Equipment modifications and a revised tire size are among the few changes for 2003 on the six-cylinder version of the sporty, rear-wheel-drive, full-size sedans from Toyotas luxury division. The GS 300, which is powered by a 3.0-liter inline-six-cylinder engine, gets slightly larger 16-inch tires. A one-touch power moonroof and an in-dash six-CD changer are now standard.
Lexus also produces the more powerful GS 430 sedan, which uses a 4.3-liter V-8 engine. Slotted between the less-expensive ES 300 and sporty IS 300 midsize sedans and the company's flagship LS 430, the GS duo competes against such models as the Acura RL, Audi A6, BMW 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class.
Eye-catching styling includes a four-headlight front end, a sloping rear roof and a tall tail. This profile helps give the GS a distinctive appearance, which looks more European than Japanese in origin. Alloy wheels hold 16-inch tires. High-intensity-discharge headlights are optional.
As in most sport sedans, seating for five occupants in the GS 300 is standard. Space is decent for four adults, who enjoy such decorative touches as California walnut wood trim. Cloth bucket seats have dual 10-way power adjustment. Leather upholstery is optional.
Standard equipment includes dual-zone automatic climate control, an anti-theft immobilizer, a seven-speaker sound system, heated mirrors, illuminated keyless entry and a power tilt/telescoping steering column. The driver faces a bright, three-pod electronic gauge cluster. Options include a premium Mark Levinson audio system and a DVD-based navigation system.
Under the Hood
A 220-horsepower, 3.0-liter inline-six-cylinder engine teams with a five-speed-automatic transmission. The gearbox includes E-Shift buttons on the steering-wheel spokes that permit manually selected gear changes. Lexus claims a 0-to-60-mph acceleration time of 7.8 seconds.
Seat-mounted side-impact airbags, side curtain-type airbags for the front seats, daytime running lights, antilock brakes, Brake Assist and Lexus Vehicle Skid Control electronic stability system are standard. Brake Assist applies maximum braking force when it senses a hard push on the brake pedal. The front passengers airbag will not deploy if that seat is unoccupied.
The shapely GS 300 provides nearly all the virtues of the more costly GS 430, and without a bothersome penalty in performance. The 3.0-liter engine is strong enough to satisfy most drivers. Easygoing ride comfort, spaciousness, luxury appointments and handling skills are top-notch in both models, so the GS 300 owner will not feel slighted.
The GS 300 takes off from a standstill with vigor and is no less brisk for passing and merging. Automatic-transmission gear changes are nearly transparent, and downshifts arrive promptly and gently. The GS 300 steers with a relatively light touch, and it maneuvers briskly and easily. Body lean in swift curves isnt absent, but its seldom noticed in ordinary driving. The GS 300 corners like a breeze.
The engine is nearly silent except when the driver accelerates hard. The seats are attractive, comfortable and supportive and offer plenty of headroom in both the front and rear. Legroom is excellent up front and adequate in the backseat.