2013 Lexus GS 350 Long-Term Road Test - Audio & Technology

2013 Lexus GS 350 Long-Term Road Test

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2013 Lexus GS 350: Analog Elegance?

July 18, 2013

2013 Lexus GS 350

Is it just me or is an analog clock out of place in an interior as modern and functional as the GS 350's? After all, there's a 12.3-inch display screen just above it. Such a strange mix of old and new.

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2013 Lexus GS 350: More On Adaptive Cruise Control

May 9, 2013

2013 Lexus GS 350

Our 2013 Lexus GS 350 is equipped with adaptive cruise control (as part of the optional Pre Collision system), which can adjust the vehicle's cruising speed based on vehicles ahead. If you're looking to buy a GS and are wondering about whether to get adaptive cruise control, I have a few observations.

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2013 Lexus GS 350: Bonus Sounds

April 4, 2013

2013 Lexus GS 350

HD radio sounds great in theory, but all I've noticed in most of our HD-equipped cars is how the signal wafts in and out of the broadcast. One second the signal is rich, full and enveloping, the next it compresses into a thin, almost single point-source sound. The Lexus GS 350's system works better than most, though. Perhaps it has a better buffer that holds the HD signal longer, as I don't notice it wavering near as much as other units (looking at you, BRZ).

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2013 Lexus GS350: Busy

March 19, 2013

2013 Lexus GS350

That's a busy screen, all 12 inches wide of it. It looks slightly worse because I've also got the music info sidebar displayed with the main information window. If the climate or settings screens were displayed in the sidebar, it might not look as dense. Still, it's easy to get lost in here. The Lexus mouse Remote Touch thing doesn't help matters. It's only marginally less distracting than a touchscreen, and not as good as a dial-and-button array.

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2013 Lexus GS 350: Van Horn, Texas To Home

March 5, 2013

2013 Lexus GS 350

This road trip has been great, and the 2013 Lexus GS 350 was a good choice, but I'm ready to be home.

So I'm getting up at sunrise and hammering out the remaining 909 miles in one go. I'll get there after dark, sure, but tomorrow night I want to sleep in my own bed.

But I'm still in Texas. I need to finish up here, and then tackle New Mexico, Arizona and California before I get back within whiffing distance of the Pacific Ocean in Orange County.

I have two things going for me. Two things that will get me home by my usual bedtime. I'll gain two hours as I cross from Central to Mountain to Pacific time during the day, and only the last couple hundred miles in California will be posted below 75 mph.

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2013 Lexus GS 350: Circuit of the Americas to Van Horn, Texas

February 28, 2013

2013 Lexus GS 350

No, I was not allowed to drive our 2013 Lexus GS 350 F Sport around the Circuit of the Americas racetrack outside Austin, Texas. Nevertheless, the COTA track is a big reason why I came here.

The Jeep brass chose Austin, Texas as the base of operations for the launch of the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee, and for two solid reasons. The nearby Inks Ranch has some Moab-like rocks that make for decent off-roading, and the new Circuit of the Americas racetrack has more than enough asphalt and challenging corners for the 470-horsepower SRT version.

Even though the Lexus GS 350 was forced to sit on the sidelines throughout, I was allowed to hammer around America's newest Formula One circuit in the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT with nary a speed limit or lead-follow pace car.

The lapping ended just before noon. After a nice chat with longtime friend Lon Bromley, the Director of Safety at the track, I eventually rolled out through the gate and pointed the Lexus west toward home at noon-thirty.

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2013 Lexus GS 350: Rolling Into Austin, Texas

February 27, 2013

2013 Lexus GS 350

How unusual. I stand a very good chance of wheeling our 2103 Lexus GS 350 into the driveway of the Four Seasons in Austin, Texas before nightfall. I'd better, because my first official appointment starts at 6:30 pm and I need some time to relax and scrub the road off of me.

I've never been to Lubbock, Texas, before, and I don't know much about the place. The best I can do is admit that I've heard of it. Saw it on a map, perhaps, or heard it in one of the few country and western songs I've listened to all the way through. *ducks*

Before I leave I take a look at the local guidebook in my hotel and discover this place is big into Buddy Holly because, well, he was born here.

That explains the Crickets senior living center behind my hotel. And the nearby Crickets Laundromat. I could go on.

As it turns out the Buddy Holly Center is on Crickets Avenue, one block east of Buddy Holly Avenue.

