles with a sporty bias but is refined and comfortable, and to date utterly reliable.
The GS430 is all about driving excitement. It has a great balance between sportiness and comfort but still works well for my family.
A family member has owned a Lexus GS300 for a number of years and the only issue is a rattle from the dash. Everything else is great.
I am on to my second GS300, a 2009 Luxury Sports with 93,000km on the clock. I have had no mechanical or electrical problems with either vehicle. The finish inside and out is first-class, the car is very comfortable, quiet, reliable and a joy to drive. On a country trip, 7.5L/100km is the norm. My wife loves the car and would not have anything but a Lexus. Neither would I. Very hard to beat if you want a quiet, refined and reliable used prestige car.