2013 Lexus GS Review and Prices
The 2013 Lexus GS is the best car for you if you want a premium sedan that signals this upscale automaker’s drift from isolating luxury and toward emotional connection.
The 2013 Lexus GS is fully redesigned with new styling and a sportier personality. A midsize rival for the BMW 5-Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class, the 2013 GS offers a choice of rear- or all-wheel drive and a V-6 or gas-electric-hybrid powertrain. This third-generation GS isn’t available with a V-8, as was its predecessor, but Lexus pitches it as an all-around better-performer with looks that broadcast a newfound bravado. Starting at $47,775, the 2013 GS slots above the front-wheel-drive ES sedan in Lexus’s lineup and is priced several thousand below comparable German rivals.
Should you buy a 2013 Lexus GS or wait for the 2014 Lexus GS? Buy a 2013 GS. The 2014 model is highly unlikely to change in any way worth waiting for – though prices almost certainly will increase. The 2013 has the GS styling and features that’ll be fresh for several years to come.
2013 Lexus GS Changes back to top
Styling: The 2013 Lexus GS’s signature styling feature is its sewing-spindle-shaped trapezoidal grille, prominent lower air inlet, and blade-like headlamps with beaded LED daytime running lamps. These elements will appear in one form or another on a host of redesigned Lexus models to follow. Like its parent company Toyota, Lexus has been respected for its competent cars but criticized for lack of excitement. The automaker touts the 2013 GS’s front end as a marker of newfound aggressiveness. It is indeed distinctive, but the balance of the car hardly stands out as anything but a nicely styled midsize sedan.
Dimensionally, the 2013 GS falls neatly into the center of its competitive set. In wheelbase – the distance between the front and rear axles – and overall length it’s virtually the same size as the 2006-2011 GS (Lexus didn’t field a 2012 model). However, smarter packaging gives it more rear-seat room and a larger trunk than that second-generation GS. It also gets a 2-inch-wider track – the width between left and right wheels – that translates into greater stability in turns.
Lexus divides the 2013 GS lineup into the gas-powered GS 350 and the hybrid GS 450h models and gives each its own styling touches. Both have L-shaped LED taillamps, for example, but the rear bumper of the GS 350 integrates dual exhaust outlets while the GS 450h has concealed tailpipes symbolizing its low-emissions hybrid powertrain.
Both models come in base trim and offer a Luxury option package. The GS 350 also is available with Premium and F Sport packages. The latter is Lexus’s performance-tuning setup and includes a slightly more aggressive front fascia and rear valence, mesh grille inserts, and a rear lip spoiler. Bi-xenon headlights are standard, but the GS 450h is available with an illumination-enhancing triple-LED headlamp design.
On all versions of the 2013 GS, 17-inch alloy wheels are standard and 18-inch alloys are optional. Rear-wheel drive GS 350s with the F Sport package get 19-inch alloys with summer-compound tires and rear wheels wider than the fronts for added grip and visual presence. All-wheel-drive F Sport GS 350s have uniform-size 19s and all-season tires.
With the all-new exterior comes a fully revamped interior. Crisply lit analog gauges return as a Lexus trademark but the new dashboard features a more contemporary horizontal orientation highlighted by a 12.3-inch-wide high-definition central screen on models equipped with the optional navigation system.
Contrast-stitched leather upholstery and aluminum accents are standard and contribute to a comfortable, casual-luxury ambience. GS 350s get wood interior trim keyed to the Premium, Luxury, or F Sport packages. To reinforce the environmental-sustainability message of the hybrid powertrain, GS 450h cabins have bamboo accents.
Mechanical: The 2013 Lexus GS gets new sheetmetal, a fresh interior, and a thoroughly reworked suspension but changes beneath the hood are less pronounced. The GS 460 with its 342-horsepower V-8 and eight-speed automatic transmission are gone. But the 2013 GS 350 reprises a 3.5-liter V-6 virtually unchanged at 306 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque, though it is reworked enough to deliver a more even distribution of torque, better fuel economy, and fewer emissions.
The 2013 GS 350 continues with a six-speed automatic transmission, which leaves it slightly arrears of top rivals, which use seven- or eight-speed automatics. This transmission does enable manual-type gear control via the floor lever or steering-wheel paddle shifters, and accompanies downshifts with rev-matching throttle blips.
The 2013 GS 450h again teams a specialized version of the 3.5-liter V-6 with an electric motor and a nickel-metal hydride battery pack. Net output is basically unchanged at 338 horsepower (Lexus does not list a torque figure for the hybrid). Many of the same improvements made to the GS 350’s engine apply here and result in a significant leap in fuel economy over the 2011 GS 450h. And a reconfigured battery pack improves trunk volume by some 3 cubic feet, to 13.2 cubic feet. The GS 350’s trunk has 14.3 cubic feet; both figures are about par for the premium-midsize class.