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2013 Lexus GS 350: Nighttime Lift-Off

February 21, 2013

2013 Lexus GS 350

At the last minute I decided to take the 2013 Lexus GS 350 on the northern route through Flagstaff and Albuquerque on my way to Austin, Texas. The weather forecast was calling for snow during my return trip so it was now or never if I didn't want to drive the southern route through El Paso, Las Cruces, Tucson and Phoenix twice.

But the route across northern Arizona is over a hundred miles longer, just enough time and distance to prompt me to leave Friday evening instead of Saturday morning. My new plan involved 350 nighttime miles and an overnight stop in Kingman, Arizona so the rest of the trip would be more relaxed.

I waited until well after the dinner hour to get started, but a couple of lingering wrecks caused havoc and the early going was frustratingly slow. The roads emptied once I cleared the San Bernardino, aka the 909, and the Cajon Pass.

Out in the open desert the heads-up display proved brilliant, though the same can't be said for the GS 350's headlights. The high beams are fantastic, but I wish the low beam cutoff was a little higher (or, more specifically, manually adjustable from inside) and I really could have used more of that diagonal kick up to the right some cars have to better illuminate the eyeballs of critters that might be thinking about dashing in from the shoulder.

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2013 Lexus GS 350: Heads Up Display

January 21, 2013

2013 Lexus GS 350

I managed to catch this shot of the GS's heads up display while crossing through the shadow cast by and overpass which makes it easier to see. It?s plenty bright, but hard to capture with the camera.

The display is configurable with multiple displays including one with a digital speedometer and Eco display. Its location can be adjusted vertically and it can be switched off with a button to the left of the wheel.

It works well enough if you like this sort of thing. Would you pay $900 for this?

Josh Jacquot, Senior editor @ about 8,800 miles

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2013 Lexus GS 350: One Of My Favorite Midsize Luxury Sport Sedans

January 14, 2012

2013 Lexus GS 350

I'll have to admit that previous years of Lexus GS mediocrity had lowered my expectations about the new 2013 GS 350. But after spending time with our long-term test car, I've come away very impressed.

Of some significance, I find our GS fun to drive. Granted, a lot of that comes from the optional F Sport package that our car has, but I mention it because it's a rare quality these days. I can point to midsize luxury sedans that are certainly capable and sporty — the latest 5 Series, for instance — but don't really engage me as a driver. Our GS, in contrast, makes me want to search out fun roads. It turns in quickly, "drives smaller" than it really is and, even if it's average in terms of power, sounds good and is quick enough.

I also like the way the new GS 350 looks, the quality design of the interior, the massive central display screen and the comfortable backseat.

Along with the Audi A6, the 2013 Lexus GS 350 is the car I'd most consider right now if I were buying a $50,000 midsize luxury sport sedan.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 8,544 miles

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2013 Lexus GS 350: More On Remote Touch

January 7, 2012

2013 Lexus GS 350

We've written a few posts on our GS 350's Remote Touch electronics interface during the past few months. The opinions have varied so far, with posts such as This Is Silly taking a pretty negative view of the system while Remote Touch Impressions is fairly positive overall.

Since I've spent a fair amount of time with our GS 350, I thought I'd offer up some additional opinion. Since the rest of the car is so good, your reaction to Remote Touch really could really make a difference in your purchasing decision.

I can certainly understand both viewpoints, and I'll agree that the system's worst aspect is the sensitivity of its controller. It just takes a certain level of concentration to move the mouse-like cursor to where you want without overshooting your desired menu or button. Setting the controller's level of physical feedback to maximum helps minimize this aspect, but it still requires a level of concentration that could be a deal-breaker for some people.

On the positive side, however, I'd argue that Remote Touch has the advantage of being a very familiar style of interface. By this, I mean it's a lot like a personal computer with menus and a mouse, and it strikes me as very logical in the way information is organized. As such, the actual learning curve is lessened.

This might seem insignificant at first, but I'll relate it with this story: I bought my wife a MacBook Air notebook computer about a year ago. I thought she'd like it and would acclimate to Apple's interface after years of working on PCs. But that's not been the case. She's never warmed to it, claiming it's "not for linear thinkers" even though other people find Apple's OS to be superior. So I'm having to look at PCs again for her (although, ironically, Windows 8 is a lot different).

