Someone (I can’t find it, our search function sucks) once said that “when Bertel Schmitt reviews a car, he does it from the back seat, with a driver.” Which is true.
Heads of state will agree, being driven is the most dignified mode of transportation. Add to that the fact that the Lexus GS 350 has been driven and reviewed multiple times by Jack Baruth AND Alex Dykes, and you will understand why I chose to review the Lexus GS 350 from a position of power: From the back seat. Which, after all, is the most appropriate perspective to view a luxury vehicle from.
Sometimes I have troubles viewing Lexus with an objective eye. The first car that ever excited me was the 1993 Lexus LS400 my best friend’s dad bought. It wasn’t the driving experience that delivered the “wow” factor; it was the fact that everything inside seemed deliberately perfect from the leather seams, to the wood that wasn’t bubbling and peeling like a 2 year old Jag. In truth, the LS400, like most Lexus models, was a bit boring, but as this LS example has survived almost 20 years and 300,000 miles with an owner that doesn’t believe in regular maintenance, excitement is not the biggest selling point, but perhaps it should factor in there somewhere. We’ve heard it from Lexus before: wait! We have an exciting car this time! This year’s example: the 2013 GS. You’ve heard my comrade Jack’s take in part one, lets dive into part two.
When it rains, it pours. Both Alex Dykes and I were lucky enough to get a slot in the West Coast media introduction for the 2013 Lexus GS350, GS350 F-Sport, and GS450h. Rather than do a “Take One” and “Take Two”, we decided to handle it the way OutKast would. Alex, like OutKast’s BigBoi, will be delivering a robust, well-rounded album, er, review, chock-full of on-road impressions and wide-angle interior photography. I will play the Andre3000 role (of course) and share with you The Love Below: performance-related impressions from driving four different GS variants, along with the Mercedes E350 and BMW 535i, through Las Vegas Motor Speedway’s short road course.
Put the needle on the record and the pedal to the metal: it’s time to meet the new Lexus.
Most folks aren’t into cars.
They do want advice though; which is tricky for the B&B. While auto enthusiasts like us seek the Coltranes and Metallicas of vehicular enjoyment. They prefer… well… Jimmy Buffett. A well executed car that makes them feel comfortable, has a touch of ‘fun’ at times (the non-enthusiast types of fun), and can go about the transport business for a good decade and change with the same tune and minimal fuss.
They want Maragaritaville without the DUI.
All the convertibles in the $40,000 to $60,000 range seek to attract this mainstream audience. Can the Lexus IS250c do it better? And if so, at what price?
If there’s one thing you get here at TTAC, it’s diversity. Well, it’s actually sarcasm, but you also get diversity. Here’s an example: This week, we tested two different cars. Out on the West Coast, Alex and his partner were rolling around in a completely electric Nissan Leaf. Imagine them, gliding silently down the road, perhaps having a polite conversation about the proper color of glass for one’s table service. No, that isn’t a stereotype, I happen to know that he’s actually worrying about that. Think of the peace! The quiet! The sustainability!
Meanwhile, on the East Coast, your humble author was thumping a Lexus IS-F down the back straight at Summit Point’s Shenandoah Raceway. I had a stunning-looking young woman from metro DC trapped in the passenger seat and digging her nails into the door handle. We were swinging the needle past 110mph, deep into the braking zone, gulping fuel at a rate of just four miles per gallon.
It’s hard to believe that one site can bring you both kinds of coverage, the same way it’s hard to believe that the Leaf and the IS-F can both be produced by the same enormous Japanese conglomerate.
When I was car shopping back in 2006 the Lexus IS350 found its way to the top of my spreadsheet, and I do mean spreadsheet. With anal resolve I had evaluated 8 vehicles, scored them, photographed them, ranked them and the IS350 came in second. What was first? A Volvo V70R (apples and oranges, I know). At the time I thanked the helpful Lexus sales guy and told him “if there was an AWD IS350, I’d buy it tomorrow.” Well, 5 years later there finally is an IS350 AWD, but am I buying it tomorrow? Let’s find out.
Time was Toyota thoroughly redesigned its cars every four years. Then every five. And lately not even that often. Consequently, for its sixth model year the second-generation Lexus IS received just a few tweaks. The most notable: at long last all-wheel-drive is available with an engine torquey enough to take advantage of its additional traction, namely the IS 350’s 306-horsepower, 277-foot-pounds direct-injected 3.5-liter V6.
