By Daryl Killian

If you still think of Lexus as “laid-back luxury”, you might want to get behind the wheel and see what’s new.


Yes….Lexus still delivers high levels of luxury, but they “growl” and “go” with the best of ‘em now…and have for the past few years, in fact.


Lexus’ GS series plays in the same league with the “Big Three”….Audi’s 6, BMW’s 5, and Mercedes’ E class.    That’s a tough playground with some pretty big bullies.


So, how does the Lexus compare?


They’re all pretty close in size and price, with the GS an inch or so more trim in each direction, but still with all the room you need for five.


And they’re priced closely, too.   The Lexus is a couple grand less than two of the others…and just a little more than another.


Perhaps the most noticeable difference, is in the interior,   Our test GS 350 F Sport had a warm coffee with cream leather interior that contrasts nicely with the more austere, “basic black” interiors often associated with the Germans.


Another difference is under the hood.    While you can get a GS with Lexus’ relatively new 2.0 liter turbo, our test GS was a 350 F Sport with Lexus’ proven, torquey non-turbo 3.5 liter, 311 HP six.


Punch it hard…kick that 8-speed auto down a couple of gears, and hold on.    There’s no turbo lag….just “go”.    And when pushed, it goes with a nice little growl, too.   No more Mr. Nice Guy when kicked.


Lexus’ GS series is called mid-sized….positioned between their flagship LS, and their popular ES.


Pricing starts in the mid $40’s for the 2.0 liter turbo version…climbs around $4K for a 3.5 GS 350 version….and then another 4 thousand for the “F-Sport” version.     The F-Sport will get you bigger alloys, a firmer suspension, and bigger brakes.


And if that’s not enough, you can get a GS with a 5.0 liter, 467 HP V-8….but that’s an $80,000-something story for another day.


As you’d expect, Lexus doesn’t leave much off of a vehicle like the GS.   Heated and ventilated perforated leather, moonroof, wood trim, power rear sunshade, 19” alloys, 17-speaker audio, and just about every known safety warning system are all yours.


Our test F-Sport added 4-wheel steering for added maneuverability, intuitive park assist and a few other options, and came in with a $61K window sticker.


If you just want Lexus luxury, save the four thousand and skip the F-Sport version.   But if you want your luxury with a little attitude and added feel, the F-Sport delivers nicely.


And then there’s that one other thing that sets Lexus apart…..the guys over at the renowned J. D. Power research firm.


Now I can’t see into the future….and we’re not talking a huge difference here….but over the past several years, Lexus has usually appeared at the top of J. D. Powers’ Three-Year- Reliability surveys.   If you’re leasing, this shouldn’t be a concern.   But if you’re one of the few buy-it and keep-it old-schoolers out there, reliability matters.   And Lexus’ GS has been at the top of that list for quite a few years.

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