After a one-year absence, the Lexus GS 350 returns to the U.S. market for the 2013 model year. While that may be significant to buyers shopping for a mid-size luxury sedan, there’s news for driving enthusiasts as well: for 2013, Lexus has ventured into F Sport territory with the GS, and it's a worthwhile trip.
The F Sport Package is interesting for both what it serves up, and for what it doesn’t. Buyers get staggered 19-inch wheels, an F Sport tuned adaptive suspension with adjustable dampers, variable-ratio electronic steering, larger front brake rotors, Sport S+ mode for Lexus’ Drive Mode Select and an F Sport driver’s seat. What you don’t get is an increase in output from the GS 350’s 3.5-liter V-6, rated at 306 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque and mated only to a six-speed automatic transmission.
Sometimes, though, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, and that’s certainly the case here. Rear-drive GS 350 F Sport models are capable of dashing from 0-60 mph in an impressive 5.7 seconds, yet the car still returns 28 mpg highway fuel economy and 19 mpg around town.
Inside, the GS 350 is up to Lexus’ usual standards of luxury excellence in material selection and build quality. To set F Sport models apart from the rest of the family lineup, interior trim is made from aluminum, not wood, and the only available headliner color is black. While there’s ample room in the front, rear seat passengers with longer legs may complain about leg room, particularly if the front seat occupants are similarly long of leg. While we’re nitpicking, the GS’ trunk isn’t quite as deep as competitive models from other manufacturers.
Outside, all GS 350 models wear Lexus’ now-familiar spindle grille and benefit from styling inspired by Lexus’ LFA supercar. In addition to getting staggered wheels (19 x 9-inch rear, 19 x 8-inch front) finished in dark gray, F Sport versions wear a more aggressive front bumper, a rear deck lid spoiler and a unique rear diffuser; together, they manage to create a more assertive appearance without screaming “boy racer.”
Like all of Lexus’ other F Sport models, the so-equipped GS 350 can be a bit harsh on rough pavement, and we wouldn’t want to negotiate the pothole-filled streets of Boston or New York with the Drive Select system set to Sport S+. That said, the GS 350 is more than comfortable enough in the Normal mode when the pavement leaves much to be desired, and comfortable enough for us in Sport S+ over normal roads. While the variable-ratio steering feels different from what you’d encounter on a BMW or Mercedes-Benz, it’s no less precise, and we have no qualms about recommending a test drive in a GS 350 F Sport for enthusiasts.
As for options, the GS 350’s list is a long one. Buyers must first choose between rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive, though AWD F Sport models come only with the Cold Weather Package. As with comparable German sedans, going heavy on packages will quickly escalate the sticker price, but unlike its German rivals, the GS doesn’t offer as many a la carte options. While it’s possible to drive off the dealer’s lot in a GS 350 F Sport for as little as $53,485, loading up on packages and options can drive the price north of $65,000. In other words, it’s best to know what packages you need and which ones you can live without before heading off to your Lexus dealer.
For a more detailed look at the 2013 GS 350 family of models, see our comprehensive review on The Car Connection