Second Look: 2015 Lexus GS350 F SPORT
When it comes straight down to the business executive saloon, the Lexus GS350 has been fighting for the torch that the BMW 5-Series has been holding so proudly for years. Strangely, while Lexus has been focusing all their attention into knocking BMW off their pedestal, BMW has been trying to make their 5-series more Lexus-like (more so with interior refinement)… but nonetheless, Lexus must be doing something right to get noticed by the Germans?
Sometime in 2014 we took a gander at the Lexus GS350 F SPORT – it was Obsidian black with a gorgeous red interior. We we’re, perhaps a bit stupid, and put it to extreme testing on one of Arizona’s toughest race tracks. We discovered in the end, that even with a sport tuned suspension and steering system, it was no place for a 4000lb luxury car – especially since the tires had to be replaced. Found it best to stick with the suburban roundabouts to get our thrills.
So then you ask, what’s different about this 2015 GS350 F SPORT… besides its Ultra White body and Black interior? Easy, this one is rear-wheel drive with Lexus’ new eight-speed auto, whereas the 2014 was all-wheel drive and had a six-speed auto. Besides, this is the last year of the GS350 before the new refreshed 2016 launches – thought it be best to take one last look before the new 2016’s grille eats up driveway.
Side by side, there are no differences ecstatically between the 2014 and 2015 models. Our sampled GS350 featured the $4825 F SPORT package that puts up the angry familiar face and classy, original spindle grille. 19-inch dark graphite wheels come standard with the F SPORT package and boy do they look good here against our Ultra White exterior! We’ve always admire the GS350’s silhouette since it maintains that classic, luxury sedan profile while still catering a sporty flare with dual chrome integrated exhaust and a rear deck-lid spoiler.
Even on the interior, there are no noticeable differences. Some switchgear is slightly different due to our tester’s F SPORT not having the cold weather package… but living in Arizona, as long as we have a Starbucks and seat warmers, we’re happy campers. The design to say the least is fluid and presents a nice architecture of swift metallic textured trims with a nice premium feel of soft touch materials on every surface. And like we mentioned, our tester was ready to talk business with its black leather interior; however, the white contrasting stitching is a nice touch. It’s a package that works well and has an overall nice design that we find attractive.
When it comes to mixing luxury with performance, it’s a receipt that’s difficult to screw up. With that aforementioned F SPORT package, the driver came with a 16-way power adjustable seat including power adjustable side bolsters and a 3-way memory setting, both front seats were heated and cooled, and the rear power sunshade is nice way to block the sun. The seats here are very comfortable, unsurprisingly being that of typical Lexus quality and the rear seats provide decent thigh support and enough room for just about any passenger.
As with any premium sedan comes with its extensive options list of available technology and features like the Power Trunk for $400, the $500 Intuitive Park Assist for people who can’t park, $700 for blind spot monitoring & power folding mirrors, and the $1380 Mark Levinson Sound System for those who like to pump it up and pretend they know the words while lip syncing in traffic. The 12.3-inch Navigation here is now a standard feature whereas it used to be a $1700 option – continuing its puck-like interface, the system is fairly intuitive and easy to use. The screen is a bit too big to navigate, especially while driving, but it fills in an empty void and looks fairly good.
At 306 horsepower from its 3.5-liter naturally aspirated V6, the GS350 F SPORT makes quite the hostile growl as it accelerates to 60 mph in 5.6 seconds – just 2 .10ths of second faster than the all-wheel drive at 5.8 seconds and to a top speed of 143 mph. Granted this rear-wheel drive weights roughly 150lbs less than the all-wheel drive. Paired with an eight-speed automatic, which was introduced in 2014 strictly to the rear-wheel drive models, it has a bit of a personality disorder. During normal driving situations, the eight-speed auto is receptive, refined… smooth sailing – it respond’s quickly and has crisp gear changes. However, once we got a little aggressive, the transmission became dimwitted and dumbfounded. It struggled to find the right gear, just too busy trying to shuffle through and ends up getting lost along the way. It can be fixed however by putting the GS350 in SPORT + mode which firms up the responsiveness of the transmission along with the suspension and steering – but SPORT + doesn’t work so well at low end speeds as it holds the gear longer and ultimately ruined our average fuel consumption giving us 19 mpg combined for the week and merely 300 miles of range on premium grade fuel.
As a driver, having a chassis this good means we admire the little things that most consumers won’t notice. And we’re not just talking about the smoothness of the ride quality. Yet, how well the suspension copes with the road surface while maintaining a certain comfort level from within the cabin does play a huge part in our experience. With our optioned $1700 Lexus Dynamic Handling System, the steering felt solid and precise in its responsiveness. The turns were direct with fluidness and provided a good feel for the road ahead. The chassis coped well with aggressive turns providing low resistant body roll and thanks to the power side bolsters, we stayed put in the driver seat. Each corner feels just as exciting as the last and the rear-wheel drive system allows you to have a little fun as the back end kicks out when things get a little too hairy.
Same car, different color and our opinion is still the same, at $59,200, the Lexus GS350 F SPORT is still a great choice when looking at an executive luxury sedan. Its loads of fun on the weekend, but that comfortable traffic companion during the week. Watch out BMW, Lexus is coming, and they’ll have no problem knocking you off your pedestal.
|Price (As Tested):|
|2015 Lexus GS350 F SPORT:||$48,600|
|One-Touch Power Trunk:||$400|
|Intuitive Park Assist:||$500|
|Blind Spot Monitor with Power Folding Exterior Mirrors:||$700|
|Mark Levinson Premium Surround Sound Audio System:||$1,380|
|Lexus Dynamic Handling System:||$1,700|
|F SPORT Package:||$4,825|