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Re-Thinking The Gs350

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I was prompted, after a couple of exchanges on this site, to re-think my evaluation my '13 GS350 AWD. One of the motivations was a discussion on the reliability of automotive journalists' reports. I often use certain sources, including CR, Edmunds, and a couple of the auto magazines as guidelines when considering automobiles, especially where assessments are consistent across several sources I regard as reliable. That's part of what led me to consider the GS in the first place.

So, along with re-thinking my own assessment, I went back and looked at the various reviews on '13 - '15 GS models -- maybe 12 or 15 evaluations and comparisons, in print and on the 'Net. I also looked at some owner comments, including a number who'd departed the Germans for the Lexus.

I found most reviews to be generally favorable to the Lexus, except where the writers were seeking the last ounce of sporting potential in the cars under consideration. I also found most of the views to be consistent with mine, which I had posted earlier on this site.

Some of my findings for the GS, a less nimble and heavier feeling, were leveled at the Audi by automotive journalists -- attributed to the AWD. The standard 5-series gets hit with similar criticism -- "dumbed down" in catering to a broader, more luxury-oriented audience. In most of the comparisons, the conclusion was pretty much of a draw between the two finalists (in multi-car tests), with Lexus winning in about half the categories -- some variation depending on whether the test car was f-sport.

In the customer-drive intro's by Lexus, where the GS and 5-series were driven back-to-back, I believe the acceptance level for the GS in handling and ride was pretty high.

Simply put, I think Lexus management had a very clear idea about the target audience and the competitive choices (e.g. most people don't buy M-version BMW). And in that sense, I think they got it about right.

In general, I think most of the automotive writers / sources that I trust came relatively close to my evaluation. I haven't driven a German direct competitor (though I probably will), but I'm guessing the GS is pretty competitive on driving engagement for standard models (e.g. M-B E-class, std A6 and 5-series), and maybe comes off a little better.

The points I deducted earlier for the GS related to nimble handling and heavy feeling are, I think, really related to AWD, and would likely be the same in German cars with AWD. I knew when I selected AWD that I was sacrificing some of the driving behavior of RWD.

Thus at 18K miles and 25 months, I'd elevate my earlier, generally favorable rating of the car by a notch or two. Given some of our road trips in bad weather, I am willing to take the AWD affect. If I really want automotive playtime, I can take the Z4 out of the garage and go scare my fellow citizens. Otherwise, the GS still makes the best long-distance highway cruiser we've ever owned.

Note to Lexus management:Good job on re-offering power mirrors and trunk closing. Now, please put the headlight washer control on a steering-column stalk where it belongs, and move the cruise control stalk to the 3 o'clock position. While you're at, change the control to allow it to remain engaged, and not shut off every time the engine is turned off.

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Nice update/review on the GS350 awd, thanks.

A couple of my observations on this class of mid-sized premium lux sedans. The somewhat isolated/numbish driving feel seems to be common and expected in this particular category of cars today and all the key players have dialed in this cushy setup intentionally including BMW, Mercedes, Audi and Lexus. Just the general larger/wider footprint makes them less conducive to sporting mountain road driving in the West IMHO too. We should be glad we didn't have the "numbing" experience like my ex-coworker did, he sold his 997 911 and bought current gen A6 3.0T, been over a year and he is still adjusting......

The next size down (being the compact premium sport sedans) tends to emphasis driver involvement a bit more including Lexus, BMW and to lesser extent Mercedes and Audi. The basic sizing of these cars alone makes them a bit more nimble and the buyers seem to want the agility (at some cost of ride comfort). One obvious high volume example of this is the Sport versions of the MB C-class have outsold Lux version by huge margin for years. My personal example of selling a Boxster S and replacing with a IS350 required a lot of F-Sport-type equipment to configure the car for satisfaction (but that's just me and not a common scenario)....

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We are a couple of like-minded people. It's the cushy set-up you described, differentiated by Lexus reliability, that made it easier for me to put Lexus on the list. If I decide to back to the smaller configuration, which is sort my default choice, I would be looking closely at the C-class Sport.

My wife's '09 RX350 can always be the long-haul vacation car, and frequently is. Cooler fits in the back, and load height is about perfect. And I'd still like to have a Boxster. Never can tell what we old guys might do.

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midwesterner - We are like-minded with our automotive taste, and btw I'm not young too.

A few my automotive quirks include:

. I'm always fighting off the urge to own another Porsche, specifically some variation of 911 coupe (that's a personal problem, lol).

. Also the new RC coupe and new Mustang GT/GT350 have caught my eye.

. Currently we don't own a SUV (usually have had one for last decade+), not missing it that much, other than the ride height advantage in heavy traffic.

. For long road trips, we tend to use/abuse a rental car (carefully selected for the trip).

. For in-state/moderate road trips, the Mercedes C250 works great with comfort, reasonbly fun to drive, loaded with all of the lux amenities and easy to get 30 mpg on freeway/highway.

. For fair weather day-tripping and some weekend trips we tend to use the Lexus IS350 (From an automotive standpoint, in my backyard is serious sports car country).

Back on topic, Lexus reliability is easily the best in premium car business. Just when I thought Mercedes was catching up in this area, they fell short with latest launches of CLA and S-class (per CR), lets see how Mercedes responds. Audi has certainly made strides with reliability in recent years, lets see if they can keep it up. Most of the auto publications have commented on the progress that Lexus made with latest GS from drivers standpoint, and my limited driving exposure to the GS350 seems to verify it. These are more sporting versions of the GS today than in past generations.

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In my limited business experience with Japan, and two trips to visit our corporate joint venture company there, I found the Japanese to have an appetite for infinite detail, and an amazing ability to manage repetitive functions (e.g. manufacturing processes). These, coupled with the Japanese notion of harmony (everything working together and pleasing) are -- I think -- the explanations for Japanese excellence at quality. Part of the explanation, at least.

It's not that other cultures can't do it. Other auto manufacturers have equaled or exceeded Japanese quality in some instances. But we don't seem to be able to do it consistently. Credit to Lexus for hitting the target.

Our SUV, by the way, is sort of an accident. We were thinking of replacing my wife's Accord (about #5 or #6 in a series), when our son-in-law's dad died. He'd just bought the RX350 with AWD, 18" wheels, and trailer towing pkg. We bought it out of the estate a short time later, and my wife has learned to love it (mostly because of the high seating and visibility). We don't tow anything, and removed the hitch), but get the benefit of the HD radiator and transmission oil cooler that go with the pkg. It's just now at about 65K miles, and I suspect it will be around for quite a while longer. It's probably not a car we'd have picked out as a first choice.

However, it's reliability and the quality of the dealership led to the GS acquisition. That's another place where Lexus shines.

That customer care model and the professionalism of the dealer sales staff, along with product reliability, make a strong case for Lexus, even in the face of European competitors whose products are sometimes more likely to make my heart race.

It's a good thing I don't have more money; my garage would look like Jay Leno's.

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Good point about the overall Lexus customer service experience, best in the automotive business consistently.

I'm very fortunate that my Mercedes dealership is a block away from the my favorite Lexus dealership. This particular Mercedes dealership has stepped up to the challenge of meeting Lexus standards for customer service (sales and service, including amenities) and they are over 98% there. As the customer at both dealerships, I'm glad to see positive impact, first class experiences at both.

I have had some business exposure to Japan (and only 1 trip to our sales office in Japan), and noticed same things that you did.

I don't dare even get a house with a 3 or 4 car garage...

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