By on April 4, 2012

A design studio gets shocking when someone shrugs off their stereotypical work, coming up with a whole new game.  But all your designs look the same! You are too retro! I’ve had better looking bowel movements than your last luxury sedan proposal!  The end result of this hate can be shockingly different from what they normally make, and the person behind it can have new found swagger.  In my case as a student at CCS?  Not so much.  But for the Lexus? Maybe so.

Anger.  It’s a good thing in the cutthroat world of design.  And this new GS has it in spades.  Taking the gaping maw of modern Audis and adding a metric ton of hard-edged F.O.A.D. angles to the schnoz worked well for the Lexus GS.  I like the brutal angles to the grille, the not so subtle chrome framing and I especially adore the corners of the bumpers: the fang overhang is very Batmobile.

To wit: my Mother, a GS430 owner, likes her car better from this angle.  Which means that Lexus’ new direction might be well on its way to lowering its ownership demographic.

Critics at the time referred to the Edsel’s loony grille as “an Oldsmobile sucking on a Lemon.”  This is definitely an A6 enjoying that same fruit, except after a few tequila shots to try and forget a traumatic incident.  And that’s huge compliment!  After all, who remembers that Oldsmobile…and who can’t forget the iconic face of an Edsel?

This Lexus sucks…in a good way.  There’s some serious harmonizing here in these lines. Remember what was written on Samuel L. Jackson’s wallet in “Pulp Fiction”?

Ahhh, the classic RWD proportions of a luxury sedan.  This may not be a Fisker Karma, but the same applies here: long hood and a short deck.  The dash-to-axle ratio is long enough to remind you this is a vehicle with the engine pointed in the correct direction, driving the proper pair of wheels. Plus, the punchy grille still comes correct.

The dash-to-axle deliciousness is even better from the side.  The chrome window trim keeps the theme set up by the grille, but everything is a little softer. I also like the relatively tame side surfacing, especially compared to the BMW 3-series.The GS may try too hard up front, but this sedan is keepin’ it cool on the sides. Better let BMW stick with hyper-Bangle flame surfacing, this is still a Lexus. And that is something to be proud of.

Oh, and shame on me for my insistence to go guerrilla-publishing with only my camera phone and almost no time with the vehicle: this is a terrible picture and I apologize.  But if you can only stir up the Venom at high noon on a Saturday, well…

And, in another attempt to look different, the GS avoids the Hofmeister Kink in its quarter window with something that emulates the front grille. Combined with the curve of the rear door, the GS has an almost hourglass quality that takes the edge off the rest of the package’s overt masculinity. Or something like that!

The rear cross section is quite clean, no lumps and bumps like many a modern luxo-sport sedan.  Note how the exhaust pipe (overlays) pull up, while the bumper and quarter panel have a distinct downturn in the corners. That same curvature is emulated in the brake/signal lamp assemblies.  And the obligatory license plate chrome mustache is nicely integrated too. Me likey.

How I long for just a touch more tumblehome in the B-pillar.  Bending things back in that area would naturally bend the C-pillar and make the whole roofline a lot sleeker.  The natural flow would make it happen on Vellum, as you can’t do one thing without an equal reaction in another area.  That’s how your body moves when you draw one line on paper. Golfers know what I’m talkin’ about…it’s all about the swing, son!

This might be one of the best luxo-sedan butts in the business.  Mercedes is flabby, BMW is flexing “Dr. Todd ‘The Todd’ Quinlan” style, and Cadillac is a geometric Buffalo Butt. This right here is tight, muscular, and the lighting pods and angry brow of the decklid make for an assertive look. And the double barrel shotgun look below?  That’s just proper.

Screwball aside: Buick needs this emblem-homage on the Regal’s lighting cluster.  You know what I’m talkin’ about…

Rarely do I appreciate a hunk of plastic deviating from the form of the sheetmetal, but this bit of taillight surface tension works. It is a slick operator.

Okay, this was a bit much.  A faux rear diffuser? Somebody is trying too hard…not to mention on a vehicle with a torqueless V6 and a ton of styling that suggests far more brutal performance than what’s on tap.  Still, this is a great effort and the second best looking GS to date: the rebadged Jaguar Kensington Concept mentioned in a previous review is still my favorite.

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24 Comments on “Vellum Venom: 2013 Lexus GS 350...”

  • avatar

    There are a lot of people who dislike the look of Lexuses, but I’m not one of them. Generally, they are quite pretty cars, and I like their new styling direction.

  • avatar

    Sorry, but this just looks like a RWD Camry to me. It’s like a nerd putting on a leather jacket his mom bought him at Wilsons. There is just no mistaking that this is a Toyota product, which for me is a bad thing.

  • avatar

    Had one of these for a week recently, and the V6 felt far from torqueless to me.

    Mine was identical to the photographed car, and to my eye the body looks bulbous in medium red, especially with the standard wheels. In gray or silver with the F-Sport wheels (also drove one of these, with red leather seats) the new GS looks ten times better.

