Definitely not just an identity crisis Nearly a decade later, the best-sounding mainstream car has finally been trumped.
The year is 2003. The Infiniti G35 Coupe has just been released, and boy, has it taken the crowd by surprise. It has created an identity for a company that never really seemed to stand out, and most of all, it is one of the best-sounding cars available on the market that isn’t an exotic. I loved the G35 Coupe. To this day, if one is beside me at a light, I’ll drop my window a crack just to hear that exhaust as it takes off. Nearly a decade later, that sound has finally been trumped. Enter the 2013 Lexus GS 350 F-Sport. It’s fresh, it’s new, and boy, does it look incredible.
Swooping lines, aggressive bumpers, smoked wheels, and Lexus’ new signature LED headlights that slightly resemble the Nike “swoosh”. The GS F-Sport is stunning. Amidst controversy about how it isn’t a real “F” car as the outgoing IS-F was, I can’t help but argue that Audi sells an “S-Line” package on most of their models, Mercedes-Benz sells vehicles with an “AMG Appearance Package”, and I don’t know how people can forget the iconic BMW 540i “M-Sport”. This 2013 Lexus GS F-Sport in no way has an identity crisis. It’s a run-off-the-mill GS350 sedan with some appearance parts, “Rear Adaptive Variable Suspension”, some gorgeous 19″ wheels, and awesome F-Sport leather seats. I’m not complaining.
Driving around town or on the highway in “Eco” mode, the GS F-Sport is as quiet as every other car to come out of the Lexus plant. It has enough rear legroom for your important clients, and the “Garnet” red interior is sporty yet exudes class. Is that really what this car is about though? If you want class, go buy an E-Class. If you want to drive around in “Eco mode”, your Lexus salesman would be glad to sell you a GS450h Hybrid. I’m sure those are just nice, but you’re a car guy. A petrolhead through and through; you have a family but you can’t bring yourself to buy a Camry. An E-Class would be too cliché, an A6 would make you look pretentious, and a 5-series would get lost amongst all the others parked in your Bay Street parking garage.
I took the liberty of optioning out a Mercedes-Benz E350 and an Audi A6 3.0T as best as I could to adequately compare the cost of this GS F-Sport. The Mercedes? $74,590, and that’s without any appearance packages or sport suspension toys. The Audi? $72,700. This is where the Lexus begins to shine. My GS350 F-Sport, loaded right up in rear-wheel-drive trim, came to $61,080. Now I’m trying to understand how the hell they managed to price it so well. Regardless, they made it work. The F-Sport seats have adjustable thigh support and adjustable side bolsters to hug you as tightly as you want. They’re heated and ventilated too, and best of all, if you start your car and it detects that it’s sufficiently cold outside, the heated seats will come on automatically. Nice touch.
Cruising on the highway, I decided to conserve as much fuel as possible, so I putted along in “Eco”, and managed to get a phenomenal 8.4L/100km. It was only a matter of time before the enthusiast in me decided to take advantage of the fact that my car of the week wasn’t the regular GS350 AWD or the GS450h Hybrid. I used the control knob behind the shifter to put the car into “Sport +”. Right away, the bog of “Eco” mode was lifted off the accelerator and the entire car seemed to come alive. The exhaust note got throatier, and the steering response was immediately sharper. F-Sport indeed. A few twisties later, I couldn’t help but notice that my fuel mileage had gone up to an average of 11L/100km. For a 300+ horsepower vehicle with a V6, that’s not half bad.
I can’t help but wonder where Lexus really targets this car. On one hand, there’s the middle-aged family man who wants some fun on his daily commute, and on the other hand there’s the young executive in his mid to late twenties. Regardless, there’s no doubt in my mind that there’s room in every single garage for this GS. Lexus actually contemplated killing off the GS lineup after the last one; what a shame that would have been. Though appearing a tad bland, I always did have a soft spot for the previous-generation GS. I do think that the one thing missing from the revamped GS is the availability of a throaty V8. Even though I can go on and on about how brilliant this V6 sounds, it would be positively epic with 8 cylinders.
The equipment list on my 2013 Lexus GS F-Sport was stratospheric. Leather all around, metallic dash trim, a screen that seems as though it’d fit in the local Cineplex, and Lexus’ new Remote Touch Interface (RTI). Everything is simple to operate and comfortable to use. Where other Lexus models seem to lack passion and “true enthusiast fun”, this GS defies all those theories. It’s the first time I’ve driven something with a Lexus badge that I genuinely enjoyed both in the straightaways and in the twisties. The F-Sport model deletes a couple things that I’d like to have though. I know I’m being picky here, but the car is missing adaptive cruise control (that I thoroughly enjoyed in the ES350 I drove this past fall), fog lamps, and a panoramic sunroof. These gripes though are solely a case of wanting to have my cake and eat it too.
This GS F-Sport does cater to the “grown-up” enthusiast. Lexus has done a stellar job of creating a performance car that can be lived with on an everyday basis. If the car had traction control that could be completely defeated (it tends to be far more invasive than it should be in a performance-oriented car), it would make winter driving fun rather than “adequately comfortable”. My colleagues and I recently established that a surefire way to determine how much we truly like a car is by how depressed we are upon returning it. Well, in the case of the GS F-Sport, turning the keys over to Lexus was not unlike losing a pet. It’ll take me a while to get over this one.7 comments