The 450h requires no plug-in charging; its battery pack is replenished principally by recapturing energy dissipated during braking and coasting. This is a “full hybrid,” meaning it can travel on the electric motor alone, the gas engine alone, or the two in combination as determined by onboard sensors set to balance power and economy. Battery charge permitting the system also saves gas by idling the gas engine when the car is stopped and automatically restarting it when the brake pedal is released; power to accessories is maintained during idle-stop.
Like most hybrids, the 2013 GS 450h has a continuously variable transmission, or CVT, which performs the duties of an automatic transmission but without traditional set gear ratios.
All versions of the 2013 GS come with a dashboard control to select various driving modes tailored to performance or fuel economy. Both GS models have an Eco mode that saves gas by revising throttle mapping and climate systems. They also have a Sport setting that triggers performance-calibrated throttle and transmission mapping. A Sport + mode that sharpens steering response and stiffens the suspension is included on GS 350s equipped with the Luxury and F Sport packages and on GS 450hs. GS 450hs also have an EV mode that maximizes the time and distance the car can travel using electric-only propulsion.
Preferred over front-wheel drive for its better balanced handling characteristics, rear-wheel drive is the rule among premium cars with sporting aspirations. Increasingly though, all-wheel drive (AWD) is a prerequisite in many regions of the country as a slippery-pavement traction advantage over rear-drive. The 2013 GS 450h is rear-drive only but the GS 350 is available with an AWD system that normally splits power 30/70 front/rear but automatically reapportions it 50/50 to quell tire slip.
GS 350s with the F Sport package maximize control with a firmer suspension, heightened-response steering, and larger front brakes. Rear-drive F Sport GSs also are available with Lexus’s new Dynamic Handling system with Dynamic Rear Steering. The crux of this is technology that sharpens agility and control by steering the front and rear wheels a few degrees in opposite directions under 50 mph and in the same direction in certain conditions over 50 mph.
Accounting for the combined output of the gas and electric power sources, Lexus names its hybrid models for the equivalent displacement of a conventional powertrain. It calculates the 2013 GS 450h, for example, would require a 4.5-liter engine to provide equal performance. The hybrid GS is in fact faster than the 2013 GS 350, at 5.6 seconds 0-60 mph, versus 5.7, despite weighing 4,190 pounds, 395 pounds more than the gas-only GS. The GS 450h also feels more responsive from midrange speeds.
On the road, any 2013 GS is a quiet cruiser with good acceleration and handling. AWD is a snow-belt safety net and the F Sport package elevates cornering grip to sport-sedan levels. However, European-brand rivals still strike a balance between ride control and bump absorption that eludes the 2013 GS.
Features: Lexus equips its 2013 GS line with a comprehensive suite of standard safety, comfort, and convenience features – although it doesn’t trump direct rivals by including a navigation system as standard equipment; the setup remains a $1,735 option, albeit a top-notch one.
In addition to the aforementioned leather upholstery and variety of interior trim materials, all 2013 GS models come with a power moonroof and power front seats. Also standard are remote keyless entry with pushbutton start, a power tilt and telescope steering wheel with multimedia and cruise-control buttons, Bluetooth phone and music streaming, automatic dimming rearview mirror, and an integrated garage and gate opener.
The standard audio system is a 12 speaker surround-sound unit with auxiliary and iPod interfaces, and XM satellite radio with a 90-day trial subscription. A 17-speaker Mark Levinson premium system with 7.1 channel surround-sound is available. Most audio, climate, and phone functions can be adjusted via the Lexus Remote Touch system. This furnishes a mouse-type controller on the center console that navigates a cursor projected on the 8-inch central-dashboard screen that’s standard on all 2013 GSs; the screen also shows the standard rear backup camera.
With the optional navigation system, the central dashboard gets a 12.3-inch hi-def widescreen large enough to support simultaneous viewing of a large map display, audio, climate, or other vehicle information. Included with the navigation system is the Lexus Enform Application Suite. This leverages the owner’s iPhone, Android, or Blackberry to tap into Internet search engines, apps such as Pandora or iHeartRadio, and certain Facebook menus. The navigation system also enables text-to-speech messaging.
Among standard safety features are an emergency assist button, automatic collision notification, and stolen-vehicle location. The 2013 GS has 10 airbags, including head- and torso-protecting side airbags for all outboard seating positions and knee airbags for driver and front passenger. Available safety options include a pre-collision system that incorporates adaptive cruise control and uses an infrared camera to monitor the driver’s eyes. If the driver does not appear to be looking forward when a collision seems imminent, the system can apply the brakes to slow the car but not stop it completely.
Other optional safety systems include night vision that detects objects beyond the reach of the headlights and projects their image on the navigation screen. Also available is a system that warns of vehicles in over-the-shoulder blind spots, and another that will steer the car back if it unintentionally drifts from its highway lane. Head-up projection of key instrumentation on the windshield also is offered.
2013 Lexus GS Prices back to top
Base-price range for the 2013 Lexus GS is $44,775-$58,950 (base prices in this review include the manufacturer’s destination fee; Lexus’s fee for the 2013 GS is $875).
