Las Vegas Motor Speedway, December 9th, 2011
Lexus GS350 F-Sport Dynamic Driving Experience
It's a winner, because it can tuck nose, shake the tail, and smoke out
of a corner easier than a BMW5 for the first time in GS history.
It's not about speed, any car today with enough power and sticky tires
will pump out numerical specs.
What I mean is that the handling, balance, and tactile feel, as well as responding of the driver inputs, predictability, precision of the resulting inputs, driving manners, all correlate to the fun and safety factor of things that can't be expressed in numerical specs.
What the 2013 GS is about is all of this, it isn't fixed on the general marketing, and shoot out of specs in catalogs. It is what German cars have always had, and now the GS has surpassed in comparison in my view, to the E350 and 535i.
Mercedes Benz E350 felt as it should. Very predictable, confidence inspiring, but at the same time, classical in safety-oriented mild pushover setting, a lazy and slow steering that is perfect on a long
interstate. I mean it's forte isn't a short racetrack with rolling and sequential corner, but I can imagine it will be one of the most comfortable and perfectly tuned cars for the interstates in the USA.
Again, I know traditionally, the E-Class also has a tuned weapon package in the name of AMG...And we didn't have one here to shake down.
Of course, the larger, wider, sticker tires and BIG 6.3L V8 will take care of speed issues, but will it respond and communicate with the driver as well as the new 2013 GS?
I doubt it.
BMW 5 series have been one of my favorite sedans for slapping and shaking on a track as far as 4 door boxes go for the last 20 years. (And probably longer for those who's had their track skills longer and older)... And this time, it still does exhibit a fair amount of fun like it always has. Same amazing road feel, same rock solid chassis that keeps the alignment straight and true. However, I guess the technology and tuning on these cars didn't feel too different than it has had in the past. Great, mind you, but the Lexus just seems to have taken a giant leap forward and came out ahead of this. I really can't criticize the BMW 5, as this is more a flavor and character BMW perhaps wanted to seek, leaving the HOT LAP duties for the big muscle M5, for which Lexus does not offer a counter attack at this time..... yet? (GS-F???)
Not twitchy,but quick to change the nose vector, and able to sustain a really high rate of change at that. So even with a fairly abrupt steering motion, the car will instantly respond, with a strong, confident grip level, which seems to not fade away in gradual under steer.
It just plants and goes. At the same time, the rear contact patches stay really manageable and tame, and only when you ask it for a even faster rate of rotation, it will very predictably rotate the car, with a very even axis, somewhere around the front seat area. There's not much wiggling or rocking until the VSC cuts you off from the antics and stupidity, (if you didn't turn the feature off), and gradually rock the tail back in place and kill your
throttle until the car thinks its safe to let you use the gas again.
But overall, and humor aside, everything happens faster, easier, and with more precision than ever before in a car of this weight class.
The F-Sport just seemed to be a bit stiffer, and exhaust louder, but there isn't a huge change in SPORT and SPORT + modes in terms of character at the limits. What I do notice more is that Normal modes provide the same level of assurance and agility, but with a bit more soft and full-stroked manner of wheel movements. I almost think the SPORT (all GS) and SPORT + (available in F Sport and Hybrid) modes are the natural chassis character of the car, while NORMAL is the truly advanced system setting, that makes all this happen in LEXUS comfort and quiet...
I like the Standard GS350 just as much as the "F Sport" equipped one. The F just adds a bit more flavor to those who prefer it, to something that's already excellent.
One note, the Hybrid GS, though it seems to shoot out of the line just as aggressive and tenaciously, does carry a bit more weight? (I'm not sure exactly how much more) but I did feel it to be slightly more taxing on the tires. So what happens in an instant, for any vector change, the Hybrid took a tiny fraction of a second more, and with tiny fraction of a numerical G-force less in any direction. However, probably not enough for most drivers to notice unless when comparing them at such limits and side by side one after the other among the three models.
In 1990, The 1st GS was born with Toyota Crown refinements packed in a European styled body.
The 2nd GS in 1998 came with more luxurious and stylish cues with a bit more practicality.
The third GS completely revised the package to fit the millennium standards.
This fourth GS, takes all that was great about the previous three, and solidified all of it cohesively and carefully into a billet stiff chassis, which in turn, probably allows for softer spring and damper but suspension able to keep a more rigid dynamic alignment in order. This and the software side of bushings, valvings, and sub-frame mounts re-tuned to a new level of driving pleasure, and crosses past the line that was once set by Mercedes in safety, and handling manners reserved and once dictated by BMW.
True driver's car, now. the 2013 GS. Even without the F-Sport package.
If you are in the market for a mid sized luxury driver's sedan, hold off and buy this one next year.
You will not be disappointed.
I wholeheartedly recommend it.
This result was more shocking to me, than I really preconceived.