Test Drive: 2017 Lexus GS 350

The 2017 Lexus GS 350 is perhaps my favourite Lexus sedan. It’s substantial but not huge. It’s handsome but not outlandish. It’s luxurious but not pretentious. And it performs admirably enough to be taken seriously.

The cabin is spacious enough to be comfortable, but small enough to feel intimate and involved.

The GS has always been a good-looking car. This latest generation is the most striking one yet, although those muscular, sculpted lines tend to blend in with the masses more and more as time goes by.

The F Sport package on my sample includes that aggressive front grille that people either can’t get enough of or absolutely hate. However you feel about it, you certainly can’t miss it – it looks like it is hunting small children as you come down the street. The LED headlights look great, and do a fantastic job casting a large bright pool of light and of course there are the now-familiar Nike-swoosh driving lights as well.

Of course, no F Sport sedan would be complete without the rear spoiler, and this one gets meaty 235/40-sized rubber on stunning 19-inch F Sport rims. The GS’ taillights are elegant LEDs and the integrated exhaust tips finish things off.

I really enjoy the interior styling of the GS. Even though the sculpting is dramatic, the lines are quite simple and it is very effective. It looks good and it works well. Lexus’ materials are exquisite. The shallow dash is upholstered and stitched, everything is soft-touch and feels great. The cabin is spacious enough to be comfortable, but small enough to feel intimate and involved.

There are a few F Sport-specific details inside as well, to remind you where your ten grand went. The branded aluminum scuff plates and heated three-spoke steering wheel are nice, as is the shift knob. The aluminum sport pedals are unnecessary, but I’ll take them.

Now to something that really does matter. The F Sport leather seats are outstanding. The 16-way adjustable driver’s seat even allows you to adjust the knee and kidney bolsters, making for extraordinarily tailored and comfortable seating. Both front seats are heated and cooled too.

The huge 12.3-inch display sits deep inside the aforementioned sculpting and is controlled by one of the GS’ low points – the horrid Remote Touch interface. It uses a little movable mouse/paddle/button to navigate around the screen, is electronically guided by the possibilities on the screen and there’s haptic feedback, but in reality, it’s a bit of a herky-jerky nightmare. The 17-speaker Mark Levinson audio system continues to be one of the best on the market and the voice recognition is very quick and accurate.

This loaded-up GS is chock-full of Lexus’ latest driver-assistance technology – blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, back-up camera with front and rear parking sensors, head-up display, pre-collision system, automatic high-beams, lane-departure alert and assist, and an adaptive cruise control system.

The back provides seating for three, but let’s be honest – nobody who has legs will want to sit in the middle. There’s a huge tunnel to straddle and the middle seat is narrow, hard, and high. It’s best you fold the middle seatback down – it becomes a plush armrest with a carpeted storage bin and cupholders. The two outboard seats are very comfortable but there is limited head- and legroom – at 5'10", I had just enough of both but anyone taller will be uncomfortable.

Rear passengers get adjustable air vents as well as 12V and 120V household plugs and benefit from the powered rear window sunshade – which is controlled from the front.

The powered trunk lid lets you into a reasonably sized 520 L trunk. You can’t fold the rear seats down for more space, but you get a pass-through for skis (or anything the size and shape of skis).

A healthy-sounding 3.5L V6 that churns out 311 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque lurks under the hood. I ended up with an average of 13.0 L/100 km during my week with the GS, just slightly higher than Lexus’ city rating of 12.4 L/100 km. Highway mileage is estimated at 9.2 L/100 km.

The GS 350 is just a tad soft off the line, particularly when you hammer on it and expect a big launch, but it very quickly delivers plenty of jam and there’s a juicy, linear amount of power that keeps going right to the redline. Lexus provides four drive modes – Normal, Eco, Sport, and Sport+, each of which impacts the GS’ throttle response, transmission programming, and adaptive suspension settings. Speaking of the adaptive suspension, the ride is luxurious yet firm; at slower speeds, the car feels a bit heavy. The quicker you drive it, the more responsive and sporty it feels, and it becomes surprisingly dynamic as you start pushing it into curves at higher speeds.

Although the number of gears seems a bit antiquated in 2017, the six-speed automatic transmission is flawlessly smooth and quick enough to be satisfying. It can be shifted manually via paddles or the gear selector if that makes you feel sportier. The all-wheel-drive system is noticeable at lower speeds, like when parking where you will feel it bind a bit, but its performance-oriented abilities become clear as you pick up the pace.

We found the GS to be a very quiet car, even at highway speeds.

WAF (Wife Approval Factor) was middling. She felt it was a bit tight in the cockpit, and I think that based on her responses, the F Sport package is not for her. She would prefer the softer edges of the base GS 350, inside and out.

At just over $70,000, the GS I reviewed has some competition out there, and some of that competition feels more modern. For example, you can buy a fairly-loaded-up Mercedes-Benz E300 for the same price. And as mentioned, the F Sport package makes the ride Euro-firm so if you want a truly buttery ride, opt for Lexus’ non-F-Sport GS or the ES.

In the end, I found this to be a delightful grand touring sedan – the GS 350 is easy on the eyes, full of premium materials and technology and performs surprisingly well.

2017 Lexus GS 350 AWD
Engine Displacement: 3.5L
Engine Cylinders: V6
Peak Horsepower: 311 hp
Peak Torque: 280 lb-ft
Fuel Economy: 12.4/9.2/11.0 L/100 km city/hwy/cmb
Cargo Space: 520 L
articles_PricingType 2017 Lexus GS 350 AWD
Base Price $57,900
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $2,045
Price as Tested $70,645
Optional Equipment $10,600 – F SPORT Series 2 package $10,600
Optional Equipment
10 0
Scoring breakdowns 7.3
7 Styling
8 Powertrain
9 Quality
8 Comfort
6 Practicality
8 Drivability
6 Usability/Ergonomics
6 Fuel Economy
8 Features
7 Value