2013 Lexus GS 350 a fine combo

Winnipeg Free Press - Section E - - FRONT PAGE -

It also al­lows the driver to tweak the man­ner in which the GS drives. Along with the Nor­mal and Eco (for­get this set­ting!) modes come Sport and Sport+. The Sport mode al­ters the throt­tle and trans­mis­sion re­sponse, while the Sport+ mode also firms the sus­pen­sion and steer­ing as well as mov­ing the sta­bil­ity con­trol’s in­ter­ven­tion point fur­ther out.

Gen­er­ally, the Sport mode is the right one for all even­tu­al­i­ties. It’s ac­com­mo­dat­ing when tool­ing about town, yet sharp enough to tackle a more en­thu­si­as­tic charge.

The other im­por­tant F Sport up­grade is found in the brakes. The ad­di­tion of two-piece front ro­tors pushes fade out to the point where it is a non-is­sue, even af­ter stand­ing on the pedal re­peat­edly. In the end, the F Sport pack­age is well worth the $7,000 it com­mands. In­deed, I would not con­sider the GS with­out it.

The GS 350 ar­rives with a 3.5-litre V-6 engine that de­liv­ers 306 horse­power and 277 pound­feet of torque. The num­bers do a sur­pris­ingly good job of mo­ti­vat­ing 1,750 kilo­grams of leather-lined op­u­lence. I clocked the zero-to100-kilo­me­tres-an-hour run at six sec­onds and the 80-to-120-km/h pass­ing test at 4.7 sec­onds. Both times are more than up to snuff.

Lexus also did a good job of mak­ing the GS 350 pro­duce the right noises when it’s worked. The siren is re­ward­ingly throaty — there’s an acous­tic am­pli­fier built into the in­take sys­tem!

If there is a pow­er­train dis­ap­point­ment, it’s the num­ber of gears in the trans­mis­sion. Cer­tainly, the six speeds work very well with the engine and the shifts are smooth when loaf­ing along and snappy when the driver flicks one of the steer­ing wheel-mounted pad­dles.

How­ever, given the seven-speed (In­finiti and Mercedes-Benz) and eight-speed (Audi and BMW) boxes that are be­com­ing com­mon­place, it would be­hoove Lexus to drop the eight-speed trans­mis­sion from the LS 430 into the GS 350, es­pe­cially when it’s equipped with the F Sport pack­age.

On the flip side, the GS 350 F Sport is a true lux­ury car. The cabin is lined with ex­cel­lent ma­te­ri­als, the leather is first-rate and the toys are all in place, up to and in­clud­ing heated and cooled front buck­ets along with the nav­i­ga­tion sys­tem that’s in­cluded with the F Sport pack­age.

As is rapidly be­com­ing the norm, most of the GS’s key func­tions are ac­cessed via a cen­trally mounted con­troller. Yes, there are some stand­alone but­tons, but the deeper func­tions are ac­cessed through the sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion Lexus Re­mote Touch sys­tem. It looks af­ter the me­dia, cli­mate, trip, nav­i­ga­tion and phone func­tions.

The lat­ter proved to have sur­pris­ingly handy fea­tures. When an email or text comes into a paired phone, the sys­tem al­lows the driver to open it and have it read aloud by an au­to­mated voice. This sim­ple ex­ten­sion elim­i­nated the need to play with my hand-held de­vice.

The only other mi­nor com­plaint is found in the trunk. As the rear seats are fixed (there’s only a ski pass-through), the vol­ume is capped at 14.3 cu­bic feet. Thank­fully, the space is nicely squared off and, as such, all of it is us­able.

The new GS sig­nals a change in phi­los­o­phy for Lexus. It’s still pre­dom­i­nantly a lux­ury car, but it now has the jam needed to be con­sid­ered a real threat to its Ger­man com­pe­ti­tion.

More re­mark­able is the pric­ing strat­egy. The start­ing point for the 2013 GS 350 is $10,000 less than the GS 300 from a decade ago. Fac­tor in the tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances, in­creased con­tent, bet­ter per­for­mance and su­pe­rior fuel econ­omy, and the lat­est GS is a real bar­gain.

TYPE OF VE­HI­CLE: ENGINE: POWER:

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