On the Road
Adding excitement to the Lexus equationBy Aida Sevilla Mendoza
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Since 1989, the year that Toyota Motor Corp. introduced the first Lexus car on the market, the premium brand has been identified with its slogan, ”The relentless pursuit of perfection.” Lexus carefully cultivated an image of impeccable quality, quiet luxury and refined, reassuring reliability over the years, supplemented by excellent after-sales service. Soon, Lexus grew to become the No. 1 premium brand in the United States, outselling BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
But the element of excitement was somehow missing from the Lexus equation, the kind of mojo that attracts younger buyers and car enthusiasts. Lexus first addressed that problem in 2009 by developing the LFA, a 4.8 liter, V10 super sports car, limited edition (only 500 units produced) that was capable of 325 kilometers per hour.
Now the skunk works division of Lexus that developed the LFA has rolled out the 2012 GS 350 F Sport, the first production vehicle rendered with Lexus’ new L-finesse styling. The F Sport is powered by Toyota’s dual direct and port fuel injection 3.5-liter V6 engine that attains 100 kph from standstill in 5.7 seconds. A sport sedan like the GS 350, the F Sport takes dynamic cues from the LFA and further sharpens the GS 350’s handling and performance without sacrificing the practicality, riding comfort and spacious, luxurious accommodations that Lexus is known for worldwide.
Chiseled. Sporting a tougher front fascia, chiseled aerodynamic body and more aggressive, street-ready stance than other Lexus models, the F Sport quickly changes from sedate commuter motoring to high performance driving when you turn a round knob in the console to adjust the Adaptive Variable Suspension from Normal or Eco to Sport S mode or Sport S + . Switching to either Sport mode stiffens the suspension and tightens the steering while an accent light above the dashboard gauges turns from blue to red. Heck, you can even turn off the Vehicle Stability Control to practice your drifting skills.
However, most Lexus owners are more mature country club types who don’t fancy drifting and rarely stomp on the throttle. Those who want only quiet, civilized motoring need not worry about the engine’s growls and snarls entering the cabin, for this only happens when the V6 engine is worked hard. In Eco or Normal driving mode, the F Sport is as quiet as a cathedral. Car enthusiasts, on the other hand, welcome the distinctive engine sounds and exhaust note to enliven their driving experience.
The GS 350 F Sport, by the way, is priced at P4,818,000, or P580,000 more than the P4,238,000 GS 350 although they have the same V6 engine, the same 6-speed sequential automatic transmission with paddle shifters and throttle blip on downshift, Electronic Power Steering, the same suspension (double wishbone in front, multi-link at the rear with aluminum components), the same bi-xenon headlamps with LED daytime running lights and L-shaped LED tail lights, the same active and passive safety features, the same audio (in-dash CD player with 12 speakers, integrated sub-woofer, Bluetooth, AUX-in and USB-in), the same Smart Entry with Start/Stop Button, the same Drive Mode Select and Remote Touch System, the same curb weight and the same dimensions.
Costs more. Then why should the F Sport package cost P580,000 more? Because it has what the GS 350 doesn’t have: Adaptive Variable Suspension, Adaptive Front Light System, larger 14.0-inch front brake rotors, massive 4 piston calipers, Variable Gear Ratio Steering, Dynamic Rear Steering, electronically controlled shocks, larger (18 inch) aluminum alloy wheels, bushing changes, a tilt and slide moon roof, thicker anti-roll bars, 16-way (instead of only 10-way) power adjustable driver’s seat with memory, sport leather seat material and perforated sport leather-wrapped steering wheel plus rear side airbag aside from 10 other airbags and side curtains.
The F Sport is distinguished from the GS 350 by its mesh grille, the twin exhausts integrated in its rear bumper and the brushed aluminum accents in its interior. Dynamic Rear Steering, used for the first time in a Lexus, steers the rear wheels in the opposite direction of the front wheels at low speeds for a smaller turning radius. At higher speeds, the rear wheels steer in the same direction as the front wheels to provide more stable and consistent handling and performance.
Aside from Vehicle Stability Control with Traction Control, the F Sport has Hill Starting Assist, ABS, Electronically Controlled Brake System, Electronic Parking Brake, clearance and reverse sensors, rear view camera and rain-sensing wipers.
Crafted. The meticulously crafted, luxuriously kitted interior with ambient lighting has detailed contrast stitching on the leather atop the horizontal-themed dashboard, on the leather door trim, center console, shift knob and leather-wrapped steering wheel. An analog clock with LED indicators adds a nice retro touch.
There is a clean center stack, a clean and simple dash with optitron gauges showing temperature, fuel, tachometer and speedometer in a small info screen in the middle facing the driver. A large 12-inch central multi-media split screen display with a menu can be configured easily by using the console joystick. The Remote Touch System on the center console allows you to operate the climate, audio, phone controls intuitively, reducing effort and eye movement and eliminating distraction.
The 16-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with memory has power adjustable side bolsters, 4-way adjustable lumber supports and power-adjustable thigh bolsters, making long journeys more comfy and less tiring for the driver. The leather front seat is 10-way power adjustable. Rear seat passengers will find deeply scalloped, supportive leather seats plus more headroom, legroom, knee room and improved foot space. Trunk space was increased to 25 percent by separating the rear springs and shocks while access thereto was improved with a wider, deeper opening.
Summing up, the Lexus GS 350 F Sport is an elegant premium sport sedan that retains the Lexus characteristic of quiet refinement, easy and comfy to drive for the daily commute or long haul. Yet the F Sport offers you an exciting option. With its potent engine, fantastic steering system, adjustable suspension and innovative technology, you can drive it like a sports car or enjoy a day at the track. At last, excitement has been added to the Lexus equation, a precursor of more things to come.
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