KBB Editors' Overview
By KBB.com Editors
Slotting between the flagship LS 460 and the popular ES 350, the mid-size Lexus GS line occupies an admittedly modest but still notable niche in the sport sedan segment. Intertwining aggressive styling and formidable performance with typical Lexus luxury cues, it gives Toyota's premium division a very credible competitor in an arena most often associated with German offerings, including the Audi A6, BMW 5 Series and Mercedes E-Class. In addition to offering the only hybrid in this segment, the GS 450h (reviewed separately), the GS lineup consists of three gasoline-powered variants. The rear-drive GS 350 and all-wheel-drive GS 350 AWD share a common 3.5-liter V6 while the rear-drive V8 model moves from its previous GS 430 designation to new GS 460 badging for 2008, to reflect its upgrade to a larger and more powerful engine.
You'll Like This Car If...
Those demanding a vehicle that offers sporting character infused with loads of luxury touches will find the entire GS family, but particularly the new GS 460, more than capable of satisfying their multi-dimensional appetites.
You May Not Like This Car If...
For some, any proper sport sedan still must come with a German pedigree -- or at least with a manual transmission. For those folks, the GS in any guise will likely not pass muster.
What's New for 2008
The biggest news here is that the GS 460 replaces the GS 430 as the top entry in the GS lineup, bringing more power and enhanced luxury. Exterior changes to all models include revamps to the front fascia, wheel design and color choices, while the interiors feature new instrument graphics and accent bits, a broader array of wood trims and UV and infrared-reducing tinted glass.
Well-mannered, well-controlled and admirably quick with either powertrain or drivetrain combination, the GS strikes a very desirable balance of personality traits that should please all but the hardest-core sport-sedan buyers. The suspension trades off a bit of fine-edge feel in return for excellent comfort on a daily-driver basis, and the GS 460's optional Power Active Stabilizer system does a first-rate job of keeping body roll in check. Despite a slightly artificial feel, the electronically-boosted variable power steering is both quick and precise. The various supplemental handling assists can be switched off completely by anyone who really does want to press to the edge of the envelope. For those who prefer all-weather security, the GS 350 AWD deserves consideration. Regardless of model, the finely crafted cabin always maintains Lexus levels of isolation from wind and road noise.
Optional Mark Levinson Premium Audio System
Boasting 330 watts of 5.1 Surround Sound power and 14 strategically positioned speakers, the available Mark Levinson audio package delivers an auditory experience that rivals hearing music performed live. It's available with or without the DVD-based Lexus navigation system in any GS model.
Affording an even tidier look to the already business-like cabin of the GS, a concealed panel on the left side of the dash houses a bank of power adjuster switches for several items, including the power mirrors, instrument illumination levels and odometer resets. It remains out of view and out of the way until you need to access it at the push of a button.
Supple leather, brushed aluminum and bird's-eye maple help define a well-organized, well-isolated and exceptionally comfortable cabin in all GS versions. In a realm where typical Lexus levels of fit and finish abound, revamped white-on-black gauges provide great legibility, basic controls are well-positioned and an array of supplemental function switches hide discretely behind a drop-down panel on the dash until they're called into action. Nicely formed power front buckets are the best seats in the house, but even the "bucketed" rear bench has sufficient head and legroom to handle a pair of adults and the occasional smaller child in the less-hospitable center spot.
Embracing the division's L-Finesse styling language, the GS brings a legitimate sense of design passion to its sleekly flowing sheetmetal that arguably qualifies it as the best-looking Lexus sedan. For 2008, that prominent aero flair gets minor tweaking courtesy of an edgier front fascia with a bigger air inlet and new chrome grille surround. A well-proportioned glass area provides good outward visibility while bi-xenon HID headlamps and quick-responding LED taillamps make it easier for you to see and be seen, day or night. All GS models have standard alloy wheels, with the GS 350 having 225/50WR17 performance tires, the GS 350 AWD using the same size but in an all-season run-flat alternative and the GS 460 with 245/40ZR18s.
Notable Standard Equipment
True to the division's upscale persona, every GS model comes packed to please even the most discriminating buyer. Beyond stellar powertrains, you'll find leather-covered and heated 10-way power front seats (heated and ventilated in the GS 460), a comprehensive array of power assists, SmartAccess keyless locking and starting, dual-zone climate control with rear air vents, 10-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3/cassette audio, a seven-inch multifunction display screen, an advanced anti-lock brake (ABS) package, driver-switchable Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management system and front, front-side, side-curtain and knee airbags. Standard on the GS 460, and optional on the GS 350, are Adaptive Variable suspension and the corner-following Adaptive Front-lighting System (AFS).
Notable Optional Equipment
The GS options list is fairly short, with the key elements being the DVD-based voice-activated navigation system and rear backup camera, a 330-watt Mark Levinson Premium Sound System that includes the navigation package items and the Pre-Collision System (PCS) with Dynamic Radar Cruise Control. Other single items of note include Lexus Link, Intuitive Parking Assist, all-season run-flat tires, rain sensing wipers and headlamp washers and a power rear sunshade. The GS 460 also offers the computer-controlled Active Power Stabilizer Suspension System, while the GS 350 can be fitted with the GS 460's Adaptive Variable Suspension, ventilated front seats and 18-inch alloy wheels.
Under the Hood
Two impressive engines impart a definite enthusiast flavor to the GS. Both are technology-rich exercises made of weight-saving aluminum and fitted with continuously-variable valve timing that optimizes responsiveness and efficiency across the entire operating range. The 3.5-liter V6 in the GS 350 and GS 350 AWD turns out an impressive 303 horsepower and 274 pound-feet of torque, enough to send either car sprinting from zero to 60 mph in under six seconds when backed by the six-speed multi-mode sequential automatic. The new 4.6-liter V8 ups those output figures to 342 and 339, respectively. Teamed with an equally smooth and sophisticated eight-speed automatic, it allows the GS 460 to complete that benchmark sprint in less than 5.5 ticks. The sole caveat: Manual-style gear changes still must be made using the conventional console lever, as neither transmission offers steering-wheel-mounted shift buttons or paddles.
303 horsepower @ 6200 rpm
274 lb.-ft. of torque @ 3600 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/27(RWD), 18/25(AWD)
342 horsepower @ 6200 rpm
339 lb.-ft. of torque @ 3600 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 17/24
Although the Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Prices (MSRP) on these mid-size sport sedans reflect their impressive content and capabilities, they're still well in line with major competitors from Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz -- as well as the Acura RL, Infiniti M35 and M45 and, to a lower price-point extent, the new Cadillac CTS. The GS 350 starts just under $45,000, with the GS 350 AWD at $47,000 and the GS 460 close to $53,500. It's possible to add another $10,000 or more in options to any version, but buyers able to get by without things like the Mark Levinson audio or the Lexus Pre-Collision System can minimize sticker shock and still drive a very enticing car. That attraction should continue on through the years, as the GS line's projected residual values are marginally better than those of the Audi A6, BMW 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class competitors, handily exceed those of the new Cadillac CTS and match well with those of the Infiniti M35 and M45.