Full 2014 Lexus GS 350 Review
What's New for 2014
On the 2014 Lexus GS 350, rear-wheel-drive sedans get an eight-speed automatic transmission with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters. Other additions this year include a full-color readout for the optional head-up display, rear cross-traffic alerts for the optional blind-spot monitoring system and an optional power trunk opener. The debut of Siri Eyes Free provides enhanced voice control functionality for Apple users, while the night vision system has been discontinued.
Lexus cars run the scale of luxury attributes -- refined, composed, serene -- but few have ever been called athletic. The 2014 Lexus GS 350 reshapes that perception. With sharp handling and steering, the latest GS is every bit as capable as rival German-brand luxury sport sedans on a winding road.
Wait, what? A fun-to-drive Lexus GS? Yep. Of course, this wasn't always the case for the GS, but a full redesign last year ushered in a variety of mechanical changes that make this car feel lighter and more nimble when you're driving at a brisk clip. There's even an optional F Sport package that kicks up the car's performance another notch.
During our 12-month Lexus GS 350 long-term test, we observed that its athletic handling abilities don't come at the expense of traditional Lexus strengths. The GS is still easy to drive and maintains the brand's reputation for high-quality materials and excellent build quality. The interior is one of the classiest you'll find, and the backseat is sufficiently roomy for a pair of adults. Of course, a comprehensive set of standard and optional features awaits you as well.
The 2014 Lexus GS 350 is better equipped than ever to run with the likes of the Audi A6, BMW 5 Series, Cadillac CTS, Jaguar XF and Mercedes-Benz E-Class. Each of these cars has its own particular set of strengths, but even in this illustrious group of luxury sport sedans, the GS 350 remains worthy of serious consideration.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2014 Lexus GS 350 is a midsize luxury sport sedan offered in a single, well-appointed trim level. The related GS 450h hybrid is reviewed separately.
Standard equipment includes 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic xenon headlights, a sunroof, auto-dimming mirrors, keyless ignition/entry, leather upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and eight-way power front seats with power lumbar adjustment and driver memory settings. Standard electronics features include Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, Siri Eyes Free voice command integration (for iPhone users), an 8-inch display, a rearview camera, the Lexus Remote Touch interface and a 12-speaker surround-sound audio system with a CD player, satellite radio, HD radio and a USB/iPod interface.
From here, you can add the Premium package with heated and ventilated front seats, rain-sensing wipers and a power rear sunshade. On top of this the Luxury package adds adaptive headlights, LED foglamps, adaptive suspension dampers, upgraded leather and trim, a 14-way power driver seat (with four-way lumbar), passenger memory settings, rear climate and audio controls and manual rear side window sunshades. A Cold Weather package includes a heated steering wheel, a heavy-duty heater, headlight washers and a wiper de-icer. A bundled version of this package with the Luxury package also includes heated rear seats.
The F Sport package offers the most performance bite, adding 19-inch wheels with summer tires, special steering and suspension tuning, larger front brakes, a rear spoiler, a 12-way power sport driver seat and unique interior and exterior styling treatments.
An optional navigation system includes a 12.3-inch display, voice recognition and Lexus Enform smartphone-connected apps and services. There's also a premium Mark Levinson 17-speaker surround-sound audio system. Other options include 18-inch wheels, blind-spot detection with rear-cross traffic alert, a head-up display, front and rear parking sensors, lane departure warning and lane keeping assist, dynamic rear steering and adaptive cruise control (with a collision mitigation system).
Powertrains and Performance
The 2014 Lexus GS 350 is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 engine making 306 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque. Rear-wheel-drive models are only available with an eight-speed automatic transmission that's new this year. All-wheel-drive models carry over a six-speed automatic.
In prior Edmunds testing, a rear-drive GS 350 with the old six-speed automatic accelerated from zero to 60 mph in a respectable 5.8 seconds. We've yet to test this year's car with the eight-speed auto, but it's likely to be a tenth of a second or two quicker.
The EPA estimates fuel economy at 23 mpg combined (19 city/29 highway), while the all-wheel-drive version rates a bit less at 21 mpg combined (19 city/26 highway).
Standard safety features on the 2014 Lexus GS 350 include antilock brakes, traction and 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. A rearview camera is standard, while front and rear parking sensors are optional.
Adding the optional adaptive cruise control includes a pre-collision system that detects impending collisions and responds by tensioning the seatbelts and activating brake assist.
In Edmunds brake testing, a GS 350 with the F Sport package stopped from 60 mph in a short 112 feet.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the GS 350 the best possible rating of "Good" in the moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side impact and roof strength tests. Its seat and head restraint design was also rated "Good" for whiplash protection in rear impacts.
Interior Design and Special Features
In Lexus tradition, the GS 350 features a finely crafted interior marked by soft leather, deft stitching and rich wood and aluminum trim. As befits this caliber of luxury sport sedan, the firm front seats cradle and cosset in equal measure, limited only by the degree of power adjustments you choose.
The GS 350's Remote Touch multimedia controller, a small mouselike device adjacent to the gear selector, is more problematic. It makes sense conceptually, but cursor control with the Remote Touch controller is wobbly and imprecise, and making audio or navigation selections is even harder when you're on the move. Further complicating the process is the lack of a physical "back" button and the fact that all the icons are the same color. That said, we do like the impressively large 12-inch display that comes with the optional navigation system as well as the optional Mark Levinson audio system, which sounds fantastic.
Lexus opened up more headroom and rear passenger space when it redesigned the GS 350 last year, making it more competitive with established competitors. The seating position for the driver is ideal, particularly with the upgraded seats. In back, two average-sized adults should be pretty comfortable, though the BMW 5 Series is roomier still. The GS's trunk provides 14.3 cubic feet for golf clubs and luggage, which is an average figure for this class. The rear seats don't fold down.
We've yet to drive the 2014 Lexus GS 350 with the new eight-speed automatic, but that transmission should be a welcome addition. The GS 350 is one of the few cars in this segment that still has a naturally aspirated V6 engine and, in contrast to competitors with turbocharged or supercharged engines, you need to rev fairly high to get the most out of it. The all-wheel-drive model's six-speed auto is somewhat of a liability in this regard, but the eight-speed auto's extra gears should allow drivers of the rear-drive GS to access the V6's power with minimal effort.
Otherwise, we're very fond of the way the GS 350 drives. Around turns, the GS feels alert, planted to the road and ready to change direction on a whim -- characteristics that are amplified when the car is equipped with the F Sport package and options like variable-ratio steering and rear-wheel steering. The GS is also well suited as a long-distance companion thanks to its compliant ride quality and low levels of wind and road noise. That said, GS 350 sedans with the F Sport package ride more firmly, and the summer-rated tires are a bit more audible.