ClubLexus First Drive: 2006 Lexus GS300

 
 
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February 15, 2005

With the long anticipation of the new 2006 GS coming to Lexus Dealer showrooms on March 1, 2005 many Lexus Dealerships across the United States took early delivery of the first batch of production GS300 & GS430. As the news of the release hit the ClubLexus community, I quickly took a trip to the West Coast's largest and #1 Lexus facility, Penske Automotive Group's Longo Lexus in El Monte, California.

As I arrived to the front door, I was greeted by our helpful and friendly ClubLexus member "Longo Lexus" aka Elizabeth Hyun. She did not hesitate to show me the goods as she escorted me downstairs to their newly expanded underground indoor inventory where there were over 30+ brand new 2006 GS ready for sale and delivery. They had almost every color combination imaginable. If you couldn't find what you wanted in that room, you probably didn't want to buy a Lexus in the first place.   

The first car that we walked up to and caught my eyes was a stunning 2006 Flint Mica GS300 with Ash interior that was fully loaded. It had such features as the Mark Levinson Sound System, DVD Navigation & Entertainment, Sonar Park Assist and not to forget the standard Smart Access entry system. Elizabeth quickly handed me the Smart Key Fob and told me to open the driver's door. I sat inside and was quickly intoxicated with the signature Lexus new car smell and invited to a spacious perforated leather cabin and greeted by the warm LED entry lighting in the ceiling and the floor. As I studied the interior closely, I noticed the trick hideaway control panel which had the main controls for the trunk, gas, outside mirrors, dash light dimmer and the cool rear power sunshade and the Park Assist main control. Elizabeth asked me to buckle up and depress the brake pedal. Out of habit, I was ready to put the key into the ignition and start the car. But to my surprise there was no conventional key ingition. As I hit the brake pedal, a bright green LED on the button that says "ENGINE START" turned on. I then was invited to push the button where a conventional key ignition should be to startup the all new aluminum 3GR-FSE 3.0L Dual VVT-i 24 Valve V6 with 245 HP came to life. This new V6 has an astounding fuel economy rating of 22 MPG City and 30 MPG Highway. It rivals the fuel economy of many 4 cylinder engines. As the engine started, the glow of the Optitron gauges illuminated the dash as the 7" Mark Levinson Navigation Screen booted up to life as well as the touch screen controls for the Heating Ventilation & Air Conditioning controls. Elizabeth pointed down to the console to show me the brand new Black Bird's Eye Maple interior accents and the trick new headed & cool vented front seats. The cool vented front seats are a must for our very hot Southern California summers.

    Before we pulled out of Longo Lexus' underground inventory, Elizabeth pointed out the Back Up Camera feature on the Mark Levinson/Nav System as I put the shifter into Reverse. You can definitely see what's behind you in tight spaces. Then Elizabeth asked me to pull forward towards a parked GS and quickly demonstrated the new Sonar Intuitive Park Assist feature to me. The great bonus about this feature is that the system calculates the distance of your GS to a stationary object via sonar and relays this information to you via the on screen display and audible tone. What is definitely helpful is the arrow pointers to show you which direction to turn your wheel and how far you can go to clear the stationary object.

 

    As we exit the underground inventory into the clear Southern California night, I quickly noticed the projector beam High Intensity Discharge headlights illuminating the road well with the aid of the AFS (Adaptive Front Lighting System) as we turned the corners. Elizabeth asks me to make a right turn from the huge Longo facility and takes me on the infamous Longo Loop which is a 4 mile drive through El Monte on varied city and freeway driving. As we start the test drive, Elizabeth points out the smoothness and isolation of the GS' new cabin and points out the smooth and seamless new 6 Speed Automatic Electronically Controlled Transmission w/Intelligence which is shared with its big brother, the LS430.

    As we drive down the street, Elizabeth turns on the Mark Levinson Premium Surround Sound system to 105.9 FM or Power 106 for some clean Hip Hop bass tracks to the almost live sounding Smooth Jazz station 94.7 FM, The Wave. Audiophiles will marvel at the new Mark Levinson system which features a Discrete 5.1 surround playback via a 7.1 channel speaker system. It is operated through 14 speakers via an 11 channel amp that pumps out 330 watts. This Mark Levinson system was tailored specifically for the GS' natural acoustics. We didn't have time to demonstrate the awesome Dolby Digital & DTS capable DVD Video playback capabilities but we will leave that for another write up!

