Lifestyle Boating & Motoring Lexus GS350F: A Stylish Sports Sedan
Lexus GS350F: A Stylish Sports Sedan
Wednesday, 30 May 2012

 

Lexus-GS350-red_Jun12
Drs Sousa and Bradley found overtaking uphill a breeze, aided by nearly 400Nm of torque and the seamless gear changes. This was definitely the Lexus’s realm.

"Where the 350F Sport really comes into its own is out on the open road"!

The new Lexus GS 350 F Sport arrived in Australia last month replacing the outgoing GS300 and it fits between the IS 350 and the Lexus IS F. The 350 weighs in with a 3.5 litre Direct & Port injected quad valve, naturally aspirated DOHC V6 mated to a six-speed clutchless sequential semi-automatic transmission, which is lifted from the IS 350 and tweaked to produce 233kW and 378Nm torque (up 27% and 22% respectively).

It hosts a multitude of performance and handling upgrades designed to upstage its natural competitors from Audi, BMW and Mercedes … at a significantly lower entry fee.

The F Sport features 19-inch dark-coloured titanium alloy rims shod with staggered 235/40 and 265/35 Bridgestone tyres and upgraded 356mm ventilated two-piece front rotors. Exterior body enhancements include a redesigned front bumper that’s loosely derived from the “LFA supercar’s” DNA and a discrete rear lip spoiler and lower diffuser.

The new look has polarised opinions. The aggressive “manta ray“ front bumper treatment doesn’t quite match the conservative rump – it’s a bit like wearing fishnets to a funeral: you might think it looks sexy, but most will think you’re a bit out of place! Other than that, the side profile, individual alloys, low profile rubber and neat rear three-quarter view combined with excellent build quality this $110K luxury sports sedan is desirable. There is even “self-healing paint” with selected exterior colours. I wish my daughter’s new Lancer had that!

Slipping into the cabin, the firm, contoured leather seats are supportive and very comfortable, even on extended journeys. The new stitched leather dash has crisp, linear styling and the Display and Operation zones ooze class. This is punctuated by a small, central analogue clock forged from a single billet – very chic.

The central 12.3-inch LCD multimedia screen outguns the BMW’s 10.2 in size but its Satnav is not as detailed, and we couldn’t work out how to get rid of the split screen Nav/radio view. DAB+ Digital audio is fed to a 17-speaker Mark Levinson system. Even the air conditioning features Nano Technology moisturising!

The orange Heads Up Display (HUD) projected above the steering wheel was a little distracting despite having some manual adjustment. The Active Cruise Control employs a forward-sensing radar to adjust automatically the GS 350s speed if a vehicle is detected ahead in the same lane. Theoretically this is a safety aid but in practice it’s annoyingly sensitive with it often overreacting and retarding the cruising speed too much. Other safety features include a Pre-Collision Safety System, Blind Spot Monitor, Tyre Pressure Monitor and 10 SRS Airbags.

The aggressive styling is supported by Lexus Dynamic Handling (LDH), an integrated system controlling electric-assisted power steering, Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) and Dynamic Rear Steering (DRS). The rear wheels are steered in opposing directions to the front wheels up to 80km/h then in the same direction above 80km/h. VDIM 5 is a stability control program that incorporates traction control, Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and the DRS/VGRS (steering). These systems improve high-speed handling and stability and reduce the turning circle to 10.8m.

Having said that, the initial turn-in is a bit vague but the four-wheel steering really helps the car to track through fast-sweeping bends and sharpens the F sports slalom times over lower-spec models.

Manual sequential gear changes can be performed with either the steering wheel-mounted shift paddles or the transmission shift lever in the centre console using the Sports Program Direct Shift (SPDS) lifted from the Lexus IS F. You can select your driving mode – Normal / Eco, Sport or Sport+. The Sport mode enhances throttle and transmission control, while Sport+ changes both engine/drivetrain and suspension parameters for increased dynamics and performance. Once again, our regular passenger, Steph, felt a bit “seasick” with the Normal/ Eco mode though felt much better in Sport+.

The GS350 suffers from a common complaint we have with most of the performance-oriented clutchless, semi-automatics  they’re all a bit nervous on part-throttle and initial braking, which can make car parks and traffic jams more annoying. It also suffers a bit from the familiar 6-cylinder engine noise at moderate revs.

Where the 350 F Sport really comes into its own is out on the open road. Pete took the Lexus on a quick blast to Jurien Bay and then to York for the annual motorcycle festival. After the mandatory pies and sauce on Avon Tce listening to TC (“Top Cop or The Commish”) O’Callaghan rocking the bikers in the main street, we decided to head back along the Great Southern Highway towards The Lakes, comfortable in the knowledge that Karl & Co were usefully occupied back in town.

Sticking the boot in generated a deep-throated growl as the double-injected V6 unleashed its 300+ Hp, a couple of quick blips on the downshifter and the fun started. Overtaking uphill was a breeze, aided by nearly 400Nm of torque and the seamless gear changes. This was definitely the Lexus’s realm and if you spend a lot of time driving in the country or even cruising up and down the freeway, then this vehicle demands serious consideration.