So here you have it, this is THE BMW, and yes, it’s as incredible as you could wish for, or is it? The previous generation BMW M5 has a 5-litre V10 engine that was naturally aspirated. It really was a possessed road car that was born on a track somewhere. But due to some of […]
2013 Lexus GS 350 Review
Every car makes an impression on you when you get into it. There is always something that grabs your attention, even in low end, basic cars, you’re always struck by the simplicity, or the basic lack of features, and that often sets the tone for what you think of the car.
In the case of the Lexus GS 350, the feature that jumped out at me was the sheer size of the high resolution screen mounted in the dash board. It’s enormous, 12.3” enormous. That’s almost as big as the screen I’m writing this on.
More than just the size, it’s incredibly clear. Lexus call it Electro Multi Vision, which I suppose is a fancy way of saying it’s very visible from just about any angle.
The screen is set quite deep in the dash, you’ve got at least 20cm from the edge of the dash to the front of the screen, creating a kind of shelf, which you’d do well not to put anything on as it’s likely to bugger up the beautiful screen I’m so in awe of.
Being set so far back in the dash, it’s useless as a touch screen, which is probably good. My Lexus IS 250 had a touch screen, and it was mounted on the front end of the dash, making it practical as a touch screen. For the GS 350 though Lexus have added a haptic device, that works similar to a mouse.
It’s a square block on the centre arm rest, where your hand would naturally come to rest, and it slides around allowing you to select various aspects of the computer interface on the screen in the dash. To select something, you simply press the square like you would click a mouse.
This allows you to navigate the on-board computer, where you can control just about anything, from connecting your phone for calls and music playback via bluetooth, to setting the temperature in the car, and entering destinations in the SAT NAV.
As you’d expect, this can be quite distracting while driving, and our good friends at Lexus have though of that too, so once you’re going faster than about 20km/h, the overall functionality of the on-board computer system is greatly reduced. You really need to be stationary to change things and configure things, which I suppose does make it a lot safer, but is impractical when a passenger wants to do something.
Just below the screen is an interesting combination of old meets new. There is an analogue clock, which my 6 year old son immediately branded as a ‘grandpa clock’. But it’s not as grandpa as you’d think. The clock is lit by LEDs, which at night make it stand out quite nicely and adds quite a nice touch to the dash.
Also mounted on the centre console is a big round knob, that has 3 settings. ECO, NORMAL and SPORT. Click it left for ECO, press it for NORMAL, and click it right for SPORT.
We spent most of the time fiddling with ECO and SPORT, and there isn’t *that* much difference between the two, except that in SPORT mode the ‘box changes later, and tries to keep the revs up in the optimal torque band. Of course, this has a negative effect on your fuel economy, which is why you’d keep it in ECO, which does the exact opposite, tries to keep your revs down, and sips as gently as the 3.5-litre V6 can on the fuel.
Once the size of the screen stops intimidating you, and you get over all the little buttons and controls under your left arm, you quickly become aware of an incredibly comfortable seating position. Soft leather seats make the drivers seat (and passenger seat if you happen to find yourself that side) very luxurious. The position is excellent too, every control you could possibly need is within fingers reach, and you barely need to move to change or control anything.
This can be problematic too, the drive of the car is so smooth, and so quiet that being in a comfortable seat you could quickly nod off and forget that you’re actually behind the wheel of a 233kW V6.
The Lexus GS 350 has a key, which is almost incidental as you never really use it. Well, you do use it, but not like a normal key. Stick it in your pocket and leave it there.
When you walk up to the car, and put your hand in behind the door handle, while the key is in your pocket the car unlocks. Touch the door handle on the little dimple to the right while the door is closed and it locks again. A nice little touch is the door mirrors that light up when you walk up the to car, and fold in and out as you lock and unlock the car.
Keep the key in your pocket and when you’re sitting in the car, you simply press the start button located on the dash to bring the car to life. The steering wheel slides forward, and the seat moves into position when you start the car, and does the opposite when you switch it off. This makes getting in and out of the car a whole lot easier.
At first I thought the GS 350 didn’t have a handbrake. There is a handbrake indicator on the dash, which goes on when you put the car in park, and goes off when you take it out of park, but it turns out that there is a manual handbrake button below the steering wheel, and right next to it, there is an ‘auto’ button, which really should just be left on. Then you can pretend there isn’t a hand brake and you’ll never need to worry about it again.
Standard on the GS 350 is the reverse angle camera, which is like watching HD TV right in your car, except the only channel is what ever is behind you while you’re in reverse.
Driving the Lexus I was struck by how quiet it is. Powered by a 3.5-litre V6 engine it produces 233kW and 378Nm of torque. It goes very well, and very silently. There isn’t any growl, or drama, or much else, just a solid dose of power as you step on the gas, delivered effortlessly.
Handling is pretty good too. Lexus have put a lot of effort into improving the chassis to make the suspension better. They’ve made it lighter, wider, and stronger than previous generation GS and it’s pretty good in the corners.
The overall setup of the GS 350 though leans more towards the smooth, comfortable, powerful drive. While it’s capable of sport mode, and capable of being put through a couple of mountain passes, you just don’t necessarily feel like the type of car that you’d want to do that with.
I quite enjoyed just cruising around quietly. On the highway cruising at 120km/h is effortless, and overtaking a breeze with the simple squeeze of the trigger.
On the whole the Lexus GS 350 is a very fine car, and with pricing below R600,000 and an enormous amount of standard equipment it’s very good value in it’s class.
It’s on the comfortable side, and while being a very good drive, it might not inspire everyone. If you’re looking for a car with more aural feedback consider a BMW for instance, or even an Audi if you’re looking for something to play with on mountain passes.
But as an everyday luxury saloon, the GS 350 is a fabulous car.