The bottom line is that I think people considering a Lexus GS really should spend some time testing with Remote Touch, particularly while driving. Your reaction will vary.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 8,178 miles

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2013 Lexus GS 350: Easy Phone Pairing

January 2, 2013

2013 Lexus GS 350

I recently paired my iPhone with our 2013 Lexus GS 350 and came away impressed on how easy it was. In general, I think automakers are getting better at this, but the GS sticks out in my mind as being one of the easiest I've recently played with.

The main Phone menu screen is easy to find on the GS' display screen, and there's a prominent button that says "Add Phone." From there, the display tells you the name of the car's system ("Car Multimedia") and the pass code. You don't have to do much with your phone, either; just activate Bluetooth so the car can find it, and then agree that you want to pair when the pop-up window comes up.

Admittedly, I only tested my iPhone, so I can't say how the GS does with, say, an Android phone. But I suspect that the typical buyer for the new GS 350 will be quite pleased with the ease of setting up his or her phone.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 8,109 miles

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2013 Lexus GS 350: Crisp, Clear Gauges Make for Easy Reading

December 28, 2012

2013 Lexus GS 350

As you can see, the gauge cluster in our Lexus GS 350 is about as easy to read as they come these days. Seems like a no brainer in a luxury car, but with all the technology being crammed into them these days, the instrument cluster is often a dumping ground for information that could otherwise go elsewhere.

In the case of the GS, Lexus did a good job of giving you big, clearly marked analog gauges along with a relatively easy to read auxiliary info screen wedged between them. Unlike some cars, the extra info screen doesn't try to do too much. Instead, it can be configured to show basic info like miles to empty, a digital speedometer or simply nothing at all. Also, bear in mind that our GS has a heads up display that projects vehicle and engine speed onto the windshield if you want to simplify things even further.

For a car that is otherwise stuffed full of high tech gadgets, the simplified instrument cluster is a nice show of restraint.

Ed Hellwig, Executive Editor @ 7,452 miles

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2013 Lexus GS 350: Great Thigh Support

December 26, 2012

2013 Lexus GS 350

Our long-term 2013 Lexus GS 350 has the really expensive ($5,590) F Sport package which includes the really, really nice 16-way F Sport driver seat with adjustable side bolsters, lumber and, most importantly, an "extendable lower cushion" aka: thigh support.

These pictures should effectively show how far the thigh support adjusts. It's a lot and a surprising amount from any carmaker that isn't German. Not only does the "extendable lower cushion" extend quite a way, but it does so electronically and not mechanically.

Considering this, the seats alone might be worth the price of the F Sport package.

Mike Magrath, Features Editor

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2013 Lexus GS 350: All-Arounder

December 18, 2012

2013 Lexus GS 350

Here's the irony in writing about cars for a living: you get to drive really nice cars that you'll never make enough to afford. I don't mean exotics or 911s or AMGs, but your mainstream luxury coupe or sedan. In my case, I've developed an unfortunate appetite for $60,000 cars: E-Class, Cayman, and our GS 350, for example.

If you're a driving enthusiast who lives among crappy or non-existent public transportation, you've probably resigned yourself to two- or three-car ownership: your commuter, maybe a significant other's commuter, and a weekend fun car. On the surface, that sounds like some real One Percenter privilege, but I'm guessing it's not uncommon among car folk.

For a daily commuter, you could do worse than the GS 350. It soaks up the bumps, blocks noise and generally buffs out the daily grind. There's a great divide between driver and passenger seats, with a thick wide armrest that encourages Lincoln Town Car-type repose.

You're not going to take the GS to the track. You're not gonna wake up early to take the GS running with the motorcycles in the local hills. You are going to drive it home after a long workday. You are going to drive it to take your lady out to a nice dinner. You're going to drive it out of town every few months for a long weekend.

The GS wins on all counts. But I don't love everything about it. I don't like the twin red-eyes staring back at me from atop the steering column. And I don't like the instrument panel and steering wheel pockmarked with buttons (see photo) that activate features like lane-keeping assist or heads-up display -- features seemingly easily integrated into the central command. Instead, they just hung a button on the IP. This is a tech-heavy car that requires too much time in the driveway just to get dialed in.

Dan Frio, Automotive Editor @ 7,320 miles

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2013 Lexus GS 350: This Is Silly

October 30, 2012


I get that car manufacturers want their products to be special and different. But seriously, who sat in front of this system and said,  "Yes, this is the one we should go with."

Why make us toggle around with the square whatchamacallit? It's like a mouse that is set to move too fast. I always overjump the commands I want. I like that is has a large screen but the back and forth is frustrating.

