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Car reviews - Lexus - GS - Sedan range

Launch Story

4 Apr 2012

COMPLETELY redesigned, comprehensively reengineered, and priced to undermine the BMW 5 Series, Mercedes-Benz E-Class and Audi A6, the fourth-generation GS marks the rebirth of Lexus in Australia.

On sale now from $77,900 for the GS250, $89,900 for the GS350, and $99,900 for the GS450h available from May 15, the latest midsized luxury sedan contender boasts more space, strength, equipment, technology, safety, value, and driver appeal than – as well as a whole new look compared to – its underachieving eight-year old predecessor.

Each of the three engine variants (GS250, GS350 and GS450h) is offered in three model grades – Luxury, F Sport, and Sports Luxury – to greatly increase customer choice and satisfaction.

“We were very conscious of the fact that the last GS was down on engine variants, on models, and price, compared to its rivals,” admitted Lexus Australia chief executive Tony Cramb.

“But with the introduction of the all-new GS we have the opportunity to redress the situation.”

While Lexus Australia marketing and aftersales manager Peter Evans declined to divulge volume forecasts, he said the new model’s sales spike in Europe so far is a good omen for Australia.

“(With the old car) we were at five to 10 units a month, and the Germans have been achieving for some months 150, so there’s a middle ground in there somewhere that we would like to share,” he said.

“We’ve got nine models – and it’s the first time we’ve had such a comprehensive model range – and last time we only had four models… so now you can choose your specification level and choose your engine.”

Mr Evans acknowledges that the old GS’ lack of rear-seat entry and egress, headroom and legroom, as well as boot space, were “a major turn off” for buyers while all have since been rectified, the marketing will emphasise design and driveability to attract new customers to the fold.

Key to the latest iteration’s long-term success is the far-more accessible entry price, which not only puts the GS250 Luxury on a par with the BMW 520i and Audi A6 2.0 TFSI, but also represents a 20 per cent reduction on the previous base GS300 Sports at $97,814 while containing 20 per cent of extra added value in terms of standard specification, according to Lexus.

Even the base GS, for instance, includes 10 airbags, leather-accented interior, a blind spot warning system, tyre pressure monitors, a reverse camera with parking sensors, Bi-Xenon high-intensity discharge headlights with Lexus’ Adaptive Front Lighting System and LED driving lights, Drive Mode Select that allows the driver to choose between Normal, Eco (efficiency) and Sport (response) settings, rain-sensing wipers, digital radio reception, satellite navigation with Suna traffic alerts, Bluetooth telephony and audio streaming, dual-zone climate control with heated and ventilated front seats, 10-way electric front seats with driver’s memory settings, keyless entry and starting, and metallic paint.

Similarly, the GS350 Luxury is almost $8000 cheaper yet significantly more powerful and better equipped than the old GS300 Sports (though it is the same price as the limited-edition X version of 2011), while the GS450h Luxury costs almost $27,000 less than its single-model $126,800 predecessor.

Yet it is the smallest engined model that is at the heart of the GS250 that is expected to account for the biggest share of sales during this generation’s seven or so year lifecycle.

Dubbed the 4GR-FSE, the 2500cc 2.5-litre all-alloy quad cam 24-valve V6 petrol unit features dual VVT-i variable valve timing to produce 154kW of power at 6400rpm and 253Nm of torque at 4800rpm. Capable of 225km/h, it reaches 100km/h from standstill in 8.6 seconds, averages 9.3 litres per 100km and pumps out 215 grams per kilometre of carbon dioxide emissions.

The 3456cc 3.5-litre quad-cam 2GR-FSE dual-injection V6, meanwhile, delivers 233kW at 6400rpm, 378Nm at 4800rpm, a 0-100km/h sprint time of 6.0s on the way to 235km/h, 9.7L/100km and 225g/km – with the latter figures being 0.1L/100km and 7g/km better respectively than what the old 183kW/310Nm GS300 managed.

