I reviewed Lexus’ GS 350 AWD a couple of years ago and absolutely loved it. So I was looking forward to getting into one again – this time with the F Sport package.
Pricing: 2014 Lexus GS 350 AWD
Base price (of specific trim): $54,900
Options: $5,050 F Sport package
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $62,045
The GS is an exercise in fluid lines, but a substantial change, with a design that flows more smoothly. Up front, you’ll find Lexus’ new corporate face, the love-it-or-hate-it spindle grille. I like it, but in this trim, it gets a significant change – an enlarged F Sport grille which Lexus claims is LFA-inspired and some angry-looking intake openings. The whole connection with the LFA is a bit rich to me, but there is no denying the front end’s aggressive changes. Note that the F Sport’s aggressive new front end deletes the GS’ fog lights.
The long, sculpted hood is delightful and rich-looking headlight clusters get signature LED driving lights that look mean as the car is coming toward you. Nicely integrated rear tail light assemblies look good as do the integrated exhaust finishers. I found them handsome, but not everyone liked how showy they are.
I really liked the 10-spoke 19-inch F Sport wheels – they are spicy and can be shod with staggered-width rubber. 235-40s in the front and 265/35s in the rear. BOOM! Those are some serious tires!
The GS interior is simply one of the best in the industry, in my opinion. Luxurious, laden with technology, stunning use of materials and absolutely first-rate fit and finish. Nearly every surface has a soft, tactile, textured feel to it. There is stitching everywhere. The woodgrain is lovely. And the reddish leather trim in this GS was gorgeous! I was smitten. The seats are good. Really good. Exceptionally comfortable, heated and power-adjustable. And enough bolstering and support to live up to the F Sport package’s sportiness claims. The GS cabin isn’t small, but the headroom is less than I expected. It’s enough for me, at 5’10” but taller drivers might be surprised.
A wonderful F Sport-specific steering wheel greets you. Look through it and you’ll find Lexus trademark crystal clear gauges and a driver information screen. The dash design is interesting and flows smoothly much like the outside of the car. Front and centre is a stunningly large 12.3″ screen – the biggest in the industry. It handles the car’s media, phone, navigation and climate control functions as well as the backup camera feed. Unfortunately, the screen is controlled by Lexus’ Remote Touch interface, a sad mouse-like thing on the console that acts more as an irritant than a user-friendly input device. The center console is home to the gear selector and the drive-mode selector, as well as a big armrest.
Luxurious touches such as headlight washers, a powered rear window sunshade and powered trunk opener/closer are nice and the sound system was absolutely wonderful.
You’ll find plenty of spaces to drop your stuff throughout the cabin and the trunk is easily accessible, thanks to that power opener. It’s quite large at 530 litres, though the rear wheel wells are surprisingly intrusive here and cause for a strangely-shaped cargo space.
The back has three seats, three seatbelts and three headrests. The two outboard seats are awesome, deep buckets and they even offer a decent amount of bolstering, which is quite rare for rear seats. Unfortunately, the middle seating position is narrow, raised and perched over a massive drive shaft tunnel making it difficult for any adult to use. Headroom in the back is reasonable, as is the legroom. There was less of each than I expected, but it is adequate.
Our three kids were happy in the back, width-wise, but the centre tunnel really caused issues with leg room. There are two sets of LATCH anchors for kids’ seats if you need them.
Under the Hood
While F Sport makes people think increased performance all around, there are actually no changes in the engine bay. It is the same 3.5-litre V-6, putting out 306 HP at 6400 RPM and 277 lb.ft of torque at 4800 RPM. The GS’ power makes its way through a 6-speed automatic transmission and to the road via an all-wheel drive system. The car is no fly-weight at 3970 pounds.
Fuel economy is acceptable for a vehicle of this size. It’s rated 11.1 L/100 km (21.2 US mpg) in the city and 7.6 L/100 km (31 US mpg) on the highway. I ended up averaging 12.4 L/100 km (19 US mpg) during my week with it. I do believe that an extra gear or two would make a difference in the fuel economy. The strange thing is that the rear-wheel-drive version of this car comes with an 8-speed automatic. The fuel tank’s 66 litre capacity seems a bit small.
As you would expect, everything about this car’s driving experience is comfortable. Lexus tradition in terms of noise levels remains in place. Nearly everything this car does is somewhere between very quiet and silent. Road, engine, drivetrain and wind noise are exceptionally well dampened with one happy exception – step on it, and you’ll hear a surprising snarl from the engine bay. That V-6 is satisfying, if not exciting. While I’d love a bit more jam, Lexus has really engineered this car well. There is no hesitation off the line and it seems perfectly capable around town. It’s when you get on the highway and want to do some passing that you’ll miss a few extra horsies under the hood.
I like the easy-to-use rotary drive-mode selector, allowing you to choose between Eco mode (things get quite sluggish), Normal mode, Sport mode (which quickens the car’s throttle response and holds gears longer as you accelerate) and finally Sport+ mode, which reprograms the transmission like Sport mode, but also stiffens up the suspension and tightens up the steering response.
The F Sport-tuned suspension definitely impacts the GS’ ride. While it remains very comfortable, it is noticeably stiffer. It almost seems out of character for this car, especially at the Sport + setting. The car’s handling is excellent, gripping the road tenaciously if you’re throwing it into the curves. The transmission seems to be very intelligent, usually finding the right gear for the job and it’s creamy smooth in every situation. It can be shifted manually using the steering wheel paddles or a slap-stick mode, but it’s not particularly quick. I preferred to leave the car to its own devices. As with the non-F Sport version, I found the GS to be perfect on the highway – it would be a fine road-tripper.
The GS 350 is one of the most competent overall cars I’ve driven. Loaded with technology and luxury, comfortable and reliable, it certainly competes very well at this price point.
I give the GS350 AWD F Sport an 8 out of 10.
WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) was very high. She loved the interior, even going so far as to comment on the materials. She loved the seats, she loved how it drove, and couldn’t come up with something she didn’t like. High praise indeed.
Lexus has done well with this luxo-cruiser and I found it to be one of the easiest cars to live with. If I was spending this kind of money, I’d certainly be putting the GS at or near the top of my list, but I’d skip the F Sport package. While some touches are nice, like the steering wheel and special gear selector and sill plates, certain things are just goofy. The aluminum sport pedals make no sense in a car like this, and frankly, neither does the sport-tuned suspension. I’d opt for some more luxury and tech instead.
Disclosure: Vehicle was provided by Lexus Canada.
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