What's New for 1997
No changes during final year before a redesign.
Some readers may think we're goofy, but when the GS300 first appeared we kept confusing it with the Ford Mustang when one of them approached us on the road. Understandable perhaps, since the Mustang was released at about the same time. We don't know if this similarity in front styling is a good or a bad thing. It could be good that the Lexus sport sedan resembles the quintessential American sport coupe, lending the GS a decidedly rakish look. It could be bad if status-seeking buyers interested in a premium sport sedan find that the car looks like a brash boy-racer hot rod. Whatever the verdict, we were quite embarassed when discovering that the approaching Mustang GT was in fact the Lexus, but the way cars are styled these days, it's often difficult to tell what brand, let alone what model, a vehicle is from a distance of ten feet or more.
From the side, this Lexus is easily identifiable. The unique roofline gives it away instantly. The GS300 is a very attractive car, aside from an odd taillight design and rather hefty-looking rear quarters. Inside, the GS is pure Lexus, with electro-luminescent gauges, near perfect control placement, and luxury touches everywhere you look.
The GS300 is powered by a 220-horsepower 3.0-liter inline six cylinder, which provides slightly sluggish acceleration for a sport-minded sedan. A trick five-speed automatic transmission was added last year, dramatically improving accelerative ability, but still landing it mid-pack for the class.
Slotted between the ES300 and the LS400, the GS doesn't come cheap. It is a solid, competent car, but lacks a distinct personality. Sometimes the relentless pursuit of perfection can lead to some rather dull consequences, and at $45,000, the GS makes a good argument for buying a BMW 528i.