Full 2008 Lexus GS 350 Review
What's New for 2008
Like other GS models, the 2008 Lexus GS 350 receives minor exterior styling updates, turn signals integrated in the side mirrors, interior trim refinements and restyled gauges.
The original Lexus GS was aimed squarely at the luxury sport sedans from Germany, with the goal of fielding a legitimate contender in the premium midsize sedan class. While the six-cylinder version was a stylish and well-crafted alternative for many years, its luxury bias and underpowered engine didn't pose much of a threat to more enthusiastic rivals. Until recently, that is.
After receiving a nearly 60-horsepower boost last year, the more competitive 2008 Lexus GS 350 boasts more than 300 hp and is now able to keep up with its rivals in the fast lane. High-speed slaloms are still another matter, however, as the GS 350 remains a luxury sedan to the core and still lacks true sport sedan reflexes. Think of it as an exceptional, beautifully finished highway cruiser that now offers straight-line speed and elegance in equal measure. This year, the GS 350 remains mostly unchanged. Outside there's a new grille, restyled front fascia, sideview mirror turn signals and updated wheels. Inside the GS sports revised gauges, handsome new aluminum center stack trim and other minor updates.
As good as the Lexus GS 350 is, the competition in the midsize luxury segment is fierce and getting stronger every year. For true sport sedan aficionados, there's BMW's updated and more powerful 5 Series. More evenly sharing both luxury and performance attributes are the Audi A6, Acura RL, Mercedes-Benz E-Class and an updated version of the very impressive Infiniti M35. Even Cadillac is in the thick of it on the domestic side with a competent and equally powerful direct-injected STS V6. In this class it's mostly a matter of personal preference, and in our opinion the 2008 Lexus GS 350 remains an excellent choice that you certainly won't regret.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
In true Lexus fashion, the 2008 GS 350 midsize luxury sedan is outfitted in a single fully equipped trim level but does offer a choice of rear- or all-wheel-drive variants. It comes equipped with a long list of standard amenities that include 17-inch alloy wheels, xenon headlights, a sunroof, leather seating, automatic dual-zone climate control, 10-way power front seats and a 10-speaker premium audio system with six-CD changer, auxiliary audio jack and a cassette player. Factory options include rear park assist, adaptive headlights, rain-sensing wipers, ventilated front seats, 18-inch wheels with summer tires, adaptive variable suspension dampers, and a phenomenal 14-speaker Mark Levinson DVD-audio sound system with navigation and a rear back-up camera.
Powertrains and Performance
Pop the GS 350's hood and you'll find a 3.5-liter V6 engine producing 303 hp and 274 pound-feet of torque. Its power is controlled by a six-speed automatic transmission with a manual shift mode. Both rear-wheel- and all-wheel-drive GS 350 models are offered. The GS 350 is both quick and relatively efficient, with 0-60-mph times under 6 seconds and an EPA-estimated mileage rating of 19 mpg city and 27 mpg highway for rear-drive vehicles.
Standard safety equipment includes antilock brakes with brake assist, stability control, traction control, front seat-mounted side airbags, driver and front passenger knee airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. Safety options on the 2008 Lexus GS 350 include adaptive front lighting, run-flat tires and Lexus' Pre-Collision System with adaptive cruise control. This technology uses a radar sensor to detect objects in front of the car, plus a computer that tracks vehicle speed, yaw rate and steering angle. If the computer determines that a collision is imminent, it immediately activates the seatbelt pre-tensioners and engages brake assist when the brake pedal is depressed. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash testing, the Lexus GS received a top-ranked "Good" rating for both frontal-offset and side-impact collisions.
Interior Design and Special Features
In keeping with Lexus tradition, the GS 350 sports a luxurious and well-crafted cabin. Though spacious enough for five passengers, it accommodates four more comfortably as the elevated rear center cushion makes for a tighter fit in the middle position. Taller occupants may also find themselves a little too close to the roof. Genuine wood and aluminum trim complements the rich leather seating surfaces, and it's all put together with flawless fit and finish. The optional navigation system features high-resolution touchscreen graphics that makes it easy to operate at a glance; however, the integrated audio system can be frustrating to use at times. Also, the highly polished wood can reflect glare annoyingly at times, and the control-oriented drop-down dash panel to the left of the steering wheel can get in the way of the driver's exit if left open.
The 2008 Lexus GS 350 offers a satisfying driving experience owing to its ample power, silky-smooth ride and commendable handling. The V6 engine is well suited for both daily commutes and spirited driving, and the cabin remains calm and quiet at all times. While we wouldn't elevate the GS 350 to true sport sedan status, its rigid chassis and double-wishbone suspension combine to provide confidence-inspiring stability and responsiveness when cornering. One minor weakness involves the brakes, which some drivers find non-progressive and a bit touchy at first. This unusual pedal feel is quickly taken in stride, however, and the braking system otherwise stops the GS 350 quickly. The all-wheel-drive model is an obvious and excellent choice for those who require maximum traction in winter driving conditions.