The Lexus GS has, in the past, been shunned by buyers the world over in favour of more driver-orientated opposition from Germany such as the BMW 5 Series, Audi A6 and Mercedes-Benz E-Class. The fourth-generation Lexus GS has renounced the shortcomings of its predecessor with improved luxury, better utility and a more focused driving experience. But is that enough to reel in new customers? We think so.
From the outset the designers at Lexus were intent at creating a car with an emotional and recognisable design language by using the company’s latest signature Spindle Grille. Visually the GS sports a far more aggressive front bumper arrangement with deep-set projector headlamps and L-shaped LED daytime running lights. A prominent shoulder line sweeps through the flanks culminating at the rear bumper that incorporates a diffuser and twin trapezoidal tail pipes. These styling cues will spearhead the core visual language of all future Lexus models.
The cabin is as opulent as you’d expect from a Lexus with distinctive German-like styling prompts dolloped throughout. Striking lines and sculpted surfaces create a sense of space and offer a unique blend of luxury and performance. Opulently crafted, the interior is characterised by a high-end centrally-mounted analogue clock, a massive 12.3-inch display screen and an intuitive second-generation mouse-like Remote Touch interface.
Three models are on offer: the GS250 and GS350 available in EX trim only, and the GS450h which can be twinned with either F-Sport or SE attire. We sampled the GS350 EX and GS450h F-Sport on launch. Starting with the GS350 it’s clear that Lexus has put a major foot forward in terms of driver involvement. A 233kW/378Nm 3.5-litre V6 engine sends drive to the rear wheels via a six-speed sequential-shift automatic gearbox. The suspension is notably firm with a distinct sonorous growl that results in a performance-satisfying 0-100kph dash of 6.3 seconds.
The GS450h is the punchier of the two offerings using its huge swelling of torque to effortlessly shoot up inclines. It utelises the same 3.5-litre V6 engine as the GS350 but it’s been adapted and detuned to accommodate the hybrid power station. As a result the petrol engine only manages to generate 213kW/345Nm, but is boosted by the electric motor for a total system output of 252kW and a whopping 620Nm of twist.
F-Sport trim is only available on the range-topping GS450h model. This package furnishes it with 19-inch anthracite wheels and a sporty body kit while the interior gets a head-up display, leather and aluminium trim, sports seats and drilled pedals. Mechanically F-Sport models benefit from rear-wheel steer and adaptive variable suspension. As such the 450h is impressively agile and, bar the continuously variable transmission, the drive is very engaging. Engine noise isn’t as guttural as the GS350, instead an unbearable whinge from the CVT takes over proceedings but the upshot is very frugal fuel consumption. Driven enthusiastically up and down Franchhoek Pass and over some sinuous stretches of the N1 the fuel consumption was pegged at 10l/100km but after hitting some built-up areas that dropped to a very satisfying 7.5l/100km. These situations also showcased the vehicle’s electric prowess which saw it hit an impressive EV top speed of 45kph. It can be driven emission-free for up to 3km, which isn’t as impressive as the BMW ActiveHybrid 5’s 60kph top speed and 4km range.
The 450h will go face-to-face with the BMW ActiveHybrid 5. Priced at R753700 the 450h is marginally cheaper, better looking and more environmentally efficient but ultimately not as rewarding to drive as the ActiveHybrid 5. However, if it’s a driver’s car you’re after look no further than the R564900 GS350 EX – it’s quick, loud and a Scaletrix slot car in the corners.
All models in the GS range are covered by a four-year/100 000 km warranty. EX models are fitted with a Distance Plan Plus while the F-Sport and SE come with Distance Plan Complete.