Driving dynamics: solid, tight, great handling, aggressive. I do not believe I have ever associated those words with a Lexus, and certainly not the GS350, but that has all changed. Everybody has been eager to see and drive the redesigned 2013 Lexus GS350 and that includes me. In years past, Lexus GS350 has had a reputation of being a great quality car, a terrific family sedan, and a soft, comfortable ride. Some of those characteristics still remain, but the car has evolved in a major way and one that I believe will attract new buyers that would have viewed this car as more for the older generation. Under the hood, the same engine remains, a 3.5-liter V6 that has been tweaked to 306-horses while at the same time improving gas mileage. That engine is connected to a 6-speed automatic transmission. This particular 4th generation GS is all-wheel drive, but is available in just rear-wheel drive as well. You immediately notice a much more aggressive look on the outside, starting from the front end and continuing all the way to the back of the car. The new GS has a 2” wider track that makes the car look great, but also gives the car a lot of stability. A new suspension system makes this the most “un-Lexus” driving Lexus I have been in except for the IS-F. Besides the changes underneath the car, the body is slightly wider and slightly taller, and while doing the redesign, Lexus gives you 25% more trunk space than last year’s model. Toyota engineers addressed everything you could possibly want to change for the 2012. Lexus also changed the interior, and the results are remarkable. Lexus is known for their interiors, but they outdid themselves this time with an incredible combination of leather, aluminum, and perhaps the most beautiful wood I have seen in any car. My test car has virtually every available option including the luxury package, which is an $8290 package. The 835-watt Mark Levinson stereo system is a $1300 option, and sounds like you are in a concert hall as 17 speakers surround you. The GS navigation system works flawlessly and adds another $1700 to the price. For that, you get real-time traffic, weather, sports scores, and even current stock prices. There is a host of apps you can choose from on a huge 12” color monitor. All systems are operated by a remote touch controller, which works exactly like your computer mouse. I find this to be a terrific feature and for me, reduces driver distraction. This particular car has adaptive cruise control which works beautifully. The car has a sophisticated pre-crash avoidance system that stops the car for you, and even warns you if it detects you are about to nod off while driving. The list of options and standard equipment is so extensive that it makes the window sticker the length of War and Peace but the standout items for me is 18-way power heated and cooled seats, blind spot warning system, a heads-up display that puts info up on the windshield so you don’t have to look down to see your speed, power moonroof, and push button start.
While Lexus made this car much more fun to drive, and much more responsive, they did not lose the things that made them famous. The quality is apparent, the interior refined and plush, and quietness that is their trademark. The only knock on the car for me is I wish the transmission weren’t as smooth as it is. You get a feel of performance with this car that is dampened by the lack of feel when shifting, even using the shift paddles. The big OH WOW! moment came for me the first time I heavily accelerated. I could hear the roar of the engine, and with nobody else in the car, I said aloud “what the hell?” Engine roar in a Lexus GS? Turns out Lexus engineers put a sound resonator in the car that brings the engine sound inside the car when you tromp it. NICE TOUCH and a sure sign this isn’t your Grandpa’s Lexus. What I liked most: The new look, but most of all, the new feel when driving. What I would change: Make the tranny more responsive. MSRP: Base price, $49,450. As equipped $65,299. Fuel Economy: 19 in town/26 highway and easily getting there. 2013 Lexus GS 350 in a few words: A whole different Lexus GS than before and every change Lexus made was for the better.