By on March 31, 2017

2017 Lexus GS200t front quarter

2017 Lexus GS 200t

2.0-liter DOHC inline four, turbocharged (241 horsepower @ 5,800 rpm; 258 lb-ft @ 1,650 rpm)

Eight-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive

22 city / 32 highway / 26 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

23.4 (Observed, MPG)

Base Price: $47,285

As Tested: $52,295

Prices include $975 destination charge.

Midsized luxury cars are a tough sell these days. The SUV craze shows no sign of ebbing, with new models coming out frequently from nearly every automaker (though if Caterham starts offering an assemble-it-yourself crossover, I’ll hang up my keyboard for good). Further, these midsizers are squeezed by models upmarket and down — the compacts keep adding content, while smaller engines in the full-size models offer space and economy for not much more cost.

Lexus is unique in this space with two very different models: the front-wheel drive ES, and this GS, offered with either rear or all-wheel drive. While the Avalon-based ES is perennially one of the best-selling, this GS lingers mid-pack. Thus, it’s no surprise rumors have swirled.

Still, Lexus has generally impressed me, so I was intrigued when this 2017 Lexus GS 200t appeared since I see so few of them in the wild.

2017 Lexus GS200t profile

The GS is certainly an attractive car, and considering the typically understated styling of the German competition, a few dramatic lines here and there on the Lexus are more than welcome. The signature spindle grille is a bit too prominent here, extending forward from the headlamps and brake-cooling ducts like a pair of buck teeth, but most of the spindle is mercifully matte black plastic. A big chrome honeycomb grille like the one found on the new LS would be overwhelming.

2017 Lexus GS200t front

Beyond the slightly flared front wheel arches, the doors have a very simple convex curve.

2017 Lexus GS200t rear quarter

The roofline is where the various GS generations resemble one another; the sloping C-pillar leading to a very short rear deck has been a staple of the midsize Lexus for years. The satin chrome exhaust surrounds are a nice touch, though the vertical ridges between them, seemingly meant to resemble a racecar diffuser, are a cheesy touch for an otherwise demure luxury sedan. It works on a Subaru WRX, but not a $52,295 luxury sedan.

2017 Lexus GS200t rear

The interior is well appointed in perforated leather, with heated and cooled front seats in my Premium Package-equipped tester. While I might prefer a slightly longer thigh support, the seats were spectacular for a long drive. Other than the driveshaft-clearing hump in the rear floor, the rear seat occupants had no complaints. As usual, I attempted my “sit-behind-oneself” rear-seat fit test, and found plenty of knee clearance for my six-foot-four frame.

2017 Lexus GS200t seats

I particularly love the metal-look surfaces on the dash, steering wheel, and shifter have a satin finish. Too many cars have distracting chrome brightwork right where the sun reflects into the driver’s eye in mid-afternoon. Thank you, Lexus.

2017 Lexus GS200t dashboard

However, I can’t say I love the mouse-like interface for the infotainment system. It’s identical to the one I didn’t hate in the IS, but I’ve since experienced some magnificent touch screens in various Hyundai, Kia, and Chrysler products. The inconsistent sensitivity and awkward selection of various features on the 12.3-inch display is distracting at best. The touchpad found on other models, like the RC-F, might be preferable.

2017 Lexus GS200t infotainment

I was further annoyed by the touchy turn signal stalk. On several new Lexus models, the stalk returns to center rather than remaining in place until the signal cancels. This doesn’t bother me, but the transition between the lane-change three flash position and the full turn signal is vague. I often found myself driving for several miles with a signal flashing, having expected to only flash thrice for a lane change. This annoyance is compounded by the remarkably quiet signal clicker. A more positive detent between the lane change and the full turn signals would be welcome.

