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2016 Lexus GS: New Car Review

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author photo by Autotrader March 2016

The 2016 Lexus GS midsize luxury sedan moves even closer to being a truly engaging driver's car. All it takes is a few miles to recognize this fact. 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 the previous-generation BMW 5 Series with its top-quality materials and restrained design.

We do have reservations, though: the edgy exterior styling, for example. And there are definitely faster rivals. But overall, this range has evolved into a resounding success.

What's New for 2016?

Lexus has a new turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine. It's already been deployed in the NX compact crossover and IS compact sedan. And now it gives rise to a new model here, the GS 200t. The V6-powered GS 350 gains a slight power boost and navigation as standard. The whole range has received styling tweaks front and rear, the Lexus Safety System Plus is a new option package, and the infotainment system has been upgraded with a smartphone app that provides service alerts and vehicle status reports.

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

Acceleration isn't as punchy as other high-end sport sedans

How Much?


Fuel Economy

The rear-drive-only GS 200t has a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine that makes 241 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates fuel consumption at 22 miles per gallon in the city, 33 mpg on the highway and 26 mpg combined. The F SPORT variant returns 20 mpg city/30 mpg hwy/24 mpg combined.

The GS 350 uses a 3.5-liter V6 that develops 311 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque (up from last year's 306 hp and 277 lb-ft). Fuel consumption for the rear-drive version is 20 mpg city/29 mpg hwy/23 mpg combined or 19 mpg city/28 mpg hwy/22 mpg combined in F SPORT guise. All-wheel-drive GS 350 models achieve 19 mpg city/27 mpg hwy/22 mpg combined.

Both the GS 200t and the rear-drive GS 350 have an 8-speed automatic transmission. The all-wheel-drive GS 350 has a 6-speed automatic transmission.

For a little more power, you should check out the rear-drive-only GS 450h hybrid. Rated at a combined 338 hp (Lexus doesn't quote torque figures for its hybrids), this machine employs an Atkinson-cycle V6, two electric motors and a nickel-metal hydride battery pack. This setup is linked to a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Fuel economy is an outstanding 29 mpg city/34 mpg hwy/31 mpg combined.

Standard Features & Options

The 2016 Lexus GS sedan is offered in GS 200t, GS 350 and GS 450h trim levels.

The GS 200t ($46,565) starts out with 17-inch alloy LED headlights, a sunroof, keyless entry with push-button ignition, a rearview camera, a power tilt-telescopic steering wheel, 8-way power front seats, synthetic leather upholstery, driver's-seat memory functions, drive mode selection, ambient lighting, wood trim, a trip computer with a color thin-film-transistor display, an 8-in infotainment screen with Lexus' Remote Touch controller, dual-zone automatic climate control, Bluetooth and a 12-speaker surround-sound audio system with DVD audio capability, satellite radio, auxiliary input and iPod/USB connectivity.

The GS 350 ($50,950) comes with 18-in alloy wheels, real leather upholstery, a 12.3-in infotainment screen and a navigation system (which is an option in the GS 200t). All-wheel drive is optional.

The GS 450h ($64,030) gets the hybrid powertrain, hybrid-specific gauges and readouts, exclusive bamboo trim, heated/ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel and a power rear sunshade. Aside from the bamboo and the hybrid hardware, the GS 450h's extra features are available on the other GS models as options.

Additional options include an adaptive suspension, a heads-up display, a power-closing trunk lid, 18-way multicontour power front seats, semi-aniline perforated leather upholstery, heated rear seats, a power sunshade and a 17-speaker/835-watt Mark Levinson audio system.

There's also the enthusiast-oriented F SPORT package that adds 19-in wheels, variable-ratio steering, rear-wheel steering (rear-wheel-drive only), exterior styling revisions, bigger front brakes (rear-drive only), sport-tuned adaptive dampers, a 12-way power sport driver's seat with adjustable side bolsters and special interior materials.

Trunk space amounts to 16.2 cu ft. in the regular GS and 15.9 cu ft. in the hybrid.


The GS comes with standard stability control, 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, 10 airbags (front, front-side, front-knee, rear-side and full-length side-curtain) and a blind spot monitoring system with rear cross-traffic alert. All models include Enform Safety Connect, a 24-hour response system that dispatches help if necessary and also has a stolen-vehicle location function.

The optional Lexus Safety System Plus package includes adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning/mitigation with pedestrian detection and automatic braking, and lane-departure warning/assist. Front and rear parking sensors are also optional.

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

Behind the Wheel

The cabin is unmistakably upscale, from the supple dashboard materials with contrast stitching to the exquisite perforated leather trim in fancier models. The hybrid-powered GS 450h even offers bright bamboo trim that wouldn't look out of place on a luxury yacht. The back seat is another win. With ample legroom, excellent support and a sleek, business-class feel, the rear quarters make the GS as satisfying to ride in as it is to drive.

The standard V6 has been a longstanding fixture in the GS engine bay, but it's still a gem, delivering direct-injected thrust with vigor and refinement. The 8-speed automatic (rear-drive only) helps the engine stay in its sweet spot during acceleration but also contributes to decent fuel economy.

There's a nice balance to the rear-drive GS 200t with its lighter engine up front. Its maximum torque kicks in at 1,650 revolutions per minute, which is quite low in the power band, so there's some useful turbocharged surge to play with.

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 this is one hot hybrid, particularly with a CVT that simulates the shifts of a regular automatic. Like all Toyota/Lexus hybrids, the GS 450h is dual-mode, so it can operate solely on electric power at low speeds and under light throttle applications.

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

Other Cars to Consider

2016 Audi A6 -- It's a tough world out there. Most rivals to the GS are some of the best cars ever. The A6 is a prime example.

2016 BMW 5 Series -- The 5 Series is edging more toward luxury than sporty these days, but it's still wonderful to drive.

2016 Cadillac CTS -- The CTS is ready, willing, able and American.

2016 Jaguar XF -- The XF has a new generation for this model year. It's sleek and supple.

2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class -- A new generation of the E-Class is set to arrive for the next model year. It will undoubtedly be a major player.

Used Audi A8 -- At this level, there are all sorts of intriguing alternatives. If style and space are paramount, you should check out a certified pre-owned A8.

Autotrader's Advice

Although the base model is well equipped, this GS is more driver-focused than ever before, so take it all the way and opt for the F SPORT package. You may not love the exterior, but the 12-way sport driver's seat and the extra poise more than make up for it.

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2016 Lexus GS: New Car Review - Autotrader