It’s always treat to get behind the wheel of the newest iteration of a model whose lineage you’ve always liked, particularly when over the past few years you’ve come to trust the manufacturer to be meticulous in innovation and avoid even the slightest of digressions over outgoing models.
The GS 350 F Sport has the indisputably most aggressive appearance in this class — take that back, aggressive is an understatement. The arrowhead-shaped LED running lights and cleaver-sharp bumper inlets combine to make the robotic-looking front end of the GS appear as pissed off as Optimus Prime during a Decepticon invasion. The wheel arches are stuffed with staggered-width 19-inch alloy wheels wrapped in sticky 235/40 front and 265/35 rear summer-compound tires, which add some bulkiness to the stance and create an air of stability, and the front brakes receive a substantial upgrade in size and pad compound over the standard GS 350. Finally, a subtle lip-spoiler on the decklid and a GT-car inspired rear diffuser to add to the trackday-worthy appearance of the F Sport.
To complement the aggressive exterior of the F Sport, the interior comes trimmed in striated aluminum and perforated leather, and also features a black headliner and aluminum pedals. Our test car was equipped with the F Sport-exclusive Cabernet Red leather upholstery — which, might be a little too extreme for most Lexus customers, but I feel that the contrast it creates against the black paneling and aluminum trim is artworthy . As if you could forget that you were inside the F Sport edition and not just a normal GS 350, an F Sport badge is inset to the bottom of the 3-spoke steering wheel, and front seat occupants will find themselves firmly held in place by sport seats with increased lateral support, and a 16-way adjustable driver’s seat with a Lexus-first; power adjustable side bolsters to firmly hold denizens of all shapes and sizes.
Continuing the trend of firsts; those who opt for the navigation system will be treated to an industry-first 12.3-inch screen atop the dash — think of it as an IMAX in your car — and if you opt for the 17-speaker Mark Levinson audio system, you’ll sure have better sound than the theater. But in all seriousness, the display truly gives an unprecedented amount of control over the interior systems of the GS, by allowing you to split the screen and simultaneously view/control the navigation map, as well as audio, climate, and a host of other functions. Additionally, a plethora of optional technological enhancements normally found only on flagship sedans are available, ranging from; heads up display (HUD), Lane Keep Assist (LKA) with Land Departure Warning (LDW), Intuitive Park Assist (IPA), Lexus Pre-Colllison System with Driver’s Eyes Monitor with Adaptive Cruise Control, and even a night-vision system.
Under the hood sits an updated-for-2013 – 3.5-liter, quad-camshaft, 306 horsepower V-6 with VVT-I (variable valve timing with intelligence) coupled to a 6-speed sequentially-shiftable automatic transmission. Utilizing both, port and direct injection, earlier torque converter lockup, and some slick fuel mapping, the GS 350 achieves 19/28 city highway mpg respectively — and still maintaining the ability to hurdle you to 60mph in 5.7 seconds while being enveloped in a deep, throaty growl created by the V-6 sucking air through an intake sound-generator. The driving experience is further invigorated by steering wheel mounted paddle shifters, automated throttle blips when downshifts are triggered, and the Lexus Drive Mode selector on the center console — featuring 4 distinct modes of operation.
In ECO mode, throttle response is decreased, the gauge cluster illumination changes to blue, and seat heating/climate control systems are even dialed down to promote maximum fuel efficiency. In Sport S mode, the gauge cluster illumination turns a deep hellish red, throttle response is sharpened, and transmission shiftpoints are optimized for maximum power output. On top of what happens when engaging Sport S, in Sport S+ mode the Adaptive Variable Suspension stiffens up, the traction control/VDIM backs-off (a tad — it is a Lexus after all), and the Variable Gear Ratio Steering decreases lock-to-lock from and already quick 2.8 to a snappy 2.2 — this feature proved invaluable during our handling tests around Mulholland. As a whole, the F Sport’s chassis and suspension left quite an impression — the handling is dynamic and the car feels a fraction of its true size in even the tightest of corners, my only complaint being that although ultra-responsive, the steering is just a bit too light.
When comparing the F Sport to others in its class, be it the BMW 535i, Mercedes E350, Audi A6 3.0T, or Infiniti M35s, the Lexus is hands-down the best value. With performance figures and pricing being so close among these competitors, the GS 350 took a clear edge when it came to driving experience and interior design. Although some may shy away from the untraditionally intimidating front-end design, those who choose to purchase a well-equipped GS 350 F Sport for around $58,000 can rest well, knowing they’re driving a class-leading automobile
Filed Under: Golf & Automotive