2013 Lexus GS 350 F Sport: The Anti Grocery Cart
September 4, 2012
I?ve done my time with plenty of rear-wheel steering systems.
Most of them worked in a way that made you think of a grocery cart swapping ends at the end of an aisle as you make the hairpin and go up the next alley.
As the 1970s began, the Datsun Z-car's independent rear suspension gave you a little extra liveliness as the toe and camber changed when the wheels stroked through their travel, a kind of passive four-wheel steering in a way. It seeemd all right at the time, but as the 1970s concluded, the effect no longer seemed so charming. While testing the last 280ZX Turbo in a slalom at Riverside International Raceway, I arrived at the last gate under perfect control and got a nice round of applause from onlookers. Sadly, this was because the car was perfectly backwards.
As the 1980s began, active four-wheel steering became fashionable for a brief period. Oddly enough, Nissan led the way with HICAS, a hydraulic (later electric) active system developed from a Nissan R&D research vehicle. It proved fairly brilliant on the street in the Nissan 300ZX Turbo Z32 and the Nissan 240SX S13, but there was lots of moaning and groaning about its behavior at track speeds from the usual know-it-alls, so it didn?t last long in production.
Instead, four-wheel steering became a kind of gimmick as the 1980s ended. The Honda Prelude's low-speed system made parking easier, but that seemed to be about it. In the end, no one wanted four-wheel steering -- not from Honda, not from Mazda, and not from Nissan. Not from anybody, really.
So it's kind of a miracle that the first time I drove the Lexus GS 350 F Sport over a high-speed demonstration course set up on the old runways at El Toro, I was totally impressed by the effect of its four-wheel steering.
This Lexus system not only quickens the car's response as it turns into a corner but also seems to improve the way the car grips the pavement as it leaves a corner. I drove the F Sport back to back with a BMW 5 Series and a Mercedes E-Class on the a wide-open, high-speed course on the old runways at El Toro, and the European cars felt like donkey carts compared to the Lexus.
We'll be talking about this system more as time goes on. Maybe four-wheel steering is an overnight success at last.
Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, Edmunds.com @ 1,330 miles