2013 Lexus GS 350

LAS VEGAS — It’s no secret the mere mention of the word “Lexus” connotes luxury. Lesser known, however, is the fact that some Lexus models, while fraught with the usual upscale amenities its owners have come to expect, are also drivers’/enthusiasts’ cars as well. Case in point is the all-new 2013 GS 350 Sport Sedan. Lexus has thrown all its gee whiz technology into a completely redesigned mid-size GS.

Lexus' objective was to elevate the model into competitive status with BMW's gold standard, the 5-Series. That's been the goal for 20 years since its introduction in 1993, but each effort has fallen slightly short. This time around may be different.

But even as we marveled at the many attributes of the newest Lexus we wondered again whether Lexus has done enough to clear the German hurdle. The fourth-generation GS will not get a V-8 engine — at least initially — and it will solider on with a six-speed automatic while the Germans — The Audi A6, BMW 5-Series and Mercedes E-Class — sport new seven-and-eight-speed dual-clutch automatic/manual transmissions.

However, the six-speed including paddle shifters incorporates many features adopted from the Lexus IS F high-performance sedan; faster shifts, earlier torque converter lockup and downshift throttle blips, that support four driving modes that can be operated by toggling the new Lexus Drive Mode selector. In addition to the Normal mode the driver can set an ECO mode, SPORT S mode and SPORT S+ mode.

The GS uses the carryover 3.5-liter four cam/four valves per cylinder V6 engine with dual Variable Valve Timing w/intelligence (VVT-i) that puts out 306 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque and will hit 60 mph in 5.7 seconds. The GS is available in rear-wheel or all-wheel drive.

GS customers can surely find something they want among its four trim levels – GS 350, GS 350 Luxury, GS 350 F SPORT and GS 450h Hybrid. There are so many ways to equip the 2013 GS with the various Lexus packages that it’s practically a custom-made car, to the point of technology overkill.

Styling-wise the 2013 GS sports a signature spindle grille with its trapezoidal contours that are fully integrated into the aggressive front bumpers. The rear encompasses the familial look of Lexus sedans.

The cabin is designed around the driver. A horizontal-themed instrument panel emphasizes its wide layout. The 2013 model has more headroom, knee room, leg room and foot space than the current generation. Front and rear door openings have also been revised for easier ingress and egress. Trunk space has been increased by almost 25% and can easily accommodate four golf bags. Trunk access is improved with a 6 1/2-inch wider opening.

EPA fuel estimates come in at 19 mpg city/28 highway/ 23 combined for the RWD; 19/26/21 with AWD. The vehicle will arrive at dealerships in February.

— Al Vinikour and Jim Meachen