Used 2002 Lexus GS 430 Review
A sedan to consider if you can't decide which you like more, luxury or sport.
Some people use the term vanilla pejoratively, in reference to something bland. It is also subject to such neologisms as "vanillified" or "vanilla-esque," for something that's been toned down, stripped of its zing. But who hates vanilla? We can't find anyone who wholly dislikes it. It's just a matter of degrees of preference.
Think of the GS 430 as a dish of delicious vanilla ice cream. It's good in itself. No one will be averse to it. But many will prefer fancier desserts.
Looking to create the ultimate sport sedan in both price and performance, Lexus redesigned its GS series in 1998 and came up with two cars that have aged extraordinarily well. Armed with a powerful V8 engine, the GS 430 is one model that can hang with the best Europe has to offer.
A distinctive quad-headlight design sweeps back into the hood and front fenders and short front and rear overhangs give the GS 430 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.
Appearances are supported by a 4.3-liter V8 that develops 300 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and 325 pound-feet of torque at 3,400 rpm. Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (VVT-i) helps to provide optimal fuel efficiency, as well, allowing the GS 430 to earn ultra low emission vehicle (ULEV) certification. A five-speed automatic is the only transmission available.
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 only 34.3 inches of legroom.
The GS 430 sparkles on the open road. Its silent cabin, expurgated of any noise, harshness or vibration, is a portrait of tranquility. The GS 430 isolates you from any inconsistencies in the road. The four-wheel independent double wishbone suspension is configured to favor a supple, smooth ride over a taut, sporty one, which is great for the passengers, but a tad stultifying for the driver.
Luxury touches include a standard dual-zone climate control, a power tilt and telescoping steering wheel, and the normal roster of power goodies typically found on luxury cars. Worthwhile options include a Mark Levinson premium sound system and a DVD-based navigation system that employs touchscreen controls to program routes. Unfortunately, Lexus has decided to bundle it with the audio and climate controls, which always work better with traditional buttons and knobs.
Standard equipment includes Vehicle Skid Control (VSC), which is a system that employs the sensors, actuators and computer electronics of the antilock braking and traction control systems to help reduce vehicle skids caused by understeer or oversteer conditions. VSC is teamed with Brake Assist ABS; front, side and curtain airbags; and traction control to provide top-notch occupant protection.
As with other vehicles in the Lexus line, road feel and absolute performance take a backseat to pure luxury and refinement. Audi's A6 4.2 and BMW's 540i offer a bit more fun, and the Mercedes E430 has, well, the Mercedes emblem on the hood. The GS also holds a tenuous spot within the Lexus lineup; it's not as sporty as the IS 300, nor is it as luxurious as the LS 430. But for a reliable daily driver with a hint of sporting capability, it's tough to beat the Lexus GS 430.
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.