If you still can't program a VCR, better keep a distance from the Lexus GS.
If you've moved on from the VCR to master TiVo, however, you'll probably enjoy all the high-tech gadgetry in the GS that's undergone a remake for 2006 and is in showrooms now.
Just be prepared to reach into pocket or purse - often and deeply.
Lexus obviously feels TiVo aficionados far outnumber VCR slugs based on its ambitious sales expectations for the GS - 35,000 annually, if not a tad more, quite a jump from 8,200 last year.
For those who haven't mastered the calculator, the percentage increase is a whopping ... well, it's a lot.
Great expectations considering a GS300 starts at about $42,000, a GS430 at about $52,000.
We tested the '06 GS300 with its new 3-liter V-6 that develops 245 horsepower and delivers 230 foot-pounds of torque. It's teamed with a 6-speed automatic.
The V-6 replaces the 3-liter, inline 6 from the previous model rated at 220 h.p. and 220 foot-pounds of torque with a 5-speed automatic. The GS430 is powered by a 4.3-liter V-8 rated at 300 h.p. and 325 foot-pounds of torque.
The V-6 won't snap your head back, but it has good spirit and is more lively than the inline 6 it replaces. It also delivers more-than-respectable fuel economy at 21 m.p.g. city and 27 m.p.g. highway.
GS boasts a new design with more sculpted sheet metal and jewel-like headlamps so it looks far less blah. Though a sedan, it has the long-hood, short-deck, rounded-roof coupe look.
It also sports new dimensions, with wheelbase stretched 2 inches, length and width 1 inch each. A little better road stance, little less cabin snugness.
What really sets it apart from its predecessor, though, is that this is the first Lexus car to offer all-wheel-drive for added security on snow-filled roads and more sure-footed performance on dry ones.
And it won't be the only AWD Lexus for long. At the New York Auto Show last week Lexus unveiled the next-generation IS coming out this fall. The IS250 version will offer AWD and a 6-speed automatic.
AWD also is being evaluated throughout the car lineup, Lexus spokesman Bill Ussery said.
For now, only the GS300 offers AWD, which adds $1,950. Ussery said Lexus will watch AWD demand in the high-volume 300 (75 percent of GS sales) before deciding to add it to the GS430.
Lexus estimates that AWD will account for a third of all GS sales nationwide, but up to 50 percent in the Midwest and Northeast.
While there was only a light coating of snow when tested, the sedan hugged the road like a security blanket, thanks not only to AWD, but also to the standard stability control system.
If you take a corner or make a lateral move a little too fast, stability control automatically reduces throttle and applies anti-lock braking to any slipping wheel to keep the vehicle under control.
The GS430, meanwhile, comes with Vehicle Dynamic Integrated Management, or VDIM, which "takes stability control to the next level," Ussery said.
VDIM anticipates a slip or slide and makes corrections by reducing the throttle and/or applying the ABS and adjusting steering angle and thus prevents the slip or slide.
"Stability control is reactive, VDIM is proactive, there's no 'oops, I'm losing traction.' VDIM won't let that happen," Ussery said.
The Lexus RX400h gas/electric sport-utility vehicle has VDIM as well.
VDIM is offered in only the V-8 GS430 with its higher horsepower and torque creating the likelihood drivers will be more aggressive than in a V-6.
Spirited performance, smooth ride, agile, yet controlled, handling.
And then there are those high-tech goodies.
One is Smart Access keyless entry. The doors unlock when you approach with the fob in pocket or purse. Then slip in, press the "start" button and the engine fires. No key needed.
Another nice touch are ventilated seats with embedded fans to cool you off. But while heated seats are standard, ventilated seats are a $200 option.
And there's rain-sensing wipers, headlamp cleaners and adaptive headlamps that move in the direction of a turn, though, once again, an option at $525 (standard on the 430).
And don't forget the power-operated, rear-window sunshade - a $210 option.
Park Assist, or sonar clearance, beeps when approaching too close to the vehicle ahead or behind when parking to save you on the body repair bills - a $500 option.
Another nice touch is the camera mounted in back. When you slip the shift lever into reverse, the camera turns on and the navigation screen in the dash gives you a fairly wide angle look at what's behind to avoid running into objects or people.
Couple gripes, however. Yup, the camera's an option, part of the $4,030 Mark Levinson audio/navigation system.
Another gripe, the picture in the navi screen is fascinating to watch, so much so that you tend to look at what's behind and lose track of what's approaching from the sides when leaving the driveway. Careful.
There's also a pre-collision system, which uses radar to detect obstacles in front of the car while you're driving. Based on vehicle speed, it determines whether a collision is imminent.
If so, safety belts are automatically tightened and the brakes are applied if you haven't done so or applied at greater force to lessen the impact.
But it's a $2,850 option on either the 300 or 430.
You also can play audio discs or CDs or watch DVD videos on the navi screen, but the system works only when parked. Federal law prohibits the watching of TV or movies in the front seat while motoring.
And it's part of the $4,030 Mark Levinson audio/navi package.
Adaptive suspension is another neat option that automatically adjusts the suspension based on road conditions and vehicle speed. It's standard on the 430, not available on the 300.
Controls for such features as the rear window sunshade, headlamp washers, foldaway mirrors, fuel-filler door and deck-lid openers are behind a drop-down panel to the left of the steering wheel to keep a host of seldom-used controls from cluttering the dash. The window sticker listed no extra charge for the control panel.
The AWD GS300 starts at $44,850. Standard equipment includes power and heated mirrors; power locks and windows; automatic climate control; AM/FM stereo radio with cassette and CD player; run-flat 17-inch radials; and tool and first-aid kits.
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2006 Lexus GS300 AWD
Wheelbase: 112.2 inches
Length: 190 inches
Engine: 3-liter, 245-h.p., 24-valve V-6
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Fuel economy: 21 m.p.g. city/27 m.p.g. highway
Base price: $44,850
Price as tested: $51,509. Includes $525 for rain-sensing wipers, with adaptive front lighting and headlamp cleaner; $210 for rear sunshade; $4,030 for Mark Levinson Audio/navigation system with compass and rear camera; $500 for sonar clearance; $1,000 for power moonroof; $200 for ventilated seats; and $194 for accessory package with trunk mat, cargo net and wheel locks. Add $650 for freight.
Pluses: Third generation with new styling and larger dimensions. First, but not last, AWD Lexus car for all-season motoring. It offers a peppy yet fuel-efficient V-6 with new 6-speed automatic. Side-curtain air bags front and rear now standard. Optional rear camera is nicer than constant beeps to warn of objects behind. Pre-collision system available as an option.
Minuses: Hefty price. And still so many options.
Read Jim Mateja Sunday in Transportation and Wednesday and Friday in Business. Hear him on WBBM Newsradio 780 at 6:22 p.m. Wednesdays and 11:22 a.m. Sundays.
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