By Eric Peters
What killed the Lexus GS 350?
After 27 years in production, it looks like 2020 will be the final year for this midsize luxury-sport sedan, which was one of the first of its kind not made by BMW or Mercedes-Benz.
Lexus sold it for less than BMW and Benz charged for their midsize luxury-sport sedans, models like the E-Class and 5 Series.
And Lexus gave you more.
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As well as less, in the form of lower — and slower — depreciation.
All of that’s still true today — which makes it a sad day, because the GS is going away, for reasons that have little to do with its merits relative to its rivals, but rather because luxury-sport sedans as a class just aren’t selling well anymore as the market shifts to luxury-sport crossovers.
What It Is
The GS 350 is a midsize luxury-sport sedan available in rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive configurations.
Prices start at $51,395 for the rear-wheel drive version and — interestingly — $51,065 for the all-wheel drive version.
A top-of-the-line GS 350 F Sport with an adaptive suspension; high-performance brakes; a 19-inch high-performance wheel/tire package; and all-wheel drive stickers for $54,505.
A GS 350 F Sport Black Line special edition is available in either Caviar White or Ultra White on the outside, with unique black leather interiors, trimmed with Rioja Red stitching and carbon fiber accents.
Only 200 of these will be made.
It’s one of the best deals going for a car of this type.
It has one of the strongest standard engines in the class.
There is a spacious trunk.
What’s Not So Good
The toggle/mouse input for the infotainment system isn’t as easy to use as buttons and knobs.
Though powerful relative to rivals, the GS 350 compares less favorably with relatives such as the Toyota Camry and Lexus ES 350, which offer essentially the same V6 with essentially the same power for a great deal less money.
Under the Hood
Every GS 350 — including the F Sport — comes standard with a 3.5-liter V6 that makes 311 horsepower and 280 foot-pounds of torque.
This engine is the same well-regarded engine used in several other Lexus — and Toyota — models and has earned a reputation for being exceptionally reliable and long-haul trouble-free.
The transmission you get depends on the layout you choose.
Rear-wheel drive versions come with an eight-speed automatic. Those equipped with the optional all-wheel drive system get a six-speed automatic.
On the Road
The V6 in the GS enjoys a spin to the right side of the tach, and so will you.
Still, it could be sportier.
The ride and steering — even in Sport mode — lean toward the luxury side of the aisle, for a car of this type. The F Sport, with its adaptive suspension and more aggressive 19-inch “summer” tires, is much improved in this respect, but what’s missing is more horsepower. A $50K GS 350 ought to have more of it than a $39K ES 350.
At the Curb
Aside from general trends in favor of crossovers, the other problem besetting luxury-sport sedans is their lack of one-car-does-it-all practicality: the attribute which helps explain the trend in favor of luxury-sport crossovers.
But the GS 350 is exceptionally practical … compared with other luxury-sport sedans.
Behold the 18.4-cubic foot trunk. It’s a vast space compared with the small space offered by the Benz E-Class sedan (13.1 cubic feet) and the 15.3 cubic feet in the Genesis G80, as well as the lesser space (16.7 cubic feet) in the ES 350, which is a larger car in terms of overall length (192.1 inches bumper to bumper, versus 195.9 inches).
The problem for all luxury-sport sedans is how much more practical luxury-sport crossovers are. For example, the hugely popular Lexus RX 350 (which comes standard with the same 3.5-liter V6) is almost exactly the same overall size in terms of its footprint (192.5 inches long) and has 18.4 cubic feet of space behind its back seats and 56.3 cubic feet with its back seats folded down.
That’s three times as much space for “stuff” as the GS 350’s got, and that plus the snow-fording advantage of being higher off the ground makes the RX more appealing to people who need a family car that’s also a luxurious and a sporty car.
Even if it technically isn’t a “car.”
Most $50K cars have a smartphone-emulating interface to control secondary functions, in order to set them apart from $25K cars that have knobs and buttons to control them. Whether this is an improvement will depend on whether you like tapping and swiping to control things.
The Lexus system does have ergonomics in its favor.
There is a soft pad on the center console for your right hand to rest on, with a small forward-back/left-right toggle you can use to “mouse” your inputs to the LCD screen. The toggle has some drag built into it, so there’s more feedback than the more common finger swipe/pinch/tap method used in other $50K cars, but it’s arguable that a simpler button or knob would serve the same function with less elaboration.
The Bottom Line
The GS goes away with 2020, which is only about six weeks from now. So if you want one under your tree, don’t wait on Santa.
Eric’s new book, “Don’t Get Taken for a Ride!” is available now. To find out more about Eric and read his past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.
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