2008 GS 450h New Car Test Drive
The 2008 Lexus GS makes its mark with sense as well as speed, restraint as well as luxury. Although it's easy to think of it as an alternative to an Audi, BMW or Mercedes-Benz, the Lexus GS embraces an entirely different set of values.
Lexus itself has promoted the phrase 'L-finesse' to define its way of crafting an automobile, an example of market-speak that gets right to the heart of the 2008 Lexus GS. This sport sedan is meant to be dynamic, yet free of gimmicks. It is meant to combine precision with lavish, luxurious appointments. It is meant to deliver a high standard of automotive performance, yet be easily intuitive to drive. Amazing examples of automotive technology are included as standard equipment, yet the driver is never aware of them. The Lexus GS does everything you ask, and yet it always feels effortless.
The third-generation Lexus GS came to market for 2006, a showcase of Toyota's most advanced technology. It arrived with more computing power than some third-world countries and a standard of luxury usually enjoyed only in the best zip codes. The GS was further improved for 2007. For 2008, it gets a new, much-improved V8 engine.
The 2008 GS 460 replaces the previous GS 430. The new V8 is a 4.6-liter that makes 342 horsepower, 52 more than last year's 4.3-liter V8. It is also now mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission that replaces a six-speed. For added performance, the transmission includes a sport mode that enables you to manually make sequential shifts with the console-mounted gear lever.
There's also a hybrid: The GS 450h combines the 3.5-liter V6 with an electric motor for improved power and fuel economy.
The 2008 GS 350 features a 303-hp, 3.5-liter V6 and six-speed automatic with manual shift gate. All-wheel drive is available.
Other 2008 changes include a revised front fascia, a new chrome grille surround, the addition of side-mirror turn signals, and new wheels designs. On the inside, all GS models get a revised instrument panel, a brushed aluminum shift plate surround, and wood trim door switch plates.
Rear-wheel drive is what makes the GS a driver's car. Front-wheel drive is never as sporting. All-wheel drive is also available and is beneficial in foul weather. The all-wheel-drive models feature a fast-acting, clutch-type center differential that sends 70 percent of the power to the rear wheels under normal circumstances to help foster the dynamics of a rear-wheel-drive car. When wheel sensors detect slippery road conditions, as much as 50 percent of engine power is diverted to the front wheels to increase the car's overall traction on the road.
Any version of the GS is a luxurious car with a strong engine and surprisingly capable handling. Also surprising is the fact that ride quality suffers with the available 18-inch wheels; Lexuses are usually pillow soft. Tall drivers might want to avoid the GS and so will those who need to haul cargo on a regular basis. But, if you're in the market for a midsize luxury/sport sedan, the GS is a fine choice and the hybrid model offers unique combination of performance and fuel economy.
The 2008 Lexus GS sedan is available in three models. The GS 350 ($44,150) sports a 303-hp 3.5-liter V6. The GS 350 AWD ($46,100) adds all-wheel drive to the package. Both GS 350 models have a six-speed automatic transmission with a manual shiftgate.
Standard equipment on the GS 350 includes thick, regency-style leather upholstery and a choice of wood trim in either bird's-eye maple (brown, black, or gray) or walnut; dual-zone automatic climate control; interior air filter; power tilt/telescoping wood and leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls; cruise control; heated 10-way power-adjustable front seats; memory for the driver's seat; mirrors and steering wheel; trunk pass-through; heated auto-dimming power exterior mirrors with tilt-down back-up aid; power windows; power locks; Lexus' SmartAccess keyless access and starting; sunroof; remote engine starting; 10-speaker AM/FM/cassette stereo with six-disc CD changer; auxiliary audio input jack; vehicle information system with a seven-inch touch screen; Bluetooth wireless cell phone link; auto-dimming rearview mirror; universal garage door opener; power trunk closer; automatic xenon headlights; theft-deterrent system; fog lights; and P225/50WR17 tires on alloy wheels. The GS 350 AWD has P225/50R17 run-flat tires.
The GS 460 ($52,620) has a 342-hp V8 and an eight-speed automatic transmission. The GS 450h ($54,900) features a hybrid powertrain that combines the 3.5-liter V6 with an electric motor. It has a continuously variable automatic transmission with six preset gear ratios for the manual shiftgate.
The GS 460 adds heated and ventilated front seats, adaptive headlights, an adaptive variable suspension with sport and normal modes, and P245/40ZR18 tires. The GS450h gets front and rear park assist, rearview camera, rain-sensing wipers, power rear sunshade, and headlight washers. It loses the trunk pass-through.
Options include a navigation system with voice recognition ($1850) which includes a rear backup camera; front and rear park assist ($500); Mark Levinson 330-watt audio system with 7.1 surround sound and DVD Audio playback ($1780); active vehicle stabilizer system ($3000); pre-collision braking system with radar-type cruise control ($2850); Lexus Link road assistance ($900); rain-sensing wipers with headlight washers; power rear sunshade ($210); ventilated front seats ($200); all-season run-flat tires ($320); rear spoiler ($200); and XM satellite radio ($486).
Safety features that come standard include dual front air bags, front and rear side airbags, driver and front passenger knee airbags, curtain-type head-protection air bags both and front and rear, and a tire-pressure monitor. Front and rear park assist and a rearview camera are standard on the GS 450h and optional on the other models. Active safety features that come standard include anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist, traction control, and electronic stability control (ESC). The GS 460 comes with Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management, an ESC system that processes steering angle, yaw rate, deceleration, brake pressure and wheel speed, and then uses the car's entire range of electronic controls for the engine, brake, and steering controls to help the driver control the car in an emergency handling situation. In contrast to conventional ESC systems, which react to a car's loss of control, VDIM has been developed to anticipate a dangerous situation, and then by making certain corrections, allow the driver to continue without even realizing the system is at work. The available Lexus pre-collision system uses a radar sensor to detect the onset of a collision and will automatically optimize chassis calibration for quick steering response, retract the front seatbelts, initialize brake assist and even decelerate the car at 0.3 g if the driver fails to take avoiding action.