Estimated reading time:6 minutes, 31 seconds
Photography by Jaze Haze Photography
FEATURED TRIM $61,260 … MSRP $54,810
Lexus was Toyota Motor Corporation’s attempt, back in the late ’80’s to have a model line up to compete with the European luxury marques; Mercedes Benz, BMW, Jaguar and the like. The 1990’s saw the first full year of Lexus sales in the US, notably the LS400 and ES250 sedans. The GS, which I will be reviewing debuted in 1993. It has been a few decades since it’s introduction as Lexus’ first mid-size RWD sedan and to that end, on offer this week is the 2017 GS350 F Sport. My 2017 Lexus GS350 F Sport is finished in a gorgeous Smoky Granite Mica with Flaxen leather and Naguri Aluminum trim interior. You might already have known about the GS350, the F Sport designation alluding to the “sportier” variant of the model. This typically will include cosmetic and mechanical changes/upgrades to the standard model line. The “F Sport” designation appears on many of Lexus’ model lineups as the marque tries to also emphasize a sporty character along with luxury.
The 2017 GS350 F Sport is equipped with a 3.5L V6 with DI & PFI (Direct Injection, Port Fuel Injection). The engine produces 311Hp and 280 lb-ft torque driving the rear wheels. Coupled with that engine, is an 8 Speed automatic transmission with steering wheel mounted paddle shifters. Interesting note, in 2006 Lexus incorporated the first production eight-speed automatic transmission in an automobile with the LS 460. There is Bi-Level LED Intelligent High beams, LED daytime running lamps and LED taillights. On the transmission front you can select from 4 Drive Modes; Eco, Normal, Sport and Sport. The F Sport package adds a laundry list of convenience and Sport-related items to the already impressive list of luxury and convenience features you would expect of a Lexus. Notably, 18″ 5-Spoke Alloy wheels, unique F Sport front fascia and grille, F Sport badging, rear spoiler, F Sport-tuned Adaptive Variable Suspension, Variable Gear Ratio Steering, 4 wheel steering (added cost option). There are also upgraded black brake calipers, F Sport seats, Naguri Aluminum interior trim and a black headliner are some of the many upgrades and enhancements to the standard model.
The Interior is finished in Lexus’ Flaxen leather with Naguri Aluminum trim. Despite its outward size, it is relatively smaller inside than it appears, not a huge factor but worth considering if you intend on adding to your short list. The seats are 10 way adjustable with upper and lower lumbar power adjustable controls and powered side bolsters. They are perforated and offer heating and cooling features – I tried the cooling feature, nice! The headliner and pillars appear to be finished in a nice Alcantara-like material. Rain-sensing wipers, auto dim rear-view inside and outside mirrors add to the list of features. There’s ‘Smart Access,’ which allows for auto locking and unlocking of the doors when you are in proximity with the key fob. Additionally the GS offers touch sensor door handles; push button start, dual zone climate control, power rear sunshade which automatically lowers when you put the vehicle in reverse. This can be disabled by just turning off the rear sunshade feature.
For infotainment, there is a massive 12.3″ screen. The screen serves multiple functions such as; navigation, vehicle information system and settings, radio display, climate control, etc. Most of the functions can be controlled via the Lexus’ ‘Remote Touch Interface’ – I’m not a fan. It is akin to using a mouse while driving. I found it not as precise and a tendency to “jump” over the option you are trying to select or enable. Trying to position the cursor exactly on the option I wanted to choose was not without effort, especially when in motion. Most manufacturers nowadays have adopted a scroll wheel of some kind, and personally think it is the best (input) approach, for controlling these systems especially when in motion. The ‘HUD’ display is adjustable for height and brightness. The ‘HUD’ also shows vehicle speed, NAV turn-by-turn directions and enabled safety features. There is an abundance of safety systems; Lane Keeping Assist, BSM (with Rear Cross Traffic Alert), All Speed Dynamic Cruise Control, TRAC, as well as all of the usual suspects you would expect for a modern vehicle and especially one in this class of vehicle.
So, what is it like to drive the 2017 Lexus GS350 F Sport? I have mixed impressions. Subjectively, I think it looks great, is sporty-looking and comfortable – except for the front fascia, the massive spindle grille that Lexus and Toyota for that matter, slap on almost their sportier cars is a bit over the top in my opinion. My challenge with the vehicle is that it is trying to be something I am not convinced it is. It has the outfit, attitude, but the delivery is a bit contrary to that. Indulge me if you will, the engine is fantastic with a nice throaty sound when its on song. However, the transmission is its achilles heel. The 8 speed seems too eager to shift early and I tried in both Sport and ‘Sport+’ modes, resulting in a “lazy” shifting feel. Plus, I did not detect any noticeable difference at lower speeds in either modes. You’re probably thinking, at low speed why would you expect brisk acceleration? Having driven other vehicles that had varying driving modes, once you switched to the more engaged mode you immediately noticed the revs jump a bit with throttle response more immediate. In the GS350 F Sport, not as much, in fact to simulate that immediacy of the Sport/Sport + modes, I would have to stomp on the accelerator to force it to hold the gear and maintain the higher revs. The steering felt artificially heavy although better than overly light, I suppose? The car drove a lot heavier than I expected especially for a “Sport” model, with tuned suspension, more dynamism, etc. One positive on the steering side was the available 4 wheel steering, at moderate speeds turn-in was very crisp and the car practically rotated into the turn. In sum, at least for me, this car would make a great highway cruiser, it is quiet and smooth and those 8 gears will get to play on a nice long road trip.
Of note, rumor has it that the 2018 model year could be the last year for Lexus’ sporty midsize luxury sedan. There just might not be a place in the lineup for this rear-driver. According to the Lexus Enthusiast blog on Jalopnik, “Toyota has suspended development of a next-generation GS, which would make next year the GS’ last. The automaker hasn’t verified the supposed scoop, but the original source cites the model’s positioning within the brand’s lineup as the reason for its eventual cancellation.”
For the 2018 model year, Lexus’ LS model with a V6-only powertrain and improved driving dynamics. There will therefore be the smaller IS, mid-size ES and the GS (maybe?) essentially slotting between the IS and ES. With the potential move for the ES to be more sporty, leaves not much room for the GS. Last year, Lexus moved 14,878 GS sedans in the U.S., a decrease of 36 percent compared to the previous year. Of course, things change in the automotive industry and perhaps increased sales can justify its future? If you are looking for a sporty-looking ride, and cannot part with the proven Lexus build quality, resale value and comfort, and don’t mind the smaller interior space of the GS over the ES for example, the GS is a good pick. However, there are other options that might deliver more sport, Jaguar, BMW, Mercedes, Audi come to mind.
- Price as tested: $61,260
- MSRP: $54,810
- HP: 311HP
- Fuel economy: 19/27
- Vehicle Provided by Lexus USA
Photography by Jaze Haze Photography