By on April 20, 2021

Believe it or not, two full years have passed since I took the very long and fairly rushed journey from Cincinnati to Austin to purchase the 2015 Lexus GS 350. After the fly-then-drive non-holiday trip, it was time to settle into some routine ownership and driving. Routine might be the wrong word though, as within a year the scope of “routine” changed considerably. Want to guess how many miles it’s accumulated over the past couple of years?

Not as many miles as intended, certainly. For most of 2019 I used it for commuting duty on nice days, having decided at purchase I would drive whatever my secondary car was in any rain or snow. Garage car stays clean! For those of you who may be new to TTAC, secondary duty fell first to a Subaru Outback, and at the end of 2019 shifted to a Golf SportWagen. By spring of 2020 with COVID escalating quickly, my workplace shut down entirely and my 25-mile round trip commute transformed into a walk to the home office. Said situation remains the same today, which means driving is largely confined to fun or errand trips. By the way, the odometer on the GS currently reads 44,750, up from the 39,633 listed on the title. At a rate of just over 2,500 miles a year, it’ll round the 100,000-mile mark in 2043.

The driving impressions over my tenure of ownership have remained much the same as they were during the road trip from Austin. The GS is an enjoyable drive on the highway. Wind noise intrusion is kept low via extensive seals everywhere, which I’ve treated with Honda Shin-etsu grease. Seats are comfortable for longer journeys, with enough thigh support (something I’ve found lacking in other vehicles for long journeys, including the Golf.) There’s generally a feeling the speed of travel is lower than it actually is: Traveling at 102 for example doesn’t feel more stressed than 75. Not that I’d ever travel at that speed on a public road, mind you. The audio experience from the Not Levinson stereo system is good, albeit lacking of CarPlay or Android Auto.

Lexus still does not offer that functionality across their line, by the way: GS made it to its 2020 cancellation without those features.

By now I’m used to the Lexus mouse system to use the center screen, but it’s not my favorite. Occasionally overshooting the icon I’m aiming for should be an initial ownership issue, not a persistent one. I’ve found few other gripes on the interior, as pretty much all surfaces are covered with high-quality material that’s padded, stitched, or lined. Squeaks and rattles are nearly non-existent.

A lack of driving meant Lockdown Fun Drives became a staple through the warmer months of 2020, and have returned for 2021. Seeking out roads with curves requires some cartography skill in southwest Ohio, but it’s doable. There, the GS proves a positive, if slightly mixed, bag.

Highlights when you push it include the accurate steering, strong brakes, and a suspension that controls roll well enough to inspire one to push a bit harder. Traction is plentiful from the Continentals, and on public roads it all feels safe and secure.

However, in these Sporting Time driving situations, you feel the heft and width of the GS more acutely. Twisty back roads are generally more narrow, which means enthusiastic driving comes with a “keep far right in the lane” reminder in your mind. The smaller, nimbler Golf is a bit more fun on the same road since it can be thrown around more easily.

Power in everyday driving is more than adequate, but when driving zesty-like on a back road, you’ll wish for 75 more horses or perhaps a turbo to get things moving. The transmission generally finds the right gear in auto mode, and the paddles (which are solid metal) let the driver direct the action further. But no number of held shifts can make up for the fact that it needs more horsepower to feel truly sporty. Guess that’s why the GS F existed (RIP).

Maybe I’m focusing on the S in the GS name a bit too much. Most drivers aren’t going to push it beyond an entrance ramp, and with foot down at the end of a standard one you’ll be moving at three digits. Speaking of S, Sport mode on the central dial changes the gauge background to red, holds shifts longer and makes them sharper, and adds extra induction noise (even if you’re doing 40 miles per hour). The steering gets heavier too, and the throttle more sensitive.

I’ve used Sport on a couple of occasions, but generally leave it in Normal or Eco mode. Sport feels like it’s trying to create a personality via electronics which isn’t actually there. If my mom’s protests (Hi mom!) are any indication, Sport mode is the easiest way to make passengers think you’re being much more aggressive than you actually are. Speaking of passengers, I haven’t heard any comfort complaints, though sitting behind a six-foot driver doesn’t leave a lot of extra legroom in the back. My old M35x was more spacious in the back seat. Rear passengers over six feet will find headroom lacking as well, though that’s perhaps more endemic to sedans in modern times.

