Audio sources include satellite, aux-in, USB, Bluetooth and AM/FM. Standard is a Pioneer system, but optional is a Mark Levinson 17-speaker system. The guys over at Harman, Mark Levinson's overlord, were so confident in their system that they gave us a blind test where they compared the Lexus system and their own $70,000 hi-fi system. While we were pleasantly surprised by the sound quality during the demo, we aren't quite ready to say that the Lexus Levinson setup is indiscernible from their hi-fi system.
In the car, we found the premium sound system to recreate a wide range of frequencies and even difficult resonance tones. (Just listen to any Boards of Canada album and you'll hear what we mean.) One of the main reasons the sound is so good is because the GS is "Lexus quiet." The muted cabin sets up the listener with nothing but blissful sound no matter the genre.
Another source of audio is streaming Pandora. Using Enform with any Android or iOS smartphone, listeners can select and create stations right from Lexus' screen. Enform runs over a Bluetooth serial connection and doesn't require a physical connection like BMW connected or MyFord Touch. Apps are first downloaded on the phone, then played on the Enform system.
With the launch of the GS, Enform will gain two new apps to the suite: Facebook and Yelp. Now users can set their statuses and check into locations from their car. They can also find reviews on local businesses and even make reservations over the Open Table app. Having the entire app suite run wirelessly over Bluetooth is what we'd like to see more automakers include in their infotainment systems.
Input for the 12.3-inch screen is one small, flat, joystick-like controller that moves similar to the way a mouse moves across the screen. The main difference is that there are dots inside the controller's sliding base that lift when the screen changes with new buttons, allowing the controller to give physical feedback when it rolls over buttons. This haptic feedback makes operating Enform dramatically easier. The haptic joystick has been in Lexus vehicles since the 2010 RX and HS and with the new GS it's now in its second generation.
Adding to the list of features is a new safety system that actually looks at the driver's eyes and detects dozing off. This is the first anti-sleeping device that actually looks at the eyes. (Mercedes uses an algorithm that detects certain steering wheel inputs.) A heads-up display and blind spot monitor round up the safety features available on the new GS.
We think the GS is a solid entry into the competitive mid-sized luxury segment and it has the tech to keep up with the other automakers. Some may say the icing on the cake is the massive screen, but we think that Enform/Entune is the secret sauce. Pricing has yet to be announced, but expect it to be more reachable than its German rivals.