You'll Like The 2011 Lexus GS If...
If you're looking for a sedan with room for the family and a touch of luxury with enough performance to live it up now and then, the GS line (especially the GS 460 and its V8) combines them in an elegant, reliable package.
You May Not Like The 2011 Lexus GS If...
There are those who believe any proper sport sedan still must wear a German badge, or at least offer a manual transmission. For them the GS in any trim will likely come up short.
Drivers who opt out of the optional Navigation system will receive a compass-equipped interior rearview mirror. The biggest change for 2011, however, is the addition of Toyota's Smart Stop Technology as standard equipment.
Supple leather, brushed aluminum and beautiful polished woods decorate the 2011 Lexus GS's well-organized and luxuriously comfortable cabin. In a realm where typical Lexus levels of fit are expected, touches like the easy-to-follow white-on-black gauges, well-placed basic controls and clever array of function switches hidden behind a drop-down panel on the dash set the GS apart from the traditional choices. Formed power front bucket seats will carry anyone in comfort, with the bucketed rear bench having sufficient head and legroom to handle a pair of adults and children (only) in the center spot.
It's difficult to call any car's design aggressive and subtle in the same breath, but it almost has to be done with the GS. At first glance one could be forgiven for noticing only the badge and letting the eyes move on, but a longer second glance reveals a sedan which has really come into its own after styling tweaks for the 2008 and 2010 model years. The front fascia gives the GS a bit of a sneer, and its lower, wider stance lends an air of sport to the elegant bodywork. The well-proportioned windshield view provides good outward visibility while the bi-xenon HID headlamps and quick-responding LED taillamps make it easier to see and be seen regardless of time of day or conditions. All GS models come with standard alloy wheels: The GS 350 sports 225/50WR17 performance tires, with the GS 350 AWD opting for an all-season run-flat alternative and the GS 460 rolling on 245/40ZR18s.
Comfortable, controllable and quick with either powertrain or drivetrain combination, the 2011 Lexus GS is an excellent all-around performer that should please all but the most hardcore sport-sedan buyers. The suspension sacrifices just a bit of feedback in exchange for daily-driver comfort and sporty edginess, but the GS 460's optional Power Active Stabilizer system does a great job keeping body roll in check if you do decide to have some fun in the corners. The electronically-boosted variable power steering is both quick and precise, if slightly artificial-feeling. Those who want to see what the GS can really do can switch off completely the many handling assists and let it fly, while those who prefer all-weather security can opt for the GS 350 AWD. No matter which GS model suits your fancy, its fine cabin provides expected Lexus levels of luxury, convenience and isolation from wind and road noise.
The Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Prices (MSRP) on these mid-size sport sedans reflect their impressive content and capabilities while keeping them competitive and in line with offerings from the Germans (Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz) as well as Japanese upscale competitors (the Acura RL, Infiniti M35 and M45) and even slightly lower price-point cars, such as the Cadillac STS. The GS 350 starts near $47,000, with the GS 350 AWD closer to $49,000 and the GS 460 at about the $55,000 mark. Options can add as much as $10,000 to those prices, but those who can live without every bell and whistle available can keep prices near base and come away with a very enticing car. Toyota's resale value might also be enticing, as the GS line's projected residual values are marginally better than those of the Audi A6, BMW 5 Series, Infiniti M and Mercedes-Benz E-Class competitors, and notably better than those of the Cadillac STS.
Every Lexus GS comes equipped to justify its place in the luxury sedan market. Beyond the available powertrains, you'll find leather-covered and heated 10-way power front seats (heated and ventilated in the GS 460), SmartAccess keyless locking and starting, dual-zone climate control, 10-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio, a seven-inch multifunction display screen, Bluetooth connectivity, an advanced anti-lock brake (ABS) package, Smart Stop Technology, driver-switchable Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management system and front, front-side, side-curtain and knee airbags. Standard on the GS 460, and optional on the GS 350, are Adaptive Variable suspension and the corner-following Adaptive Front Lighting System (AFS).
The list of options for the GS is fairly short, including a 330-watt Mark Levinson Premium Sound System, DVD-based voice-activated navigation system and the Lexus Pre-Collision System (PCS) with Dynamic Radar Cruise Control. Other single items of note include computer-controlled Active Power Stabilizer Suspension System, all-season run-flat tires, park assist and a rear spoiler. There are three choices (Golden Bird's-Eye Maple, Red Walnut and Dark Grey Bird's-Eye Maple) for the interior wood trim, dependent on which color interior the driver chooses.
Optional Mark Levinson Premium Audio System
Available with or without the DVD-based Lexus navigation system in any GS model, the Mark Levinson audio package delivers an auditory experience that rivals hearing music performed live. With 330 watts of 5.1 Surround Sound power and 14 strategically-positioned speakers, it makes good use of whatever content your ears prefer.
Affording an even cleaner look to the already elegantly ergonomic cabin of the GS, a concealed panel on the left side of the dash houses a bank of power switches for several items, including the outside mirrors, rear sunshade, instrument illumination levels and odometer resets.
Under the Hood
Both the V6 available in the GS 350 models and the GS 460's V8 are clinics in modern engine construction, from their weight-saving aluminum construction to the variable valve timing used to optimize both performance and efficiency. The 3.5-liter V6 in the GS 350 and GS 350 AWD turns out 303 horsepower and 274 pound-feet of torque, to send either car from zero to 60 mph in under six seconds when backed by the six-speed automatic. The 4.6-liter V8 in the GS 460 ups the output figures to 342 horsepower and 339 pound-feet of torque. Teamed with a sophisticated eight-speed sequential automatic transmission, it allows the GS 460 to complete the 0-60 mph run in 5.4 seconds. FYI: Manual-style gear changes still must be made using the console lever, as neither transmission offers steering-wheel-mounted shift buttons or paddles.
303 horsepower @ 6200 rpm
274 lb.-ft. of torque @ 3600 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/26 (RWD), 18/25 (AWD)
342 horsepower @ 6200 rpm
339 lb.-ft. of torque @ 3600 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 17/24
One could be forgiven for thinking that the Lexus GS line would be lost between the popular ES 350 and the flagship LS 460 but, in fact, the GS models have found their own niche with consumers. By combining the luxury expected from Lexus with subtly-aggressive styling and surprising performance, Toyota's upscale division has gained a foothold in a market segment typically associated with German sedans such as BMW's 5 Series, Audi's A6 and the Mercedes E-Class. In addition to offering the only hybrid in this segment, the GS 450h (reviewed separately), the GS lineup consists of three gasoline-powered variants: The rear-drive and all-wheel-drive GS 350 share a common 3.5-liter V6, while the rear-drive GS 460 has a larger and more powerful V8 engine.