In my initial 2019 drive with interstate-only tanks of fuel, I recorded a nice 29.2 miles per gallon. In mixed tanks, that figure has dropped to an average of about 22.5 mpg, depending on how many fun drives the tank contained. Infrequent drives meant months between fill-ups, as seen in the data above.

No matter the economy, I’ve a gripe about the smallish 17.4-gallon fuel tank: In this class of car made for longer-distance cruising, two or three additional gallons of range would not go amiss. As one might expect, I haven’t had any maintenance concerns or repairs. I’ve added air to the tires once, and it’s due for an oil change. Yesterday I received a customer bulletin in the mail about a potential issue with the climate servos failing to deliver air properly, with an extended warranty on that issue in particular through 2022. It affects only some cars apparently, and not something I’ve noticed with mine. I’ll be keeping an eye on it though.

After two years I’m happy with the GS, even if world conditions meant I’ve spent much less time driving it than intended. Current thought on its replacement in let’s say four years or so, an LC 500. You’ll tell me in the comments how that’s a bad choice, I’m sure. Until next time.

[Images © 2021 Corey Lewis / The Truth About Cars]

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50 Comments on “Two-year Update: Your Author’s 2015 Lexus GS 350...”


  • avatar
    tonycd

    Thanks for this down-to-earth assessment, Corey.

    Personal opinion question: Just how bad is the infotainment system as a factor in the ownership experience? I like to drive, AND I like to listen to music and use the nav while I do so. One always hears terrible things about Lexus’ mouse system, just as you say. I’ve taken a long look at pretty much exactly the car you bought, and two things put me off: the tepid styling outside and inside (your interior color scheme is about as good as it gets, I think) and that damn mouse.

    I compare it against Genesis G80 (said to be an inferior handler, and I can’t get past the generic-looking dash and the 4,500 pound curb weight), a new Mazda 6 (nearly the same infotainment criticism, plus it can’t play my CDs, PLUS too damn much engine noise), the MKZ (all-around junky by comparison), and others. In the end, how much should I be put off by the damn mouse?

    • 0 avatar

      For the music, if you’re using the same sort of media all the time, whether it be CD or Bluetooth, the stereo remains in whatever mode you last used it upon start. For Bluetooth, it’ll pair with your phone automatically, you hit the power button on the stereo and your music starts.

      The navigation is frustrating for entering addresses, as it seems to assume you’d want the Oak Street in Cleveland before you’d want the Oak Street in your own city. You learn to enter a zip code first. You can save destinations all at once, or enter them and choose another and they’ll be in your recent address list, in the instance where you have several places in a row to go. The map does highlight info about upcoming exits if you want, whether it’s food, lodging, or fuel. The live traffic is free, and works also. MAP is its own button, so you don’t have to scroll through menus to get to it.

      It’s not terrible, you just learn to live with it. It wouldn’t put me off the other merits of the car, which are many.

      • 0 avatar
        tonycd

        Thanks, Corey. That’s informative.

        • 0 avatar
          Featherston

          @tonycd – I’ll say this for the mouse: It’s better than the touch pad that succeeded it. (Source: I was a semi-frequent borrower of a mouse-equipped ’10 RX that was replaced with a touchpad-equipped ’15 NX.)

          My 2¢ is that neither arrangement is necessarily deal-breaker bad, but you have to discipline yourself treat them as “this is what I use to set up my nav, etc., *before* I’m in motion.” Once you’ve done that, steering wheel controls or dashboard knobs and buttons should suffice for whatever you need to be doing.

          For some more perspective, from the little I’ve seen of iDrive in my friend’s F30 3 Series, I consider that system to be vastly superior. OTOH, that car’s also on its third head gasket. *That*, I consider to be a deal-breaker.

          @Corey – Good post. Long-term owner reviews are appreciated.

    • 0 avatar
      Davekaybsc

      The MKZ is better than it seems at first glance. I say this as an owner of one for the last several years. In Black Label guise, you get real leather covering most surfaces. Yes the center console plastics are kinda ehh, but whatever. It having Sync 3 in there (with AA and CP) vs. the trash mouse system in this more than makes up for that.