Both V6s drive the rear wheels via an Aisin-supplied six-speed automatic gearbox fitted with sequential paddle shifters. GS chief engineer Yosihiko Kanamori said that a close-ratio eight-speed automatic based on the transmission found in the LS range is under development but some way off, adding that the current unit is too smooth and linear for a sports sedan application.

The GS450h, meanwhile, is powered by a 252kW direct/port-injection Atkinson-cycle 3.5-litre V6 that teams with an electric motor and a CVT continuously variable transmission to hit 100km/h in 5.9s, use 6.2L/100km (a 20 per cent improvement over the old hybrid) and emit just 137g/km (EU spec).

Work commenced on the GS’ all-new chassis (which is also set to underpin the next-generation IS in much modified form from later next year) during 2006, with the suspension, steering, brakes and electronics undergoing a complete overhaul.

The front suspension consists of a new double wishbone set-up while the rear is a redesigned multi-link design electricity powers the rack and pinion steering system, and is linked to the Drive Mode Select ‘Sport+’ mode on the F Sport and Sports Luxury models to conform to the operator’s desired weight and input the brake control is also electronic and the F Sport’s suspension calibration is unique.

The GS350 F Sport has an upgraded brake package (with world-first two-piece rotors for greater performance parameters) as well as the LDHS Lexus Dynamic Handling System that incorporates variable gear ratio steering and stability/manoeuvrability/control-enhancing four-wheel steering called Dynamic Rear Steering in Toyota-speak, and a pre-collision system. All work in unison in the GS350 F Sport with the VDIM Vehicle Dynamic Integrated Management Step-5 system, and are supposed to provide improved responses and driveability.

Electronic variable damper control is at the centre of the AVS Adaptive Variable Suspension feature that’s also on the F Sport and Sports Luxury grades.

With over 1.6 million kilometres of testing conducted on the autobahns as well as at the Nurburgring track in Germany and the Fuji Speedway in Japan, the Lexus was benchmarked against the E60 5 Series and W211 E-Class models of the time.

The upshot is a 14 per cent increase in torsional rigidity – thanks mainly to the increased use of ultra high-tensile steel and laser welding methodology – while the employment of forged aluminium and other lightweight materials has seen the body in white drop by 30kg. But overall mass has increased by about 100kg, with kerb weight ranging from 1720kg to around 1800kg depending on the model.

Though the new GS has much the same basic measurements as the old one, it is 25mm taller and the front, the rear wheels have been pushed forward a few millimetres, and the tracks are about 20mm wider to improve dynamic balance and interior space. Rear seat space rises 20mm, headroom increases between 25mm (rear) and 30mm (front), and luggage space is 23 per cent larger, at 530 litres. Overall length/width/height and wheelbase ratings are 4850/1840/1455/2850mm respectively.

Its unique 19-inch alloys, sports pedals, specific interior trim, body kit, and different ‘Spindle Grille’ treatment easily distinguish the F Sport.

Among other items, the Sports Luxury has a 12.3-inch screen for the navigation/vehicle controls system, a driver alert monitor, the pre-collision system, 20-way adjustable seats, head-up display, a 17-speaker Mark Levinson audio system, three-zone climate control with rear controls, automatic high-beam control, side and electric rear window sunshades, and upgraded leather and woodgrain interior treatment.

Rounding out the changes, the fourth-gen GS debuts the company’s new ‘S-Flow’ energy-saving climate control system that apportions directional heating/cooling where it is most effective the screen on vehicles fitted with the 12.3-inch multimedia display is the largest on a production car the cabin materials used are meant to elevate the ambience much work has gone into improving the cabin’s ergonomics and new seat designs are supposed to cut fatigue and improve support dramatically.

Shoring much stronger customer support than before through innovation, passion, design, and customer involvement is what the new GS aims to achieve.

“The next step is to increase our market share,” Mr Cramb said.

“What I can guarantee is that the future of Lexus is as exciting as it is extensive. The GS is the genesis of this renewed product focus.”

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