Often overlooked by luxury shoppers, the Lexus GS plays with sport sedan stalwarts like the Audi A6, BMW 5-Series, Mercedes-Benz E-Class and Volvo S60 as well as upstarts like the Genesis G70 and Infiniti Q50. Most recently redesigned in 2013, the GS is a rear- or all-wheel drive 4-door sedan that offered with V6 or V8 power. It's essentially unchanged for 2020.
Three models are offered, Base, F Sport and F. The base and F Sport are available with rear- or all-wheel drive and share a normally aspirated 3.5-liter V6 engine that makes 311 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque. The F comes only with rear-wheel drive and gets a 5.0-liter V8 that makes 467 horsepower and 389 lb-ft of torque. Rear-wheel drive models get an 8-speed automatic while all-wheel drive models get a 6-speed auto box.
Standard safety features include blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, lane-departure warning system, forward-collision warning with automated emergency braking and adaptive cruise control. Base models get a 12-speaker audio system and 12.3-inch display for the infotainment system. Optional is a 17-speaker Mark Levinson audio system. Prices range from about $51,000 to more than $80,000.
While most GS sedans head out the showroom door with a perfectly capable 311-horsepower V6, the stud in the lineup is the 5.0-liter V8 in the F model. It's a gem of an engine that provides solid acceleration and excellent throttle response. Though the Lexus V8 doesn't match the ultimate acceleration offered by German competitors, it's buttery smooth and very tractable -- meaning it works well in typical driving situations. It also mates extremely well to the slick-shifting 8-speed automatic. So, while the others might offer more "edge," the GS F provides lusty and refined acceleration.
As you might expect, fuel economy isn't a strong point. EPA numbers for the F model are 16 MPG city, 24 MPG highway and 19 MPG overall. Making matters worse is the GS F requires premium-grade gasoline. In routine suburban commuting, expect to average about 19 MPG overall, perhaps as high as 22 MPG if you throw in some gentle suburban commuting. Thankfully, there's a fairly large 17.4-gallon gas tank that helps make trips to the gas station a bit less frequent.
While V6-powered GS models are offered with both rear- and all-wheel drive, the GS F is only available with rear-wheel drive. That means snow tires are a necessity in the winter (they are probably a good idea on any GS model).
When it comes to on-road performance, the GS again trails the trio from Germany, but, arguably, it's ride and handling balance is better suited to American tastes. Where the German sedans seems to stumble is with poor impact absorption, the Lexus simply gobbles up rough roads and provides a smooth and comfortable ride, even in F trim. While lesser GS models tend to wallow a bit when speeds pick up, the F model is mostly a match to the Europeans in the road holding department. In addition, the cabin is "Lexus" quiet.
Overall, the base and F Sport GS provide a smooth and comfortable ride with sufficient sportiness to satisfy most buyers and the F model adds enough of a performance edge to keep enthusiasts happy.
Inside, the GS' aging design begins to show through. The cabin feels dark, somewhat claustrophobic and the rear seats are cramped. While more-recently redesigned competitors offer more brightwork and modern airy designs, the GS feels dated by comparison. Functionally the layout is good, with most controls smartly placed and nicely marked, but the lack of Android Auto and Apple Car Play support are just the tip of the iceberg. There's a dated infotainment screen interface that's a bad marriage of mouse and trackpad and smallish gauges that are hard to read at a glance.
Thankfully the front seats are extremely comfortable and provide good head and leg room. Unfortunately, the rear seats, though very comfortable, only offer modest room despite the car's midsize dimensions. As mentioned, outward visibility is somewhat limited to the rear and sides because of the narrow greenhouse and thick pillars. At least it's easy to get in and out.
At 14 cubic feet, the generous trunk provides ample cargo space. However, the rear seats do not fold. Interior storage is limited with only a few open and covered bins throughout.
Bottom Line -- Showing its age, the GS carries on into 2020 with little change. Thankfully, it's built on a set of values that are timeless: Quiet comfortable performance and luxury. On its own, merits include a refined and composed ride, good driving dynamics and posh interior. However, compared to newer competitors from Germany and Asia, the GS feels a little dated -- especially when the road gets twisty.