The entry-level version of the new Lexus GS reflects a big improvement for the large Japanese luxury car.
The Lexus GS250 Luxury may be the entry-level model in the new Lexus GS range, but that doesn’t mean it misses out on essential luxury kit. Lexus don’t do poverty packs.
In fact, the Japanese luxury carmaker has upped the ante considerably for the new look GS range - fitting a vast array of technology and features as standard equipment across the entire model range, making the $77,900 Lexus GS250 exceptional value for money.
Highlights include Lexus’ remote touch, eight-inch multimedia display with satellite navigation with live traffic alerts, reversing camera with front and rear parking sensors, Bi-xenon headlamps with adaptive front lighting system, four-door smart entry with card key, Bluetooth phone and music streaming, blind spot monitor, tyre pressure monitor, metallic self-healing paint and digital DAB+ radio.
But our test car is the upgraded Lexus GS250 F Sport, which apart from more distinct and aggressive bodywork, picks up additional goodies such as an exceptional Pioneer 12-speaker, 299-watt premium audio system, electrically adjustable pelvis support on the 16-way driver’s seat and a set of superb dark premium 19-inch alloy wheels with wider series Bridgestone Potenza tyres – for good measure.
The latest and fourth-generation Lexus GS range spans nine variants across three models; GS250, Lexus GS350 and top-of-the-line Lexus GS450h - a petrol/electric hybrid. There’s also choice of three trim levels available in each model: Luxury, F Sport and Sports Luxury.
Lexus has made huge gains in design, comfort and quality with the latest GS model interior, but again, our GS250 F Sport also features some additional treats on top of the already well-equipped standard Lexus GS250.
Especially luxurious is the matching seat and door stitched leather trim in Garnet (deep red); these are some of the best sports pews we’ve come across; with superb comfort and bolstering for those longer periods behind the wheel.
Even the centre armrest is upholstered in the same super supple stitched leather for what is a seriously comfortable cockpit.
The rear seats offer similar levels of comfort although, while it will be a squeeze for three adults, two can travel is business-class-style luxury.
There’s a high quality look and feel throughout the GS250 cabin with significant attention to detail even with the Alcantara-style black roof liner. The normally exposed airbag inserts on the A-and-B-pillars are completely flush on the new Lexus GS and scarcely noticeable.
Naturally, all the windows are one-touch up and down in express-elevator-style speed with no noise – just a whisper.
It’s all soft touch inside here (even below the dash) along with real metal highlights spread generously throughout the cabin.
Standout items include the metal encased old-school analogue clock and the gorgeous F Sport leather steering wheel that looks decidedly similar to – and inspired by - that in the Lexus LFA supercar.
Billed as a medium size car, the Lexus GS provides adequate legroom for rear seat passengers with the added benefit of additional foot room under the front seats.
While those under six-feet in height will find rear headroom more than sufficient, even for longer journeys, taller passengers will struggle due to a tapered roofline on the new Lexus GS range.
There are loads of clever storage receptacles throughout the GS250 including a deep centre console bin and wide door pockets that are specially lined to help eliminate drink bottle rattles and the like.
The boot aperture is huge and the boot itself, cavernous - but there’s no split-fold function for the rear seats, just a small centre opening for skis. However, that’s less of an issue in a sedan than it would be in hatch.
Choosing the Lexus GS F Sport over its standard GS250 sibling also gets you a significantly more distinctive look and a more aggressive stance.
The F Sport treatment means a deeper front bumper with an exclusive grille intake pattern, as well as a unique rear bumper with lip spoiler, along with unique wheels and F Sport badging.
There’s no additional engine work in the F Sport package, so under the bonnet of the GS250 F Sport, you’ll find the stock 2.5-litre V6 powerplant from the smaller Lexus IS250 model. It’s also the least powerful variant in the current GS range.
However, the Lexus GS250 does benefit from some minor exhaust and acoustic enhancements, resulting in slightly more power and torque at 154kW and 253Nm, respectively.
It’s an incredibly refined and smooth revving engine, but with peak torque reached at 4800rpm, any requirement for quick getaways will need plenty of sustained throttle input.
That’s not to say the GS250 is necessarily slow for a naturally aspirated sedan in this segment, as it will sprint from 0-100km/h in a creditable 8.6 seconds and has a top speed of 225km/h.
It even sounds good; especially when the rev counter nudges 4000rpm and the whisper quiet engine starts sounding more like a proper sports sedan with a distinct growl that’s clearly audible inside the GS250’s cockpit.
The six-speed automatic transmission is also Lexus-smooth and provides seamless shifts up and down the ratio range.
Steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters are another standard item on the Lexus GS250 and add a more engaged driving dynamic when conditions permit, especially in either ‘Sport’ or Sport+ modes. With these settings engaged, along with ‘Sport M’ in the transmission mode, expect quick upshifts in around 0.3 seconds and throttle blipping on downshifts for an extra aural treat.
Demonstrably better handling is another welcome feature the latest-generation Lexus GS model has over its predecessor. This is one Lexus that doesn’t mind being thrown into corners and it rewards the driver with rock solid composure and balance.
The Lexus GS newfound handling prowess is courtesy of increased stiffness in the body (up 14 per cent on the old model) thanks to greater use of high-tensile steel and additional spot-welds.
F Sport and Sports Luxury models also gain adaptive sports suspension, which apart from helping to achieve a flatter ride with more balance, also allow drivers to dial up increased damper force when the driver selects the ‘Sport+’ mode.
Whilst there’s some initial tip-in (it’s minimal) on turn in, the GS250 feels well balanced and thoroughly composed throughout the cornering process. That’s true even in the tighter bends and at considerable pace.
It’s a measurably improved driver experience compared with the previous generation Lexus GS model, which suffered from excessive body roll and nervous composure during moderate to high-speed-speed cornering.
It’s a similar positive story with the steering. It’s still not on par with a BMW 5 Series, but Lexus has lifted its game in no uncertain terms with its latest-generation electric power steering system. There’s a good deal of communication through the steering wheel and it’s a quicker steering rack than in the previous model GS.
There’s also a tonne of grip from the low profile Bridgestone Potenza tyres – in the wet and dry.
Not so good is the Lexus GS250 when it comes to fuel economy. Our average combined fuel consumption for the week long test period was an indicated 12.2L/100km, well above the 9.3L/100km ADR81/03 figure from the vehicle's official specifications. That's also significantly less frugal than key rivals from Germany (Audi A6 2.0TSFI - 6.4L/100km, BMW 520i - 6.4L/100km, Mercedes-Benz E200 - 6.6L/100km), which all generate more torque than the Lexus.
When it comes to ride comfort, we’ve got mixed impressions about the Lexus GS250 F Sport.
The GS uses a sophisticated double wishbone suspension system up front with new geometry, while the rear suspension is multi-link setup using low friction dampers.
The result is a generally comfortable ride across most road surfaces in the standard suspension setting although; it’s clearly calibrated in favour of a sporty character as opposed to outright luxury.
There’s a full suite of safety systems on board, including 10 airbags, ABS brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution and brake assist, vehicle stability control with traction control, tyre pressure monitor, hill-start assist and blind spot monitor.
Equipped with class-leading comfort and luxury and much improved ride and handling, the Lexus GS250 represents a superb value for money proposition against strong competition from the German and English prestige marques. It’s certainly well worth the test drive.