Review: Lexus GS (2012 – 2018)
High quality and superbly built. Strong performance and relatively low CO2 from 450h. Impressively refined. GS F V8 fast but flawed.
Steering feels too remote. Still no diesel engine. Firm ride on F Sport models.
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Lexus GS (2012 – 2018): At A Glance
The Lexus GS has carved out a niche as an upmarket and somewhat leftfield alternative to large saloons like the BMW 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class. For those who value quality and refinement the Lexus ticks a lot of boxes. It's helped by Lexus dealers - known as the best in the business and backed up by top marks in the various customer satisfaction surveys like JD Power. It's no surprise that the brand has one of the highest rates of repeat buyers.
This latest GS builds on the qualities of the old model but Lexus has worked to add a dash of style and driver enjoyment to the mix. In terms of looks it's a lot more angular at the front and it's a similar story at the back where the stretched lights make it appear wider. Overall it has a lot more road presence than before.
The improvements are most noticeable inside with a far better interior in terms of design and quality. There are less obvious Toyota elements and a far more stylish feel with features like the solid metal controls for the stereo and the analogue clock between the air vents. There's more space than before and it feels much more like a premium car than the previous GS did.
As before Lexus isn't fitting a diesel engine to the GS range - something which will mean many buyers immediately rule it out - instead it's sticking with standard petrols and a hybrid version. The GS450h is the impressive hybrid and it combines swift performance with low CO2 and good fuel economy considering its power.
There's also a GS250 powered by a 2.5-litre V6 petrol with more than 200bhp which is significantly cheaper than the hybrid model. Starting prices are fairly high, but all models come highly equipped as standard although entry-level versions don't get sat nav.
Driving the GS is relaxing and serene - it's an ideal long distance motorway car thanks to the impressive refinement - but it's not as good on demanding roads with artificial steering feel and wooden brakes.
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Lexus GS (2012 – 2018): What's It Like Inside?
- Boot space is 451–552 litres
The interior of the GS has improved dramatically compared to the outgoing model. While there was never a question mark over quality, the GS now has the premium design and upmarket feel that was previously missing. Given the price tag this is the sort of cabin you'd expect. Gone are the shared Toyota components - after all while it's no secret Lexus is part of Toyota, you don't expect to see buttons from an Avensis in a luxury saloon.
And luxury certainly describes it well. The fit and finish are superb while the design is different enough from the likes of the Audi A6 to be distinctive without Lexus losing focus of the basics. That means clearly labelled and easy to understand buttons, a good driving position and plenty of adjustment in the steering column and driver's seat.
There are some nice details too like the metal volume dials and CD slot surround along with a nice clock between the central air vents. The colour screen has been moved too and is now neatly incorporated into the dash top. Lexus is sticking with its rather odd control system though. Rather than a dial system like BMW's iDrive or the Audi MMI, the Lexus has a mouse-like control which lets you move a pointer around the screen. The problem is that it's not that easy to use on the move and quite distracting.
The system itself is straightforward and the sat nav (standard on all modes apart from the SE) works well but it's not the slickest or best looking in-car system and looks dates alongside similar ones from Audi or BMW. That aside the GS is very comfortable with excellent seats and although it's no bigger than the outgoing model, the doors now open wider to make getting in and out easier.
Redesigned seats backs mean there's more legroom in the back plus the boot is bigger. The battery houses under the boot has been redesigned and now takes up less space, so luggage room increases to 465 litres in the GS450h. It's bigger in the GS250 too with 552 litres.
Standard equipment from launch:
SE models (GS250 only) get 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic xenon headlamps and windscreen wipers, LED daytime running lights, a rear-view camera with parking guide monitor, leather upholstery, dual-zone climate control, electrically adjustable front seats (10-way, with memory setting for the driver’s seat) with heating and ventilation functions. The steering wheel is electrically adjustable with paddle shifts plus there is a 12-speaker audio system with CD player, DAB, Bluetooth and USB/Aux ports.
Luxury trim adds 18-inch alloys, front and rear parking sensors, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror and an HDD satellite navigation system with Remote Touch Interface controller. Luxury grade also adds a new blind spot detection system integrated into the door mirrors.
