The 2018 Lexus GS midsize luxury sedan is a high-water mark for many reasons. Firstly, it combines top-notch build quality (for which Lexus is rightly renowned) with attributes traditionally found in German luxury cars. The suspension feels like something straight out of Stuttgart, 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 European influence, reminding us of a older-generation BMW 5 Series with its top-quality materials and restrained design.
This generation of GS launched in 2013, and it has improved step-by-step with each model year, evolving into a resounding success. We do have reservations, though. The edgy exterior styling, for example. And some rivals are faster. But the overall package of the GS, including strong resale values, makes a compelling argument.
What’s New for 2018?
The erstwhile GS 200t is renamed the GS 300 but doesn’t get any boost in power. The company’s Enform Safety and Service Connect features (covering roadside assistance and scheduled maintenance) are now free for 10 years. See the 2018 Lexus GS models for sale near you
What We Like
Exceptionally pleasant interior; genuinely sporty handling; plenty of technology; choice of regular and hybrid models; executive-class back seat
What We Don’t
Acceleration in the smaller engine isn’t as punchy as comparable setups in other high-end sport sedans; infotainment system interface not particularly intuitive
The rear-drive-only GS 300 has a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine making 241 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates fuel consumption at 22 miles per gallon city, 32 mpg highway and 26 mpg combined. The F Sport variant returns 21 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. Fuel consumption for the rear-drive version is 20 mpg city/28 mpg hwy/23 mpg combined, or 19 mpg city/27 mpg hwy/22 mpg combined in F Sport guise. All-wheel-drive GS 350 models achieve 19 mpg city/26 mpg hwy/22 mpg combined.
Both the GS 300 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, check out the 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. A continuously variable transmission (CVT) sends that energy to the rear wheels only. Fuel economy is an outstanding 29 mpg city/34 mpg hwy/31 mpg combined
For a lot more power, the GS F (not to be confused with the F Sport) has a 5.0-liter V8 endowed with 467 hp and 389 lb-ft of torque. It’s linked to an 8-speed automatic transmission that drives the rear wheels. Fuel consumption is 16 mpg city/24 mpg hwy/19 mpg combined.
Standard Features & Options
The 2018 Lexus GS sedan is offered in GS 300, GS 350, GS 450h and GS F trim levels.
GS 300 ($47,305) starts out with 17-inch alloys, LED headlights, a sunroof, keyless entry with push-button ignition, a rearview camera, a power tilt-telescopic steering wheel, 10-way power front seats, synthetic leather upholstery, driver’s-side memory functions, drive mode selection, self-dimming rearview and side mirrors, ambient lighting, wood trim, a trip computer with color TFT display, 12.3-in infotainment screen with Remote Touch controller, dual-zone automatic climate control, navigation, Bluetooth and a 12-speaker surround-sound audio system with DVD audio capability, satellite radio, auxiliary input and iPod/USB connectivity.
GS 350 ($51,690) comes with the V6, 18-in alloy wheels and real leather upholstery (except for the 2018 base all-wheel-drive version, which gets synthetic leather and is therefore less expensive at $51,360).
GS 450h ($64,690) has 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 models as options.
The V8-powered GS F ($85,345) has almost everything as standard, including an adaptive suspension, carbon fiber rear spoiler, 19-in alloys and a quad sport exhaust system.
Additional options include adaptive suspension, head-up display, a power-closing trunk lid, 18-way multi-contour power front seats, semi-aniline perforated leather upholstery, heated rear seats, a power sunshade and a 17-speaker/835-watt Mark Levinson audio system.
The enthusiast-oriented F Sport package 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, 12-way power sport driver’s seat with adjustable side bolsters and special interior materials.
Trunk space amounts to 18.4 cu ft. in the regular GS, 15.9 cu ft. in the hybrid, and (according to Lexus) 14 cu ft. in the GS F. The rear seats don’t split and fold, which might be occasionally irritating, although there is a pass-through hatch.
The GS comes with stability control, 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes and 10 airbags (front, front-side, front-knee, rear-side and full-length side curtain). The Lexus Safety System Plus is also standard, bringing adaptive cruise control, forward-collision mitigation with pedestrian detection, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, active lane-keeping and intelligent high beams.
The government has not crash-tested the GS, but the independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the car its highest rating of Good in every category but one. It has yet to go through the Institute’s small overlap front-impact test.
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 rpm, quite low in the powerband, 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.
At speed, the GS has the confident, controlled attitude that sets great luxury sport sedans apart. The steering feels artificial, but it’s highly responsive to driver inputs.
This is a long car, so seems 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 non-existent.
The GS F’s adaptive suspension fixes a driving complaint, where the ride quality wasn’t sufficiently refined. Lexus claims the F can go from standstill to 60 miles per hour in 4.5 seconds. That’s only fractionally slower than a Corvette.
Other Cars to Consider
2018 Acura RLX — Well equipped. The Sport Hybrid version could be an alternative to the GS 450h. Updated for 2018.
2018 Audi A6 — Still excellent, but a new generation is imminent.
2018 BMW 5 Series — All-new for 2018. The benchmark for the class.
2018 Cadillac CTS — Ready, willing, able and American.
2018 Jaguar XF — Sleek and supple.
2018 Mercedes-Benz E-Class — One of the best and loaded with advanced technology.
Used Audi A8 — At this level, there are all sorts of intriguing alternatives. If style and space are paramount, check out a certified pre-owned (CPO) A8.
Tastes and budgets will differ, but any GS is a good choice.