    Agree that the spread of faux diffusers must stop. They’re the decklid spoiler of the 2010s. When you see one on a champagne Camry LE driven by a grandmother, you’ll know the trend has peaked.

    • 0 avatar

      Michael, it’s torque-less compared to the far less aggressive looking GS430, and well, any other sedan with a V8/Boost. Any vehicle with (significantly) more peak hp than torque is gonna feel gutless until you get over the torque peak’s RPM.

      And if your torque peak is @4800 rpm, you are torqueless for a looooong time on the rev counter.

      The styling deserves a non-Camry motor. It needs to happen ASAP.

      • 0 avatar

        Do consider the V8 in the current Boss torqueless? It’s HP figure is much higher than its torque figure (444 vs. 380), and the latter occurs at 4,500 rpm.

        All it means when the horsepower number is higher than the torque number is that torque is maintained at high rpm. With VVT, variable intake, and such it doesn’t indicate much at all about the amount of torque at low rpm. (Before these tweaks the tradeoffs were more absolute.)

        Similarly, you can’t judge an engine entirely from the rpm at which peak torque occurs. It could produce just 1-2 pound-feet less at half that rpm.

        This said, the Lexus engine does have a V-TEC like transition at 4,000 rpm. I wouldn’t call it torqueless short of that point, but it’s much more powerful past it. I personally prefer this sort of transition. Engines with nearly flat torque curves often sound and feel boring.

        I’ve owned a GS 400 myself in the past. The V8 does have more shove at low rpm, but I can’t say I missed it during my week with the new car.

      • 0 avatar

        Apples to Apples: I betcha the BOSS feels less punchy at the bottom end compared to a 5.0 GT. Its unique induction is made to sacrifice low end for more power from 5k-7k.

        The BOSS is a track motor, it’s not designed for a street car, especially one with a torque sucking torque converter. Street cars don’t need more power at 7000 rpm, they need more fat at 4000.

    • 0 avatar

      It is torqueless compared to a hypothetical GS570 that uses the 3UR-FE and a hypothetical GS-F that uses a supercharged 2UR-GSE.

      And the BOSS is torqueless compared to the GT500 and Raptor.

  • avatar

    The Lexus pretty much got mopped up in a head-to-head comparison of the Audi A7 3.0. The Supercharged and direct injection smoked the old school Lexus engine.

    When is Toyota going to bring forced induction and direct injection to it’s line up?

  • avatar

    GS350 F sport is the best looking sedan built today, IMO. Fantastic job on it.

  • avatar

    Nice point about the non-Hoffmeister kink. I know BMW didn’t actually invent it, but today it belongs to them. Others should come up with their own solution to the problem, and this one is pretty impressive.

  • avatar

    A good and (mostly) thoughtful review about a nice car. I don’t see anything original in the design (The grill for example reminds me of the Ampera) and the surface detailing takes me back to the busy Mothra-inspired Japanese designs of the 80’s.

    It’s clear that the writer put some effort into the review but the overall effect is spoiled by a bit of juvenile laziness on the part of the author.

    “I’ve had better looking bowel movements than your last luxury sedan proposal!”

    Come on Derek! Why did you let a nice piece of writing be spoiled by that bit of dreck?

    If you need vivid imagery and must use something hip or edgy (sic), fall back on classics like:

    “Your sister’s tramp stamp has a better design than that”.

    “Your design looks like sushi made from the wrong parts of the fish”.

    “Your design looks like a bowl of oatmeal without the raisins”

    If you really want to get edgy, at least be original –

    “I’ve drawn better designs on toilet paper than that”

    So, great review of a car that will probably replace the BMW sitting in my garage when I shop next time but you lose a letter grade for a moment of mental incontinence .

    • 0 avatar

      I’m a little miffed that you didn’t know who actually wrote this. Perhaps you lose a letter grade for addressing the wrong person!

      More to the point, people actually say that stuff in the design studio. They may/may not be serious, but it happens. Welcome to the real world of car styling…or any other creative industry for that matter.

      • 0 avatar

        et tu Sajeev?

        The horror, the horror. I just never assumed it could have been YOU. There was no comparison to the Panther anywhere :-)

        “people actually say that stuff in the design studio”

        Just because other people run around with their pants falling off doesn’t mean you should.

        And yes, even you lose a letter grade.

        I actually drove one of these last weekend at Lexus’ invitation; one of those things you get because you’re on certain mailing lists. I liked the car, but found it unsatisfying somehow. I didn’t object to it, but when I got back in my BMW, I felt more connected and comfortable, even though the BMW wasn’t as elegant or quiet. It just seemed as though the Lexus, while solid and firm, was floating on a quarter inch of air above the road. This means a little lag in acceleration and a little drift in the steering and a general detachment from the world. I’ll still probably buy one though, as I can’t get past what BMW is doing to their cars…

      • 0 avatar

        Hey, if it was said around me back in the studio, you get to hear it. Sorry I offended your delicate sensibilities, but here’s my life and I’m sharing it…for some reason.

