2013 Lexus GS 350: First Look

  • Competes with: BMW 5 Series, Infiniti M, Hyundai Genesis
  • Looks like: Lexus is making a statement
  • Drivetrain: 306-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 engine, six-speed automatic transmission, rear- or all-wheel drive
  • Hits dealerships: Early 2012

Lexus hasn’t been shy about the fact that its LF-Gh concept car would be the next GS. Every bit of the brand’s advertising has been showing the concept for months. Generally, that’s not a wise move if you want to sell cars that are out today.

That’s how important the 2013 GS is to the brand, and it looks like the real thing delivers on the concept’s promise.

The design is striking enough, with a trapezoidal grille that isn’t overbearing. The profile is generally generic, and the back end looks like it came right off a BMW. Overall, it works.

What’s more surprising is the interior. The GS is the first new Lexus we’ve seen to make a full departure from the automaker’s interior themes of the past five years or so. Gone is the vertical center stack of controls; it’s replaced with a horizontal dash whose layout reflects a widescreen aspect ratio. With the new style comes all-new environmental controls, a new steering wheel and even a small analog clock between the two center vents.

Lexus says the interior space has been upgraded for all passengers but makes no note of the actual dimensions. The company says the trunk is 25% larger than the current model, while the overall length is less than an inch longer than the current model. That makes the GS a few inches shorter than the BMW 5 Series or Infiniti M.

Lexus promises the 306-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 will get to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds, nearly identical to the Infiniti M37 and BMW 535i. That’s done with a six-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters standard versus the competitors’ seven- and eight-speeds. There are four performance settings controlled via a knob near the shifter. Normal is the default. Eco not only revises throttle response for better efficiency, but it also adjusts the climate settings and even the heated seats to be more efficient.

Sports mode takes the throttle in the other direction to get the most responsive shifts and more power. Some models will get a Sports+ mode, which adjusts the suspension and steering. We’d guess this will be an option on the GS, likely as part of a sports package with larger wheels.

All-wheel drive will remain an option with a standard 50/50 split of power between the axles that can go to a maximum of 30/70 in terms of displacement to the rear wheels.

17-inch wheels are standard, with 18s and 19s optional.

It should be a dynamic driver, and we expect a high-powered version to be announced at a later date as well as a possible hybrid model.

The tech also is impressive with standard voice recognition for music as well as a text-to-speech function that will read text messages to the driver. Bluetooth connectivity with streaming audio, DVD audio and video, 5.1 surround sound and an 8-inch display screen are also standard. The optional navigation system includes a 12.3-inch widescreen display that can split map, media and phone information into separate areas -- much like BMW’s iDrive. Lexus’ mouse-like media controller found in the RX SUV controls everything. If you opt for Lexus’ new Enform connectivity package, you’ll even be able to get access to Facebook updates, Yelp reviews and internet search.

A 17-speaker Mark Levinson sound system will be optional with 7.1 surround sound and 835 total watts.

Other options will include a pre-collision system, night vision, head-up display, blind spot warning system and lane departure warning system. Ten airbags are standard, including knee airbags for both the driver and front passenger.

The 2013 GS 350 will on sale early in 2012, and we’d expect it to start at a price similar to the current model’s $46,900, which is just a step below the Infiniti M37’s $47,050 price and a few grand shy of the BMW 535’s $50,100 starting price.

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