By Samuel Ee
The styling of the new Lexus GS is nothing short of revolutionary for a brand often viewed as safe and sometimes dull. But what's interesting is that it appears the Japanese luxury marque now has a more dynamic drive to match its dynamic new looks.
GS stands for Grand touring Sedan and the fourth generation of this mid-sized sedan has the privilege of introducing the carmaker's new design direction. Characterised by the distinctive spindle grille and arrowhead lamps with LED running lights, this new face will be replicated on future Lexus models.
Despite the brand-new styling, though, the new GS body has exactly the same overall length and wheelbase - 4,850 mm and 2,850 mm, respectively. But a couple of other dimensions have changed to favour handling. One is the front overhang's reduction by 10 mm, which means the rear overhang is now 10 mm longer, and the other is the wider track - 40 mm more in front and 50 mm behind.
Together with improved aerodynamics and body rigidity, as well as a brand-new chassis, the main aim was to make the GS fun to drive.
Torsional rigidity has increased by 14 per cent with the use of hot-pressed ultra-strength steel, while the front double wishbone and rear multi-link suspension set-up use more aluminium to reduce unsprung weight.
Aluminium is also present in the wood and leather-lined cabin, which is a striking departure from the previous boring Lexus interiors. The brushed metal draws the eye to the elegantly simple centre console, where it is used for the centre air vents and analog clock, as well as the almost futuristic-looking audio head unit and knobs.
The lack of buttons, and hence clutter, is down to the use of the Remote Touch Interface mouse-operated controller. It accesses the various vehicle functions like climate, audio, phone and navigation using a 12.3-inch colour monitor - the world's biggest onboard LCD screen.
Overall, the equipment level of the new GS is high. The blind spot monitor comes standard, and so does the rear centre armrest with integrated controls for the audio and air-con systems as well as the rear electric sunshade.
For those who prefer to be chauffeur-driven, the front passenger seat can be controlled more easily with buttons on the side. But for those who prefer to get behind the wheel, the GS should be a revelation. There are two V6 engines - 2.5 and 3.5 litres - to drive the rear wheels. Mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, both powertrains are essentially carried over from the previous GS. The GS350 packs 316 horses and 378 Newton-metres of torque for a body that weighs in at 1,650 kg. That may not sound like much but the way the power is delivered is extremely entertaining.
For a relatively large Lexus, the GS350 performs enthusiastically. Enter a corner and turn-in is sharp. Enter it faster and more aggressively and you can even make the tail slide out a little although control is easily regained by easing off the gas. And you don't have to be particularly lead-footed to get the GS350's rear wheels to spin.
The car is most agile in Sport+ mode, with the Active Variable Suspension giving it poise and confidence. The body control is good and the steering, while slightly on the heavy side, is precise.
|Price:$280,000 (both with COE)
Engine: 3,456cc V6
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Max Power: 316 hp @ 6,400 rpm
Max Torque: 378 Nm @ 4,800 rpm
0-100kmh: 6.0 secs
Top speed: 235 kmh
Fuel consumption: 12.6 litres/100km (city-highway)
CO2 emissions: 225 g/km
Distributor: Distributor Borneo Motors (6631-1388)
Sport+ is one of four driving modes available using the Lexus Drive Mode selector on the lower centre console, with the others being Eco, Normal and Sport.
At the same time, the variable damping provides a supple ride along with the expected low noise and vibration levels.
As a result, the new Lexus GS350 still embodies the traditional Lexus qualities of comfort and refinement but now, there is another element - it is also fun to drive.
With this new character and its distinctive styling, it is hard not to be impressed by the new GS.
This article was first published in The Business Times.