Wednesday, September 14, 2011

2011 Lexus GS 350: The Brand’s Midsize Luxury Sport Sedan

Highlight: The GS line includes Lexus’ version of GM’s OnStar, SOS. This system immediately notifies Lexus’ concierge service of a collision, helps to locate the vehicle if it’s stolen and provides an enhanced roadside assistance service. This is all included with a one-year trial subscription.

Test vehicle’s MSRP: $52,420 (Base price starts at $47,775)

Major Standard Features: 17-inch run-flat tires; HID (High-Intensity Discharge Headlamps); Daytime running lights; automatic headlights; ten-way power heated (front seats only) leather seats; memory driver’s seat; power moonroof; dual-zone ventilation system; power heated outside mirrors; power tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel; keyless entry; a push-button keyless starter; power trunk closer; and a first aid kit

Standard Audio System: a 134-watt, 10-speaker AM/FM 6-disc CD changer w/ satellite, WMA and MP3 capabilities.

Bumper-to-Bumper Warranty: 4 years or 50,000 miles

Standard Engine/Horsepower: 3.5-liter, 6-cylinder/303-hp

Standard Fuel Mileage: 18-city/25-hwy

What’s New: Most of the technological changes with the brand’s midsize luxury sedan were made last year. Due to Toyota’s rash of recalls related to alleged sudden acceleration issues, the GS is now equipped with a standard Smart Stop Technology system. This new braking system enhancement will automatically reduce engine power when the brake pedal and the accelerator pedal are applied simultaneously under certain driving conditions.

Pros: The rear-wheel drive GS is available in a variety of trim levels in either a rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive configuration with a six-cylinder or eight-cylinder engine. A hybrid version is available too.

The GS we reviewed was equipped with a six-cylinder engine. Not only was the power coming from underneath the hood more than adequate, the vehicle was extremely quiet or what we term as being Lexus quiet.

Also our GS was outfitted with Lexus’ luxury value edition package, which consisted of a navigation system, a back-up camera, real-time traffic updates, real-time sports updates, real-time stock updates and a 90-day subscription to satellite radio. With the satellite system, the vehicle was equipped with a premium surround 14-speaker audio system.

Moreover, our well-equipped GS was equipped with Lexus’ optional Pre-Collision System with radar activated cruise control, a rear spoiler and a cargo net.

Cons: Its time to update the bodystyle of the GS since its beginning to age, especially when placed next to its competitors. The current design has been around since 2005. Now while the vehicle received a number of technological enhancements last year, we shocked that it did not include an electronic lane change blind-spot system and a lane departure warning system. Ironically, a number of non premium luxury vehicles offer these as options.

Also we also found that the rear-wheel drive design impedes the driver’s legroom, making the area seemingly cramped.

The Verdict: For those looking for a well-built, reliable, well-appointed, quiet-tuned midsize luxury sedan, with a distinctive style, the GS will fit the bill. However, there is a lot of competition in this segment with both new styling and the latest gadgets.

The great news is that the fourth-generation GS is just around the curve. It’s expected to hit showrooms next year. So this means that buyers in the market for a good deal should be able to get a huge discount on this year's outgoing model.

Competition: Acura’s RL, Audi A6, BMW’s 5-Series, Hyundai’s Genesis Sedan, Infiniti’s M-Series and Mercedes-Benz’s E-Class

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