Sibling Rivalry: On the Track With the 2013 GS350 and GS350 F Sport

lexus-gs-350-1.jpg The good people at Lexus recently invited me out to Las Vegas Motor Speedway to test the new 2013 Lexus GS350 in Luxury and F Sport trim. Both flavors showed that Lexus continues to raise the bar in terms of affordable luxury.

But track time reveals that the new GS350 is much more than just another luxury car--and offers performance qualities which beat out some European competitors. Lexus had two drive courses set up for us around the LVMS grounds, including a timed autocross course featuring the 2013 GS350, and a high-speed road course with the 2013 GS350 F Sport. There was also a "luxury drive" which gave us some real-world drive time around the Las Vegas area.

lexus-gs-350-2.jpgAs you might expect, the luxury drive was the least thrilling, but this real-world cruise gave us a chance to experience the creature comforts of these new luxury sedans. We were driving the cars around Vegas on a very windy day, but the interior of the GS350 lineup is so tight and quiet, that it was hard to tell. Even at higher speeds, there was very little wind or road noise. And while the driver is provided with a good feel of the road, the imperfections of the Vegas roadways were barely noticeable through the steering or suspension. The ride quality was exactly what you'd expect from a new Lexus, and the interior amenities rank among the best in the world. But this is what you expect from high-end luxury sedan.

What many people may not expect from a luxury sedan, and which you definitely get from either flavor of the GS350, is that they pack acceleration and handling properties more like a modern sports car. To illustrate this, Lexus set up a short autocross course with a timing system. Our featured test vehicle? The 2013 Lexus GS350 Luxury with all-wheel drive.

lexus-gs-350-3.jpgAlong with a portion of the track which featured a series of very tight turns, there were several areas which allowed us to reach speeds of over 60 miles per hour. These section were immediately followed by very tight turns--and the GS350 performed beautifully.  I selected the Sport Plus mode on the adaptive suspension, and kept the console shifter in manual mode, using the paddle shifters to change gears as I ripped through the course. The roomy sedan accelerated hard out of the corners, and the new braking system wrenched the car to a stop in some of the tighter spots.

After pushing the 2013 Lexus GS350 Luxury model through the autocross course, we headed to the high speed road course for some seat time in the new GS350 F Sport model, featuring rear wheel steering. This road course began with a fairly tight slalom followed by a collection of longer, sweeping turns that allowed us to get well over the century mark before hitting the next long turn. Through the slalom, the F Sport moved very nimbly, and once you hit the higher speed portion of the track, the premium sport package really showed off. The rear wheel steering made a huge difference, allowing the GS350 F to rocket out of the higher speed corners with almost no slide or wheel spin. With each lap, I found the car could be pushed a little harder--and each time it exceeded my expectations. At no point did the GS350 F Sport "feel" like a big sedan, but more like a sports car with room for four adults and a child.

story: Patrick Rall
photos: Greg Porter