2014 Lexus GS 350 Long Term Update: Design
There's a funny gag in an old episode of "The Simpsons," where the family is at a petting zoo. A lamb walks by, eliciting an "Aww," from the family, then another even cuter lamb walks by with an even bigger "Aww." Finally, an irresistibly adorable one complete with a pink bow walks into view, and everyone's heart melts. When the comparatively plain-looking first lamb returns, it's told "Out of the way, you," and pushed aside.
In a way, the same thing has happened with the new Lexus "L-Finesse" styling, although "cute" isn't the word we'd use. Our long-term 2014 Lexus GS 350 was one of the first new Lexus cars to sport the so-called "spindle" grille treatment. When it first debuted for the 2013 model year, we called the front view "audacious," noting that it made the rest of the car look tame by comparison. Oh, what a difference a few years makes. The spindle grille has gotten more aggressive as Lexus introduces new models, with the biggest examples -- figuratively and literally -- being the new Lexus RC coupe and Lexus NX SUV. Park our long-term GS 350 next to either of those, and what was once audacious suddenly looks anonymous.
Clean looks win us over
But that doesn't mean it's not handsome, and in fact, the restrained look makes the GS a good choice for buyers interested in the brand who don't want to drive something that shouts "GRILLE!" everywhere it goes. The body-color bar separating the two grille elements tones down the overall effect; for proof, just check out the upcoming 2016 Lexus GS-F [http://www.kbb.com/car-news/all-the-latest/2016-lexus-gs-f-set-for-detroit/2000011557/], with its much more aggressive nose. If you like the cleaner look of the current GS, you may want to jump on board as soon as you can.
Even in its current form, the nose is the most radical styling element on the Lexus GS, which is as conventionally handsome as Alec Baldwin. The rear end is downright plain, and could be from any number of modern sedans. The sleek profile's narrow windows and long wheelbase give the car an on-road gravitas befitting a luxury sedan, and the lack of styling flourishes will keep the car looking good for years. We're not sure its more dramatically styled stablemates will look as fresh after a couple years.
Wide is the inside word
The interior, never much of a source of controversy, uses a horizontal theme to make the GS feel wider and roomier than it is. It starts with the huge 12.3-inch infotainment display in the center of the dash. The screen dominates the design, and is the central control for things like audio functions, navigation, climate control, and various vehicle customizations and apps. It's all controlled through an odd little joystick like device called the Lexus Remote Touch System that features just enough redundant hard buttons to make it easier to use than you'd think.
Everything else inside emphasizes the horizontal theme. The long wood strips have a linear grain; the aluminum-look accents are also long and thin, and even the infotainment buttons on the dash are notable for their squat, rectangular shape. It all creates the illusion that the GS 350 is wider than it really is, and helps to disguise the fact that the Lexus GS is more form fitting and intimate than you'd expect, especially if you're used to older Lexus cars.
Function aside -- and there's not a huge compromise there -- we dig the looks of our long-term Lexus GS 350. Beyond any single styling detail, the whole design comes together to make the Lexus GS look more expensive than it really is. If that's not a mark of a good luxury car design, we don't know what is.
See Past Reports for our Long-Term 2014 Lexus GS 350...
More 2014 Lexus GS 350...