2013 Lexus GS 350 F Sport Review: What Is It
Lexus almost didn’t bother with this new, redesigned, and impressive 2013 GS. The previous model wasn’t selling very well, saved from the ignominy of least-popular Lexus sedan status only by the now-cancelled HS 250h hybrid. With the IS small luxury sport sedan, the ES midsize luxury sedan, and the LS large super-luxe model proving popular with buyers, Lexus executives reviewing spreadsheets rightly questioned whether the GS ought to exist at all.
Fortunately, Lexus has decided that perhaps it’s no longer good enough to relentlessly pursue perfection in the form of whisper-quiet interiors and silicone-slick controls. Today, Lexus wants to excite its owners with compelling design and engaging driving dynamics, and the new GS is key to fulfilling the mission.
And so the 2013 GS is positioned as the sporty mid-luxury sedan from Lexus, an alternative to the also new-for-2013 Lexus ES, which has moved up a notch in size and sophistication thanks to a transfer to the Toyota Avalon platform. Now Lexus buyers can select the plush ES for a traditional cushy cruiser experience, or the rear-wheel-drive GS, designed to battle sport luxury sedans from Audi, BMW, Cadillac, Chrysler, Hyundai, Infiniti, and Mercedes-Benz head-to-head.
Yeah, we included Chrysler and Hyundai. No, that was not a test to see if you’re paying attention.
2013 Lexus GS 350 F Sport Review: Pricing and Trim Levels
The new 2013 Lexus GS 350 starts at $47,775 including the $875 destination charge, which is right where a fully loaded Lexus IS 350 leaves off. There’s an all-wheel-drive model that commands a $2,550 premium over the rear-wheel-drive model, and a hybrid variant called the GS 450h that costs $59,825 before options.
Our test vehicle was the performance-tuned model, the GS 350 with the F Sport Package, painted Liquid Platinum and featuring a black perforated leather interior and striated aluminum trim. Additional features like a cargo net, a carpeted cargo mat, and other minor upgrades brought the price to $57,749.
2013 Lexus GS 350 F Sport Review: What It’s Up Against
We know, we know. Chrysler and Hyundai aren’t really luxury brands. You’re right, but the 300 and Genesis are upscale vehicles featuring rear-wheel drive and a choice between capable V6 or V8 engines. Each can be upgraded with serious performance hardware in the form of the 300 SRT8 and the Genesis 5.0 R-Spec, and the Chrysler is available with all-wheel drive.
You would be surprised at the value the Chrysler and Hyundai provide in comparison to the other cars on this list, including the Lexus.
2013 Lexus GS 350 F Sport Review: Exterior
What’s New for 2013
- Styling inspired by Lexus LFA sports car
- “Spindle-style” grille debuts on GS, will spread to rest of lineup
- New F Sport Package with 19-inch wheels, more aggressive styling
- Riviera Red paint includes glass flakes for extra sparkle
- Liquid Platinum paint has metallic texture to increase depth and polish
How It Looks
In F Sport trim, the new Lexus GS 350 looks aggressive, purposeful, and unique. Modeled after Audi S-line, BMW M and Mercedes-Benz AMG sport packages, the Lexus F Sport treatment includes a reworked front fascia for a meaner countenance, a subtle body kit, a rear lip spoiler, and staggered-width 19-inch wheels wearing summer performance tires.
Our test car featured Liquid Platinum paint, and claims by Lexus that the metallic texturing added to the finish increases depth and polish are accurate. Get up close and personal with a Liquid Platinum Lexus, and you’re tempted to dive right in for a swim.
Lexus GS 350 models without the F Sport treatment are comparatively pedestrian in appearance, the new Lexus spindle grille treatment and a new “L-Finesse” curvature for the trailing edge of the rear doors serving as the primary defining characteristics. Otherwise, the new GS exhibits generic and innocuous Lexus/Toyota design elements combined with a rear end that could be mistaken for a Hyundai Elantra from a distance.
2013 Lexus GS 350 F Sport Review: Interior
What’s New for 2013
- Bluetooth connectivity with music streaming and text-to-speech capability
- 12.3-inch high-resolution split-screen information display
- S-Flow automatic climate control system with occupant detection technology
- 16-way power front seats with Whiplash Injury Lessening design
- Available Mark Levinson premium audio system with Green Edge speakers
How It Looks and Feels
That generic corporate look and feel extends to the GS model’s interior, though Lexus is plainly doing a better job of masking when components are shared between its upper-end luxury cars and, say, the Toyota Corolla. And while this opening statement certainly sounds like a backhanded compliment, the fact is that the Lexus GS is a great place to spend lots of time.
Our GS 350 F Sport came with excellent 16-way power adjustable front chairs, wrapped in perforated leather and featuring heating and ventilation. The F Sport’s steering wheel is thick and comfortable to grip, with proper thumb rests in the ten and two positions. And Lexus installs a plush sliding center armrest which, thankfully, can be moved out of the way for times when the driver is really working the steering wheel.