      The Revel sound system is just as good as Lexus ML, it offers a full length single piece of glass pano roof which the GS doesn’t have (passengers dig it) full configurable ambient lighting which the GS doesn’t have, automatic self parking which the GS doesn’t have, full-speed range adaptive cruise for 2017+ (not sure if/when the GS got a system that would work down to 0mph) power open/close trunk which the GS doesn’t have, and in 3.0T AWD guise, it can do 0-60 in 4.5 seconds, and keep up with a GS-F (in a straight line) for WAAAAY less money.

      It would be even faster than that, but the MKZ only ever had the 6AT, and so it’s slowed down a bit by the gearing. Lincoln reliability is VERY hit and miss depending on model, but the MKZ holds up very well. I’ve had mine for years and it’s never need anything other than tires, a fresh battery, and regular oil changes.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Nice piece.

    “the odometer on the GS currently reads 44,750, up from the 39,633 listed on the title.”

    Geez and I thought I didn’t drive my Sunday cars much.

  • avatar
    ajla

    “in let’s say four years or so, an LC 500. You’ll tell me in the comments how that’s a bad choice, I’m sure.”

    LC500 is a fine choice as long as you promise to pop off some occasional runs to redline. If you just want to coast under 4k then the LC500h or LS500/LS500h seem like a better option.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Nice summary, Corey. The GS-350 seems like a good drive partner.

    Obviously it’s not being driven much right now, but at least it’s not costing anything in maintenance, either. Unfortunately, some cars break even when their miles are low.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Nice write-up. I’ve often looked at GS450h of this generation but sedans just don’t fit into my life at the moment. Had Lexus made the RWD CUV they should have been making all along with the same powertrain, it’s reasonably likely I’d own one.

    • 0 avatar

      I would be put off by the CVT of the 450h, even though it had a couple exclusive fancy options as I recall. They also had light colored wood which I don’t care for generally.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        A Toyota planetary power split device really doesn’t feel anything at all like a belt-driven CVT. It’s super smooth and quite responsive (and also much, much more reliable). You should try one with a V6 or V8 at some point. They’re expensive and rare, though, and the luxury-package versions do indeed have light wood.

        • 0 avatar

          Yeah I’ve seen maybe one LS-h ever.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            I keep my eye on listings for used LS600h, of which there are usually only a few in the country at any given time. If the right one showed up (2013 or later, no Executive Package, not black, perfect interior condition) I might bring it home and just learn to deal with the lack of cargo capacity, or even put a car-top carrier on it. The powertrain is just as smooth as any electric car but with that beautiful V8 noise. It makes the LS460 with its shifty transmission feel like a primitive implement.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            “put a car-top carrier on it.”

            On a Lexus LS? Do it!

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            This one from Carvana would be about right except that it has the Executive Package and a bit too much interior wear. I really do need to be able to carry five people once in a while, and you get most of the same button-pushy goodness in the armrest of the non-Executive car, just without the footrest.

            https://www.carvana.com/vehicle/1680004

          • 0 avatar

            Wow quite a lot of bolster wear there. Dragging ones self out of the car instead of stepping out.

  • avatar
    texasjack

    Corey, You diss my sc430 and buy an underpowered GS??? Credibility all gone.

  • avatar
    SPPPP

    I was wondering about this vehicle recently. It’s definitely a little bit unique, and I am sad it has been discontinued. A friend’s wife owns one. I would certainly consider purchasing a used one, but they hold a fair amount of value. Which is both good and bad.

  • avatar
    07NodnarB

    I love Lexus. I love the GS. The somewhat-but-not-quite-broke millennial life I live will hopefully render me lucky and soon, like before June, ill be replacing my current old Ford Fusion with a 2016+ (cuz I like the overly aggressive, doing-waaaay-too-much look of the updated spindle grill) GS 200t or hopefully the GS 350. One with less than 50K miles for around $25,000. Wish me luck…

  • avatar
    rhduff

    SR 27 from Cincinnati up to Oxford is a LOT of fun to drive.

    • 0 avatar
      theflyersfan

      It’s a city street, but Bridgetown and Cleves-Warsaw on the West Side is a good test. Just make sure it’s early in the morning so you don’t end up smashing into someone. It’s suburbia…

      But I’ve taken all of my cars (owned, borrowed, and rentals) a couple of hours east and ripped through the treads in the Hocking Hills. There’s a reason why Car and Driver takes most of their cars there to test.

      @rhduff – there are some really good roads (for that part of Ohio) by Heuston Woods – I had to look up the road, but Camden College Corner Road was decent.

