Used 2003 Lexus GS 300 Review

Edmunds expert review

A capable and comfortable car. The IS 300 is sportier, however, and the ES 300 is nearly as luxurious for considerably less money.

What's new for 2003

The only changes of note for the GS 300 this year are a now standard moonroof, an in-dash CD changer and wider tires (going from a 215mm tread to a 225mm tread).

Vehicle overview

Introduction: When the GS was first introduced in 1993, it was intended as a splash of scarlet in Lexus' inoffensive sedan lineup, as well as being Japan's answer to German sport sedans. It was an attractive car with an inviting interior. But as a sport sedan, the GS faltered, largely because of its size and underpowered 3.0-liter engine. Article after article in enthusiast magazines would call it a comfortable, competent handler that was seriously lacking a vibrant powertrain.

Not content to take much flak over the competitiveness of its products, Lexus redid the car in 1998 with more dramatic styling and an available V8 engine. This V8 made the GS 400 one of the most powerful four-door sedans available. Since then, the GS has received minor tweaks and upgrades.

With the GS, Lexus hopes to attract buyers wanting a blend of both sport and luxury. The GS 300, in particular, is meant to appeal to semi-cost-conscious buyers. While we have no problem recommending the GS 300, we will point out that the car's advantages have been largely negated by the arrival of the IS 300 and the new-for-2002 ES 300. The IS 300 is sportier, features the same engine and can be had with a manual transmission. The ES 300 offers nearly the same level of interior room and luxury for a cheaper price. It would be in your best interest to check out these two cars before settling on the GS 300. Body Styles, Trim Levels and Options: This midsize four-door luxury sedan features a distinctive quad-headlight design and short front and rear overhangs to give the car a sporty look. Some people might not care for the hindquarters with creative rear taillights, but at least they keep this car from blending in with the rest of today's high-line sport sedans.

Luxury touches include a standard dual-zone climate control, a power tilting and telescoping steering wheel, 10-way power front seats, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a moonroof and an in-dash CD changer. Cloth seating is standard, however, so you'll have to pay extra for leather. It's available as a stand-alone option, but quite likely you'll find it packaged into cars with the optional navigation and Mark Levinson premium sound systems. The impressive-sounding 240-watt ML system includes 10 speakers and a six-disc in-dash CD changer.

Powertrains and Performance: The GS 300 uses a 3.0-liter inline six that develops 220 horsepower at 5,800 rpm and 220 pound-feet of torque at 3,800 rpm. Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (VVT-i) helps to produce additional power and provide optimal fuel efficiency. A five-speed automatic is the only transmission available. To take advantage of the transmission's five forward gears, the GS 300 features manual upshift and downshift buttons on the steering wheel spokes, controlled by the thumb and forefinger of either hand. Safety: Front passengers are protected by front airbags, seat-mounted side airbags and seatbelt pre-tensioners. All seating positions (except the driver's) have ALR/ELR three-point seatbelts. Other safety features include antilock brakes with brake assist, traction control and Vehicle Skid Control (VSC). The NHTSA has not tested the GS, though the IIHS has given the car a "good" rating for its performance in the frontal-offset crash test. Interior Design and Special Features: A roomy cabin provides the driver and front passenger with space to stretch out. An impressive 44 inches of legroom and 58 inches of shoulder room accommodate the long-limbed and broad-shouldered in the front seats. Rear-seat passengers don't fare as well, however, and get less room than what is offered in the ES 300. Driving Impressions: The GS 300 sparkles on the open road. Its silent cabin, expurgated of any noise, harshness or vibration, is a portrait of tranquility. During modest cornering, the chassis is quite solid and the multilink suspension keeps the tires pressed tight to the ground at all times. A noticeable amount of body roll limits high-speed antics, but this year's wider tires help to improve overall grip. The 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine is quite smooth. But with a curb weight of more than 3,600 pounds, the GS 300 offers only mediocre acceleration. If you're looking for speed, the GS 430 is the smarter choice.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.