2017 Lexus GS200t gauges

Lexus needs to do some work on its cupholders, too. I hated the placement of the Big Gulp receptacles in the IS 200t I tested last fall. While the GS doesn’t interfere with passenger space – immediately forward of the shift lever – drinks will block the heated seat controls, and taller cups and bottles can foul the HVAC controls. Furthermore, the removable divider separating the two drinks removes too easily, causing the occasional topple and spill.

The 241-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine drives nicely, with virtually no noise or vibration coming through to the well-insulated cabin. It’s the same powerplant — indeed, the same overall powertrain — as found in the IS200t I tested last fall. The extra 200 or so pounds of curb weight in the larger GS do blunt performance slightly, though it’s still an enjoyable driver willing to play on twisty roads.

Indeed, the GS 200t is legitimately fun to drive when the pavement meanders. The ride is firm on the interstate, but expansion joints and potholes sent but a muted thud into the cabin. When I exited for some three-digit two-lanes, I turned the drive mode dial to SPORT and enjoyed the early spring scenery.

2017 Lexus GS200t grey front quarter

Perhaps my vigorous application of the right foot can be blamed for my fuel economy results. While the EPA estimates a combined 26 miles per gallon for the GS 200t, I managed but 23.4 over my week with the turbo Lexus. Small displacement, turbocharged four-cylinders can produce better economy than the larger sixes they replace, but that efficiency evaporates when driven with any sort of vigor. Keep your toes out of the boost or pay at the pump.

One troubling concern stood out to me while driving the GS 200t: the brakes were unusually weird. On virtually every press of the brake pedal, I both heard and felt a soft clunk through the pedal. Furthermore, I noted some occasional light dragging noise upon application of the brakes. Having nursed several past-their-prime cars along in my younger days, I’m suspecting that a brake piston might not be retracting fully in the caliper, or a brake pad itself was catching on something. With fewer than 3,000 miles on my tester, it’s hard to chalk this up to wear.

My biggest problem with the GS is simply rationalizing its existence. Lexus offers four sedans: the compact IS, the front-drive ES, this midsize GS, and the full-size LS. The GS and ES are within an inch of each other in every single critical dimension beyond rear leg room, where the front-drive ES offers a whopping 40 inches versus 36.8 inches in the GS:

Wheelbase, inches 110.2 111.0 112.2 116.9
Overall Length, inches 184.3 193.3 192.1 200.4
Width, inches 71.3 71.7 72.4 73.8
Height, inches 56.3 57.1 57.3 58.1
Front Head Room, inches 38.2 37.5 38.0 38.0
Rear Head Room, inches 36.9 37.5 37.8 38.0
Front Leg Room, inches 44.8 41.9 42.3 43.7
Rear Leg Room, inches 32.2 40.0 36.8 35.8
Front Shoulder Room, inches 55.9 57.6 57.3 58.5
Rear Shoulder Room, inches 53.4 55.0 55.7 56.9
Curb Weight, pounds 3,583 3,571 3,805 4,278

Other than the subjectively better driving dynamics of the rear-drive platform, I’d struggle to justify purchasing a GS. I’m afraid it’s merely a remnant of the perceived need to compete with the Germans’ same-sausage/different-lengths model strategy. One look at GoodCarBadCar shows what’s happening at the showroom: The front-drive ES outsells the GS by a roughly four-to-one ratio, and has for most of the last 10 years.

I want to like the Lexus GS 200t. I really do. I appreciate that Lexus is throwing this sporting bone at enthusiasts who need the space not afforded by the (slightly) smaller IS. But I’m afraid that won’t be enough to save this very good sporting sedan from oblivion.

2017 Lexus GS200t grey front quarter road closed

[Images: © 2017 Chris Tonn]

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34 Comments on “2017 Lexus GS 200t Review – Goldilocks?...”

  • avatar

    Lexus needs to take a page out of Infiniti’s playbook…. figure out a way to make the GS at the price of the IS. IMO, the GS is the better looking car, and with its bigger interior it’s far more useful. Lexus also needs to give up on the touchpad nonsense and just succumb to the multidirectional controller. Best implementation I’ve used is Mazda’s- I prefer it to the latest iteration of IDrive.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve recently been shopping used Q50s.

