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By Jim Flammang
February 27, 2002
Vehicle Overview Not much has changed for the largest pair of sporty rear-drive sedans from Toyotas luxury division, apart from enhancements to the optional DVD-based navigation system. For the 2001 model year, the GS 400 received a new 300-horsepower, 4.3-liter V-8 engine that changed its name to the GS 430. The GS 300 uses a 220-hp, 3.0-liter inline-six-cylinder power plant. Both engines team with a five-speed-automatic transmission. Lexus also offers a sporty but smaller IS 300 series.
Slotted between the less-expensive ES 300 and IS 300 midsize sedans and the flagship LS 430, the GS duo competes against such models as the Acura RL, Audi A6, BMW 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class.
Exterior 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. The GS measures 189.2 inches long, which is 2 inches shorter than the newly redesigned ES 300 and 7.5 inches shorter than the LS 430. Riding a 110.2-inch wheelbase, the GS sport sedans are 70.9 inches wide and 56.7 inches tall. High-intensity-discharge headlights are standard on the GS 430 and optional on the GS 300.
Interior Like that of most sport sedans, seating for five occupants is standard. Space is decent for four adults, who enjoy such decorative touches as California walnut trim. Cloth bucket seats have dual 10-way power adjustment, and leather upholstery is optional. A memory feature for the drivers seat, mirrors and steering wheel is standard in the GS 430 and optional in the GS 300.
Standard equipment includes dual-zone automatic climate control, California walnut wood interior trim, an anti-theft immobilizer system, a 215-watt seven-speaker sound system, heated mirrors, illuminated keyless entry and a power tilt/telescoping steering column. The driver faces a bright electronic gauge cluster. Options include a premium Mark Levinson audio system and the DVD-based navigation system.
Under the Hood The GS 430 is the performance leader, with its 4.3-liter V-8 that cranks out 300 hp and 325 pounds-feet of torque. The less-potent GS 300 uses a 3.0-liter inline-six-cylinder engine that generates 220 hp. Both engines team up with a five-speed-automatic transmission that includes E-Shift steering-wheel switches for manually selected gear changes on the GS 300. Lexus claims 0-to-60-mph acceleration times of 5.8 seconds for the GS 430 and 7.8 seconds for the GS 300.
Safety Seat-mounted side-impact airbags and curtain-type airbags for the front seats are standard. The front passengers airbag does not deploy if that seat is unoccupied. Daytime running lights, antilock brakes and Vehicle Skid Control an electronic stability system are standard. Brake Assist applies maximum braking force when it senses a hard push on the brake pedal.
Driving Impressions The shapely GS 300 provides nearly all the virtues of the more costly GS 430 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 versions, 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, with downshifts arriving promptly and gently. Steering with a relatively light touch, the GS 300 maneuvers briskly and easily. Body lean in swift curves is not absent, but it is seldom noticed in ordinary driving; the GS 300 corners like a breeze.
Except when accelerating hard, the engine is nearly silent. The seats are attractive, comfortable and supportive, and they offer plenty of headroom in the front and rear. Legroom is excellent up front and adequate in the backseat. But because of the tall driveshaft tunnel you get from rear-wheel drive, the passenger in the center rear position isnt likely to enjoy utmost comfort.