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First drive: GS marks Lexus rebirth
All-new Lexus GS luxury mid-sizer gets serious against BMW, Benz and Audi
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3 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 – some $20,000 less than the previous entry-level model – $89,900 for the GS350 and $99,900 for the GS450h (available from May 15), the latest mid-sized luxury sedan contender boasts more space, strength, equipment, technology, safety, value and driver appeal than its underachieving eight-year old predecessor.
Each of the three engine variants is offered in three model grades – Luxury, F Sport, and Sports Luxury.
“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. Last time we only had four models, so now you can choose your specification level and choose your engine.”
Mr Evans acknowledged that a lack of rear-seat entry and egress, headroom and legroom, as well as boot space, were “a major turn off” for buyers of the old model.
While all these things have since been rectified, the marketing will emphasise design and driveability to attract new customers to the fold.
Key to the car’s long-term success is the lower entry point, 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 standard specification, according to Lexus.
The base GS – which Lexus expects to account for the biggest share of sales – includes 10 airbags, leather-accented interior, a blind-spot warning system, tyre pressure monitors, a reverse camera with parking sensors, bi-Xenon adaptive headlights and LED driving lights, a three-setting drive mode system, rain-sensing wipers, digital radio, satellite-navigation with traffic alerts, Bluetooth telephony and audio streaming, dual-zone climate-control, heated and ventilated front seats, 10-way electric front seats with driver’s memory settings, keyless entry and starting, and metallic paint.
The GS350 Luxury is almost $8000 cheaper yet significantly more powerful and better equipped than the old GS300 Sports, while the GS450h Luxury costs almost $27,000 less than its single-model $126,800 predecessor.
Power for the new base model comes from a 2.5-litre all-alloy 24-valve V6 petrol engine with dual VVT-i variable valve timing that produces 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 CO2.
The 3.5-litre dual-injection V6 in the GS350 produces 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 (only 0.1L/100km and 7g/km better than the old 183kW/310Nm GS300).
Both V6s drive the rear wheels via a six-speed automatic 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 hybrid model is powered by a 252kW Atkinson-cycle 3.5-litre V6 teamed with an electric motor and a continuously variable transmission (CVT), pushing it to 100km/h in 5.9s, using 6.2L/100km (a 20 per cent improvement over the old hybrid) and emitting just 137g/km (EU spec).
Work commenced in 2006 on the all-new chassis (which is also set to underpin the next-generation IS in much modified form from later next year), with the suspension, steering, brakes and electronics undergoing a complete overhaul.
The front suspension consists of a new double-wishbone set-up, the rear is a redesigned multi-link design, the electric rack-and-pinion steering is linked to the Drive Mode Select system, the brake control is also electronic, and the F Sport models get unique suspension calibration.
The GS350 F Sport has an upgraded brake package (with two-piece rotors for greater performance) as well as a pre-collision system, the Lexus Dynamic Handling System, which incorporates variable gear ratio steering, and a four-wheel steering system designed to enhance stability, manoeuvrability and control.
Electronic variable damper control is at the centre of the Adaptive Variable Suspension feature that’s also on the F Sport and Sports Luxury grades.
Lexus claims a 14 per cent increase in torsional rigidity, thanks mainly to the increased use of ultra-high-tensile steel and laser welding.
While the use of forged aluminium and other lightweight materials has seen the body weight drop by 30kg, overall mass has increased by about 100kg, with kerb weight ranging from 1720kg to around 1800kg.
Though the new GS has similar basic measurements as the old one, there is slightly more interior space and a 23 per cent larger boot (530 litres).
F Sport models are distinguished by unique 19-inch alloy wheels, sports pedals, specific interior trim, a body kit and different grille treatment.
Among other items, the Sports Luxury has a 12.3-inch multimedia display (said to be the largest on a production car), 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 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, the cabin materials used are meant to elevate the ambience, much work has gone into improving the cabin ergonomics, and new seat designs are designed to cut fatigue and improve support.
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