Taming the beast
I once participated in a casual conversation where it was said that women don’t form an attachment to the car they drive. At the time, I argued vehemently to the contrary but upon later reflection, I realised that maybe there was some truth in the statement and that women are far less inclined to lavish the same amount of love, care and attention on their cars as men do and likewise, myself certainly, will happily move on from one to the next without regret. That was until I had the privilege of driving a Lexus GS350 for a week.
My initial reaction was fairly lukewarm. A gorgeous nail polish red (it’s actually Crimson Red) GS350 was delivered to me, two thumbs up on the colour! First impressions indicated a decently proportioned luxury sedan sporting Lexus’ new identity with an eye-catching nose (I loved the more aggressive styling in front with that novel spindle grille), an ok rear end (it was rescued by the faux chrome around the twin exhausts which gave the back a sportier look) and the typical GS topline of chrome-enhanced sweeping lines over the windows and doors.
The interior is roomy and comfortable and I spent the first few minutes enjoying all 10 ways of the seat adjustment mechanism – thankfully, with 3 memory settings, I didn’t have to do it again! The selectable easy entry and exit system meant that an elegant slip into the driving seat, even with heels on was a pleasure. The interior is black leather with white pick stitching to enhance the gorgeous lines; faux wood and metal inserts add emphasis on the dashboard and door panels.
Our test car had optional heated/vented seats too. By far the most impressive feature inside is the MASSIVE 12.6-inch multimedia display. A quick fiddle with Lexus’s remote touch ‘mouse’ had my music sorted (iPod, USB and Aux compatibility), my smartphone connected to the Bluetooth and me ready to get going. Admittedly, a downside to the impressive system was that the navigation is less than intuitive, but by the end of a week, I had it pretty much sussed.
And then I started the engine…. as the powerful 3.5l V6 317hp engine purred into life, a little shiver of anticipation ran down my spine. A bit of homework had prepared me mentally for the impressive performance levels of this car but I was very pleasantly surprised at the pure driving pleasure that the GS gave me.
To start, a fat leather steering wheel with feather light steering automatically made my hands happy. The paddle shift is connected to the steering column which I found inconvenient at times. But I couldn’t fault the speed and swiftness of the 6-speed gear box as it changed smoothly between gears.
My first drive was in torrential Cape rain and the suspension kept me firmly velcroed to the road despite some pretty hefty puddles. The car feels light and easy to manoeuvre, super-responsive and with up to 90% of the 378Nm peak torque figure being available as low as 2000rpm, powerful overtaking can be as leisurely as you wish.
I was fortunate enough to be able to test this fantastic executive vehicle in pretty much most driving conditions – torrential rain (it held its own), heavy traffic on a daily commute (an absolute pleasure and the top drawer sound system with 12 speakers added to the enjoyment) and a long drive where we got to test high-speed stability which is unbelievably good thanks to the excellent suspension and stability programme.
We even threw a gravel road at it and the GS handled it fine with no rattles whatsoever. On tests, the car outdid its claimed acceleration and went from 0 – 100km/h in 5.9 seconds with a deep growl (Lexus claim 6.3!). Fuel consumption was reasonable and we averaged 11- 12l/ 100km, somewhat higher than Lexus’ claim of 9.4l/100km. Top speed is claimed at 235km/h.
The car has excellent lights, a very roomy boot, reverse camera, auto park brake, ABS brakes with EBD and BAS, and an intuitive VSC stability programme. We even played around with the TRC traction control for some rear wheel drive fun. 10 airbags ensure driver and passenger safety. Keyless entry and ignition enhances the superior quality feel.
I think my only gripe would be that the claimed 5 seats will leave the poor 5th person sitting in the back middle with a very hard ride and not much headroom. But this is a small drawback in the bigger scheme of things. The GS comes with a 4 year/ 100 000km maintenance plan and costs N$564 900 (excl. options).
My real complaint is about the fact that I had to return this car. I thoroughly enjoyed driving the GS. This is an excellent offering from Lexus, my first impressions warmed very quickly to the fabulous driveability of the car and this woman just formed a lasting attachment to a car I’m ruined as far as cars go – for the foreseeable future at any rate!
0-100m: 5.7s / 98.5km/h
0-200m: 8.8s / 124.6km/h
0-300m: 11.4s /144.1km/h
0-400m: 13.7 / 158.9km/h
1/4mile: 13.8s @ 159.2km/h (98.9mph)
Road Dry tarmac, level
Occupants Driver, no passengers
Fuel level 1/3