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2013 Lexus GS 350 F-Sport: Real-World Test

Nearly 100% of the time, I prefer chocolate to vanilla. And when it comes to cars, I don’t want just plain old chocolate ice cream; I want rocky road covered in hot fudge. So, when I found out that I’d be driving the Lexus GS 350, I kind of giggled and assumed that I’d be in for a week’s worth of putting around town in a middle-aged man’s touring car.

When the car arrived, it was the F-Sport trim. Ooh-la-la. It certainly looked aggressive, and word on the street was that it comes with a few go-fast goodies from Lexus’ F-Sport division, too. There are Sport and Sport+ modes that change the throttle mapping and suspension, 19" gunmetal wheels fill the arches and most interesting: the car is equipped with rear-wheel steering for tighter turns and better handling.

Outside, the front fascia is significantly different from the standard GS 350 and 450h trims. Fog lamps are replaced by angular air dams, and this car’s "spindle grille" looks downright nasty, like it’s looking for a fight. Inside, I was instantly reminded that Lexus’ primary mission has always been to create a comfortable environment for the passengers. The interior materials are superb, and the fit and finish could rival those of many $100,000 cars on the market today.

Lexus’s updated version of the Remote Touch navigation and entertainment system is not only gorgeous, but it’s also much easier to use than it has been in the past. I guess that’s where their "pursuit of perfection" kicks in, because this keeps getting better. The screen itself is one of the largest we’ve seen at 12.3", and it can control basically every interior comfort function in the car.

Slick exteriors and comfortable interiors have never been a challenge for Lexus, though. The brand’s vice has always come from making cars too comfortable at the expense of the driver’s enjoyment, leaving cars like the GS to chase behind the BMW 5 Series, Audi A6, Infiniti M and even Mercedes-Benz E-Class.

With the F-Sport, that story is being rewritten. With 306 horsepower and a remapped exhaust, the GS is not only quick, but it sounds good while you’re driving. In the higher RPMs, there’s this deliciously throaty sound from the engine that reminds you that you’re not steering a boat-you’re piloting a sports car. Braking power is solid, and the car comes quickly to a stop, despite weighing nearly 4,000 lbs.

On the highway, the F-Sport is compliant and comfortable, but with a quick switch to Sport+, the suspension tightens for handling. Without tracking them side-by-side, we’d guess that it certainly outpaces the Mercedes E-Class, and feels on par with sportier cars like the 5 Series and Infiniti M.

In the city, the GS F-Sport is good for 19 mpg, but we saw 28 mpg on the interstate. The base GS 350 starts at $47,775, but a fully equipped GS 350 F-Sport with all-wheel drive will run around $65,000.

Whether your preference is for chocolate or vanilla, the 2013 Lexus GS 350 F-Sport is a little bit of both, like the swirled ice cream in the soft-serve line.

The 2013 Lexus GS is now on sale.


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