Quickly Closing In On The Benchmark The Lexus GS has been chasing the BMW 5 Series for more than two decades. This year, it may have finally leapfrogged its benchmark prey. Rewind your clock back to the late 1980s, when the midsize four-door sport sedan segment was dominated by BMW. The Bavarian automaker was selling rear-wheel-drive sedans (with manual transmissions, no less) that were every bit as powerful and agile as they were luxurious and comfortable – the best of both worlds, felt many buyers. Of course, it didn't take long for other automakers to get in on the action. Lexus made its first legitimate attempt at the segment in 1998, with the introduction of its second-generation GS sedan. Despite many accolades, the sporty four-door arrived just in time to compete against BMW's E39, a 5 Series platform that was arguably one of its all-time best. Even after the third-generation GS (2006-2011) went head-to-head with BMW's Bangle-styled E60, the Lexus was still playing catch-up despite its strong performance and loads of new and innovative technology. But today things are very different. There are now a handful of genuine players in the segment, including very capable sport sedans from Audi, Infiniti and Mercedes-Benz. BMW recently released its sixth-generation F10 5 Series, but the applause has been notably muted. Will that automaker's arguable misstep allow the all-new third-generation Lexus GS to capture the lead? We spent a week with the Japanese sport sedan to find out. After a slew of early teasers and leaks, Lexus officially introduced its all-new 2013 GS 350 at Pebble Beach in August of 2011. Its bold new appearance (complete with the automaker's new signature spindle grille) hid a sophisticated new platform even more rigid than its predecessor. The track was also widened and the suspension redesigned to further improve handling. While the V6 engine was only slightly massaged and the V8 was dropped completely, the clean-sheet interior would be almost unrecognizable to a previous-generation GS driver. First out the gate at the Concourse event was the rear-wheel-drive GS 350, fitted with a 3.5-liter V6 rated at 306 horsepower. It was soon followed at the 2012 Frankfurt Motor Show by the GS 450h, a gasoline-electric hybrid with a total system power of 338 horsepower, and then came all-wheel-drive variants. Most interesting to us, however, were the enthusiast-tuned F Sport models that debuted the following month at SEMA. The F Sport models, in the words of Lexus, are "designed to engage driving enthusiasts with factory engineering and the ability to take performance to an entirely new level." To accomplish this mechanically, GS F Sports are fitted with 19-inch alloy wheels with performance tires, F Sport-tuned Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS), upgraded suspension bushings, thicker anti-roll bars and larger front brakes with high-performance brake pads. Rear-wheel-drive models also gain the automaker's Variable Gear Ratio Steering (VGRS). Cosmetically, the GS F Sport models are visually identified by their distinctive sport front bumper (with unique mesh grille inserts) and rear lower valance. There …
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|MPG||19 City / 28 Hwy|
|Transmission||6-spd auto w/OD|
|Power||306 @ 6400 rpm|
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