2012 LEXUS GS REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Large luxury sedan
Price: $99,400 (plus on-roads)
Fuel Economy claimed: 9.3 l/100km | tested: 11.1 l/100km
The Lexus GS range has come a long way in the space of one generation.
Where there was a gulf between the previous model GS and its European competitors for on-road performance, the new GS range has turned things upside down.
There’s a new focus on driving dynamics and technology, as well as boosted quality both inside and out.
Each in the new range is solid as a vault, serenely comfortable and nicely-styled. However, after some time behind the wheel of the high-grade GS 250 Sports Luxury, we think this model doesn’t quite hit the mark.
Quality: Fine-grained, supple leather covers the dash, doors, centre armrest, seats, steering wheel and other key touch points, and switchgear quality is faultless.
Turned metal audio controls and a clock face machined from a solid billet of aluminium are nice touches too.
But there are inconsistencies. It’s a small point, but we can’t help but wonder why climate control temperature read-outs use a primitive LED seven-segment display, when the trip computer nestled in the instrument cluster uses a high-resolution LCD?
Comfort: The Sport Luxury grade in the GS line-up gets powered front seats with a whopping 20 different ways of adjustment - including lumbar, bolster width and squab length.
The front headrests also have adjustable ‘wings’ - much like an airline seat - to cradle the back of the head. Each front seat is also heated and ventilated.
For long-distance comfort these pews are unbeatable.
The back seats also offer excellent comfort, with good headroom, decent headroom and ample shoulder-room for two adults (but the centre seat isn’t quite so accommodating thanks to the high centre tunnel).
Fold down the rear armrest, and back seat passengers get controls for the rear climate-control zone, retractable sun-blind and audio system.
Equipment: The Sports Luxury is the flagship of the GS 250 range, and comes equipped with a lengthy list of luxury equipment as standard.
There’s the expected tri-zone climate control, auto-on bi-xenon headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, cruise control (radar-assisted in the Sports Luxury), Bluetooth phone and audio integration, parking sensors, reversing camera, keyless entry, push-button starter and sat-nav.
However, there’s so much more on top of that. Things like a head-up display, digital radio tuner, blind-spot monitoring, sunroof, digital radio tuner, an airconditioning system that moisturises the air plus an enormous 12.3-inch LCD display.
Like the CT 200h, the on-board infotainment system is operated via a centre console mounted ‘mouse’ controller. It’s a cinch to operate and more intuitive than the knob-and-button interfaces used by BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz.
The infotainment software graphics - with slow animations and poorly utilised on-screen real estate - aren’t as good.
Storage: The GS 250’s boot measures 530 litres (23 percent larger than the previous GS), but the lack of folding rear seats has a negative impact on load-carrying ability.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: The GS 250 is powered by an evolution of the venerable 2.5 litre 4GR-FSE naturally-aspirated petrol V6, which also sees duty in the IS 250.
Internal refinements have improved mechanical efficiency, but power and torque outputs are virtually unchanged. At 154kW and 253Nm, the GS 250 has only 1kW and 1Nm more than the IS 250.
With those outputs and a kerb weight of over 1.7 tonnes you’d expect the GS 250 to be a tad sluggish, and it is. Straight-line speed is a bit lethargic - not quite what you’d expect from a luxury tourer.
For overtaking, it’s ok if you wind it up, but there’s not much in the way of low-end torque. Compared to the GS 250’s turbocharged European competitors (BMW 528i and Audi A6 2.8 FSI), the Lexus feels a lot less punchy.
Pile on the revs and it starts to come alive, but you’ll need more than 4500rpm showing on the tachometer to tap into the best part of the GS 250’s powerband.
The GS 250 uses the same gearbox found in the IS 250, but with significant shift-calibration changes. It’s a six-speeder, and refined in operation (particularly in manual shift mode), but it needs more ratios.
It’s to do with the physics of a heavy body and a relatively small un-boosted 2.5 litre V6. The GS 350, with far more power and torque, is a better pairing with the six-speed.
Refinement: One of the things we like most about the GS is the deep, sonorous engine note it emits under heavy throttle.
