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2015 Lexus GS: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader March 2015

The 2015 Lexus GS represents a new page for Lexus, and it's time for driving enthusiasts to give Toyota's luxury brand a second chance. Yes, we know that might be hard to believe. Lexus has built an almost peerless reputation for reliability over the years, but performance has never been its strong suit. We're as surprised as everyone else that the new GS is a genuine driver's car.

All it takes is a few miles in the saddle to recognize that the GS is built for people who love to drive. The suspension feels like something straight out of Germany, conveying substance and control in equal measure. Steering response is just as impressive, particularly with the F Sport model's active rear steering system. Even the interior suggests a Germanic influence, reminding us of BMW's best with its top-quality materials and restrained design.

We do have reservations about the GS, however. For one thing, its edgy styling evokes the Japanese tuner scene a bit too vividly for our tastes, and we wonder if luxury-car shoppers will feel the same way. Also, there are definitely faster sedans available at this price, in part because the GS no longer offers a V8 engine. But overall, the GS model's extreme performance makeover strikes us as a resounding success. If this is where Lexus products are headed, color us intrigued.

What's New for 2015?

The GS lineup gets standard 18-inch wheels and a revised infotainment display with 3-way split-screen functionality. Also, the hybrid-powered GS 450h is now eligible for an F Sport package.

What We Like

Exceptionally nice interior; genuinely sporty handling; technology galore; choice of regular and hybrid models; executive-class back seat

What We Don't

Lacks the acceleration of other high-end sport sedans

How Much?

$49,525-$62,255

Fuel Economy

The 2015 GS 350 comes with rear- or all-wheel drive and a 3.5-liter V6 rated at 306 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque. The rear-wheel-drive version gets an 8-speed automatic transmission, while the all-wheel-drive GS gets a 6-speed automatic. Fuel economy for the rear-wheel-drive model should be slightly better than last year's already decent 19 miles per gallon in the city and 29 mpg on the highway, while the all-wheel-drive model checks in at 19 mpg city/26 mpg hwy.

If you want a little more power, the rear-wheel-drive-only GS 450h hybrid provides it. Rated at a combined 338 hp, the GS hybrid employs an Atkinson-cycle V6, an electric motor and a nickel-metal hydride battery pack. It comes with a continuously variable transmission, and fuel economy is an outstanding 29 mpg city/34 mpg hwy.

Standard Features & Options

The 2015 Lexus GS sedan is offered in GS 350, GS 350 AWD and GS 450h trim levels.

The GS 350 ($48,610) comes standard with 18-inch alloy wheels, xenon headlights, a sunroof, keyless entry with push-button ignition, a power tilt-telescopic steering wheel, 10-way power front seats with manual fore/aft headrest adjustability, leather upholstery, driver memory functions, electroluminescent gauges, a trip computer with a color TFT display, an 8-in infotainment screen with the Remote Touch mouselike controller, dual-zone automatic climate control, Bluetooth and a 12-speaker surround-sound audio system with DVD audio capability, satellite radio, an auxiliary input and iPod/USB connectivity.

The GS 350 AWD ($51,775) adds all-wheel drive but loses a couple of speeds in its transmission, while the GS 450h ($60,510) gets the fancy hybrid powertrain, unique hybrid-themed gauges and readouts, exclusive bamboo trim, heated and ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel and a power rear sunshade.

Aside from the bamboo trim and hybrid gear, the GS 450h's extra features are available on other GS models as options. Additional options include adaptive suspension dampers, a sunroof, a blind spot warning system with rear cross-traffic alert, a head-up display (with full color for 2015), 18-way Multi-contour power front seats (BMW and Mercedes, perhaps not coincidentally, also use this term), semi-aniline perforated leather upholstery, a 17-speaker, 835-watt Mark Levinson audio system and a hard-drive-based navigation system with a 12.3-in widescreen display, a text-to-speech SMS function and the Lexus Enform Safety Connect telematics suite.

There's also an enthusiast-oriented F Sport package that adds 19-in wheels, rear-wheel steering (rear-wheel drive only) assorted exterior styling cues, bigger front brakes, sport-tuned adaptive dampers, a 16-way power sport driver's seat with adjustable side bolsters and unique interior materials.

Trunk space measures an average 14.3 cu ft. in the GS and 13.2 cu ft. in the hybrid.

Safety

The 2015 Lexus GS comes with standard stability control, 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes and 10 airbags (front, front-side, front-knee, rear-side and full-length side-curtain). All models include Safety Connect, which uses the same 24-hour response center as the Enform system to get you the help you need if the unexpected occurs. Options include a blind spot warning system, rear cross-traffic alert and lane-keeping assist.

The government has not crash-tested the GS, but the independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the GS its highest rating of Good in every testing category.

Behind the Wheel

The GS model's interior is a huge leap forward for the Lexus brand. Lexus has veered toward merely Toyota-plus quality in recent years, but the GS is unmistakably upscale, as shown by its supple dashboard materials with contrast stitching, its exquisite perforated leather trim and more. The hybrid-powered GS 450h even offers bright bamboo trim that wouldn't be out of place on a luxury yacht. The back seat is another win for Lexus; with its ample legroom, excellent support all around and a sleek, business-class feel, the rear quarters make the GS as satisfying to ride in as it is to drive.

Under the hood, the standard V6 is still a gem, delivering its direct-injected thrust with vigor and refinement. The 8-speed automatic (rear-wheel drive only) improves fuel economy and helps the engine stay in its sweet spot during acceleration. Our only complaint is that Lexus doesn't offer a ridiculously powerful optional engine such as the German twin-turbo V8s or the Infiniti Q70's V8.

Although the hybrid system's added weight keeps the more powerful GS 450h from being notably faster than its conventional counterpart, there's no doubt that this is one hot hybrid, particularly with its novel transmission software that simulates the shifts of a regular automatic. Like all Toyota/Lexus hybrids, the GS 450h is of the dual-mode variety, so it can operate solely on electric power at low speeds and under light throttle applications.

On the road, the GS has that confident, controlled attitude at speed that sets great luxury sport sedans apart. The steering feels artificial, but it's very responsive to driver inputs, and there's no slack to speak of. The GS is a rather long car, so it feels bulky in tight corners, but body roll is kept nicely in check, especially with the F Sport's sport-tuned adaptive dampers and unusual rear-steering feature. Nonetheless, even the F Sport retains a pleasantly supple ride on imperfect pavement, though the base GS is more compliant, and the optional non-sport-tuned adaptive dampers make it smoother still. Road and wind noise are appropriately low.

Other Cars to Consider

2015 Audi A6 3.0T -- Feature for feature, you'll pay more for the supercharged Audi, but you'll get superior acceleration in return, as well as more restrained styling. This is a close race, though.

2015 BMW 5 Series -- Any 5 Series model is a strong GS rival, and there's even a hybrid version. Although the BMW has lost its old athletic edge, it's still capable, and it boasts fantastic engines and a beautiful interior.

2015 Infiniti Q70 -- The base V6-powered Q70 is less refined than the GS 350, but there's also a hybrid version, and then there's the optional 5.6-liter V8 with 420 hp. Moreover, the Infiniti has one of the nicest cabins around.

Used Lexus LS -- The beauty of certified pre-owned vehicles is that you can go one size up and still get a factory warranty. The top-dog LS can be had as a pre-owned model for GS prices.

AutoTrader's Advice

We're not sold on the F Sport's ambitious styling tweaks, but we love the 16-way sport driver's seat, and you can't get it unless you check the F Sport box. Still, even the base GS is well equipped.

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2015 Lexus GS: New Car Review - Autotrader