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Lexus GS 350, 2013: Plush new sedan ready to challenge German luxury leaders BMW, Audi

Like its siblings throughout the Lexus line-up, the GS 350 has been redesigned for 2013. The fourth generation of the upscale midsize sedan is slightly wider and taller than previous editions and it’s also touted with improved steering, more power and increase fuel efficiency.

The length and wheelbase remain the same as older models and the GS 350 still features a 3.5-liter V6. But its new exterior design has resulted in 25 percent more trunk capacity, and with all of its improvements Lexus is hoping to provide more competition for the dominating German brands.

The Weekly Driver Test Drive

Driving the GS 350 is everything that defines a luxury sedan, and as part of Toyota’s upscale lineup, it did little wrong. But the new sedan also included some unexpected new technology I hadn’t previously experienced.

Lexus GS 350, 2013: Plush new sedan ready to challenge German luxury leaders BMW, Audi 1
Lexus 12.3-inch navigation system featuring Enform. All images © James Raia/2012

With its 306 horsepower and all-wheel drive (front wheel drive is available, too), the GS 350 was ideal for a weekend getaway. The six-speed automatic with manual shift paddle controls is the only available transmission, and that was equally ideal for the largely 200-mile freeway trek from Sacramento to Santa Cruz.

The new Lexus had superior acceleration and it powered along the open road with an impressive combination of comfort and control.

The standard features list for the GS 350 is extensive and plenty good enough. But my test vehicle not only included vast “luxury and convenience” features, it featured the expansive nearly $5,700 F SPORT Package and a top-of-the-line navigation system.

Beyond what might be expected — upgraded leather, wood trim, heated steering wheel, heated front and back seats, a luxury sound system — there are maybe 50 other features, and it all added up to more than $10,000 in extras. That pushed the price past $60,000 and thus there’s plenty of reason for a long pause.

Nevertheless, all of the extras are enjoyable, including the hi-tech navigation system and the suite of applications Lexus calls Enform. It allows real-time traffic information and the uploading of destination information to a laptop or mobile phone as well live operator assistance 24/7.

The system is available via the 12.3-inch display and with the use of a moveable pad similar to a gaming device control. The sound the control makes roaming function-to-function is reminiscent of the ancient video game, Pong.

The Enform system is also featured in other Lexus models (featured in the image gallery) I drove at the manufacturer’s recent regional media day at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, California.

During my week with GS 350, there was a constant dilemma: the enjoyment of a luxury car versus the cost of its excesses. A 12.3-inch navigation screen and the immediate available of a live navigation technician who sends directions to the screen in a few seconds isn’t necessary. But my wife and I used the feature several times, and it’s terrific.

Likewise, is sub six-second acceleration from 0-60 mph and 306 horsepower necessary? The combination doesn’t do much for the economy of the car. Yet the impressive acceleration and commanding power are easy to get accustomed to, which is another why the Lexus GS 350 is desirable.

Likes:

Plush, smooth ride.

Well-designed, handsome interior.

Great safety features.

Size (12.3 inches), clarity and functionality of navigation screen.

Commanding acceleration.

Enform technology services.

Dislikes:

Expensive option packages.

Tight rear seat if the driver is more than six-feet tall.

Luxury grade sound system not all that special.

Ominous, Darth Vader-style front grille.

Facts & Figures: 2013 Lexus GS350

Acceleration: 0-60 mph, 5.8 seconds.
Airbags: six.
First aid kit: No.
Fuel economy: 19 mpg (city), 26 mpg (highway), 21 mpg (combined), six-speed automatic transmission.
Government Safety Ratings: NTHSA, Not rated.
Horsepower: 306.
Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price: $49,450.00.
Manufacturer’s Web site: www.lexus.com.
Price As tested: $60,924.00.
Warranty: Bumper to bumper, 4 years/50,000 miles; Powertrain, 5 years/70,000 miles; Corrosion: 5 years/unlimited mileage.

What Others Say:

“The new GS’ impressive blend of nimble handling, quiet road manners, intriguing looks and high-level interior seem like the perfect blueprint for the brand’s future.” — Cars.com.

“This car is ‘once more, with feeling,’ gunning for the BMW 535 and Mercedes E350, and the message is that this sedan not only represents a jump forward for the model line, but also for the brand itself.” — Autoblog.

“Lexus should be proud of this car. It’s still a Lexus as it should be. Smooth. Comfortable. But it’s the best-driving Lexus sedan yet.” — Edmunds.

What The Wife Says:

“It was like having our own personal chauffeur . . . ‘Where to madam?’ ”

The Weekly Driver’s Final Words:

“The Lexus GS 350 is an ideal open-road sedan. It commands a lot attention without having to try. It features a lot of worthwhile technology and has well-designed and functional safety equipment. Nevertheless, at nearly $61,000 it just doesn’t quite add up.”

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