The Lexus LS is typified by calm and quiet but still has plenty of power under the bonnet. The Lexus GS Series, on the other hand, could be quite the opposite – not quite as calm as the LS and ES, but neither is the GS as boisterous as the IS or SC. You could probably say that the Lexus GS Series is right smack in the middle, exactly where it needs to be, because maybe drivers like you are looking for something that has a little bit of everything, and the Lexus GS Series is that car.
The Lexus GS Series, from the outside, doesn't have that cab-forward look, a trick played on the eye by long sweeping lines, a long bonnet, and a short-looking boot. Open any of the four doors, though, and you'll be pleasantly surprised by the amount of space the interior has. With room for 4 average-height adults, it is just as much a family vehicle as it is fun to drive, which is hard to say about other sedans this size. Rear headroom is lacking, so taller passengers will find better accommodations in the front seats.
As befitting its Lexus sisterhood and Toyota ancestry, the Lexus GS Series is packed with plenty of standard equipment. Safety features include electronic stability control, anti-lock braking, and, depending on the year, a minimum of dual front airbags. The Lexus GS, of course, comes equipped with luxury features like leather and wood upholstery and trim, as well as a multi-CD changer and multiple speakers for a great listening experience.
Finally, drivers will appreciate the power and handling that the GS offers, better than a smaller family sedan, but not quite as sporty as a sports car. Again, the Lexus GS Series is supposed to tread the line in the middle of the road, but Lexus may have pushed it too far to the soft side, so there's more body roll, squat, and dive than could be expected in a similarly sized sports car. That being said, curvy roads may be a bit challenging, but the GS is unparalleled in cabin quietness and overall comfort, even on bumpy roads.
From 1997 to 2004, the Lexus GS300 was powered by what many considered to be an antiquated 3.0L i6 engine mated to a 5-speed transmission. With the addition of dual overhead cams and variable valve timing, the Lexus i6 generates 168kW and 305Nm, plenty of power for a mid-range luxury sedan. Performance of the 5-speed automatic transmission was enhanced by the addition of shift buttons, used in sport mode, to the steering wheel in 2000.
The Lexus GS400, running from 1997 to 1999, was powered by a 4.0L V8 generating 224kW and 420Nm. This was plenty to push the GS 0-100km/h in under 6 seconds, leading Lexus to claim the vehicle was the fastest production sedan at that time. In 2000, the engine was upgraded to 4.3L and the name was changed to GS430 to reflect this. Power output didn't change, but torque jumped to 441Nm, giving the GS430 a 0-100km/h time of 5.3 seconds. Incidentally, the 4.0L and 4.3L engines are the same as in the Lexus LS
In 2004, the GS300 switched over to a more conventional 3.0L V6 equipped with dual overhead cams and variable valve timing on both intake and exhaust, which bumped power up to 183kW and 310Nm. This was the most powerful naturally aspirated V6 engine available at the time. A new 6-speed automatic transmission also made it into the mix for both the GS300's V6 and GS430's V8 engines. The GS300 could also be equipped with all-wheel drive, further increasing acceleration and handling.
The year 2007 saw the introduction of the world's first hybrid electric rear-wheel drive vehicle, the Lexus GS450h, which was powered by a 3.5L V6 mated to the hybrid drive system for a total output of 253kW and 0-100km/h acceleration in just 5.2 seconds. At the same time, fuel consumption for this high-tech hybrid is just 6.3L/100km.
In 2008, the 4.3L engine was dropped in favour of the new and bigger 4.6L V8 mated to an industry-first 8-speed automatic transmission, the same found in the Lexus LS460 and IS-F. The new engine generated 255kW and 460Nm, which could sprint the GS460 from 0-100km/h in just 5.4 seconds.
Everything changed for the Lexus GS Series in 2011. While the GS450h continued with the same hybrid powertrain setup, the GS300 and GS460 dropped their bigger engines for smaller V6s, specifically the 2.5L and 3.5L V6, the Lexus GS250, and GS350 respectively. The newer engines are mated to 6-speed automatic transmissions.
The GS250 is rated at 154kW and 253Nm and is slightly more frugal than the older GS300, consuming just 9.3L/100km instead of 9.8L/100km. The GS350 is rated at 233kW and 378Nm, far more frugal than the GS460 it replaced, consuming just 9.7L/100km instead of 11L/100km. The GS350 did give up 22kW and 82Nm over the GS460, but the drop in fuel consumption is a welcome addition.
As with most Lexus vehicles, the list of standard features is long and satisfying. Lexus interiors are beautifully appointed, decked with leather and genuine wood trim. Everything is power-adjustable, from the seats, steering wheel and mirrors, to windows, sunroof, and locks. Safety systems from the start have included at least front and side airbags, but most are found with the full complement, in addition to electronic stability control and anti-lock brakes, which will make getting into an accident fairly difficult to begin with. Convenience features include a 6-CD in-dash changer, fully automatic climate control with air-conditioning, and heated and cooled seats.
Optionally available on the Lexus GS is an upgraded Mark Levinson audio system with surround sound and satnav with backup camera. The power seats are standard 10-way adjustable, but these can be upgraded to 18-way power-adjustable. Heads-up display, blind-spot monitoring, lane monitoring, and even driver monitoring are also available.
The BMW 5 Series, Audi A6, and Mercedes Benz E-Class are all very good competition that even started out with lower sticker prices than the Lexus GS. Once you add in all the options that come standard on the Lexus though, the prices of these others tended to go way beyond the base price of the GS. The BMW is powerful and handles well, but it isn't as attractive and it uses more fuel. The Audi is a fairly well-built machine and certainly worth a look. The Mercedes is another refined vehicle, but you'll pay a premium at the dealer and at the pump.