F Sport versions get 19-inch wheels, a boot-lip spoiler, sports-styled bumpers and front grille with mesh design, xenon headlights with an automatic high beam function and an Adaptive Front-lighting System which adjusts the beam direction as the car approaches bends and junctions. Inside there are sports pedals and perforated leather-trimmed sports steering wheel and gear knob. The front sports seats gain further adjustment functions – 16-way for the driver, plus four-way lumbar support. The F Sport also has Adaptive Variable Suspension, plus, on the 450h model, the Lexus Dynamic Handling system, which brings together Dynamic Rear Steering, electric power steering, Variable Gear Ratio Steering and Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management.
Premier models have 18-spoke 18-inch alloy wheels and the same bi-xenon headlamp system as the F Sport models. The F Sport’s adaptive suspension and selectable drive modes are also included.
Child seats that fit a Lexus GS (2012 – 2018)Our unique Car Seat Chooser shows you which child car seats will fit this car and which seat positions that they will fit, so that you don't have to check every car seat manufacturer's website for compatibility.
What's the Lexus GS (2012 – 2018) like to drive?
There's no diesel in the GS range - instead Lexus offers a standard petrol engine along with the hybrid GS450h. The petrol is a 2.5-litre V6 - the first time an engine this small has featured in the GS. The VVTi unit has direct injection and delivers 206bhp along with 253Nm of torque and while it offers smooth and reasonable performance it's unlikely to be very popular with official fuel economy of just 31.7mpg.
It's the GS450h makes up the vast majority of GS sales. The hybrid system is carried over from the previous GS but with improvements across the board. As before it uses a 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine alongside a water cooled permanent magnet electric motor. Combined they have 341bhp, similar power to a 4.5-litre engine - hence the name.
It certainly delivers the kind of performance you'd expect from a big engine. Accelerating from 0-62mph takes just 5.9 seconds and as the torque from the electric motor is available from a standstill it's like a rocket away from the lights. The V6 engine delivers a nice note too, sounding more like a V8 and giving the GS450h a sporty feel on the move. At low speeds the big Lexus is the epitome of refinement. In traffic and at low speeds it runs on electric power alone with the petrol engine only kicking in when needed.
Of course the big benefit of a hybrid system is efficiency. Thanks to changes including improvements to the regenerative braking system and electric motor operation, the GS450h is cleaner than before with CO2 emissions of 141g/km - incredibly low for a car with this much power. Official economy is 46.3mpg but if you start to use the considerable power this soon drops.
There are four trim levels in the GS range - SE, Luxury, F Sport and Premier but it's the F Sport models that really stand out. Inspired by the Lexus IS F, they get a more aggressive look with extra body styling and 19-inch wheels. The changes are more than cosmetic though because big changes have been made underneath with retuned front and rear suspension, Adaptive Variable Suspension and on the 450h model, the Lexus Dynamic Handling system.
F Sport and Premier models also come with a system called AVS - adaptive variable suspension - which lets you tune the ride with two settings - Normal for everyday driving and Sport Plus for improved body control and precise steering responses when cornering. The system automatically adjusts suspension at all four wheels independently, activating the adjustable damping force shock absorbers, in response to the way the car is being driven, vehicle body motion and road surface conditions.
The F Sport version certainly handles well with impressive body control and direct steering. It's very agile for what is a large saloon and although the steering feels quite artificial, it still gives you plenty of confidence with good grip from the front tyres. One things that lets it down somewhat is the ride. The F Sport models with their large alloys, low profile tyres and stiffer suspension mean it's not as smooth as you'd expect of a Lexus, especially in Sport Plus mode. Poor quality country roads really highlight the problem where it struggles to settle down and tends to tram line a lot. It's better in Normal mode but still not great.
Another criticism is the brakes. The electronically controlled braking system has been modified to give greater responsiveness and it's certainly an improvement over the old GS. However, the brakes still lack progression and often feel on/off so it's difficult to drive the GS450h quickly but smoothly.
|250||32 mpg||7.2–8.6 s||207 g/km|
|300h||57–64 mpg||9.2 s||109–115 g/km|
|450h||46–46 mpg||5.9 s||141–145 g/km|
|5.0 F||46 mpg||-||260 g/km|
Real MPG average for a Lexus GS (2012 – 2018)
Real MPG was created following thousands of readers telling us that their cars could not match the official figures.
Real MPG gives real world data from drivers like you to show how much fuel a vehicle really uses.
Diesel or petrol? If you're unsure whether to go for a petrol or diesel (or even an electric model if it's available), then you need our Petrol or Diesel? calculator. It does the maths on petrols, diesels and electric cars to show which is best suited to you.
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