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Going Places

2014 Lexus GS 350

Yes, going places is just what you’ll want to do in your new Lexus GS. As Rick Merlino, sales manager at Northtown Lexus, pointed out before this week’s test drive began, “It has all of the amenities. Of course, what would you expect in a $57,000 car.” Indeed. And once you park your rear end in the GS’s driver seat, you’ll be looking for excuses to take the long way to just about everywhere you have to go.

The GS is all-new for 2014. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a rear-drive (or all wheel-drive, like my test car) sports sedan, competing with the likes of the Audi A6, BMW 5 Series, and the Mercedes-Benz E-Class. So you won’t be surprised when I tell you that not only is the GS comfortable but it’s a hoot to drive. Luckily, the weather finally cooperated and I wasn’t able to fully benefit from the test car’s all wheel-drive system (thank God), but it’s good to know that it’s there.

Cornering, stopping, steering—they’re all maneuvers you’ll perform in confidence no matter what kind of road you’re on. A driving mode knob on the center console allows you to choose between Eco, Normal, and Sport modes. On some cars I’ve driven, the Eco mode has a very noticeable drag on performance, and while it’s still a difference in the GS, it’s not objectionably so. As a matter of fact, if this were the only driving mode available, I doubt if many would complain. The normal mode is, well, pretty normal with what I perceived as a tad quicker response time in the throttle and shifting areas from the Eco. I love the Sport mode. Maybe it’s due to driving go-karts as a kid, but I like the quick response and sharp handling the Sport mode provides.

No matter which mode you’re in, you’ll enjoy just being in the interior. Especially the test car’s non-monochromatic flaxen (beige) and black two-toned combo with real wood walnut trim. The seats, dash, and leather-covered steering wheel all had an attractive contrasting trim, and it took me all of about two seconds to get comfortable. The heated steering wheel, although most-likely appreciated during our Arctic months (October to May), I thought was a bit slippery to the touch. But Lexus also offers a beautiful-looking bamboo wheel, made, they tell us, from a single piece of wood, and it goes great with the bamboo dash and door inserts. The GS, being a mid-sized car, is roomy enough for four adults (five, if you sacrifice the rear armrest/cup-holders, and don’t need the pass-through to the trunk for any long items). All controls are within easy reach and attractively laid out. I especially liked the analog clock in the center of the dash between the audio and HVAC controls. The sound system sounded great, but there’s a lot going on on that 12.3-inch screen while you’re driving. People of a certain generation will love it, while others of a certain different generation will not.

Power for the GS 350 is a 3.5-liter V-6, rated at 306 horsepower, and connected to an eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. The EPA gives miles per gallon figures for the 350 GS AWD as 19/26 city/highway. The test car’s base price was $49,950 and options (blind-spot monitoring, cold-weather package, 18-inch alloys, 12.3-inch nav, park assist, heated/ventilated front seats, rain-sensing wipers, rear window sunshade, and various mats), plus delivery, brought the total to the aforementioned 57 grand. There are also GS 350 F Sport and GS 450h hybrid (34 miles per gallon) models available.

When they first hit the North American shores in 1989, Lexus began quietly giving the European luxury brands a run for their money. And, they still are.

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Read more of Jim Corbran's You Auto Know every other week in Artvoice, and more frequently on Artvoice Daily.

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