For what is arguably a small, niche brand, Lexus began the year in impressive fashion. First up came the launch of the sharper new RX. And more recently an upgraded version of the GS. I had the opportunity to spend a couple of days behind the wheel of the latest Lexus GS 200t. This new-generation GS is nicely positioned between the brand’s entry-level vehicle (the ES) and the flagship LS, with a significant change being the introduction of the 2-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that you will also find in the IS and RC models.
First impressions are always important, and in this case you immediately notice that the car has a more muscular, aggressive design. Those large, deep concave panels at the front — something that is quickly becoming a trademark for the Lexus brand — along with the recognisable spindle grille framed by satin-chrome trim and flanked by LED lights, make this particular vehicle stand out from the crowd. In its press release, Lexus describes the GS’s looks as a “bolder design”.
I would take it a step further and say it’s a radical approach, which Lexus has managed to pull off without making the car appear garish. But the rear of the GS is definitely more subdued. Although the dual exhaust outlets — incorporated into a colour-coded lower bumper — tend to look more muscled, they are still understated. Step into the cabin and the craftsmanship and quality one associates and expects from Lexus is on display: classy leather (which incorporates a lot of double stitching), the horizontal sweep of the dashboard, a large 12.3-inch display screen and just the right number of knobs and switches to make you feel right at home.
The vehicle is highly-specced when it comes to standard comfort features. To mention but a few: three-zone air-conditioning, metal finishes to the gear lever, air vents, door handles and switches, drive mode select and a navigation system. Our test vehicle came with an attractive interior combination of ivory and black hues. I had to wonder, though, whether it would still be as handsome after a few trips to get takeaways with a couple of kids in tow. If you want to play it safe, go for the all-black option. You would have to be pretty eagle-eyed to notice that the steering wheel of the new-generation GS has shrunk, but you still have regular features — such as cruise control and audio functions — a fingertip away.
The GS range’s new lineup is pretty straightforward: the only alternative to the GS 200t is the GS 350 F-Sport. The 450h model is no longer available. Unfortunately, my two days behind the wheel of the vehicle were largely spent just commuting to and from work. I say unfortunately because, as comfortable as it was with its many features, this particular midsize luxury sedan is crying out to be taken on a road trip. The car isn’t one to leap from the starting blocks the second you plant your foot — but then it’s not about robot-to-robot theatrics. It’s about refinement and enjoyment as you cruise along, quietly paddle-shifting through the eight gears. Cabin noise is greatly reduced thanks to sound-absorbing material used in the cabin.
So you can kick back and enjoy the 12-speaker surround-sound system without any intrusion from the outside. Finding a comfortable driving position is also easy, with everything being electrically adjustable. The GS 200t has a claimed combined fuel consumption of around 8l/100km — enough to take to you Durban on one tank. Take it up another level to the range-topping GS 350 F-Sport and you can enjoy a more powerful engine; the F-Sport steering wheel; leather sport seats; 19- inch alloy wheels; adaptive variable suspension; rear spoiler; four-wheel active steer and the obligatory F-Sport badging. Competition for the GS 200t comes primarily from class-leading manufacturers such as Audi, with its A6, BMW’s 5-series and Mercedes-Benz’s E-Class. But, I must admit, the more I drive the models that Lexus produces, the more I admire what the company is about: producing luxury vehicles with an understated level of sophistication and refinement — but also with excellent safety features and technology that will keep the majority of motorists more than satisfied. There are no shortage of these elements in the new GS.
Lexus GS 200t EX
Engine: 1 998cc 4-cylinder
Power: 180kW at 5 800rpm
Torque: 380Nm at 1 640-4 400rpm
Top speed: 230km/h
Fuel consumption: 8l/ 100km (claimed/combined)
Price: R688 600
Lexus GS 350 F-Sport
Engine: 3 456cc V6
Power: 232kW at 6 400rpm
Torque: 380Nm at 4 800rpm
Top speed: 235km/h
Fuel consumption: 11.3l/100km (claimed/combined)
Price: R777 700