  • avatar
    Speed Spaniel

    If Lexus upped the horsepower some and gave it the performance of an S4 I will write the check now. Agree. This is one thoughtfully crafted and beautifully designed automobile worthy of a dip into the savings account. Stylistically it doesn’t break new ground, but as a whole everything is cohesive with enough detailing to be interesting without being different for the sake of being different. An equally nice and well crafted interior too. Score one for Lexus. Nice job.

  • avatar

    I spent some time at the Lexus dealer last week waiting for service to be done. I took a good long look at the GS and wasn’t impressed. They had several on the lot and I mistook them for used GS models of the past. The grille is the only really distinctive feature. My neighbor has a new GS and my first view of it was the back end. I honestly thought it was some model of the new Camry. I just don’t see this model expanding the sales of the GS line. It will be the same low volume product, perhaps sold to a more performance skewed demographic. Lexus as a whole line has lost a lot of ground. The LS sells in very low volume and used to be their true flag ship. What happened was that a previous LS (and I had one in the 90s) was a bargain and performance alternative to a BMW 5 or the Mercedes E. Now its an also ran in the prestige race of 750i and S class. The ES350 and RX 350 are the bread and butter. Even previously big sellers of LX and GX suvs are way down. The new ES350 will be a make-or-break for the brand.

  • avatar

    I have to say that this is the first Lexus that I’ve been even remotely interested in since about 1998. No ’80s green digital clock, no ’90s “PRND” lamps in the gauges, seats that are more than 10-way adjustable, and an overall interior design that at least looks German car serious, unlike its rivals from Acura and Infiniti.

    Questions that remain, driving position, seat comfort, steering weight/precision – HUGE sticking point there. I can deal with limited road feel, but if the steering is too light, if there’s on-center slop, or if it doesn’t weight up properly with increased cornering load, that’s it, I’m done.

    I’ll definitely be looking at this a long with the E and 5 when it comes time for the new car. I’m still disappointed that Audi of America apparently thinks we don’t deserve comfortable leather door armrests unless we spend $90K for an A8, and yet the British can add extended leather to any Audi for the equivalent of a few hundred dollars. The new A6 STILL has rock hard vinyl on the doors, even in “Prestige” trim. Really disappointing.

  • avatar

    Looks OK to me, a little dull. I think the current 5-series is the class of this class, with the Audi A6/A7s close runners up. I do think the super-short decklid is silly – it almost looks like a hatchback, and if it is going to look like one, just MAKE IT ONE so it has a usefully sized trunk opening and not a letter slot. See Audi A7.

  • avatar

    quote: “The Lexus pretty much got mopped up in a head-to-head comparison of the Audi A7 3.0. The Supercharged and direct injection smoked the old school Lexus engine.

    When is Toyota going to bring forced induction and direct injection to it’s line up?”

    It’s not even funny how misinformed some “car enthusiasts” are. Roots type supercharger (patented 152 years ago in 1860) doesn’t make any engine more modern. Lexus has been using more sophisticated injection than Audi already since 2006: dual injection – direct injection with traditional port injection – V6 engine has 12 injectors. If you would like to have more torque then try the new GS450h, its powerband and smoothness smokes Audi’s 3.0TFSI.

    By the way BMW 5-series and new Lexus GS are new benchmarks for handling and chassis balance in this class. E class (lifeless and soft) and most of all way-out-of-balance FWD based Audi A6/A7 Quattro’s are joke compared to the GS/5-series. Don’t believe me – try them all on a twisty road.

    Road and Track test, Audi won by numbers, but I think best describes the comparison this conclusion: On a purely emotional front, it’s the F Sport that gets our attention, as it’s the car both Kim and I are most excited to drive at the end of the day.

    It’s always nice to see the “soft-soulless-rwdCamry-japaneseBuick-beige-boring-appliance” machine to get this kind of opinion compared to the “teutonic-sharp-quattro-long-racing-history-uber-German-engineering” car.

    quote: “I didn’t object to it, but when I got back in my BMW, I felt more connected and comfortable, even though the BMW wasn’t as elegant or quiet. It just seemed as though the Lexus, while solid and firm, was floating on a quarter inch of air above the road. This means a little lag in acceleration and a little drift in the steering and a general detachment from the world.”

    If stock suspension was too disconnected to you, then please try the GS450h or GS350 F-Sport. Its totally head-to-head comparable and at the same level with BMW 5-series M-sport.

  • avatar

    Sorry, but this thing, just like most Toyotas starting from early 00s, seems to be overstyled by 300%. All those kinks and curves look like an interesting design exersise when seen separately, but it is a total mess as a whole.
    Classic and restrained designs last for decades and age gracefully.
    This one will look tired and out of place in 4-5 years.

  • avatar

    Overstyled 300%, at least.
    I’m no expert, but would it be at all possible for a modern car to be a shape, with details that serve this shape rather than distract endlessly?
    I’m thinking something along the lines of a Saab 900, as a car which accomplishes that

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