What's the used Lexus GS saloon like?
Standing out in the established luxury car class is hard. The Lexus GS has to compete with a number of premium rivals, such as the BMW 5 Series, Audi A6 and even the Volkswagen Passat. With such a strong list of alternatives, it has to have a unique selling point in order for it to garner some attention. Fortunately, it does.
One of the major reasons you’d choose the GS over the competition is that it's available with a hybrid powertrain. This is good news for those who do most of their driving in congested town or city traffic, since the car can run for a limited time on electric power only, making it a very quiet way to get around.
The GS 300h is probably best for this, because it promises diesel-like economy. For those who need more power, there's also another hybrid that features a 292bhp 3.5-litre V6 (the GS 450h), as well as 220bhp 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine in the GS 250. There's also a range-topping 5.0-litre V8 petrol called the GS F. Unfortunately for some, there are no diesel engines available.
The entry-level trim equips the GS with a wealth of Lexus safety systems, 10-way adjustable front seats, a leather upholstery and a 12.3in screen infotainment system complete with sat nav, Bluetooth and DAB radio. Upgrade to the Luxury trim and the GS gets 18in alloy wheels and a rear-view camera, while the F-Sport trim adds adaptive suspension, heated and ventilated front sports seats and LED headlights. The range-topping Premier models get a touch more luxury, with premium leather and wood used on the interior, a head-up display and a 17-speaker Mark Levinson audio system, while the red hot GS F gets numerous sporting details and aerodynamic parts fitted, and a quad-exhaust system.
Hybrid GS models use a CVT gearbox. This makes the driving experience a little odd, at least to begin with. When you put your foot down, instead of the 'box kicking down to a lower gear (because there aren't any), it increases the engine revs to the top of the power band to give the best acceleration. However, this should rarely happen at slower speeds, and you'll be treated to a very peaceful drive.
The calm and unflustered way the GS drives impresses. The ride is supple and composed, although F Sport models fidget a little. Body control is generally very good, although predictably cornering is improved by selecting the sportiest of modes in cars with adaptive suspension. The same can be said of the steering – nicely weighted, if a touch on the light side. Selecting 'Sport' adds 10 per cent more weight.
The GS F is a totally different animal, with a 5.0-litre V8 that springs into life above 3800rpm and revs all the way to 7300rpm, its growling bellow getting louder and more manic as it goes. It reaches 62mph in less than five seconds. With lots of performance-focused dynamic upgrades, it has a much firmer ride but changes direction with real athleticism. The suspension comes with switchable dampers that get firmer still in the sportier drive modes. While the ride gets harder, it’s never harsh and copes with bucking B roads surprisingly well. Its downfall is the indecisive eight-speed automatic gearbox, though, which fails to select the gear you want, when you want it, making it hard to get the best from the characterful engine.
The GS's interior is something special, featuring plenty of soft-touch plastics, real metal and supple leather. However, the infotainment system isn’t the easiest to use, because it's controlled by a trackpad that’s far too sensitive, meaning you often miss your intended icon, particularly when you're driving.
The hybrid system also robs the boot of space, and you can't get split-folding rear seats, whereas you can in most rival cars. This inflexibility hampers practicality greatly if you need to carry long items, such as a bicycle. Space in the rear seats isn’t that great, either, and the car's high window line can make the interior feel cramped. Room up front is better, and there's a wide range of adjustment in the seat and steering wheel – often electrically.