I encourage you to make all of your selections while still parked because you shouldn't operate this system while driving or even waiting at a traffic light. It takes too much of your time and attention. It's as distracting as texting.

As long as a system has good sound and does useful things like keep you warm or cool and send you in the right direction when you're lost, that's all we need. This system could be so much easier to use.

Clear and simple is always best.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

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2013 Lexus GS 350: The Road to VaVOOM

October 29, 2012

destination assist.JPG

Thanks to the power of modern technology, I had in my smartphone two different routes to our destination: the Halloween edition of Lucha VaVOOM, which mixes Mexican masked lucha libre wrestling and old-fashioned burlesque.

I was fiddling around with the Lexus Enform system's navigation page, employing the "what does this button do?" investigative technique, when I hit Destination Assist. The icon of the call-center worker should have been a hint as to what would happen next, but we still were a little surprised when a voice greeted us through the car's speaker, inquiring how she could be of help.

Although I already had directions, I gave her the address of the Mayan Theater -- just to see what would happen. She asked if she could use our vehicle location, and I said she could. A couple seconds later, she'd wirelessly sent mapping to our screen.

We were plenty early for the fun of seeing Mal de Ojo fling Zombie Chicken to the mat. Lucha! VaVOOM!

If you have such concierge services in your car, do you use them much? How accurate is the mapping or other information they provide?

Carroll Lachnit, Features Editor @5,903 miles

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2013 Lexus GS 350: The Planchette

October 23, 2012

The Planchette.jpg

Mark Takahashi gave an excellent rundown on how the Lexus Remote Touch stacks up against other multimedia interfaces. For me, the system's controller was a little jumpy at first and took some getting used to. Now I like it well enough (though I think that BMW iDrive is a better overall navigator).


The first few times out, the Remote Touch's pad felt skittery and slightly out of my control -- a little like a Ouija board planchette. I half expected it to start spelling out messages from the Beyond.

Now that I've got a better feel for it, that hasn't happened.  But Halloween is coming.

Carroll Lachnit, Features Editor @5,355 miles

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2013 Lexus GS 350: Worst to First?

October 17, 2012


Yes, I know I'm starting this entry on a mean note, but the previous-generation Lexus GS 350 didn't even rank among premium sport sedans. It was a nice, comfy, well-built luxury car, but really, it was a rear-drive ES.

This 2013 Lexus GS 350 F Sport is so different from that car. Yeah, I've only commuted in it so far, but I feel OK calling it a sport sedan, or certainly a sporty midsize luxury sedan, and I think it's now my favorite car in the class. It feels far less isolating and encumbered by its electronics than the current 528i and 535i. It reminds me a bit of the Audi A6, except this Lexus has much better steering feel and its V6 sounds fantastic when you peg the throttle (never had that thought about the A6's supercharged V6).

So far, the one thing that bugs me about the GS 350 is the Remote Touch interface, but I'm willing to make the effort to like it -- based solely on how much I enjoy the driving experience.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 4,737 miles

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2013 Lexus GS 350: Rubicon

October 11, 2012

2013 Lexus GS 350

I'm not talking about Julius Caesar crossing the river, but the now-defunct AMC series about intelligence analysts. The TV shows I like always get canceled. Sigh.

In that show, the POV would often switch to surveillance cameras because everyone is being watched. That's what this back-up camera display looks like to me. It has that surveillance video look. It's more high-def than your average soft focus vehicle camera. It gives me the feeling of being spied on.

In the words of Kurt Cobain, "Just because you're paranoid don't mean they're not after you."

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

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2013 Lexus GS 350: Heads Up

October 10, 2012


Our Lexus has thousands and thousands of dollars in optional equipment. For example, the Heads Ups Display, which shows the vehicle speed in the window in front of you. It's not new technology but I can see how it would be considered fancy by Lexus drivers.

Necessary? No. Nicety? Yes.

Would you pay $900 for the Heads Up Display?

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor @ 4,509 miles

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2013 Lexus GS 350: Cruise Options

October 9, 2012

2013 Lexus GS 350

I was looking for a menu or a button or switch or something to switch our longterm 2013 Lexus GS 350's active cruise to normal, "dumb" cruise -- sometimes, you just want to be in control -- but couldn't find it while driving. 

Once I R'd TFM, I discovered how to do it.

To switch modes, you push forward on the cruise control stalk (that is, the 'cancel' action) and hold it there for about three seconds. The system will then deactivate active cruise, leaving you with conventional, er, inactive cruise.

