Photo credit: Norman Woo & Derek Mau
The 2018 Lexus GS occupies what should be a critical space in the Lexus lineup, that of the mid-size, rear wheel drive, luxury sports sedan. Featuring competitors such as the BMW 5 Series, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, and Audi A6, this segment has traditionally been what defines a luxury brand. But with everything going crossover these days, the GS is in a surprisingly precarious position.
Will Lexus Discontinue the GS?
Lexus halted GS sales in Europe earlier this year, and there is speculation that the US isn’t far behind. However, a next-generation model is slated for next year. Part of the problem is continually fierce competition from the Germans and even from Lexus itself. Toyota’s luxury division builds the much more popular front-wheel drive ES sedan, not to mention the best selling RX crossover.
Compounding the issue is the fact that the current GS is now quite long in the tooth, having debuted way back in 2011. A significant refresh in 2015 helped keep things current. Three years on, though, and the GS is definitely a bit dated. Its a bit of an old-timer as the Germans continue to roll out brand new midsize models. Sales practically fell off a cliff in 2017, dropping almost 50 percent from the year before. Matters haven’t improved much so far this year, either.
Lexus introduced a cheaper, four-cylinder powered GS in 2015. The company first dubbed the model the GS 200t, before renaming it the GS 300 last year. Starting at well under $50k, this model undercuts the German competition by thousands. Although, based on sales numbers, it doesn’t look like luxury sports sedan shoppers are keen on saving the money to have this Lexus. With a top-trim Honda Accord now getting close to $40k, the GS does present excellent value for the money.
After spending some time in our 2018 Lexus GS 300 F Sport test car, I was reminded that the core of this sedan is still surprisingly good. It roused memories of how well it drove when I first took the wheel of the then-new GS 350 in 2013. Those impressions still hold true today.
Lexus’ chassis and suspension tuning are genuinely quite excellent. Given that many so-called sports sedans have become oddly flabby and numb, the GS is a somewhat rare breed.
Dial-up Sport+ on the selectable drive mode wheel, and the adaptive variable suspension firms up nicely. However, it doesn’t firm up to the point of being harsh or uncomfortable. The variable gear-ratio steering is still a bit weird feeling at slow speeds. When you’re hustling down a twisty back road, though, the car is easy to place and eager to rotate through a corner. A set of staggered, low-profile summer tires help provide a healthy dose of grip.
…and the Not So Good
The only place the GS 300 falters is under the hood. The little 2.0-liter turbocharged motor just fails to inspire. With only 241 horsepower on tap, acceleration is just modestly quick. However, the engine won’t sound like it’s enjoying the treatment. There is enough torque to provide some punch when merging or passing. In the end, you just can’t help but wish that any of the other available engines were under the hood. The 3.5-liter V6 in the GS 350 has far more character, and the 5.0-liter V8 in the GS F is downright grin-inducing, despite the added premium.
The one benefit to the small turbo motor is good fuel efficiency, especially on the highway. We managed to achieve 26 mpg over close to a thousand miles of driving (around 70 percent freeway), which beats the EPA combined rating by two mpg.
Welcome to the Comfort Zone
When you’re not hustling it, the 2018 Lexus GS makes for a nice place to pass the time. Whether stuck in traffic or cruising down the interstate, it’s easy to relax in the comfortable tan leather seats. You have the chance to listen to the optional 17-speaker Mark Levinson audio system. The 2018 Lexus GS isn’t the most spacious mid-sizer, but most rear-seat passengers should have enough room to stretch their legs. In the non-sport settings, the suspension is impressively supple. It soaks up bumps with an old-school level of luxury barge cushiness.
Unfortunately, the GS shows its age when it comes to electronics. The Lexus Enform infotainment system is in desperate need of a major update, as it has been in newer models. The system in the GS still uses the same awkward remote touch controller that should have been replaced years ago.
Apple Carplay and Android Auto are also not available here. Luckily, safety features are up-to-date, with all the usual electronic driving aids coming standard, including adaptive cruise control.
In the end, the 2018 Lexus GS 300 F Sport is a competent luxury sports sedan that makes an excellent value proposition. If I were counting my pennies, I wouldn’t spring for the F Sport package, as it raises the total price over $50,000. It just doesn’t make as much sense in the underpowered GS 300.
In case you need a reminder of what the Lexus GS is truly capable of, watch this V8 battle between the 2018 BMW 550i and the Lexus GS F.
SPECIFICATIONS: 2018 Lexus GS 300 F Sport
|Engine:||2.0-liter turbocharged I-4|
|Drivetrain (Layout):||Front engine, rear-wheel drive|
|Horsepower:||241 hp @ 5,800 rpm|
|Torque:||258 lb-ft @ 1,650 rpm|
|Tires:||Dunlop Signature HP 235/45 R18 94V performance all-season|
|Fuel capacity:||17.4 gallons|
|Fuel economy (EPA):||21 City/30 Highway/24 Combined MPG|
|Turning Circle:||36.8 feet|
|Curb Weight:||3,805 pounds|