Test drive: 2013 Lexus GS350 AWD
Base Price: $49,450
Price as Tested: $63,232
This week, we're driving the all-new 2013 Lexus GS350 AWD, one of the brand's most popular upscale sedans and sure to be a competent class competitor. Lexus clarifies its marketing that the new GS line is engineered from the ground up to provide performance and handling that delivers new-generation technology resulting in "Lexus will never be the same" ideology.
After more than a week of testing, I agree.
Recently, we drove the popular front-drive ES350, which came in at near $44,000 with numerous high cost options. "Test Drive" noted that shoppers in the Lexus class should contemplate the GS at a base of $46,900 instead of spending near the same price on a loaded ES.
Thus, we again point to the practicality of driving a GS for comparison, especially since the ES line does not offer an AWD version. Granted, the two wheel drive GS is rear drive only, something that nowadays has a stigma attached as front drive trumps a rear drive in the snow. Still, I remember everyone got around in the 1960s with rear drive cars thanks to chains, followed by tire manufacturers implementing studded tires for chainless traction.
For the record, I'm a huge fan of rear drive technology thanks to better weight distribution and more precise handling. And, with GS350's AWD capability and attractive base of $49,450, I would think this model trumps all in the return on investment parallel.
Although the GS350 has been around since 2007, this new generation delivers a performance enhanced, better handling and more luxurious product. Most pleasing to me is the holdover 306 horsepower fuel-injected 11.8 compression 3.5 liter V6, which produces 277 lb. ft. of torque and lots of pep thanks to a six-speed automatic with electronic brain. For those who like to control shift points, well-designed and steering wheel mounted paddle shifters are built in, allowing shifts down and up while turning.
The engine, meanwhile, growls more like a powerful muscle car when called on and sounds similar to a V8 than a V6. Thus, what ever Lexus did in the engineering department, GS350 outhauls the former GS300 line by leaps and bounds. Specifically, a two wheel drive will go from zero to 60 in 5.7 seconds, while the AWD is just a tad slower at a hand timed 5.8 seconds. Additionally, 19 city and 26 highway MPG numbers are more than acceptable.
The AWD is an active control full-time unit that assures the best of all worlds regardless of climate. There's also a snow, eco and sport selectable drive mode that affects throttle response and engine RPM via transmission shift points. Inside, every amenity imaginable will make even the shortest trip enjoyable. (See dealer for complete list of standard features).
Inside, you'll be impressed by the industry's first ever 12.3-inch high-resolution split-screen multimedia display. This mammoth screen provides synchronized access to various systems, including stereo/satellite, navigation and climate controls. To manage the system, you'll learn how to navigate around via a pointer/mouse type device, which takes some getting used to. Once you get the hang, though, it's pretty neat.
On the highway, Lexus feels more like a German-bred machine, with firm steering and excellent response. As for amenities, GS350 in standard form is a step above or equal to competitors like Audi, Infiniti, Mercedes-Benz, Cadillac, Jaguar and Lincoln, all of which compete for consumer approval.
Important numbers include a wheelbase of 112.2 inches, 14.3 cu. ft. trunk, 3,970 lb. curb weight, 17.4 gallon fuel tank and a 37.4 ft. turning circle.
Lexus has improved greatly on one of its most popular luxury cars, and be it a 2WD or AWD, driving one is a must in this category.
Likes: All new design, powerful engine, fuel mileage, interior roominess, Lexus legend.
Dislikes: Expensive options, mouse control learning curve.
(Greg Zyla is a syndicated auto columnist)