One caveat, it won't retain that state -- the system defaults back to active cruise once you cycle the ignition. 

The more you know.

Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor

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2013 Lexus GS 350: Separated At Birth

October 5, 2012

2013 Lexus GS 350

As one Mr. Takahashi noted, this doohickey atop our longterm 2013 Lexus GS 350's steering column is the thing that shoots frickin' laser beams at your face driver alertness monitor. 

--Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor

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2013 Lexus GS 350: Favorite Tech Features

October 4, 2012

2013 Lexus GS 350

My name is Caroline and I'm a gadget-o-holic. (If I could have things my way, I'd have BOTH the iPhone 5 and the Samsung Galaxy SIII.) So naturally I geeked out a bit when I got behind the wheel of our 2013 Lexus GS 350. It's just packed with a lot of neato tech, and I'm not just talking the usual suspects of satellite radio and Bluetooth. Hit the jump for my favorites.

That auto-brake. OK, it's not the world's biggest deal having to turn on and off the parking brake. But, still, this is a cool feature to have so you don't even have to think about it. It does it for you. Just make sure to press that "Auto" button. And, yeah, if you'd rather do the brake yourself, just deactivate it.

The joystick and wristpad. For those who work with computers, the feel of this is so natural. Just aim where you want the cursor to go and click. However, if I'm going nitpick I will say that it takes some getting used to pushing straight down on the joystick/button. When I don't make a conscientious effort to do that and instead press at an angle then the cursor inadvertently moves and clicks on something else.

Head-up display. Sure, lots of cars have this but I still get a kick out of it whenever I get behind the wheel and see it.

Seat coolers. I already mentioned how much I like these but it bears repeating. I really do.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor

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2013 Lexus GS 350: What's Missing?

October 3, 2012

2013 Lexus GS 350

Looking at the above photo of our 2013 Lexus GS 350's climate controls, do you notice anything missing? 

Yup, the centerstack climate controls are missing an air-conditioner button. You can only turn on the A/C via the touchscreen as pictured above in the lower leftside of the screen.

I realize this is the smallest of all nits and something that will become a nonissue to actual owners of the GS 350 but I just thought it odd that there wasn't an actual button for it. Instead, you have to scroll through the screen to Climate. Shrugs.

However, the GS did actually in fact win the award for Production Vehicle Interior Innovation of the Year from something called the Automotive Interiors Expo 2013 in June for its climate control system so what's a little missing A/C button compared to all that?

From the AIE site: "The Lexus GS features a Denso climate control system that makes use of Nano-E technology from Panasonic that moisturises those inside the vehicle! The industry has already had purified and scented air-con systems, but the Japanese OEM takes things to a new level by using nanotechnology that purifies the air coming out of the vents in order to moisturise the hair and skin of the occupants."

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor

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2013 Lexus GS 350: The High Cost of Art

September 10, 2012

2013 Lexus GS 350

Throughout the weekend I was beset by the irritating message shown above. When I'd go to skip a track on my iPod, I'd get the "Data is being acquired from iPod. Please wait..." warning and the current song would continue to play. The thing is, my iPod was plugged in for quite some time and the system should have had ample time to acquire said data.

This morning, however, I noticed that little data loading symbol where the album artwork should be. "Hmmm," I thought. I waited until the artwork appeared, then tried to skip a track. Voila! Time after time, I tested this with the art loading and loaded with consistent results.

The fix? I went into the menus and disabled the album artwork display. Now I can skip to my heart's content (now there's a visual you might struggle to get out of your head).

Mark Takahashi, Automotive Editor @ 2,140 miles

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2013 Lexus GS 350: Mystery Box

September 10, 2012

2013 Lexus GS 350

Alright, what's that thing on top of the steering column? I had my own suspicions, as did some of my colleagues. Is it a secondary set of warning lights? A driver alertness sensor?

When I shot this photo in the parking garage, I pretty much knew it was a driver alertness sensor. With two very bright infrared emitters, I couldn't think of any other possibility.

My contact at Lexus confirmed this. According to her:

"That's the infrared camera of the Driver Attention Monitor option.  It scans the driver's eyes to see if they're open or looking away from the road.  If the driver is not looking forward and a collision appears imminent, the system will beep at you. If you don't react, the system will apply the brakes 1.2 seconds prior to impact to help lessen the severity of the collision."

There. Mystery solved. Were your guesses right?

Mark Takahashi, Automotive Editor @ 2,140 miles

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