Get the hook. The Lexus GS300 is no more a $45k (and up) luxury car than I m an international man of mystery. Less, in fact. While I ve faced death by cafe and kuchen at VW s ill-fated Phaeton customer delivery center in Dresden, the GS300 is a luxury car that visited the German stand at EPCOT and decided it knows everything there is to know about European luxury cars. The end result is a tarted-up Toyota with ideas above its station, appealing to customers blinded by a rep forged by far better metal.
It s a shame. Apart from its confused rear end — the most improbable farrago of angles, surfaces and lines since MC Escher put pen to paper — the GS300 is a wikkid-looking piece of kit. The nose may seem like a lukewarm warm-up for Bimmer s 8-Series, but the GS s fastback rear pillar and Alfa-esque athleticism make it the coolest thing Lexus has produced since, um, ever. Brand neophytes would be forgiven for thinking they were about to get to grips with a serious sports sedan.
The GS300 s steering wheel immediately puts paid to that theory; gem polished wood has about as much place on a performance sedan s helm as a short shifter in a minivan. Eagle-eyed obsessives — a group who once called Lexus home — will immediately clock the nasty, non-reflective plastic surrounding the central touch screen. While the HVAC/ICE s positioning and ergonomics should shame BMW s iDrive team into hari-kari, other than a Toyota badge, nothing says value-priced Japanese car more than nasty, non-reflective plastic. Unless it s garishly lit, silver-effect gauges surrounded by nasty, non-reflective plastic.
On the plus side, the GS leather chairs conform to Lexian standards for baby cheek softness and Saville Row tailoring. And the rear cabin is at least as spacious as, say, a Toyota Avalon.
Press the needless affectation — sorry, starter button — and nothing. Not nothing in the walk-softly-and-carry-a-shit-load-of-torque sense of the word. I mean nothing as in niente. The GS300 holsters a 3.0-liter six that s good for 245hp at 6200rpm. Actually, good for is a bit of an exaggeration. Put your foot down from a standing start and you re jarred by bumper-car driveline shunt. And as the good Dr. Seuss might say, oh, the noise, the noise, the NOISE! Jewish American Princesses whine less. What s more, our journo-thrashed 11k mile test car s suspension literally groaned over depressions and crashed, bang, walloped over potholes, manholes and flattened soda cans.
A luxury car without a smooth, quiet, waftable engine and a silent, magic carpet ride is like a professional bodybuilder without a syringe. The fact that the GS300 s steering is lithium light is neither here nor there (nor anywhere in particular). Nor are we bothered by the lack of anything resembling brake feel. But the GS is singularly lacking in the two ingredients that made the Lexus brand justifiably famous: tomb-like quiet and brain dead driving dynamics.
The V8 engine in a fresher car might change our perspective of this whole GS thing, helping us forget all those niggling style demerits, but you can t help but feel that Lexus phoned this one in. If you hear the call, take our advice: let the message machine handle it. [by Robert Farago]