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?
That a print advertisement can still remain (near) top of mind two decades later speaks to the power of marketing, and maybe a little to the vehicle behind that famous ad: the Lexus GS.
After announcing a limited run of 2020 Lexus GS 350 F Sport Black Line Special Edition — a vehicle the brand calls the “best ever” GS, the automaker admitted that this is it for the model. The GS, which added a modicum of muscle to Lexus’ image back in the 90s, won’t live beyond the summer.
Recently, I’ve shared musings about selling my old Infiniti, as well as the coupe or sedan options pegged to replace it. You readers had your helpful hearts in the right place, with funny suggestions of Challenger, Charger, and Mustang. A couple of weeks have elapsed since then, and there have been developments. Let’s chat.
In an introductory post last week, I detailed a couple of cars I was considering as a replacement to my decade-old Infiniti M. The comments (some filled with unusual anger) prodded me to add another car to the list.
A week later, I can tell you that two of those former options are absolutely out of the question.
One of our trio is on its last legs, another is brand new, and the third option is near the middle of its life. They all share V8 power up front, driven wheels at the rear, and midsections full of luxury equipment. Most people avoided them when new, so it should be no problem finding one to burn.
While Lexus hasn’t confirmed anything, there’s growing speculation that the brand’s ES sedan will ultimately replace the GS. The model’s sales have trended downward since 2015, going from 23,117 U.S. deliveries that year to just 7,773 in 2017.
The brand hasn’t announced any plans to update it. Considering the fourth generation has been around since 2011, you’d think Lexus would have said something by now. But the company — like most luxury manufacturers — is preoccupied with moving utility vehicles. There’s now a three-row RX, and the smaller UX should help attract the younger demographic while allowing Lexus to dabble in a subscription-based sales model.
If it succeeds, the IS could be the next vehicle in the brand’s lineup to be tied to a tree and shot.
The next-generation Lexus ES will debut at the Beijing auto show this month, which is fitting. China knows luxury and appears to be preserving high-end sedans while Americans continue to turn their backs on them in droves.
Domestic sales of the ES have reflected that. But Lexus is launching a sleeker, sexier, and more curvaceous version that will eventually arrive in dealerships across North America. We expect a bump in deliveries, not only because it looks better but because the GS won’t be around for much longer — and middle-aged oral surgeons will need something to bestow onto their children as a first car.
In a manner of speaking, that is. A recent report cast doubt on the future of Lexus’ rear-drive performance sedan, the GS, claiming that development of a next-generation model was off the table. That would make next year the GS’ last.
While Lexus wouldn’t confirm the report, a spokesperson’s choice of words was enough to add to the rumor. In a marketplace that’s big on SUVs and downright miserable to cars, it would make sense for Lexus to get ahead of the “too many cars” problem faced by the likes of Hyundai and pare down its lineup.
Now, another report says Lexus will call on a different model to fill the gap.
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.
When the second-generation Lexus GS 400 arrived in North America in late 1997, the automaker paired the introduction with a can’t-miss-it ad campaign. “Something wicked this way comes,” the glossy advertisements warned of the looming V8 model.
Well, that ominous late-90s tagline would soon be a lie, as rumor states that the 2018 model year could be the last for Lexus’ sporty midsize luxury sedan. There just might not be room in the lineup for this once-boastworthy rear-driver.
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