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The mid-size Lexus GS was refreshed and reinvigorated in the 2013 model year, and it returns as the Lexus GS 350 and GS 450h hybrid again for 2014, ready to take on the likes of the Mercedes-Benz E Class, BMW 5-Series, Audi A6, and Cadillac CTS yet again.
The GS has usually been an also-ran in that category, but it's made substantial progress in handling and styling. The new face of Lexus has been applied to its front end, and the GS now has a boomeranged frame for the grille that asserts a visual identity in a way no Lexus ever has. It pairs well with the Nakamichi-minimalist interior fitted inside, upholstered with lots of leather and LED lighting--a cool workplace that conversely feels very warm and inviting.
Nearly every angle of the vehicle is strikingly different than it was before, from its conservative roofline to its new 'spindle' grille, now seen on so many other Lexus products. That's a look that some may have trouble acclimating to, but others like quite a bit–and it makes the GS instantly recognizable on the road. That very striking effect gets a little too busy with its foglights that get tucked away on F Sport cars, replaced by LED eyeliner on the headlamps.
Of all the GS sedans we've seen flow out of Lexus' studios, this one's the most upright. The side glass and the cut of the D-pillar echoes strongly of the 2002-2010 BMW 7-Series, where the GS' entire history put low, sleek lines higher on the honey-do list. At first glance challenging and bristling with detail and surface excitement, the GS 350 settles down quickly and comfortably into your brain.
Base versions sport electric power steering and an independent, multi-link suspension front and rear. Even here, the GS 350 digs a little more deeply, and extracts a little more from standard 17-inch, 50-series tires than before. Lexus credits a lighter-weight suspension and stiffer body, and we'll also give some kudos to relatively well-executed power steering that makes the base car pleasant to drive, with a more composed ride than it had in years gone by. Luxury models add the adaptive suspension, a pricey option for subtle differences in ride and handling, we think.
On the whole, the level of fit and finish in the GS 350 is very high. High-grade plastic trim now dominates the dash, from the console coverings to the metallic highlights that surround the analog clock. One annoyance we noticed is the Remote Touch controller's housing and its poor fit on the console: on the right side, it doesn't match the shape of the console, leaving a gap where all sorts of detritus is doomed to gather. On a brighter note, Lexus' GS gauges are big, crisp and clear, and lots of padded leather surfaces are stitched together with care--though they add up visually, making the dash look busy, seam by seam.
Lexus says the trunk is about a quarter bigger than before. The opening is wide but somewhat shallow, with a pass-through for longer items. Inside the cabin, smaller items find a home in door pockets, in a fairly deep glovebox, and in a console bin with a lid that slides backward to expose audio ports. A big pair of cupholders sits at the front of the console under a lid--as does an ashtray, a relic of the GS' home-market tastes.
*This vehicle is Certified Pre-Owned and is eligible for our third party warranty program.