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A totally redesigned GS 400 appears for 1998. Featuring a V8 with continuously variable valve timing, the new car lives up to the promise of providing serious fun in an elegant package.
Last year's GS 400 was an attractive car with an inviting interior. It was, however, supposed to be Lexus's sport sedan, a mission it couldn't fulfill when saddled with its rather large size and underpowered engine. Article after article in enthusiast rags would call it a comfortable, competent handler that was seriously lacking a real motor.
Lexus is not content to take much flak over the competitiveness of their products. This became obvious last year when they redesigned their ES 300 to best in class levels after a few years of hearing it called a glorified Camry. It was no surprise, then, when we heard that Lexus was planning a dramatic improvement for their midlevel sport sedans.
What did surprise us was the level of improvement that the new car has received. While retaining the same basic outline as its predecessor, the new GS 400 is considerably more attractive. A beautiful quad headlight front end sweeps back into the hood and fenders in much the same manner as Mercedes' E-Class cars. Short front and rear overhangs give the GS a very sporty look, and the tidy hindquarters convey an impression of agility.
The appearance of the car is supported by improvements to the drivetrain. This year sees the first application of V8 technology to Lexus's sport sedan. Dubbed the GS 400, the V8 powered car is motivated by an aluminum four-cam engine with continuously variable valve timing, the first application of such technology on a V8 engine. Hooked to this 300-horsepower engine is a five-speed automanual transmission that lets drivers choose their own gears when the road gets twisty, but which can be operated in fully automatic mode during everyday driving. The GS comes standard with antilock brakes, all-speed traction control and Vehicle Skid Control (VSC) as standard equipment. Vehicle Skid Control is designed to measure the degree of steering wheel angle and compare it to the car's direction. If it detects a serious difference, it will employ one or more of the car's antilock brakes to put the car back on the driver's intended course.
The best thing about the GS 400 is its high level of refinement and reasonable price. Compared to the BMW 5 Series, Mercedes-Benz E-Class and Cadillac Seville, the Lexus GS 400 is an absolute bargains.
Laura's old car was costing her a small fortune every month for gas and repairs. She didn't even want to drive her kids to the park any more. But buying a new Kia Soul changed all that.