In 1989 when Lexus opened its doors, the LS 400 was their $35,000 flagship model. It had a 4.0 liter 250hp V8, a 110” wheelbase and every conceivable amenity at the time. Today their mid-size GS 350 sedan surpasses the original LS in every measure.
The 2013 Lexus GS 350 is larger inside, has a longer 112” wheelbase, has 56 more horsepower with its 3.5 liter V6 and starts at $46,900. The top model LS has moved on to much more stratospheric heights, but the progress of the Lexus brand was not lost on us as we tested the new GS 350 with the Luxury Package recently.
All new for 2013, the GS comes in a base model as well as a hybrid known as the GS 450h. On the GS 350 you can choose the Luxury Package or the F-Sport which we also recently reviewed. The $5,750 Luxury Package takes a softer and more coddling approach to serving you and your passengers with a healthy dose of niceties.
Inside we enjoyed the package’s ventilated seats which kept us from perspiring unnecessarily in the 105 degree Phoenix spring. The latter also have warmers for winter months up north. Also included were sunshades for the rear doors and rear window, the latter power operated. They helped keep the heat down when parked in the sun.
Lexus has become known for their soft and supple interiors and the GS 350 doesn’t disappoint. The seating had memory settings for both the driver and passenger side front seat. Rear seat passengers will find plenty of room and have their own HVAC controls built into the center armrest.
The air-conditioning is always an important part of our review here in Arizona. This system has a slow start function that keeps it from really blowing air when you first start the car, waiting until the coils inside are actually cold before it lets the fan spool up. While it can make you impatient when you land in a hot car, at least when it starts it wont hit you with hot air like most cars.
The leather trim was well stitched and the dark espresso wood-grain was a nice touch. For a car that was pushing $58,000 we would have liked genuine wood however instead of printed plastic. The steering wheel does have genuine wood but it didn’t match the fake wood and was hot to the touch. Quality and fit are top notch however and no rattles could be heard.
Our test vehicle also had the $1,380 Mark Levinson audio upgrade to 835 watts with some 17 speakers which sounded downright phenomenal. It’s a worthy upgrade over the standard audio system which we found to be less than impressive in previous reviews. Also optioned was the $1,735 navigation system which has a large 12.3” screen and console mounted control puck. We have come to really appreciate the system. It’s easy to learn and operate while on the go.
The GS 350 still retains its sporting nature with the Luxury Package. A console mounted knob has settings for ECO mode, Normal Mode and Sport modes. Dialing the different settings changes suspension stiffness, transmission shift points, throttle response and steering effort to give you variable personalities in driving behavior.
While its settings aren’t as extreme as they are with the F-Sport Package, Sport mode still cures the floating sensation on freeways and gives you a tighter performance feel. We used the ECO mode to gain better fuel efficiency most of the time, getting reasonable results for a 306 horsepower 4,134 pound luxury sedan.
The EPA rates the 2012 Lexus GS 350 at 19 mpg city and 28 mpg highway. We averaged 22.9 mpg over our week of testing combined of both. On the freeway we were able to get as high as 29.5 mpg on trip averages which exceeds the EPA ratings. Not bad at all.
Power from the 3.5 liter V6 is strong but smooth. The engine has a nice authoritative note under full acceleration but retains a nice machine hum in regular stop and go driving that people would expect from a luxury brand. The 6-speed automatic transmission shifts very well and seems to be just fine despite the fact competitors from BMW and Mercedes have gone to 8-speed units.
The Lexus GS 350 is just as luxurious and feature packed as the 1989 LS 400 that started it all. And while today’s car is bigger, better, faster and more sporting we still think Lexus should offer a V8. After all not only do BMW and Mercedes give their customers the option in this class, but so did Lexus over 20 years ago.