Test Drive: 2018 Lexus GS 350
2018 Lexus GS 350 AWD
Class: Premium Midsize Car
Miles driven: 342
Fuel used: 18.4 gallons
Real-world fuel economy: 18.6 mpg
Driving mix: 85% city, 15% highway
EPA-estimated fuel economy: 19/26/22 (city, highway, combined)
|CG Report Card|
|Big & Tall comfort ratings are for front seats only. "Big" rating based on male tester weighing approximately 350 pounds, "Tall" rating based on 6'6"-tall male tester.|
|Room and Comfort||B+|
|Power and Performance||B|
|Fit and Finish||A-|
|Report-card grades are derived from a consensus of test-driver evaluations. All grades are versus other vehicles in the same class. Value grade is for specific trim level evaluated, and may not reflect Consumer Guide's impressions of the entire model lineup.|
|Big & Tall Comfort|
Fuel type: Premium gas
Base price: $50,365 (not including $995 destination charge)
Options on test vehicle: Premium Package ($1760), leather steering wheel and gray sapele trim ($650), illuminated door sills ($425), body side moldings ($199)
Price as tested: $54,394
The great: Refined cabin, assembly quality, quietness
The good: Better dollar value than many similarly sized class competitors
The not so good: Infotainment interface feels dated and lacks some of the latest features, disappointing fuel economy
More GS price and availability information
It is easy to get comfortable with the 2018 Lexus GS 350, what with its restful seating, quiet cabin, nice appointments, and supple ride. But this premium midsize sedan isn’t all sweetness and light given a V6 that can on occasion enliven the drive.
The GS 350 comes in a choice of rear- or all-wheel-drive configurations. Consumer Guide sampled a copy of the AWD variant, which had a base sticker price of $50,365. (The GS 350 AWD is a rarity in that it starts $330 less than its rear-drive companion, reasons for which we’ll get to by and by.) With the Premium Package option, a trio of stand-alone extras, and delivery, the test car posted a bottom line of $54,394.
Regardless of driveline, the GS 350 is first and foremost a luxury car; if you want something genuinely sporty, Lexus has a GS for that, the V8-powered F. The 350’s perforated-leather front seats provide good support and long-drive comfort. They’re power-adjustable 10 ways, heated, and—thanks to the Premium Package—ventilated too. Soft-touch surfaces are widely distributed, and true wood trim also graces the cabin. The driver grips a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter knob. A one-touch power moonroof resides overhead, while carpeted mats rest underfoot.
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Passengers are pampered by dual-zone automatic climate control and an audio system with CD player and satellite radio. Drivers enjoy the benefits of a navigation system, power tilt/telescoping steering column, and keyless entry and starting. Watching over all and sundry are Lexus Enform Safety and Service Connect remote functions, now with a 10-year complimentary subscription. The Lexus Safety System+ composed of forward-collision detection, pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, automatic high-beam headlights, lane-departure alert, and lane-keeping assist is accompanied by a blind-spot monitor and rear cross-traffic alert.
Very little racket and roughness of the outside world penetrates the GS 350’s defenses. It rolls on a fully independent suspension of double wishbones in front and multiple links in back, with 235/45R18 tires on 18-inch alloy wheels to interface with the road. Most impacts from road imperfections are stanched well enough to keep the peace in the cabin. Steering is luxury-car easy but not overly flabby or insensitive, and there’s good roll control in cornering.
Motivating it all is a 3.5-liter V6 that makes 311 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque. In the GS 350 with AWD, this powerplant is connected to a 6-speed automatic transmission. It is the only gasoline-engine GS with this transmission, as all others have an 8-speed unit (and the gas-electric hybrid uses a continuously variable trans). The extra two gears and a standard power rear-window sunshade help explain the rear-drive GS 350’s slight price premium. Selectable drive modes modify performance in favor of either fuel savings or improved acceleration, and the all-wheel drive shuffles engine power between the axles from a 30-percent-front/70-percent-rear torque split to 50/50 distribution as conditions warrant.
Even in the default “Normal” mode, the ES 350 gets around smartly in town and cruises expressways without raising a sweat. Twisting the console-mounted mode selector to the right engages Sport S, which tweaks the powertrain with faster gear changes and different throttle mapping. Plus, the transmission’s shift points are automatically altered in and out of corners in pursuit of better acceleration. The switch to Sport S is subtle—there’s no overt sense of a Jekyll-to-Hyde transition—but it gets results. This driver noticed it especially in expressway driving. With Sport on and the gas pedal tromped, there was an immediate multiple-gear kickdown by the transmission, and the car practically leapt into a passing opportunity while making a nice—if not wholly guttural—exhaust sound.
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When it comes time to fuel up, the EPA expects the 350 AWD to have averaged 19 mpg in city driving, 26 mpg in highway running, and 22 combined. This reviewer’s experience wasn’t even up to those modest levels: A test stint of 210.2 miles with 81 percent city-type operation averaged 17.9 mpg. That said, he did pretty much avoid the “ECO” drive mode, which tempers throttle response and power output, and alters climate-system functions in the service of saving some gas.
Leg- and headroom are generous for front passengers but somewhat less so for second-row riders. A tall, flat-topped driveline tunnel precludes 3-across seating for adults in back, and even many kids would have difficulty fitting comfortably in the center position. Doors open wide, but the rear doors narrow at the bottoms and restrict entry and exit a bit. Personal-item storage in the front row is handled by a sizeable glove box, a console cubby with a small-item catch tray under the sliding center armrest, a pair of covered cup holders, and door map pockets. Rear passengers are provided with shorter door pockets; hard-sided pouches on the backs of the front seats; and a retractable central armrest with a shallow covered storage box, a small open bin, and cup holders that pop out from the front.
Electronic driving controls are large and legible. USB ports and a 12-volt power plug reside within the console box. Infotainment functions are displayed on a large 12.3-inch screen at the top of the dash, but a Remote Touch controller on the console activates them. This is Lexus’ older-style system with a finicky, distracting mouselike lever, not the newer and slightly better touchpad unit, and it’s no particular favorite of CG testers.
Somewhat more impressive is the 18.4 cubic-foot trunk shaped with the promise of being able to handle a variety of loads. Liftover at bumper height is low and the opening is wide. The wheel houses press in from the sides, but there’s still good space on a uniformly flat floor. Gooseneck hinges are fully shielded from the cargo area. A covered bin in the left-rear corner of the floor and a net pouch on the right sidewall can contain small items. Rear seats don’t fold but a big pass-through is included to make it possible to carry long, narrow objects.
The GS may be showing some age—sticking with the lever-type Remote Touch, no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto—but as a 350 it still blends a fun-to-drive character with a luxury-sedan demeanor.
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