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Lexus sedan combines luxury with cutting-edge design

Nauman Farooq | Interrobang | Sports | January 30th, 2006



For quite a number of years there was nothing really new from Lexus; their last new vehicle was the RX330, which is essentially a revision of the older RX300.

But all that has changed now, since in the last year Lexus has given us the new IS-sedan, and just recently at the North American International Auto Show, they showed the new LS460. However, the first new sedan to hit the market was the GS-sedan.

GS-Sedan

The GS-Sedan is available with either a beefy 4.3, V8, or a silky smooth 3-litre, V6. If you stick with the V6 engine, you have a choice of either having just rear-wheel drive (all GS430's are rear-drive only) or an intelligent all-wheel drive system. My test car was the GS300 with the all-wheel drive system. That certainly came in handy, since I had it in a week of nothing but snow and ice. Equipped with winter tires, this vehicle was just unstoppable in those winter conditions.

On a trip home from a meeting late at night, the roads were completely covered with snow. Other cars on the road were either going very slow or sliding into curbs. Me? I felt like I was carving a hot knife through butter. I couldn't help but grin and feel good about the fact that I was driving such a technically advanced car.

And I really do mean advanced; it has sooo many features. There are tons of buttons, some even hidden behind a pop-up panel. Some of the extras that are controlled by these stealth buttons include washing the front headlamps, the electrically operated rear-screen blind, the power mirrors and a whole bunch of other stuff.

This is really turning out to be an impressive car, and I haven't even talked about the rest of the interior. The seats are fantastic and the stereo is superb (I love it when a car company adds a cassette player with a CD changer. Thanks Lexus for thinking about those of us who still have some cassettes they want to listen to every once in awhile), and at night time, this car even has ambient lighting so your eyes won't be too strained in the dark. The designers pay so much attention to detail that even the map lights have xenon bulbs, which is just incredible.

The only thing that isn't very incredible is the performance. I am surprised Lexus still offers just a 3-litre engine in the base car, since you can get a new IS with a much more powerful 3.5 litre engine. Thus, the GS300's engine only produces 245 hp, and is mated to a six-speed automatic gearbox. OK, so this car isn't exactly slow; in fact when you use the manual-shift feature on the gearbox, in sport mode, it is quite quick. But it isn't quite as powerful as its competitors, and that might put some people off.

My biggest criticism lies with the all-wheel drive system. It works fine, but I just wish it disguised its actions a bit more. In the Audi A6 I tested a few weeks ago, the Quattro system was so seamless you didn't even know when it was working. But in the GS300, you definitely know when it's working, especially in slow tight corners when it has been snowing. Its actions are jerky and it doesn't quite go in hand with the smoothness this car offers otherwise.

On a positive note, this car has just about the most impressive brakes I have ever come across. When you hit the brake pedal hard, just make sure no one is following you to closely, because the GS300 will stop a whole lot quicker, no matter what the conditions are.

So, in all, it's a fantastic car, but is it fantastic for the money? Well, a base GS300 AWD starts at $66,700, and loaded up, it'll be worth about $77,000. That is a lot of money, but it is a lot of car too. The thing is, all its competitors have something just as good to offer for this sort of money. So the choice would come down to personal taste or brand loyalty. Lexus does have its loyal followers, and there are plenty of good reasons for that.
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