    • 0 avatar
      ThePitz

      I don’t think there is anything especially fun about that drive. Not unless you count the numerous police officers staked out or driving by Rumpke dump. I can think of much better drives nearby.

      • 0 avatar
        theflyersfan

        Have to agree – 27 N from 275 past Mt. Rumpke past River Road is a speed trap. Keep heading north into farm country and then you can burn the gunk out of the engine.

    • 0 avatar
      ThePitz

      I don’t think there is anything especially fun about that drive. Not unless you count the numerous police officers staked out or driving by Rumpke dump. I can think of much better drives nearby.

    • 0 avatar

      I actually did the SR27 drive in the fall.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I have only put 1,000 miles on my 2012 Buick Lacrosse E-Assist since I bought it October 2019. The odometer is just above 46k. My 2008 Ranger I have put 5k on since I bought it June 2020. Still not a lot of driving.

  • avatar
    Featherston

    “Maybe I’m focusing on the S in the GS name a bit too much.” This is a Lexus, not a Buick. The ‘S’ in GS stands for “sedan”, not “sport”. IS, ES, GS, and LS: all sedans.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Glad the GS is working out, Corey – I had a feeling you picked a good one. Your experience pretty much mirrors what I found when I tried one out – great cruiser, beautifully made, and no back-road runner.

    • 0 avatar

      I just use the Golf for fun drives most the time. It will do 28mpg instead of the usual 30 on back roads, and you can floor it a whole lot more often.

      One gripe I could’ve mentioned in the article: the door panel padding in front of the grab handle. I’ve seen many examples where this gets smashed down and wrinkled from people pushing at that padded area to open the door (it’s where you’d logically push to get a door open). To prevent this, I push the door open by grabbing the door pocket down below. I’m determined mine won’t ever have that wrinkled door panel look.

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    I had a GS350 F-sport for three days while my 2000 GS400 was in the dealership for repair. It’s a lovely car, when I get in it just feels like home so similar in size and proportion to my car. Adequate power to be sure, but it’s the quality of the power I didn’t like. Compared to my car, it just feels busy, always shifting, always wanting to lunge at a press of the throttle. My old beast just applies big torque and goes, no fuss, not even downshifting (it’s only a 5-speed), relaxing speed. I also drove a new ES350 and found it to be a vastly improved car, but it’s no GS replacement, there was just something about that GS architecture that clicked for me.

    • 0 avatar

      “always wanting to lunge at a press of the throttle”

      If you were in Sport or Sport+ (or if it’s called F-Sport mode?) then most certainly. Run it in Normal or Eco and there’s a normal throttle response. It’s not lungey at all.

      “always shifting”

      That’s what happens when you have eight forward gears instead of five. This is all cars now. The benefit is the higher fuel economy and more relaxed cruising.

      • 0 avatar
        Lightspeed

        I actually found Sport mode lessened the busyness, which is likely due to my driving style. Yes, I know it’s an eight-speed and it’s gonna use ’em all. I was curious about mileage and three days is not enough to confirm, but it really didn’t seem significantly better, but I appreciate that fuel-mileage is the car marketing man’s hill to die on. I do like the car, it’s got the broad-shouldered look I like and it’s simply the perfect size car for me, I’ll just need to get used to the different character of the drivetrain.

  • avatar
    orange260z

    Nice car! I was interested in one of these new in 2016, but there were only two in Canada and I would have had to buy sight-unseen… and more importantly, not driven. There have been very few of these available at Canadian dealers, and not because they are hot sellers. But I did really like the one I test drove in ~2013, and loved my 2001 IS300 (I bought one of the first in Canada!!). No one has ever come close to my Lexus service experience, and I’d love to get another at some point… maybe the LC500.

    But in 2016, in need of a larger sedan, I ended up buying a much-maligned car on TTAC – a 2016 CTS 3.6 AWD – and I couldn’t be happier with the car (not so much with the service experience). My car now only has about 53,000 kms (only ~2500 since January 2020) but remains rattle and squeak free, and still looks and drives like new. My biggest complaint about the car itself is the level of corrosion on steel components under the car, like strut housings – I’ve never experienced that on any German or Japanese car after only 5 years. CUE had some hiccups in the first few months, but after a couple of updates and a USB port replacement it’s been trouble-free and easy to use since. Although I’d prefer knobs, the touch controls on the dash have been very easy to use and very intuitive.

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