There exist only two kinds of cars in this world with this level of noise inside the cabin – a hybrid and an electric. Both of which is what the new Lexus GS is not. Yet, the deafening silence keeps deceiving my noggin into thinking otherwise.
Right now, I’m in the Lexus GS 250 Luxury Trim. I’ve been told that in total, there will be three trim-levels and two engines choices for the GS. The three trim-levels are standard, Luxury and F-Sport. You can have your Luxury and F-Sport with either the 2.5 litre or 3.5 litre engine, or the GS 250 and GS 350 respectively.
The Luxury Trim falls in the middle, between the standard and the F-Sport. However, having the Luxury tag means that it gets all the pomp and circumstance, making this the crunchy peanut butter in a PB sandwich.
It has a huge 12.3 inch display in the centre console, plenty of leather, some nice tactile plastics, dark wood finishes and an analogue clock that is a must for all luxury cars.
What else… the indices of the meter cluster has a subtle matte sheen effect, the steering wheel has a nice meaty feel and the driver seat can be electronically adjusted to make it feel as if you’re in a bucket seat or a La-Z-Boy chair. And that Mark Levinson 17-speaker sound system sounds delicious.
One improvement that I can immediately tell is the Remote Touch Interface. It still retains the mousey configuration, but this time it is more of an Apple mouse rather than a PC mouse. You see, in its previous incarnation, you select your option by pressing a button on the side of the controller. This one, you press down on the controller to select your option, which makes it more intuitive.
And, Lexus has put more feedback, in the sense that there is some resistance when moving from option to the next. Elsewhere, the parking brake is fully automatic – pop the gear lever into ‘P’ and the parking brake engages automatically. Pop it out of ‘P’, well, you get the drift.
So, the car creeps out quietly out of the parking lot. The GS 250 is in ECO mode, which kills anything that remotely resembles power in the car. The accelerator pedal feels like a sponge and the engine response is almost two years too late. The upside is there are three more drive modes above ECO – Normal, Sport and Sport +.
There isn’t much difference between ECO and Normal, both having similar throttle and engine response characteristics. The only major difference in how hard the air conditioning blows, which for ECO’s case, it blows softer.
As for Sport mode, the GS 250 gets a sharper throttle and remaps the gear’s shift points. Sport + will give you everything from Sport, plus a firmer suspension and a tighter steering.
Dial the knob to Sport and the car gets more fun to drive. A nudge in the throttle quickly puts some speed into the GS 250. The 2.5 litre 4GR-FSE has 206 hp and 253 Nm. No official 0-100 km/h or top speed figures but it feels like it’ll do the century sprint under eight seconds. The engine is mated to a 6 Super ECT close-ration 6-speed conventional automatic gearbox that sends power to the rear.
Handling-wise, the GS 250 in Sport has a sizable body roll to deal with; the suspension is not altered in any way. Although the GS is rear-wheel driven, the nose tends to push itself away from the corner instead of sniffing the apex.
In Sport + mode, the GS 250 feels much quicker. The shift points are stretched deeper into the revs and sensitive to the throttle. Which means, you can hold the rev steady in the sweet spot while going through a fast corner. Then put your foot down for a speedy exit. The Sport + does a very good job in restraining the body roll. Again, there is a hint of understeer that makes it constantly want you to feed it a bit more steering; just a bit more.
I can’t say much for the steering wheel, except that it needs to be more chatty. It’s nearly uncommunicative, even in Sport mode. Sport + puts more feel into the wheel, but only just.
Is it boring to drive? Not quite. Push the throttle pedal closer to the floor and you’ll hear some encouraging noises coming from the front. Lexus has given the engine more roar by way of a Sound Generator at the intake area. They’ve also tuned the muffler to give a more sporty sound when taking off from standstill. That said, it still sounds soft in the GS 250. To really hear the noise, you need to be inside the GS 350.
Basically, the GS 350 has everything the GS 250 possesses, except that it has a bigger engine. The 3.5 litre 2GR-FSE engine generates 312 hp and 378 Nm of torque, and obviously feels quicker. Again, no official numbers on the century sprint, but it feels close to about 6.5 seconds. The transmission is the same one as found on the GS 250.
As for handling, the GS 350 does feel hairier around the corner mainly because of the entry and exit speed. I’d still wish for more steering feel though.
The drive for both cars ended far too soon. This was a preview drive after all, so there was only a short 15 minutes allocated to each driver for each car. As soon as we can secure an extended test drive, we’ll be bringing you a detailed review on these two. No word on the price yet, but the official launch will happen later in the day, so more to come soon.