2012 LEXUS GS
Lexus has at last pulled back the covers on the new 2012 GS large sedan today, ahead of its Australian debut in the first half of the new year.
The new GS is built on the current model's platform but extensively revised, increasing rigidity through more spot welds and laser welds at key points.
There's also a new suspension arrangement, with aluminium upper and lower control-arms helping to reduce unsprung weight, along with larger bushings and a new rear subframe with multilink suspension.
New shock absorbers are also in place, with a lighter-viscosity oil used to bring a faster response time.
The big sedan's handling gains further improvements thanks to an extended track, now 40mm wider at the front and 50mm wider at the rear.
In the case of the GS 350, wheel sizes vary from 17x7.5-inch to 18x8 and 19x8-inch. Braking is handled by ventilated discs all-round, including the option for four-piston calipers at the front.
Power for the 2012 GS 350, which will be the first variant to appear in Australia, is provided by a 3.5 litre all-alloy V6 petrol engine - the same engine powering the IS 350 - replacing the previous 183kW 3.0 litre V6.
With 233kW and 376Nm of torque at its disposal, along with a six-speed sequential-shift transmission, the GS 350 boasts an official 0-100km/h time of 5.7 seconds. Top speed is listed at 230km/h.
As part of its push to attract a younger audience, Lexus has also focused on the engine's sound characteristics, described as a "bolder and more energetic" note.
Lexus says the six-speed transmission incorporates features adopted from the IS F performance sedan, including faster shifts, earlier torque converter lockup and downshift throttle blips.
There are also four driving modes that can be operated by toggling the new Lexus Drive Mode selector.
- Eco mode revises throttle mapping, seat heating and climate control systems for better fuel economy. In ECO mode, meter lighting changes to blue.
- SPORT S mode revises throttle mapping and transmission shifting priorities to fully exploit the capabilities of the powertrain. In SPORT S mode, meter lighting changes to red.
- SPORT S+ mode engages handling enhancements via a sport setting of the adaptive variable suspension, variable gear ratio steering system, and vehicle stability control (VSC) together with the powertrain enhancements of SPORT S mode.
Although an unlikely option for Australia, the GS will also be offered in some markets with an electronically-controlled all-wheel-drive system.
The external dimensions for the new GS are largely unchanged, although Lexus promises improved interior space, including a 25 percent larger rear storage area.
There are also wider-opening doors and a newly designed seat frame designed to offer increased visibility and comfort.
Up front, the new GS dash draws more than a few styling cues from the brand's LFA hero car and focuses on the giant 12.3-inch display (smaller for lower-spec models) above a stylish satin silver analogue clock.
Among the screen's features are simultaneous split-screen viewing of a large map display, along with audio, climate or other vehicle information.
A next-generation Remote Touch with one-push confirmation is standard, and allows the user to operate the climate, audio, phone controls and navigation system.
Depending on the spec, features in the cabin include a 17-speaker Mark Levinson audio system and a new S-Flow climate control system that detects the number and position of occupants to better direct air flow.
Safety features include 10 airbags and an optional radar-controlled pre-collision system - a system that is rapidly becoming standard fare at this end of the segment.
The Full GS Range
Other models in the GS range will include the entry-level GS 250, although specifications for this variant have not been revealed yet and an Australian debut is unlikely.
The top-shelf model will be the GS 450h, and while details for that model will not be revealed until next month's Frankfurt Motor Show, it is expected that that this V6 and electric motor-powered hybrid will deliver V8-rivalling power.
Lastly, an F-Sport variant will be revealed at November's SEMA show in Los Angeles, delivering enhanced styling and handling options.
As for a more powerful F model, Lexus engineers have confirmed that options for a top-shelf performance model are being considered - and may even include focusing on a highly tuned version of the V6 hybrid arrangement of the 450h.
Speaking with TMR today from the new GS unveiling at Pebble Beach in California, Lexus Australia CEO Tony Cramb confirmed that the new GS will make its Australian debut in the first half of 2012.
"We're expecting the GS 350 in Australia sometime in the first half of 2012, but we're still finalising dates. It will go into production in Japan in December, and international rollouts will begin in February, so we'll be a little after that," he said.
Asked about the potential for the new GS to steal buyers away from the brand's European competitors, Mr Cramb was confident of its appeal.
"This segment is very well defined. Buyers in the large luxury car segment are almost always male, and very wealthy - and they can have just about whatever they want when it comes to their choice of car," Mr Cramb said.
"Frankly, we've struggled to attract that type in the past, but this model, its styling and handling, we're very confident it will change all of that."
Mr Cramb pointed to the brand's global focus on attracting a younger market, describing the CT 200h as the first of its game-changing models.
"The CT 200h broke new ground for us there, it brought in younger customers than we've been able to attract in the past."
Australian sales for the CT 200h have been strong, capturing 116 buyers in July, compared to 101 for the BMW 1 Series and 95 for the Audi A3.
Within the Lexus range, the CT 200h is currently the brand's second-best seller, bested only by the IS 250 with 143 sales.
For Lexus Australia, the new GS can't get here soon enough: while BMW moved 99 of its 5 Series cars in July and Mercedes-Benz sold 96 E-Class cars (including sedan, coupe, cabrio and wagon), Lexus moved just 8 GS sedans.