2012 Lexus GS350 – Prototype Drive

The GS is Lexus’s answer to the BMW 5-series and Mercedes-Benz E-class, but it has never quite measured up to those two sedans in sales numbers. As the car enters its fourth generation, Lexus tells us the GS will be sportier and more focused on the driving experience.

That goes for the company, too. Content with more than 20 years of pursuing perfection, it will use the upcoming GS to lead a philosophical change, an outlook it describes as “joy and leading edge.” We’re told that means the brand is moving beyond the Spock-like purely rational and toward emotional connections with buyers. Driver enjoyment and engagement are vital to the new attitude. Aggression is in. Complete isolation is out. We’ve seen inklings of the shift in such cars as the IS-Fand the LFA supercar, but the new GS is a volume product, not a limited-edition model. To give us a taste of its new way of thinking, Lexus invited us to drive two heavily camouflaged GS350 prototypes.

I Believe We’ve Met

Powering both prototypes is a warmed-over version of the GS350’s current 3.5-liter V-6. Lexus staffers wouldn’t get too specific about the changes to the engine, but they hinted at the possibility of a few more horsepower. We’ve never straight-line-tested a GS350, but we have no reason to doubt Lexus’s 0-to-60-mph estimate of 5.7 seconds. For those seeking more acceleration—as well as for fuel-conscious buyers—the GS hybrid will return. Running contrary to Lexus’s claims about newfound sportiness, the V-8–powered GS460 is dead.

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