Lexus GS review
The Lexus GS is a serious alternative to German executive saloons, and top-spec hybrids offer great performance
The Lexus GS is a sporty new beginning for Toyota's luxury division. Lexus wants to build on the last GS's reputation for refinement and generous equipment, as well as the maker's dealer service, with cars that are genuinely good-looking and fun to drive. We think the BMW 5 Series is still a better car to drive, but the GS is now a much better all-rounder and is well worthy of consideration as it is just so efficient. While its main rivals offer diesel power as the path to low running costs, the GS can be had with an efficient petrol-electric hybrid drivetrain, which in top-spec guise delivers strong performance.
Our choice: GS 450h F Sport
Previous versions of the Lexus GS never really stood out – but the latest car certainly does. At the front is a distinctive grille which gives the car much more presence, while the car's lines are sportier and more aggressive. Cars in F Sport trim – which is the equivalent of BMW's M Sport spec – get a stylish bodykit and larger alloy wheels, and really look smart. Inside, it's a big leap forward. Lexus has introduced an enormous 12.3-inch central display as an option, while there's a neat Maserati-style clock on the dash and extras such as bamboo trim. It all feels individual and thoroughly modern, but some of the infotainment systems aren't as intuitive as you would find in its German counterparts.
There are two engines to choose from: an entry-level 206bhp 2.5-litre V6 for the GS 250 and a 338bhp 3.5-litre hybrid V6 for the GS 450h, while a lower powered hybrid is also on the cards. The GS 450h is our pick, as it's very gutsy. Lexus quotes a 0-62mph time of 5.9 seconds, and it feels every bit as fast. Around town you can run in electric-only mode at low speed, while on the motorway the GS eats miles with ease, and cruises in near silence. Sadly, the CVT gearbox makes the engine sound noisy when accelerating. Through corners, it feels more stable and the steering has more weight than before. Thanks to adaptive dampers, the ride is comfortable, too. The flagship F Sport model gets Adaptive Variable Steering, which includes an optional rear-wheel-steering system for extra agility. However, the GS isn't quite as engaging as a BMW 5 Series. You can put the car in Eco, Normal, Sport or Sport+ driving modes, which tweak throttle, suspension and steering response, but the GS is still at its happiest when cruising at speed on the motorway - ironically where you can't make the most of its efficient hybrid drivetrain.
The GS has always been a very well made and safe car, and the latest version packs equipment such as collision mitigation (which alerts the driver of approaching objects that may cause a crash) and lane-keep assist. That's in addition to nearly all the goodies you could ever need, such as a truly stunning 835-Watt, 17-speaker Mark Levinson stereo, Bluetooth, three-zone climate control and a wide-angle parking camera. Reliability, meanwhile has always been a Lexus strong point, and we expect the GS to be near faultless. If it does go wrong, the dealers will be so swift to fix it you'll barely notice.
Thanks to better packaging, there is much more front and rear seat space. The GS 450h has a 482-litre boot, which is a 60 per cent improvement over the old car, thanks to a more compact rear suspension set-up and some repositioning of the hybrid batteries. In the rear, there's lots of room for two tall passengers, although getting three in would be a squeeze because of the transmission tunnel. Up front, seats that adjust every which way and a taller roofline mean almost any size driver will be comfortable. However rear headroom is tighter than it is in the Audi A6 and BMW 5 Series.
Lexus doesn't build a diesel GS, but the petrol-electric hybrid is a decent alternative. The GS 450h has made some huge improvements, claiming 45.6mpg (up from 36.7mpg in the old car) while CO2 emissions have been slashed, dropping from 179g/km to only 141g/km. The GS 250 isn't as impressive, though, only posting 31.7mpg and 207g/km. A new lower-powered hybrid will fill the gap in the range and allow the GS to mix it with rivals like the Audi A6 2.0 TDI and BMW 520d. Servicing and maintenance costs should be on a par with rivals, although the quality of the service you will get at Lexus dealers will be much higher. Residual values should be strong, too.