Friday, 4 May 2007

Full Test Drive: Lexus GS 300

By Dr Long

With the debut of LS 400 in 1989, Lexus is one luxury brand that has come a long way, despite being a relatively young marque. After all, its parent company, Toyota Motor Corporation is the most successful company in automotive history, toppling even General Motors (GM) for the top spot in sales for 1Q 2007. More significantly, Lexus is North America’s best-selling line of luxury vehicles and has topped J.D. Power and Associates Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS) for 11 years running.

So, how does the new GS 300 measure up? Into its third generation - the first GS was introduced in 1993 - this luxury saloon looks every bit able to live up to the badge it wears.

Click on images to enlarge


Taking a leaf from Lexus’ current L-finesse design philosophy, the GS 300 has a swooping roofline running seamlessly into a very sloping rear screen. Even the A-pillar is bent with an arc, blending into the roof. The broad-shouldered flanks are muscular, plus a sweeping belt line conveys fluid dynamism. It is the frontal visage that is most imposing, what more with the chromed highlights of its grille and headlight frames. These elements contrasted very elegantly with our metallic black test car.

Interiorly, there’s little to fault. The GS 300 is loaded with technology gadgets, like the touch-screen EMV System, Smart (keyless) Entry System and upscale amenities e.g. the mind-blowing Mark Levinson 14-speaker AV system. However, this ICE-system LCD screen will not display video while car is on the move i.e. the parking brake is released. While this is thoughtful and in the interest of safety, we reckon this is well executed if this GS has one or two additional LCD screens for the rear passengers. There are none mounted behind both front headrests. It is redundant to have to watch DVDs only when car is parked.

Cabin materials were typically of high quality, and everything was put together with exacting fit and precision. It offers acres of space just about everywhere including a deep boot that can swallow up two to three golf bags. Legrooms are generous at both front and back, which is better than even say, a Mercedes-Benz E-Class, afforded from an almost class-standard 2850mm wheelbase.

Switches and stalks operate with a solid-tactile feedback that feels just right. The Optitron meters housed in triple pods were clear and very bright. However, the speedometer could do with fewer scales or fonts to lessen clutter as it is not a very generously-sized dial.
Apparently there is a light sensor at the third brake light that determines these LED electro-luminence dials brightness and even clarity of its lens cover (Electronic Chromatic Device). Strangely, it is this sensor integrated into the third brake light that make it looked unnaturally high-mounted on stilts, just above the rear speakers parcel shelf. The tail lights are surprisingly non-LED items, baffling for a model from the luxury division of the Toyota group of companies.

The leather seats are comfy, soft yet supportive and fully electric with memory, offering 10-ways adjustment for the driver and eight for the front passenger. Both are ventilated too with twin in-built blowing fans each. Cool. The front seat central sliding console which slides open two-layers in succession is very clever and well executed, even better than the E-Class.
The dual-zone climate control proved very effective in our hot climate. Even at full blast, the AC blowers were pleasantly quiet, unlike its German competitors. Hats off to the Japanese in-car cooling system!


This luxury sports sedan draws power from a 3.0L V6 engine (3GR-FE) with Dual VVT-i (variable valve timing on both intake and exhaust side). The all-aluminium powerplant is capable of 228bhp at 6,200rpm and 300Nm at 4,400rpm. Torque is transmitted to the rear wheels via a 6-speed Super ECT auto ‘box. Idling of the quad-cam V6 is so silent and vibration-free that it begs you to check the rev counter just to see that it is fired-up!

First Drive Impression

The Lexus engineers must have slapped on abundant of sound-absorbent and insulating materials while constructing the GS 300. It is ‘eerily’ silent in the cabin, with only the occasional high-pitched exhaust note of a passing ‘kap-chai’ and some road noise from the standard tyres. Then again, maybe it was so silent that we are ‘targeting’ the incessant droning noise from the rolling wheels, especially at cruising speed. With a co-efficient of drag at a low 0.27, the GS 300 slices through the atmosphere with hardly any wind noise.

Driving a bigger capacity car is always a more laid-back and relaxing experience. The GS 300 is no exception. With 300 Nm of torque available and 90% of it on tap from just 2,200rpm onwards, low speed tractability e.g. in city traffic is excellent. Should your right foot become heavier, this 1.6tonne vehicle will still sprint away at a moment’s notice. As expected, we have managed to clock 7.8seconds for the century sprint. Power delivery is just so refined, smooth and quiet throughout the rev range. Flick the gear lever to the right and you are into ‘S’ mode. This enables more spirited driving with only 4 gears, while still in automatic. Hereafter, nudging the lever backwards brings about smooth downshift of cogs, while manual up-shift is by forward motion with quick engagement into higher gears. Splendid.

Ride is mostly supple even over poor road conditions, with the suspension only caught a little too soft at higher speed over undulating surfaces. A tad more tautness and quicker incisiveness in suspension rebound-control would be better appreciated. Due to the slightly ‘softer and busier’ rebound damping tendencies, the car was a wee bit unsettled (vertically) at highway speed. Elsewhere, body roll and forward/rearward pitching movements were well tamed by the dampers.

On winding roads, grip and tracking stability were confidence inspiring. Be courteous with the throttle and smooth with the rack input, the GS tackles most bends faithfully. Should you be a little too ambitious and lose it into an apex, Lexus’ VSC (Vehicle Stability Control) will rein you back to safety. Having said that, the Electric Power Steering (EPS) still felt a little numb and light for keen drivers, even though it does weigh up considerably at highway cruise. Maybe a set of wider or uprated tyres would liven things up a notch or two.

Having noticed that all brake rotors are ventilated and of decent sizes (17” front and 16” rear), this is where this Japanese luxury marque upped the Teutonic stalwarts at their game. These ABS+EBD+BA items are very biting, fade-free and great to modulate even at high speed.


In the company of the Mercedes-Benz E280, BMW 530i and Audi A6 3.0 FSI, the GS 300 is never caught wanting in specifications, features and performance. The exterior styling while sporty gets a thumb-up for classy presence too. It is spacious, comfortable and drives well. Add in an outstanding reliability record plus impeccable sales and after-sales service standards and it's no surprise all three generations of the GS 300 proved popular with motoring community the world over. For those looking for something different and perhaps just a little less flashy, the Lexus GS 300 is a real probable choice.

Lexus GS 300

Engine: 2,995cc V6, 24-valve, Dual VVT-i
Max power: 228bhp @ 6,200rpm
Max torque: 300Nm @ 4,400rpm
Transmission: 6-Speed Super ECT with AI-Shift
Acceleration: 0 - 100km/h: 7.8secs (as tested)
Top speed: 235 km/h (claimed)
Features: ABS, EBD, BA, VSC, TRC, EPS, HID Headlamps with Adaptive Front Lighting (active cornering light), 10 SRS Airbags, LED cabin/wing mirror illumination, Dual Front Ventilated Seats, Smart Key Access.
Price: RM403,000 OTR w/o insurance

What we like: Built quality, fit and finish. NVH refinements. AV system. Smooth, silent and powerful V6.
What we wish for: More tautness and control in suspension rebound damping. LED brake lights. Lesser road noise.
Verdict: Watch out Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

*The report was published in New Sunday Times - Car.Bikes.Trucks (CBT) on 6th April 2007.

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