Lexus' latest GS 350 is loaded with tech but it's a hit to the wallet
Editor’s note: This piece is part of the ClassicCars.com Journal’s Road Trip Month. We’ll be celebrating anything that helps pass the miles and the cars that get us there during the month of June.
Sometimes it’s fun to splurge on steak and lobster at a fancy restaurant across town, but few of us can actually afford to swing for the surf and turf every time we eat out.
That’s how I feel about the 2018 Lexus GS 350 F Sport, a mid-sized luxury car that has an MSRP that starts at $52,060. It was a great car to drive that boasts convenience and comfort, but I’m not sure it justifies the price tag.
My boyfriend and I took the Lexus to Los Angeles for some beach time near the Santa Monica pier and the inaugural In Memory of Paul car show. On the way, we stopped by the General Patton Memorial Museum to check out retired military vehicles and learn about the site where more than one million troops trained to fight in World War II.
We make several road trips a year for automotive events like this and — despite my concerns about the cost — I have to say the more refined Lexus made the road trip much more enjoyable, especially through the tight streets of downtown LA.
The GS features four-wheel steering that Lexus calls Dynamic Handling System including Dynamic Rear Steering. It’s not new technology, but Lexus maximizes it.
The vehicle automatically adjusts the front and rear tires based on your speed, steering angle, driving conditions and a few other variables involving some physics you probably won’t notice (like lateral G-forces, which you don’t think about unless you’re on a track), to deliver the best handling for the situation. The GS will even stiffen the suspension through turns to eliminate unnecessary body roll, making each turn feel more solid and in control.
The most redeeming feature of the Lexus GS 350 F Sport is its technology that implements itself into your day-to-day life without having you feel the adjustments.
The last thing I’d want on a road trip is to get into an accident. Common situations can contribute to an accident, like reaching for the snacks when your co-pilot falls asleep. That’s where the amazing Lane Keeping Assist feature comes in handy.
With the push of a button on the steering wheel, you can turn enable the feature that utilizes a high-resolution camera to monitor visible lane markings to determine and correct lane position to stay within the lane at speeds more than 32 mph.
Although you aren’t necessarily supposed to let go of the steering wheel — just to satisfy the lawyers: Do not take your hands off the wheel when you drive — I did and hovered over the wheel to see how much the technology would assist. On a very quiet, slightly curved road with no other cars around, I drove 40 mph and gently let go of the wheel.
To my absolute surprise, the Lexus kept me smoothly in my lane throughout the curve and then an alert popped up in my gauge cluster to put my hands back on the wheel.
This feature doesn’t mean you should drive half-asleep (again, to satisfy our lawyers: Don’t drive tired). The GS 350 also agrees with me — and the lawyers — on this one, as it will ask you if you’re feeling tired and need a break on the multi-informational display within the gauge cluster.
I’m not entirely sure which metrics the car uses to encourage rest. We thought maybe it was based off drive time, but after we switched drivers, the message never came up again. It’s fantastic that the message even exists, even it’s the only way to get your boyfriend out of the driver’s seat.
I wasn’t in love with all the technology. The All-speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control — a system designed to keep the car a safe distance away from the vehicle in front of it while the cruise control is engaged — is sensitive.
The brakes will aggressively engage if a car moves into your lane inside the distance you’ve set for the cruise control. In basic stop-and-go traffic, this is a great tool, but aggressive LA traffic reduces the autonomy of the feature and creates a new, unintended feature: brake-checking the guy behind you.
But if you combine the cruise control and lane keep assist in some less aggressive traffic, that long strip named Interstate 10 between Arizona and California becomes less intimidating at 4 a.m.
The exterior technology is complemented by some hospitable options in the cabin, where the driver can display vehicle analytics like gas mileage and other notifications pop up in as many as three areas within direct or peripheral view. Data can be show in the heads-up display, center console display and the multi-informational display within the gauge cluster so the driver never truly needs to take their eyes off the road.
Certain feature restrictions help avoid driver distractions when the vehicle is in motion. It’s overall a smart idea, but it was annoying having to come to a complete stop to pair a different Bluetooth device.
Another small complaint: There was no convenient place to put my cell phone or sunglasses! Maybe they’re trying to keep me off my phone by providing Bluetooth capabilities that allow you to answer calls, activate text-to-voice to read incoming texts and options to respond with preset responses, but I often found my self forgetting my phone in the center console.
Also, there was no storage space specifically for sunglasses. What simple things to miss Lexus, but they were somewhat redeemaed by the fancy gas cap holder.
So, it’s comfortable with some supportive features, but where is the fun? That comes in the form of a dial in the center console.
It should read “Rotate for fun,” but the knob lets the driver switch from Eco Mode to Sport Mode, which gives a bit heavier steering feel. Want more fun? Switch it to manual and maximize your eight-speed transmission with paddle shifters and go from 0-60 in 5.7 seconds.
As fun as it is to drive, it’s about about a half-second slower than it’s Audi A6 counterpart and that’s my biggest issue.
The Lexus V6, 3.5L 311 horsepower engine just doesn’t match its price. Add in the fact that many of the technology features can be found in older model years — with a better price tag — and it won’t make its way into my garage anytime soon.
2018 GS350 F Sport
Vehicle type: Luxury sedan
Base price: $52,060 Price as tested: $57,480
Engine: 3.5-liter V6, 311 horsepower @ 6,400 rpm, 280 pound-feet of torque @ 4,800 rpm Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 112.2 inches Overall length/width: 192.1 inches / 72.4 inches
Curb weight: 3,891 pounds
EPA mileage estimates: 19 city / 27 highway / 22 combined
Assembled in: Aichi, Japan1 comment