      There’s a reason they’re so cheap ($25k, 3 years old) used. The majority of them are low-optioned with legitimately horrendous leatherette interiors and ugly 17 inch wheels wrapped in awful Bridgestone runflats.

      I drove a GS and a q50 back to back. There is a distinct difference in quality. Everything in the Lexus was nicer.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        Other than the pervading sense of it being a less expensive car than the lexus, what did you think about how the Q50 drove? Retained any of the G37 tactility and engagement, or is it just a rapid cruiser now?

        • 0 avatar

          Q50 was interesting. Definitely a lot more refined than my friend’s 2011 g37xs. Power was obviously similar though the Q had the engine note much more muted (though not in a bad way) than the G.

          The problem is I drove a Q with their electronic steer by wire system. I totally forgot about that option but when I took my first turn out of the dealership, I knew something was up.

          It was not good. Immediate turn-in that felt ODD and unnatural plus it felt like the steering was constantly correcting itself without my input while driving down a straight road. The sensation was unsettling.

          So yeah, my mistake for not remembering to ask for a car without that steering. I’d never buy one with that package and as such, I can’t fully comment on the Q’s athleticism because the one I drove was gimped by that technology that’s been pretty universally panned.

          That said, it felt like a different car than the G. Less sporting, more refinement, though not completely void of fun intentions (that may just be the 3.7 talking to me). Just dulled a bit in the name of comfort.

      • 0 avatar

        I would check out a properly specced one before levying complete judgment. That said I can’t knock Infiniti for taking a page out of the German’s playbook, to a level of legit success as evidenced by sales numbers and the prevalence of such cars in the used market.

        But yea, maybe using Infiniti as an example was a mistake. Lexus needs to take a page out of Hyundai’s playbook. My wife accurately described my G37S as a split between my rattletrap Civic and the previous Genesis 3.8 sedan. I’d bet between the G and Genesis the Q is closer to the G.

    • 0 avatar

      The more I think about it the more it bums me out that this is failing. The GS is the intersection of the best things about the ES and IS.

  • avatar

    My old man is looking to buy a gently used GS350.

    Nice cars and a solid deal used (generally fresh out of lease).

    Just avoid the Lexus certified preowned stuff. My God is that a scam.

    • 0 avatar

      AK, what makes the Lexus CPO stuff a scam? Asking because I’m just now driving cars to replace mine, and CPO GS’ are appealing.

      • 0 avatar

        The part where they refresh and recondition the cars frankly isn’t true. The cosmetic things that pass their certification is astounding.

        I’ve been to multiple Lexus dealers and I’ve yet to be impressed by any 3 year old “certified” GS, condition-wise. So many paint flaws that could be corrected. Interior trim pieces that look bad for a 10 year old car, let alone a 3 year old car with under 30k on the odometer. And believe me, I’ve confirmed that the disappointing cars I’ve seen have gone through their reconditioning process and none of them looked any better than a standard used car and quite frankly, the detailing I’ve seen is sub par for any used car.

        Hell, one 2014 certified GS I looked at had 5.5/32nds left of tire tread which the salesman explained was perfectly in spec for certified cars. He told me the tires were absolutely​ checked yet after I looked at them again, I found a 2 inch cut in one of the sidewalls. “Oh that must have happened after certification”. Sure.

        In my experience, all you’re paying for is the additional 2 years of warranty. There’s nothing ‘select’ or ‘special’ about the certified cars. Hell, many of them are just off lease cars (oddly, many from New York/new jersey… I’m in Chicago) that have been scooped up at auction. They’re just used cars that Lexus adds some warranty to. If that’s worth about $3500 to you, then by all means. It’s not to me.

