2012 LEXUS GS F SPORT
We can't talk to you about how it drives, because the GS 350 F Sport and GS 450h hybrid shown to the Australian media at this week's Spring Racing Carnival weren't for driving. (No doughies on the track, in other words.)
The current GS will be with us until the new one hits showrooms next year, and with the new 5 Series, E-Class and A6 models smashing the big Lexus in Australian sales, Lexus knows it can't get here soon enough.
"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," Lexus Australia CEO Tony Cramb told TMR.
"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."
Walking around the car, we can say it's got the style to compete with its German rivals, and it feels right in the cabin, too.
While the outgoing model's interior couldn't quite match the character and design clarity of its prestige peers, the 2012 GS introduces a deep dash with tasteful and minimal use of aluminum and wood highlights.
For design, the new dash takes a lot from the brand's flagship LFA supercar. Lexus made a point of reminding us of this, but they needn't have bothered: while the two are far from identical, the influence is clear and the vibe is strong.
In F Sport trim - available with both the 233kW GS 350 and the top-shelf 252kW GS450h - there's 16-way (350) and 18-way (450h) power adjustable sports seats, a black headliner, a perforated leather steering wheel and gear knob, and aluminium pedals.
For the driver, the well-bolstered seating position in the F Sport feels like a solid compromise between luxury comfort and sporting hunger, exactly as it should, but it will take a full road-test to see how that works in the real world.
Externally, the GS F Sport takes a few cues from the LF-Gh concept that preceded it, including a tougher front and rear bumper design, the "spindle" grille pattern and a boot-lid lip.
At each corner are 19-inch alloy wheels wearing 235/40/19 tyres up front and fat 265/35/19 rubber at the back. Lexus has also tweaked the F Sport's suspension package, recalibrating the Adaptive Variable Suspension system.
There's also a new Lexus Dynamic Handling sytem that adds four-wheel steering and includes vehicle speed and yaw rate, steering angle and speed, and lateral G forces.
Mr Cramb says buyers can look forward to a drive from the F Sport that has never been experienced with the GS before.
"The GS 350 F Sport is a vehicle that will appeal to the sporting driver, those who seek performance and comfort without compromise."
"Dynamic handling, incredible stopping power and a true sporting feel, the GS 350 F Sport is a vehicle that offers the best of everything to the enthusiast," he added.
We'll be able to put those words to the test when the new GS hits Australia in the second quarter of next year. For now, where style and interior quality count, the forthcoming model could redefine the GS range for Lexus in this country.
With an average of 10 sales per month in 2011 for the old model and plans for more than 150 per month when the new one arrives, it will need to be.
Don't expect pricing details until the launch draws nearer, but Cramb promises we can expect the brand to be competitive in both pricing and features.
TMR News Editor