My first exposure to the 2013 Lexus GS occurred almost exactly one year ago, when I was one of two Canadian auto journalists invited to sample a new GS that would not go into production for many months.
The heavily camouflaged test mule was pitted against a then-current GS on a high-speed slalom course set up in the parking lot of a remote football stadium. There was also a brief foray into the nearby San Gabriel Mountains accompanied by a couple of Lexus engineers.
They were still working on the various dynamic attributes of the upcoming car, primarily the suspension and steering. Even at that stage of its development, it was obvious Lexus had high expectations for this new GS.
At that time Deputy Chief Engineer Kiji Sato said "We want to improve the driving personality, to make it more sporty." That goal has been accomplished with the fourth generation 2013 GS, especially when equipped with the F-Sport package.
There was no 2012 GS as sales of the 2011 model were slow and those left on lots sufficed until the new version became available. The wait was worthwhile.
The 2013 GS sports the new Lexus L-Finesse design theme with the Darth Vader helmet-like grill. Like so many of the new front ends these days, from Mazda to Acura and Audi the goal is to create a distinctive look that can be used to identify the brand.
Many, like this one, are controversial and have come under criticism, but they do accomplish that "identity" role.
The interior is a very pleasant place to spend time. Fit, finish and material quality are all first rate and suited to the luxury class.
The seats included in the $7,000 F-Sport package deserve special praise. The driver’s can be adjusted in a mind-boggling 16-ways. The passenger gets a mere 10-way system.
Other unique F-Sport touches include the shifter-knob, steering wheel, alloy pedals and scuff plates. On the outside the grille, rear spoiler and wheels are unique.
A monster 12-inch (31-cm) screen is so big it allows several displays to be shown simultaneously.
The console mounted "Lexus remote Touch" controller is easier to decipher and use than most. It takes care of the audio, navigation and wireless functions. One of the features of the wireless system is that it can be programmed to accept and read e-mails!
The rear seat has belts for three but, practically, room for only two because of a very tall hump for the driveshaft down the middle. There is ample headroom back there but your butt sits low and your knees high so it can be awkward.
Trunk space is tight due to the lack of a folding rear seat – the chassis engineers won that battle getting added rigidity.
The new GS sits on a new rear-drive platform. Both front and rear tracks are 5-cm wider and the rear suspension is an all-new multilink setup.
Weight is the engineer’s enemy, especially un-sprung weight so most suspension components are made from aluminum.
With the F-Sport package you get bigger anti-roll bars, stiffer springs, larger bushings, bigger brakes, a different variable ratio steering system and staggered 19-inch tires- 235/40 up front and 245/35 rear. Have fun finding a winter tire package!
With rear-wheel-drive (an AWD version is also available) you also get active rear steering, which allows the rear wheels to turn up to two degrees opposite to the fronts at lower speeds for sharper turn-in and a more precise feel.
The F-Sport also comes with adaptive suspension, which varies damping depending on which mode has been selected, Normal, Eco (forget that one!), Sport or Sport Plus.
The latter also improves throttle, steering and transmission response. The ride quality in Sport or Sport Plus is best described as gritty or brittle, excellent on super smooth pavement, but bone rattling over normal or rough roads.
In Sport Plus the electronic stability control system will let you get closer to out-of-control before intervening.
The faster variable-ratio steering is a bit light in feel for my taste and the transmission could use another gear or two, but the bigger brakes included with the F-Sport package are awesome.
The engine is essentially carried over from the previous GS and found in numerous Lexus and Toyota products. In this guise it produces 306 horsepower and propels this rather large sedan in a most impressive manner.
The suspension and chassis are so good they could handle more power, but 0-to-100 km/h times of about six seconds are not to be sneezed at.
An acoustic amplifier (becoming more common) is used to accentuate the engine sound under WOT (Wide Open Throttle).
The new Lexus is less expensive and has more equipment and technology. In F-Sport guise it offers a delightfully sporty car at a surprisingly affordable price compared to the competition. Now if only there was an F-Sport Plus package with 50 or more extra horses under the hood!