Remember Quint from Jaws? Of course you do… he was the gruff fisherman that promised he could save the beach community from a menacing Great white shark. That character didn’t simply spring forth from the mind of Peter Benchley. The character of Quint was based on a real fisherman named Frank Mundus. In the film, Quint’s boat was called Orca but the real boat is called Cricket II. It still exists, but it’s currently rotting under a tarp in the same small Connecticut boatyard where my father in-law keeps his cabin cruiser tied up.
It’s a funny place, this boatyard. It’s right on the edge of some exceptionally wealthy areas of Connecticut and Rhode Island. One of the favorite chariots of the New England elite is nearly any machine wearing a Lexus badge. For many years this meant that blissful blue bloods would shuttle their broods in comfortable cars that lacked any real driving emotion.
Much like Jaws arrived to the town of Amity and shook things up, perhaps the latest line of Lexus products can do the same. The biggest surprise to don the new predator front fascia is undoubtedly the reworked GS, and I just so happen to have brought the GS 350 to the land of red pants, nautical belts, and boat shoes.
I don’t need a bigger boat… I’ve got over 300 horsepower.
It may not be the GS 350 F-Sport I recently sampled back on Southern California roads. Still, it’s the version most likely to wind up valet parked at the Ocean House in Watch Hill. It’s got all-wheel-drive so it makes sense to get seat time in this while back east… even if it’s 90 degrees out and I’ve been formerly re-introduced to humidity.
What a vile bastard.
In the car, humidity isn’t much of an issue though because I’ve got a cooled seat. My front passenger does too. Additionally, the air conditioning cools the cabin so quickly its like I dumped a tub of Del’s lemonade into the vents.
Since this is a new Lexus I’m also treated to the wide info screen situated atop the center stack. It’s nearly shocking that it’s taken an automaker so long to plop something like this into place. I can view my navigation info on one side while still eyeballing what track is playing on my iPod. I can control climate functions with the mouse-like control unit on the side of the screen while I keep the next turn I’m taking on my route clearly displayed. It’s intelligent design…the good kind.
Cozy cabin aside, the part of the Lexus GS that stands out the most is the ride and overall driving experience. This is no longer a cushy cruiser aimed solely at providing a cloud-like ride. Instead, Lexus engineers have dialed in sport, and they’ve dialed in plenty of it. I’ve driven the aforementioned GS 350 F-Sport on a track, and it’s a surprisingly competent performer. Turn-in is sharp, the steering feel is direct, and the engine allows you to stay on the power so you come out of turns with luxurious quickness. On top of that, the traction control allows for some delightfully meaty burnouts. This is a Lexus GS that enjoy brake stands, lady and gentlemen.
The all-wheel-drive version I’m in won’t be torturing any tires the way the rear-wheel-drive GS does but it does apply similar levels of way-too-wide smiles to my face. The backroads around the Connecticut-Rhode Island border are twisting and abundant. I drop my family off at the marina so they can get the boat ready… oops, I forgot something back at the house. I’ll be back quickly. I intentionally leave my phone behind so I can have an excuse for some alone time with the car.
Twist the dial to put it in Sport+ and I’m glad I left that phone where I did. The engine awakens and the throttle response quickens. At each corner, the suspension has firmed up, and now the transmission is eager to snap to the next gear on both up and downshifts. Dip deeper into the throttle and the intake noise starts to roar in a way that even the most conservative red-panted New England bystander couldn’t help but let out a slow “…daaaaamn” of approval.
I “find” my phone, shuttle back to the boat, and meet my family for a wonderful day out on the water. Parked and resting back at the marina sits the 2013 Lexus GS 350. Nearby sits the decaying remains of Cricket II. A boat that once prowled a classical image of New England coastal towns. The Lexus sits there ready to inform that classical bit of New England that there’s a new form of luxury motoring. Like the titular shark from Jaws, this L-badged beauty has arrived to shake up the establishment.
In this fight, you’re going to need a bigger BMW.
[Disclaimer: Lexus loaned me the 2013 GS 350 AWD for a few days while I was back east visiting my family. The car came with a tank of gas, which I promptly used because my wife and I need to trek between New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut every time we head back east.]
[Images copyright 2013 Hooniverse/Jeff Glucker]