  • avatar

    The coming death of the GS will be regrettable. For me, a midsize sedan lover, the GS tempts me more than any other Lexus — the ES is too unenthusiastic, the IS too cramped, the LS impractically big and costly. I’m annoyed that the IS is kept alive because its vestigial back seat is overlooked by badge whores while this far more appealing machine dies on the vine.

    Ultimately I agree with Sporty that it comes down to price, but if Lexus couldn’t get away with charging a premium I suppose it’d have no business reason to exist. Guess, at least until gas prices rise, we’ll see yet another casualty of the market’s lust for jacked-up station wagons.

    • 0 avatar

      Jacked up station wagons could easily match Chris’s 23 MPG average.

      Crossovers aren’t in the same boat as the SUVs that were so popular in the 1990s, like Cherokee, Grand Cherokee and Explorer, where under 20 mpg in normal driving was par for the course.

      • 0 avatar

        John, crossovers don’t have a sports sedan’s center of gravity either. If you jack up a car, you can have a decent ride, or you can have decent cornering by stiffening up the springs, but beyond a certain point you can’t have both. With physics, there’s no free lunch.

  • avatar

    The ES and GS are meant for two different customers. The ES is a LaCrosse and Avalon alternative,for older folks (my mother-in-law is on her second ES), while the GS is targeted at enthusiasts that want a BMW alternative. So it’s no surprise that the ES far outsells the GS. Lexus just needs to decide what’s an acceptable level of sales for the GS.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    GS350 or go home. I find this car too expensive and with too good a chassis for a 2.0T that cannot keep up with a Malibu.

    As for rationalizing the GS’s existence, the market agrees with you there but I still find it appealing. I liked the IS, but it was just a bit too small for daily duty with two kids–the 3 Series is usefully better in that regard. The GS is the right size, and I see nothing appealing in the 5 series so the difference in sales success between those two is interesting.

    It’s a shame to me the GS may be disappearing; it has been a solid used buy after the first 3-5 years of depreciation set in and without the worry of buying a 60K mile Mercedes or Bimmer. Maybe rear legroom will be less a priority in 5 years and I can re-evaluate the IS350.

    • 0 avatar

      Yup, the Malibu 2.0T is quicker….even quicker than a Accord V6 according to Motor Trend testing.

      But the Lexus 2.0 is so slow that it makes every vehicle it is in the slowest; NX, IS, RC, and GS, that is matched by just average fuel economy compared to other 2.0T’s.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        Powerful mainstream powertrains encroaching on the performance of luxury cars is nothing new, but the Lexus 2.0T has been particularly unimpressive. BMW’s move to the 2.0T from their inline six at least provided acceleration and fuel economy benefits.

      • 0 avatar

        Norm, Toyota has been making understressed engines that don’t perform up to their impressive-sounding spec sheets for 40 years now. That’s what happens when you have your engineers under standing orders to commit mass seppuku if the resulting cars don’t last 250,000 miles (yes, that’s their actual design goal).

        That’s what makes Toyotas slow. But that’s also what makes Toyota great.

  • avatar

    “Too many cars have distracting chrome brightwork right where the sun reflects into the driver’s eye in mid-afternoon”

    Looking at you, Mercedes.

    One reason I’m not driving a GLK250.

  • avatar

    A 2013-2014 GS450h was probably my first choice when I bought my 2008 LS460, but they were just too expensive at the time, and the previous generation was too cheap inside. The current GSes are really nice cars. But most Lexus buyers just don’t have any reason to pay the premium over an ES. The BMW 5 and E-Class badges mean more to badge whores, and vanishingly few people will notice the difference in driving dynamics.

  • avatar

    I feel like the GS-F is definitely worth the extra $30K.

  • avatar

    That grille.

    I haven’t heard or read anyone say nice things about the looks of the grille. Other than it is “distinctive”.

    Plus it looks like a slight tap in a parking lot would result in a big repair bill.

  • avatar

    Just to be the contrarian, I’d probably go for a $10,000 cheaper TLX than this. What I’d really want tho is a nice A4.

