2020 Lexus GS350: Does GS stand for Grandpa’s Sedan?
Price: $58,335 as tested. The All-Weather Package added $290; 19-inch wheels, $660; power trunk, $400; park assist, $500; heated steering wheel and open-pore trim, $800. More mentioned throughout.
Conventional wisdom: Car and Driver liked the “refined driving dynamics, huge trunk, extensive range of standard features,” but not that “fuel economy trails that of several rivals; Apple CarPlay and Android Auto aren’t offered; underwhelming cabin design.”
Marketer’s pitch: “Experience amazing.”
Reality: It’s a Grandpa Sedan, but maybe he knows a thing or two, right?
What’s new: I’ve never been convinced that the latest thing is always the best. Mr. Driver’s Seat takes the long-term approach to life and tends not to be an early adopter. Best to stick with simple and familiar.
Well, the GS may not be so simple, but it’s certainly familiar. The latest generation of GS was introduced for the 2016 model year, and its age is really starting to show. And while the 2020 is the end of the GS line, don’t write it off your list just yet.
Up to speed: The 3.5-liter V-6 engine creates 311 horsepower, plenty of oomph for a standard sedan. The translates into nice acceleration, with a 0 to 60 of 5.8 seconds, according to Car and Driver.
On the road: Mr. Driver’s Seat had a rare opportunity (these days) to take the GS350 out on a longish trip, to visit Sturgis Grandma 1.0 while she recuperates from a broken hip.
The all-wheel-drive test model handled the turnpike smoothly, but without giving any real reason to get excited. It’s a four-door sedan from Toy- er, Lexus, and it actually felt a lot like last generation’s Avalon, a real road sailor of the old Ford LTD variety. I thought it would feel better out on the open road, somehow smoother and ready to cruise, but I found the GS350 liked to wander and waver.
The GS350 really shone, though, closer to home. No, it didn’t make winding country roads a delight, but it sure felt smooth and sure-footed on the more gentle bends, and hill-climbing is a real strength. Sport mode makes the handling tighter, but the acceleration turns a little too wild.
Shifty: The pricey luxury sedan does it all with last generation’s gearbox. That’s a six-speed automatic driving the wheels.
The vehicle seemed to rely on downshifting for a lot of braking and often seemed to get “stuck” in a lower gear in a variety of situations. For instance, say you were coming upon a state trooper parked by the side of the road, so you needed to let off the gas in a hurry because, lo, the car just got away from you there. So while suddenly scooting back toward the high 60 mph range, the vehicle chose fourth gear. And stayed there. An unwelcome phenomenon, indeed — both the gear selection and the, uh, roadside reminder.
Driver’s Seat: Like most Lexii, the GS350 certainly offers drivers a comfortable saddle. The Premium Package ($1,760) turns the leather seats warm or cold at the touch of a button (and also offers rain sensing wipers and rear sunshade). It’s roomy and spacious with a lot of dashboard in view, like Grandpa’s old LTD as well.
Friends and stuff: The rear seat provides a comfortable space, but not nearly as roomy as the bulky exterior of the sedan would have you believe. Though legroom invites stretching, a low front seat nibbles away foot room while a low roof tightens headroom.
Cargo space is cavernous 18.4 cubic feet.
Play some tunes: The Mark Levinson stereo system ($1,180) features 17 speakers, 835 watts, and premium surround. Sound quality is about an A-, great at high volumes but not much in a more normal range.
Lexus gives this vehicle last generation’s infotainment controls, though, and that’s a good thing. Today’s standard-issue touchpad can be a challenge to direct, but the GS350 gets the old joystick control. Bump up, down, left, or right to move around the screen. Better than a touchpad, but it still requires too much attention to be effective. Our eyes are supposed to be on the road, right, Lexus?
Night shift: The interior lights cast a friendly, subtle glow. LED headlights shine clearly and in the right places, a feature not often standard with the LEDs.
Fuel economy: I averaged 23 mpg in a long highway test and a couple of short runs near home. Feed the GS350 premium, natch.
Where it’s built: Aichi, Japan.
How it’s built: Consumer Reports predicts the GS350 reliability to be a 5 out of 5.