The 2013 GS 350 starts at $47,775 with rear-wheel drive and at $50,425 with AWD. Among comparable versions of key rivals, the Audi A6 and Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedan start about $3,000 and $3,600 higher, respectively. Rear- and all-wheel-drive BMW 5-Series sedans have nearly identical base pricing, though that’s with a 240-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine. The 300-horsepower six-cylinder versions start around $53,000 and $55,500, respectively.
The 2013 GS 450h is priced from $58,950. That’s roughly $4,000 above the Mercedes E350 BlueTec diesel sedan, which, at 21/32/25 mpg city/highway/combined, has lower fuel-economy ratings than the GS hybrid. Mercedes will add the E400 Hybrid sedan for model-year 2013; it’s projected at 24/31/27 mpg but pricing was unavailable in time for this review.
Among key 2013 GS options, the Premium Package costs $1,400 and includes rain-sensing wipers, heated and ventilated front seats and power rear sunshade.
The Luxury Package is priced from $5,750 and includes those features plus driver-adjustable suspension firmness; steering-linked headlamps, unique high gloss linear espresso wood ornamentation, and semi-aniline leather, and 18-way power front driver and passenger seats with articulated back, side bolster and thigh support controls and memory. The Luxury package also adds rear climate and audio controls, rear manual side sunshades, 18-inch alloy wheels, and a wood and leather steering wheel. Adding such features as heated rear seats and night vision ups the Luxury package price to as much as $8,390.
The F Sport package costs $5,690 and, in addition to the suspension, wheel, and drivetrain enhancements, includes a sport-bolstered driver’s seat and a unique interior treatment with striated aluminum trim, perforated leather, and aluminum pedals. Rounding out notable options, the pre-collision system is $2,000, the rear-steering system is $1,700, and the Mark Levision audio is $1,380.
2013 Lexus GS Fuel Economy back to top
EPA fuel-economy ratings for the 2013 Lexus GS 350 place it roughly in the middle of its competitive set, a penalty perhaps of the six-speed automatic transmission in a class where rivals favor more-efficient seven- eight-speed automatics.
The 2013 GS 350 is rated 19/28/23 mpg city/highway/combined with rear-wheel drive and 19/26/21 mpg with AWD.
The 2013 Lexus GS 450h is a standout for a car of its size, performance, and comfort. It rates of 29/34/31 mpg city/highway/combined. Lexus requires premium-octane gas for all 2013 GS models.
2013 Lexus GS Release Date back to top
On-sale dates are the first quarter of 2012 for the 2013 Lexus GS 350 and spring 2012 for the Lexus GS 450h.
What's next for the 2013 Lexus GS back to top
Don’t look for changes of significance to the GS lineup until a midcycle freshening, likely around model-year 2016. A fully redesigned fourth-generation GS should follow in model-year 2018 or so. Lexus touted the original, 2007 GS 450h as the first hybrid-powered luxury sport sedan. Today, the GS 450h is part of Lexus’s five-vehicle hybrid line-up. No luxury brand matches that selection.
As for the 2013 GS spearheading a more stimulating direction for this premium brand -- its spindle grille will appear in some form on the Camry-based ES line of front-wheel-drive midsize sedans being redesigned for model-year 2013. It’ll show up as well on the compact but sportier-still Lexus IS rear- and all-wheel-drive models, also being redesigned for 2013. And Lexus likely plans to imbue its next-generation LS flagship line with some of the youthful-but-elegant spirit evident in the 2013 GS. Those rear- and all-wheel-drive gas and hybrid sedans will be redesigned for model-year 2014.
2013 Lexus GS Competition back to top
BMW 5-Series: More adventurous, more varied, and more desirable than the GS, these midsize sedans offer all the luxury one could desire, plus a level of European driving involvement no American or Asian automaker has yet equaled. The range extends from the brave but surprisingly adept turbo-four-cylinder versions through an overachieving turbo six to dominating V-8s. And the ActiveHybrid 5 model gives it a gas-electric entry, too. Pricey, yes, but if you’re shopping a GS, sample the 5-Series as a benchmark.
Mercedes-Benz E-Class: Marginally more conservative than the 5-Series, this midsize Mercedes line has no trouble checking all the premium-car boxes. Creamy and responsive six- and eight-cylinder engines are augmented by diesel and hybrid choices. And the sedan is accompanied by station wagon, coupe, and convertible E-Class body styles. Like BMW’s 5-Series, the E-Class is priced in the upper tier of the class. But laudable engineering, driving satisfaction, strong resale value and, yes, prestige, are part of the package.
Cadillac CTS: Dating from model-year 2008, this car is showing its age. But cheers to Cadillac for fielding a credible premium-midsize entry with appeal to domestic-brand loyalists and anyone with a flair for the dramatic. Rear- and all-wheel drive, sedan, coupe, and wagon body styles are on tap. Engine choices range from an anemic price-leader 3.0-liter V-6 to a more appropriate 3.6-liter V-6 to the rip-roaring 556-horsepower supercharged V-8 in the CTS-V family. Pricing generally undercuts the import-brand alternatives and quality is nearly on par. The bold, creased styling is an acquired taste.