The face of Lexus has evolved cautiously since Toyota launched the luxury division in 1990, but it's now determined to inject more passion into its styling language. The GS led the way when this third-generation model was introduced for 2006.
The new styling language as seen on the GS features a low, stretched shape with a long hood, a set-back greenhouse and short rear deck.
The GS expresses simplicity, yet the car is thoroughly sculpted throughout its length. The design is perhaps a little predictable, yet the combination of this sleek shape and careful work to reduce aerodynamic turbulence beneath the car has produced a remarkably low 0.27 coefficient of aerodynamic drag, and this promotes a quieter interior and fuel efficiency.
For 2008, the front fascia is reworked with a new front bumper, a slightly revised lower air intake, and a chrome grille surround. The side mirrors get turn signals, and the wheel designs are new.
The GS has high-intensity-discharge headlights with an available system that automatically compensates headlight aim for different passenger loads. The power-adjustable mirrors have defogging heat elements and tilt down when the car is in reverse. The available variable intermittent windshield wipers actuate automatically when raindrops are sensed. Fast-acting LEDs are used in the rear brake lights. Big 18-inch wheels are available.
The Lexus GS is very well appointed. Open the door and you're greeted by stainless-steel scuff plates, the scent of leather and cut-pile carpeting, and the gleam of highly burnished hardwood trim.
The tilt/telescoping steering wheel is handsomely trimmed in wood and leather. In the traditional Lexus style, the instrumentation is set deep within the dash to promote easy focus by older drivers and also features electroluminescent instrument needles for heightened visibility. Across the dash panel, each gauge, button, knob, lever and wheel is clearly identified by easily read words or symbols, so you can intuitively grasp the meaning. There's soft-touch electronic actuation for virtually every control, from the window switches to the trunk release.
Dominating the center stack is a seven-inch electronic screen with touch-screen controls. Two banks of menu buttons flank the screen. The driver uses this screen to operate the audio system, climate control, and optional navigation system with backup camera, though many functions are duplicated with nearby buttons on the dashboard. Navigating through the submenus doesn't take too much brainpower, but like most multi-tasking electronic systems, a day spent with the owner's manual on a quiet side street is the best way to figure out the way to work everything properly.
Lexus has made a quality audio system a key component of its brand identity, so it's no surprise that the GS sedan has a premium system. The standard 134-watt system features an AM/FM tuner with cassette tape and an in-dash, six-disc CD changer. It plays through a 10-speaker sound system. MP3 capability isn't offered, but an auxiliary audio input jack is provided. Audiophiles can opt for the Mark Levinson Premium Surround Sound system, developed especially for the GS interior. Utilizing 5.1 surround sound playback via a 7.1-channel speaker topology, its 330-watt amplifier sends the vibes through 14 speakers via 11 channels of amplification.
The DVD-based navigation system has information for more than 6 million points of interest, while route searching is conducted at ten times the speed of previous-generation systems. The screen has excellent resolution and the map images have three-dimensional shading to aid recognition. Voice recognition makes the system a hands-free experience for the experienced user.
The Bluetooth-compatible telephone system can be operated by voice command or through the seven-inch touch screen.
Intuitive Park Assist considers steering angle input as well as the usual distance-warning sensors to offer contact avoidance advice through graphics in the dashboard-mounted information screen. This advice also is displayed in the lower center of the speedometer, an area that is also used to show information from the trip computer, radar cruise status, distance monitoring and various warning messages. This system is the last word in ding prevention in the supermarket parking lot.
The combination of the 10-way power-adjustable driver's seat and a thick-rimmed steering wheel with an electrical tilt/telescopic control helps you find a comfortable driving position. The driver's seat itself is sculpted with an extensive set of bolsters that support you, though they are not so restrictive that they encumber easy ingress and egress. Despite the multiple controls, one of our test drivers didn't like the seating position because the front of the seat bottom doesn't tilt upward. And tall drivers might not like the GS at all, because head room is limited.
The same goes for the back seat. Both head and leg room will be tight for anyone over 6 feet, 2 inches, and the front seats have little toe room if the front seat is at its lowest point. The seat is comfortable, however, and a center armrest folds down to reveal the pass-through. That pass-through is handy, but not as handy as a split-folding rear seat, which the GS doesn't offer.