Thursday, 18 January 2007

Lexus GS300: An Uncle's Review.

Last week, I had the opportunity to test drive the Lexus GS300, courtesy of Tariq of Lexus Malaysia.

Before I continue to relate my experience of driving this mid-size luxury sedan, I must clarify a few principles I believe in when writing my personal comments on a car.
Firstly, I will answer the question: "Is this a good car to drive?"
Comments will include engine performance, comfort, handling and confidence in driving fast.
Then I will try to answer the most important question: "Is this a good car to own?"

Nobody can answer this question reliably unless he is the owner of the car for more than a year. Any cursory drive in a test car will unlikely give you complete answers.
Somewhat like when you were dating your girlfriend, you thought of her as the most special girl in the world...that is until you marry her...then all the weaknesses and temperaments starts to show.
It is the same for a car, a short test drive and you come home ready to sign the cheque for its down payment. After you have had the opportunity to drive for a year or more then the truth is revealed.

OK! Let’s start with the question "Is the GS300 a good drive?"

In isolation, the answer is yes. The V6 is creamy smooth. Build quality is excellent.
Handling and ride comfort were decent. Acceleration is ‘moving’ enough.
However, there are some serious irritations that needs ironing out - to me at least .
Why in the world did Lexus Malaysia’s GS300 come with ‘skimpy’ 225/50 R17 tyres?
Mind you, this is a powerful car with 300Nm of torque.
Because of these rather thin tyres, traction on corners was just not up to mark compared with the competition. Furthermore, I just did not have the confidence to drive fast as I was afraid I would have compromised stopping power… and that’s not that the brakes were poor.

Worst still, road noise or tyre rumble was quite annoying and intrusive. This seemed to be the same problem I had on my last Harrier 2.4. Yes, you could blame it on the tyres but when you spend $400k on a car, it would be crazy to have to change tyres immediately after you take it brand new from the showroom.

I am a keen user of tiptronic - manual shift or whatever you call it. In a Mercedes-Benz or BMW, when you are in 'tiptronic' mode and you hit 6,000rpm, the computer will automatically upshift for you. In the Lexus you have to swap it yourself....there is no buzzer or light telling you that you are going to hit 6000rpm soon. You know you have to upshift when you find the engine jerking due to engine power cut off. This is very dangerous as I found out unnervingly when I was trying to do a high speed lane change. I had suddenly lost power during this maneuver!

Lastly I had my close friend of 20 years, Max, sitting at the rear…monitoring ride comfort during my drive. He commented that he felt ruffled and a little nauseated …likely caused by a little too much lurching and choppy movement from the rear suspension. This he did not feel in the Brabus CLS B7 or even my Brabus K4 (even during highly-engaging drives).

So is this a good car to own?
Lexus is still too ‘young’ in Malaysia’s market for me to make any valid comments. Factors like reliability, ease of service, costs of service, resale value, fuel consumption, and the snob factor are yet to be determined.

In summary, Lexus has to work harder in order to compete with the Germans.

Written by: Peter Lee aka Uncle.
18th Jan 2007

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