The back seats are comfortable, too, unexpected because when peering into the rear passenger compartment it appears that legroom is tight. While shin clearance is snug with four tall adults aboard, rear passengers ride in a tall, firm, supportive bench that affords an excellent view out. Because the seat’s H-point is high, entry and exit are also easy.
Despite the fact that the GS looks and feels familiar from the moment the driver slides behind the wheel, there’s no denying that this Lexus is both elegant and sophisticated. Aluminum trim, piano black accents, quality leather, and lots of soft-touch materials give the GS 350 F Sport an upscale ambience, and we’re fans of the huge 12.3-inch display screen and Remote Touch controller, which mimics the movement of a computer mouse as the driver navigates between screens and through menus.
2013 Lexus GS 350 F Sport Review: Powertrain
What’s New for 2013
- Standard Drive Mode Select technology with Eco, Normal, Sport S, Sport S+, and Snow settings
- Optional Adaptive Variable Suspension
- Available Lexus Dynamic Handling with Dynamic Rear Steering system
How Does It Go
The Lexus GS 350 F Sport is equipped with a 306-horsepower, 3.5-liter V6 engine generating 277 pound-feet of torque. In the smaller and lighter IS 350, this engine provides impressive acceleration. In the larger and heavier GS 350, the effect of extra size and mass on performance is predictable.
If the GS 350’s V6 doesn’t necessarily feel fast, it sure is quick, and it sounds that way thanks to a guttural note when revved and faintly evident downshift rev matching when the paddle shifters are used for changing the transmission’s six forward gears.
We spent the majority of our time with the GS on the highway, so it should come as no surprise that we averaged a reasonably impressive 21.6 mpg for the week, even with a thorough flogging across the Santa Monica Mountains.
2013 Lexus GS 350 F Sport Review: How It Drives
During the time I spent behind the GS 350 F Sport’s meaty steering wheel, I was frequently reminded of an Infiniti. Not the M37 Sport that the GS naturally competes with, but the smaller G37 Sport. Perhaps it’s the view over the hood, which reveals a swollen fender line trailing off the top of the headlamps. But mostly it’s because the GS drives much like the G.
Though I’m comparing the Lexus with a model that is, ostensibly, a class down from the GS, this is meant to be a compliment because the G37 is widely regarded as the closest Japan has ever gotten to cloning a BMW 3 Series.
Drive Mode Select works as advertised, delivering distinct differences not only in powertrain response but also in suspension calibration. Eco mode calibrates the powertrain to maximize fuel economy, and makes the GS feel soft and numb, just the way some people like their Lexus. We didn’t spend much time in this mode. Almost none, actually.
Each time the GS is started, it defaults to Normal mode. That’s fine for most people, and we forgot to switch to one of the Sport settings on several occasions, at least until we detected an irritating lateral wallowing in the suspension that reminded us to do so.
Sport S mode sharpens the GS 350’s throttle and steering response, but leaves the steering and suspension in their normal settings. Thus, we preferred Sport S+ mode, which quickens the steering and stiffens the suspension.
Thanks in part to all of this software, in combination with sticky 19-inch summer tires, the Lexus GS is capable of covering twisty mountain roads carrying considerable speed. Choose the Sport S+ setting, shift the six-speed automatic into manual mode, and the GS will tear up and down mountainsides with ease and grace, downshift rev matching with each smack of the paddle shifters. In this way, it is much like the Infiniti G37, but without that car’s tendency to swing its tail wide in hairpin turns.
Still, as competent as the GS 350 F Sport is when its hustled, the driver is almost always aware of the computer code working in the background, especially when it comes to the brakes. Often, the brake pedal feels unnatural, either delivering braking that is inconsistent with driver intent and application, or failing to respond instantly to the removal of the driver’s foot from the pedal. We’ll say this for the brakes, however. On a day when temperatures were in mid-90s, they produced nary a hint of fade when punished on mountain roads.
2013 Lexus GS 350 F Sport Review: Final Thoughts
Is the 2013 Lexus GS 350 F Sport a true luxury performance sedan? Yes, more so than any GS we’ve ever driven. Is the GS attractive, upscale, and comfortable? Yes, on all counts. Is the well-equipped F Sport model a good value? Yes, especially compared to the German competition.
Nevertheless, in this mid-luxury sedan class, I still like the Audi A6 more, especially in 3.0T trim and outfitted with the optional Sport Package. And the Infiniti M37 Sport exudes greater visual character, especially on the outside. Otherwise, I’d park a new Lexus GS in my driveway over the other cars in this class, and that’s something I never would have said about the previous generation GS.
2013 Lexus GS 350 F Sport Review: Pros and Cons
- F Sport Package appearance
- Drive Mode Select performance
- Comfortable seating
- Elegant cabin with quality materials
- Decent fuel economy
- Needs more underhood oomph
- Brake pedal feel and response
Lexus provided the vehicle for this review.
Photos by Christian Wardlaw