Did you know that the design of the first-generation Lexus GS was penned by the sexy shape makers at Italdesign Giugiaro? That car was shaped in 1988 before it became the real-life 1991 Toyota Aristo. It eventually arrived stateside in 1993 as the Lexus GS 300, and slotted itself as a more affordable luxury alternative to the Lexus LS while also offering more substance than the entry-level ES. It took a generation for the GS to catch on though, because it wasn’t until the second-generation 1998 GS hit dealership that the model began to rise in popularity.
Everything that goes up eventually comes down though, because the third generation 2006 GS was a bit of a snooze fest. It was certainly more refined and luxurious than the models that came before it, but the styling fell deep into the family look. Lexus vehicles are typically understated and shoot for subtle elegance. The GS, however, was always the wild child of the family that offered up something more for enthusiast shoppers.
Now the time has come to return to its stand-out roots. Lexus has an all-new GS and it seems exterior aggression is the order of the day. Have the designers gone too far? In order to break out of the standard Lexus look, we say you can’t go far enough and the 2013 Lexus GS 350 F-Sport is the perfect anti-Lexus Lexus.
I’m going to cut right to the chase here: I really like the new GS. There’s a bit of a disclaimer needed though, because I’ve only driven one model, and it’s the GS 350 F-Sport you see here. Lexus asked which variant we wanted to drive as the automaker offers the car in 350 (RWD or AWD), 450h (the hybrid), and (our favorite) the F-badged variant. What makes the F-Sport better than its non-F brethren? The exterior design is much more aggressive thanks to the front fascia that was possibly styled H.R. Giger (citation needed). On top of that, the GS gets upgraded wheels and tires and it’s also available with an optional dynamic handling system as well as a rear-wheel steering system.
Earlier, we said this car is the anti-Lexus Lexus, and that’s because it’s a blast to drive. Under the hood sits a 306-horsepower quad-cam 3.5-liter V6 engine. The mill is paired with a paddle-shiftable six-speed gearbox that responds slower or faster depending on the driving mode you’ve selected. Lexus have engineered a system that can be switched between ECO (Boo! Hiss!), Sport S (Not bad…), and Sport S+ (Woo hoo, we have a winner!). Each rung up the performance ladder leads to revised throttle response, suspension firmness, and transmission gear shift times. This is not simply a good-looking middle-management ferry, it’s a surprisingly agile luxury sports sedan that will do donuts around the CEO and his LS.
Our initial impressions of the car resulted from the first glance of the exterior. It’s the interior, however, that deserves a bit of virtual applause. We’ve never been fans of the interior styling found in the average Toyota or Lexus vehicle. Inside the GS though, this is a cabin space that seems to have come from a different automaker. It’s stylish, modern, comfortable, supportive, and all around wonderful. Stealing the spotlight is the massive 12.3-inch screen sitting atop the center stack. Firing this thing up is akin to bringing home your first HD televsion. The crisp display can be split into two different sections so you can view a large map while also checking out the weather, your stocks, or what is playing on your iPod. If you do have an MP3 device plugged in, you’ll get to enjoy the sound through the 17-speaker Mark Levinson audio system. Mr. Levinson knows how to shove speakers into cars, and the result is crisp and clear tones at almost all volumes.
All of that luxury, style, and technology doesn’t come cheap of course. The base price of the 2013 GS 350 is $46,900, and the starting price of the F-Sport is $52,590. Still, the starting price of the non F-Sport is a bit lower than the competition while the F-Sport brings the price right in line with the likes of the BMW 535 and Audi A6 3.0T.
What Lexus has done with the all-new GS 350, is provided a car that stands in delightful contrast to the rest of the product lineup. However, it’s nice to see that the influence of the GS is rubbing off on the rest of the family. This GS wasn’t the first to stand out either, because the IS-F super sedan and LFA super car both show that Lexus knows how to build an entertaining or mentally intoxicating machine. If the new GS can help be a guiding light for the rest of the brand, we might be in for more treats down the road.
[Disclosure: Lexus let us borrow the 2013 GS 350 F-Sport for a week and included a tank of gas. Insert something funny here about the time spent with the car, yadda yadda, I need some coffee.]
Images copyright 2012 Hooniverse/Jeff Glucker