Lay off the accelerator, and it’s quiet as a church. Sound deadening is superb, and there’s little wind rustle. Coarse surfaces however can elicit some tyre roar from the 18-inch rubber.
Exceptional build quality (a Lexus hallmark) also means that absolutely nothing rattles, squeaks or creaks - even on the roughest asphalt roads.
Suspension: Suspended on double-wishbone front suspension and multi-link rear suspension, the GS 250 rides comfortably over virtually any surface.
It’s not too shabby around a corner either.
Put the drive mode selector in Sport +, and the dampers become firmer, the steering heavier and the stability control a touch looser. It’s not quite as agile as the rear-steer equipped GS 350 F Sport, but turn-in and steering response is sharp.
In normal or comfort mode, the ride is more relaxed and the steering becomes lighter. The electrically-assisted power steering isn’t as communicative as BMW’s steering (a benchmark), but betters the Audi.
Braking: The brake package consists of 334mm front rotors and 310mm rear rotors, the former clamped by four-piston opposed calipers.
The pedal is responsive and stopping performance is good - even with a full load of passengers and luggage aboard.
ANCAP rating: Not tested
Safety features: The Lexus GS range is equipped with ten airbags as standard (dual front, front side, rear side, dual front knee, full-length curtain), which puts it at the front of the pack for occupant protection.
Other safety features include ABS, EBD, brake assist, traction control and stability control. A driver-fatigue monitor is also fitted to Sports Luxury variants, as is a collision detection warning system.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Four years/100,000km
Service costs: Servicing costs can vary according to vehicle usage. Consult your nearest Lexus dealer before purchase.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Audi A6 2.8 FSI sedan ($93,900) - The A6’s 2.8 litre V6 puts out more torque (280Nm) than the GS 250 and channels it to all four wheels via a sophisticated seven-speed twin-clutch automatic.
It offers the more visually appealing interior, but can’t match the similarly-priced GS 250 Sports Luxury for equipment. (see A6 reviews)
BMW 528i sedan ($98,200) - It might ‘only’ be a 2.0 litre four cylinder under the 528i’s bonnet, but a turbocharger ensures that it punches out more power (180kW) and more torque (350Nm) than the GS 250.
The standard eight-speed ZF automatic is also one of the best transmissions around.
But the BMW can’t match the Sports Luxury’s generous equipment list without adding significantly to its retail price. (see 5 Series reviews)
Mercedes-Benz E 250 sedan ($92,500) - We prefer the GS 250 Sport Luxury’s interior over the E-Class; the Lexus also wins the value-for-money argument.
The E250’s turbocharged 1.8 litre four makes slightly less power (150kW) than the GS 250, but its 310Nm of torque and well-sorted seven-speed auto give it the edge in driveability. (see E-class reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
It’s on-road where the Lexus GS 250 Sports Luxury slips behind its logical competitors. Its warmed-over IS 250 mechanicals can’t match the dynamism of the otherwise closely-matched BMW 528i and Audi A6 2.8 FSI.
The engine is, despite its ho-hum power and torque stats, not a bad motor, but let down by a six-speed that doesn’t have the spread of ratios to do the engine justice.
That said, it’s hard to get past the Lexus’ significant value-for-money and comfort scores. Its plush and cosseting interior is absolutely stuffed full of high-tech gadgets.
Whether the GS 250 Sports Luxury will suit you depends on what you value most. Are passenger comfort and gadget count more important, or is the driving experience paramount?
If it’s the former, head down to your local Lexus dealer. If it’s the latter, give the European marques a try - or perhaps spend a bit more and get the much gruntier GS 350 Sports Luxury.
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- GS 250 Luxury - $77,900
- GS 250 F Sport - $85,900
- GS 250 Sport Luxury - $99,900
- GS 350 Luxury - $89,900
- GS 350 F Sport - $99,900
- GS 350 Sport Luxury - $109,900
- GS 450h Luxury - $99,900
- GS 450h F Sport - $111,900
- GS 450h Sport Luxury - $121,900
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price (unless otherwise noted) and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.