  • avatar

    I thought this model’s sales sucked and it was going away?

  • avatar

    I like the previous gen Hybrid GS a lot. In general I like the GS. Last week I found my self cruising by a Lexus dealer after hours running out to grab some take out. I pulled in and took a look they had a GS and a ES next to each other, I had forgoten how big the ES is. The back seat was huge compared to the GS (3 kids for me, does not matter to most buyers I imagine). In fact in comparison I came away feeling the GS is smaller then it is. Oddly in the last week I have seen a ton of new GS’s but that’s a fluke I imagine. The ES was hugely popular here in CT, but I hardly ever see the current gen. I think most buyers up here have moved onto the RX.

  • avatar

    I don’t care how beautifully built, reliable, or outright wonderful that thing is, because it is so dog’s rear ugly that I could never stand to look at it in my garage. And this from a guy who generally goes by the principle that “you can’t see what it looks like while you are driving it”. I find them just as ugly on the inside too.

    But I do agree that this and the ES are two very different cars for very different target markets regardless of how similarly sized/priced they are. Chalk and cheese.

  • avatar

    The ‘spindle grill’ looks like suspenders on a corpulent man.
    I’m unhappy because the only Toyota I would consider is the 2018 Camry Hybrid and krodes1 description applies to the hybrid as well.
    “because it is so dog’s rear ugly that I could never stand to look at it in my garage”.
    To be clear, I would be embarrassed to be seen in one
    I have read that top Japanese management has been directly involved with exterior design. Please stop.
    In my estimation, the synergism produced by poor aesthetics combined with dwindling sedan market share will remove the Camry from king of the hill status.

  • avatar

    Just drove a CPO’d 2014 base GS (base meaning no ML stereo and no f sport suspension) last weekend and I was surprised at how the handling/steering/braking felt. You can tell they benchmarked BMWs of the past.

    Contrasting the GS with the 2013 550i I drove a few months ago and it wasn’t close. The GS was MUCH better despite being down two cylinders and probably 100hp.

    Need to get some time with an f sport…

  • avatar
    Jack Denver

    On paper, it’s too similar to the ES but they’re aimed at different markets. I’d consider (did consider) a GS but not an ES. But pleaaase get rid of that nose. Just awful.

    Considered but did not end up buying. There are good deals out there on late model used GS but GREAT deals on Hyundai Genesis (now G80).

    One strange thing that I have noticed about used GS in the east is that they are all ex-NYC cars that have gone to auction and ended up elsewhere. Most Brooklyn but some north Jersey. I suspect that these are ex-uber/livery cars. Does anyone have info on this?

  • avatar

    I own a GS400 and have driven a couple 2015/16 GS350 RWD cars. Really like the chassis and interior (mouse controller excepted, I am surrendering to Luddite tendency). The V6 was nice, but that’s all, just nice, lacks the feel and character of the V8. I’ve driven the NX with the 2.0T and pretty much hated it, no idea why they offer it in the GS. However, I think the 2.0T would be great in a re-imagined Celica. Lexus problem with the GS is they made the IS too close in spec. I think the IS not the ES steals sales from the GS. Instead of pushing the GS even closer to the IS with the 2.0T, they need to move the GS upward, I think they need to offer the V8 in lower trim levels of GS and not just in the overpriced GS-F. The V8 is what I love about my GS400, its what separates the men form the boys so to speak.

  • avatar

    “On several new Lexus models, the stalk returns to center rather than remaining in place until the signal cancels. ”

    Ah, so now Lexus drivers have the same “excuse” as BMW drivers do as to why they don’t signal.

  • avatar

    This may be a great car, but I just can’t get by the front end. It may have the athleticism of a gymnast, but it is in the body of Rosie O.

  • avatar

    I must say, while I have mixed feelings about Lexus exterior styling, I am a huge fan of these interiors. I know Audi has long been the gold standard for interior design but the “why” part has always escaped me.

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