Full 2011 Lexus GS 350 Review
What's New for 2011
The 2011 Lexus GS 350 carries over mostly unchanged from the previous year.
On its own merits, the 2011 Lexus GS 350 is a fine choice as a luxury sport sedan. It delivers performance, prestige, comfort and plenty of upscale features to please some of the most discerning of shoppers. Pit the GS 350 against some of the competitors from Europe, however, and its appeal fades, as those sedans seem to do most things just a little bit better.
The GS 350's drawbacks, as minor as they are, include a bit less headroom and a less responsive suspension. For average-sized drivers with little desire for athletic handling, these faults are easily forgiven, since the Lexus excels in nearly every other category. The quiet and calm cabin delivers segment-leading comfort while enveloping occupants in top-notch materials and expert craftsmanship.
The 3.5-liter V6 produces an ample 303 horsepower to give the GS 350 relatively swift acceleration, which should satisfy the vast majority of luxury sedan buyers. There is also a V8-powered GS 460 for more power-hungry drivers and a slightly more fuel-efficient GS 460h hybrid (both of which are covered in separate reviews). Regardless of which GS model you might be interested in, you can expect an abundance of standard features and state-of-the-art safety systems.
Among the 2011 Lexus GS 350's competitors, the most appealing ones come from Germany. The 2011 BMW 5 Series offers more cabin space and higher performance. The 2011 Mercedes-Benz E-Class is hard to beat in terms of style and prestige, while the 2011 Audi A6 presents a well-rounded and understated alternative. Luxury sedans hailing from Asia are also worth a look, with the 2011 Hyundai Genesis representing a relative bargain, as does the 2011 Infiniti M37 with an added dash of performance. Even though the 2011 Lexus GS 350 might not be a front-runner in this segment, its reputation for reliability and quality should not be overlooked.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 Lexus GS 350 is a midsize luxury sport sedan offered in a single, well-appointed trim level. The related GS 460 is reviewed separately.
Standard equipment includes 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic xenon headlights, foglights, a sunroof, power trunk closer, auto-dimming mirrors, keyless ignition/entry, leather upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, 10-way power front seats with driver memory and lumbar adjustment, Safety Connect emergency telematics, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, and a 10-speaker stereo with six-CD changer, satellite radio and USB/iPod interface.
The Luxury Value Edition package adds a 14-speaker Mark Levinson surround-sound audio system, a hard-drive navigation system, real-time traffic and weather, a rearview camera, voice controls, Bluetooth phonebook downloading and enhanced telematics features.
Other options include an adaptive suspension, 18-inch wheels with summer tires, adaptive cruise control (includes a pre-collision system), adaptive headlights, automatic wipers, heated and ventilated front seats, a power rear sunshade and a wood-trimmed steering wheel. Note that the availability of optional feature for the GS depends on the region where you're shopping.
Powertrains and Performance
Powering the 2011 Lexus GS 350 is a 3.5-liter V6 engine that produces 303 hp and 274 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic with manual shift mode is the only available transmission, but buyers can choose between rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive.
In Edmunds testing, a rear-drive GS 350 accelerated from zero to 60 mph in a brisk 5.7 seconds. The EPA estimates fuel economy at 19 mpg city/26 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined, while the all-wheel-drive version rates a bit less at 18/25/20.
Standard safety features on the 2011 Lexus GS 350 include antilock brakes with brake assist, traction control, stability control, front and rear side-impact airbags, front knee airbags, side curtain airbags and active front head restraints. Safety Connect, a traditional telematics service with automatic collision notification, stolen vehicle locator and emergency assistance button is also standard. Adding the optional adaptive cruise control includes a pre-collision system that detects impending collisions and responds by pre-tensioning the seatbelts and activating brake assist.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the GS 350 its highest rating of "Good" for both frontal-offset and side-impact collisions. In Edmunds brake testing, a GS 350 with 18-inch wheels and all-season tires came to a stop from 60 mph in an excellent 114 feet.
Interior Design and Special Features
Upholding Lexus' reputation for finely crafted interiors, the 2011 GS 350's cabin surrounds occupants with supple leather and rich wood and aluminum trim. Average-size adults will fit comfortably, but taller passengers may desire a bit more headroom -- at least compared to other sedans in this class. This is especially true for those relegated to the center rear seat, which is slightly elevated compared to the outboard seats.
Our gripes are minor and include less-than-intuitive audio controls and a distracting glare from the highly polished wood trim. The GS reclaims some points for its optional high-resolution touchscreen and easy-to-operate navigation system.
The 2011 Lexus GS 350 delivers sufficient V6 power to please the majority of drivers as well as a comfortably smooth ride and respectable handling. Those expecting the type of athleticism found in other sport sedans may be disappointed with the Lexus' more leisurely reactions when cornering. The brakes can be a bit touchy at first, but they offer a solid feel and competitive performance. The AWD option should be of interest to buyers in areas with inclement weather, while the V8-powered GS 460 should satisfy drivers with a larger appetite for power.