    As we drove through the city, I quickly noted how quiet the interior was as the suspension quickly muted the road imperfections. Even with the power one touch tinted glass moonroof opened up, there was no hint of obnoxious noise or wind boom. As we hit a few red lights, I noticed the stability and quick braking abilities of the powerful 4 wheel vented disc brakes w/ABS. Elizabeth then told me to make a right turn onto the approaching 605 Freeway going South. She instructed me to make a full stop on the beginning on the onramp. At this point, I was anxious to dive into that pedal as the freeway was wide open. I quickly flip the ECT (Electronically Controlled Transmission) switch to PWR mode as Elizabeth started the countdown to 3. She told me to find a target and reel it in. Our target, a minivan in the middle lane going about 65 mph. Easy as 1-2-3, I laid into the pedal and carefully watched the Optitron gauges climb to redline and the Speedometer exceed the posted speed limit of 65. At the end of the on ramp, I was already going at a good rate of speed as the tranny shifted into each gear undetected! The roar of the new 245 HP 3GR-FSE definitely did not disappoint as the Direct Injection Dual VVT-i was singing in full harmony. As the tachometer climbed past 5,000 RPM, the new GS effortlessly accellerated to cruising speeds. We quickly passed up the minivan target and had to slow down and exit to the 10 West going towards Los Angeles. As I decelerated for the turn, I quickly switched the gear from D into S (Sport) - Mode, I pulled back on the shifter to downshift the tranny (6-5-4) as indicated on the opitron guage readout, I downshifted the super slick 6 speed transmission into lower gears at the appropriate posted speed. As we entered the banked turn, I was quick to notice how stable the car felt through the turns with the absence of body roll the 2nd Generation GS had. I remarked to Elizabeth how athletic the car felt through the turns, almost like my 2004 IS300 that I purchased earlier from her. As we got onto the 10 Freeway, I gradually pressed the pedal and noticed the nice midrange punch the engine had from it's processor. The Peck Road exit quickly approached so did the brightly lit Longo Toyota/Scion & Lexus Facility in the background signaling our test drive coming to an end.

 

    The Peck Road off ramp happens to be a nice descending road that opens up to some short zig zags right before you enter the front entrance to the huge Longo facility. Again I was treated to the 2006 Flint Mica GS' handling characteristics of the variable assist steering and flat cornering from it's. I pull into the front entrance as the Longo Security Guard waved me in. I pulled right past a truckload of new Lexus vehicles that just came fresh from the Port of Long Beach. There happened to be a brand new 06 GS also in Flint Mica with the new 18� Tourmaline Rims waiting for it�s turn for PDI (Pre-Delivery Inspection). Elizabeth had me park the Flint Mica GS back in it�s temporary home downstairs in the underground inventory ready for the next lucky driver to experience the all new 2006 GS. I got out of the car with a grin on my face as Elizabeth asked me �What do you think?� I replied happily with �Can we take it for a spin again?� As much as I wanted to, it was already 10:30 PM and it was already getting late. Kudos to Lexus on the all new 3rd generation GS3. For a fact this new GS will be a definite hit to new customers and repeat customers alike. Unfortunately we did not get a chance to test the GS430 as the two GS430�s at Longo that night were already spoken for. It won�t be long before we do another GS review for ClubLexus. If you haven�t already seen or driven the new GS at your local Lexus dealership, hang on, it's definitely coming. The official release date of March 1st is just around the corner. It is definitely worth the wait!

Special thanks goes to Elizabeth Hyun at Longo Lexus for the hospitality and test drive of the new 2006 GS.

Want to discuss the new 3rd Generation GS? You can find discussions and photos here:
GS - Third Generation Discussion Forum

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Photos property of ClubLexus - The Lexus Owners Club All Rights Resereved.
 
 
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