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2016 Lexus GS350 F Sport - Instrumented Test

Car and Driver logo Car and Driver 3/16/2016 JOSH JACQUOT
2016 Lexus GS350 F Sport

That the 2016 Lexus GS350 F Sport isn’t as quick as the last GS350 we tested despite a higher power rating shouldn’t trouble you in the slightest. Because like every Lexus ever built—including the LFA supercar—this one isn’t about numbers.

This is a fine sedan for moving four people over great distances in genuine comfort. It’s a fantastic machine if you need to take your aunt to brunch or schmooze clients afflicted with a decision-making disorder. And it will not embarrass itself during a six-tenths effort on a favorite back road.

What it won’t do, however, is sway enthusiasts seeking segment-leading performance or deeply involving dynamics.

More Powerful, Less Rapid

Although this is largely the same GS350 that Lexus unveiled in 2011, semiannual refinements are routine for the brand. For 2016, the GS350’s 3.5-liter V-6 is rated at 311 horsepower (a gain of 5) and 280 lb-ft of torque (up 3). Rear-drive models, like our test car, route torque through an eight-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel-drive versions get a six-speed automatic.

At the track the GS slipped uneventfully to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds—0.3 second slower than the last version we tested, a 2013 model. It’s also a full 1.2 seconds slower than the 2016 Audi A6, which enjoys the advantage of both more power and all-wheel-drive launch traction.

The quarter-mile falls in 14.3 seconds at 101 mph, at which point the GS is a full second and 4 mph behind the A6. It’s also down two-tenths and 1 mph from the 2013 GS350, possibly a consequence of this example’s relatively green engine, which had only 600 miles on the clock.

Braking is a strong suit for the GS. The F Sport package adds 19-inch wheels wearing staggered (wider in the rear than in front) Bridgestone summer tires, 14.0-inch-diameter two-piece front rotors, and four-piston brake calipers. It’s a solid package of hardware that served up consistent pedal feel and halted the sedan in 159 feet from 70 mph.

2016 Lexus GS350 F Sport© JOSH JACQUOT 2016 Lexus GS350 F Sport Living with Lexus

In everyday driving it’s the GS’s buttery ride that shines—but don’t think grandpa-mobile here. Adjustable damping, tunable over four drive modes (Eco, Normal, Sport, and Sport+), delivers a well-controlled experience when you want it. Normal mode offers enough compliance to admirably absorb frost heaves at 90 mph without upsetting those back-seat driving critics. Crank the knob to Sport or Sport+ and there’s a measure of control available that’s proportional to increased ride busy-ness.

Still, at 3877 pounds the Lexus feels heavier than most rivals—even the A6, which actually carries 278 additional pounds. The culprit is the GS’s shallow torque curve. The supercharged Audi has a 45-lb-ft advantage arriving 1900-rpm earlier than the GS’s torque peak, which gives the German car the ability to shoot through traffic gaps without working the gears, something you’ll do (or the automatic gearbox will do) frequently in the GS. It’s a meaningful difference between cars with similar price tags.

Here’s another: We recorded 20 mpg during a week of mixed driving in the GS. Although it was under different conditions with different drivers, the heavier, more powerful, and more rapid A6 returned 22 mpg.

Inside and Out

In contrast to the wackadoodle visual statement made by its spindle grille, our tester’s blue paint managed to look both elegant and stunning in any light, day or night. The exterior finish work of this Lexus, with its perfect panel fits, is as good as any car in the segment.

Inside, there are fewer compliments. Overall material quality is only mediocre by the standards of the segment. The leather lacks the suppleness offered by the German brands, particularly on the head- and armrests. The 16-way adjustable driver’s seat, also part of the F Sport package, is a gem for any body shape, though, and there’s room to spare. Even six-footers fit comfortably in the back seat.

We’ve yet to make peace with Lexus’s Remote Touch Interface, which uses a mouse- type controller with haptic feedback to access navigation and other infotainment functions. Audi’s MMI, Mercedes-Benz’s COMAND, and BMW’s iDrive are all more effective means of controlling such systems.

A shortage of easily accessed small-item storage on the center console makes keeping a smartphone handy more difficult than it ought to be in 2016. Both the door pockets and center-console bin, which offers a sliding and tilting lid, are modestly sized. That the tachometer is positioned in the center of the instrument cluster is a hint that this Lexus sports sedan has at least one priority right.

As tested, our GS rang up a $61,690 price tag, including the $4115 F Sport upcharge and several other options. If all you expect is the ability to transport family or clients in complaint-free comfort, that’s a reasonable fee. For the same outlay, however, the sports/luxury sedan offerings from Europe or America will do more to stoke your inner fire when a good road beckons.

Specifications >VEHICLE TYPE: front-engine, rear-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan

PRICE AS TESTED: $61,690 (base price: $55,700)

ENGINE TYPE: DOHC 24-valve Atkinson-capable V-6, aluminum block and heads, port and direct fuel injection

Displacement: 211 cu in, 3456 cc

Power: 311 hp @ 6400 rpm

Torque: 280 lb-ft @ 4800 rpm

TRANSMISSION: 8-speed automatic with manual shifting mode

DIMENSIONS:

Wheelbase: 112.2 in

Length: 192.1 in

Width: 72.4 in Height: 57.3 in

Passenger volume: 98 cu ft

Cargo volume: 16 cu ft

Curb weight: 3877 lb

C/D TEST RESULTS:

Zero to 60 mph: 5.8 sec

Zero to 100 mph: 14.2 sec

Zero to 130 mph: 26.0 sec

Rolling start, 5–60 mph: 6.2 sec

Top gear, 30–50 mph: 3.7 sec

Top gear, 50–70 mph: 4.5 sec

Standing ¼-mile: 14.3 sec @ 101 mph

Top speed (C/D est.): 140 mph

Braking, 70–0 mph: 159 ft

Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.85 g

FUEL ECONOMY:

EPA city/highway driving: 19/28 mpg

C/D observed: 20 mpg

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