When Toyota’s Lexus luxury brand was launched all its established European rivals must have been quivering at the prospect. The LS400 set new standards of ride and refinement not just for that type of car, but for the entire automotive sector. Then when Lexus let it be known that the LS400 was its ‘practice’ car the inference was clear: just wait for the finished article.
Well, we’ve been waiting over 20 years now and the closest Lexus has come to building another as talented as the LS400 is the extraordinary but ultra-expensive and low-volume LFA supercar. Every Lexus that any mere mortal might be able to buy has been, at least by comparison to the stratospheric standards of the first, a disappointment.
On the surface this new GS has the ability to buck that trend. It’s a good-looking car, the petrol/electric hybrid motor gives performance, economy and CO2 figures to rival the best European diesels, and the packaging issues that blighted the old GS have now been resolved: it’s as big in the back and boot as you could reasonably expect such a car to be.
So far so good. Step a little closer, however, and you’ll see why that far from being the second coming, the GS is another missed opportunity.
The interior may have the largest navigation screen yet to inhabit the inside of a road car, but it will take more than that to imbue the class and style that provides such a sense of occasion in Mercedes, Audis and Jaguars. It looks like a top-of-the-range Toyota.
And when you drive it you discover that while the performance is strong, it’s not particularly pleasant: the continuously variable transmission making the not very sonorous V6 sound like it’s attached to a permanently slipping clutch. Its ride is also too firm. Lexus was keen to point out how well its new four-wheel steering system makes the GS handle on the limit, and it does handle well. But I couldn’t help feeling that if they’d tried as hard in other important areas of an executive saloon car’s endeavour, a rather more rounded and impressive product might have resulted.
Engine: 3.5 litres, six cylinders, with hybrid electric motor
Top Speed: 155mph (limited)
Price: £50,000 (approx)
Power: 338bhp at 6000rpm
Fuel/co2: 47.9mpg, 137g/km