Luxury means many things to many people, but nobody doubts luxury cars should be crammed full of the latest technology… and what says “technology” in today’s car market quite like “Hybrid”? In a strange inversion of history, Lexus created the world’s first hybrid luxury flagship from a vehicle that was clearly inspired by the Mercedes S-Class, and now Mercedes is fighting back with its first hybrid sedan, the S400 Hybrid. So, is Lexus’s hybrid head-start enough to fend off a challenge from the vehicle that inspired its birth over a twenty years ago? The only way to find out is in TTAC’s most expensive comparison test ever.
Car enthusiasts have been apt to criticize SUVs as irrational because few owners ever take them off-road. But, by the same token, how many owners of high-performance sports cars drive them at anything approaching their full potential? Venturing beyond cars, how many owners of diver’s watches actually scuba dive? And how many dSLR cameras are being used just like a $99 point-and-shoot? Clearly people are psychologically attracted to high-performance objects, even if they won’t actually utilize the potential of these objects. This doesn’t mean that the objects themselves don’t make sense. And yet, during my week with a Lexus LX 570, I struggled to make this 5,995-pound, technology-packed, luxurious SUV make sense.
A Lexus without wood is like Dolly Parton without tits. The music of the experience takes your breath away and yet… you just feel something is missing. Is it the smile? The wig? When I looked at the press release clippings of the Lexus CT200h, I had trouble with the entire car. You want a sporty hybrid with the acceleration of a 15-year-old Camry to compete with the Audi A3 and BMW 1-Series? I know Toyota wants to build more hybrids. But as the owner of two hybrids, I thought this car would represent a Cimmaron moment for hybrids and the Lexus brand. Then I saw it in person. Perception and reality battled it out, and this is what I found.
Any way you slice Toyota’s sales figures for the past 5 years, its obvious that despite a ballooning product portfolio Lexus is in a world of hurt. Sales are down, the other import brands have improved their quality and buyers seem to be embracing a more performance-oriented (or is that German-oriented?) luxury style. But rather than re-orienting the Lexus brand to directly take on surging BMW, Audi and Mercedes sales, Toyota has doubled down on its major competitive advantage: hybrids.The recently-launched HS250h was Lexus’s first stab at an entry-premium hybrid, but after just a few months on sale it’s already going nowhere fast. With CAFÉ changes looming, Lexus may eventually benefit from an all-hybrid luxury line-up, but in the meantime the very idea of a luxury hybrid needs a shot in the arm. Is the CT200h hatchback hybrid the answer?
Robert Farago didn’t have many kind words for the cars he reviewed. But, while noting the car’s shortcomings, he lavished quite a few on the Lexus IS-F, even implying that he’d like to own one. How did Lexus’s first attempt at an ultra-high-performance car manage to melt RF’s normally stone cold heart?
There are certain phrases that, when heard in the proper context, signal that one has truly arrived in life. Phrases like “your table is waiting,” and “would you like a drink before we take off?” clearly belong in this comforting category. Strangely, however, the phrase “welcome to Beverly Hills, here are the keys to your Lexus IS250C,” does not.
Every luxury car make seems compelled to explore how low it can venture in the American market without hopelessly devaluing the brand. Mercedes no longer offers the C-Class hatchback Coupe and has shied away from offering the A- and B-Classes in the United States. BMW hasn’t offered a semi-affordable four-cylinder here since the 318ti was sent packing a decade ago. The Jaguar X-Type didn’t cut the mustard on this side of the pond. And Cadillac is still waiting for the world to forget the 1980s Cimmaron. Unfazed by this clear pattern of failure, Toyota for 2010 offers up the Lexus HS 250h. So, shall the ridicule begin?
Lexus should include a PlayStation 3 with every GS350 they sell the public, so the new owners can take their new vehicle for a spin around the Nurburgring in “Gran Turismo.” That way they’d be able to safely enjoy their new Lexus and not waste a single penny in gas. Either way, the driving experience wouldn’t change much.
I am, of course, urging Roman Mica of tflcar.com to take a little more time for his reviews, deploy a few metaphors and tell us how he really feels. Remember: this internet deal is a two-way thing. If you’ve got some pointers for our budding videographer/reviewer, share them here. As with written work, TTAC welcomes new video contributors without regard to their editorial slant. All I ask is that the overall production quality meets the standard set by Mr. Mica and that you do NOT sound like a fanboy or a total asshole (that’s my job). Send an embed code (from YouTube) to email@example.com.