Mean and lean
Attitude isn’t a word that you’d ordinarily have associated with Lexus. But it’s become increasingly apparent that Toyota’s premium brand isn’t content to let the product’s intrinsic qualities speak for themselves. Once renowned for being the quintessence of blandness, they’re actually introducing an element of … well, badassedness. Case in point: the front end of the new GS. They call it the spindle grille, and it’s a look you’ll see on future models. Thing is, there’s a suggestion of aggression, of “overtaking presence”. When married with the more aero F Sport chin section, that suggestion turns to confirmation. Even if it does raise an eyebrow to find F Sport badging on the Save the Planet poster boy hybrid version.
Our test drive of about 350 kilometres from the Cape Winelands through the Breede River Valley and back via the Overberg took in some challenging mountain passes, sweeping motorways and (we’ll go to our graves insisting we didn’t take a wrong turn) several kilometres of gravel. My co-driver preferred our first mount, the 233 kW 350. I liked its sonorous V6 howl when prodded hard for overtaking and its supple yet composed ride. Yet, when I took the wheel of the 450 hybrid, I immediately sensed that it felt more urgent, more ready for action. It also had that seductive sensation of almost bottomless urge, served up without fuss or drama, when slow-moving traffic needed to be passed swiftly and safely. It certainly rode firmer, but even on our unplanned gravel excursion it was on best behaviour.
The range consists of four derivatives, with (for the first time in South Africa) a V6-powered 154 kW 2,5-litre GS 250 entry-level model. The 350 and two 450h models – F-Sport and SE all use a similar V6. In the 350 the engine delivers 233 kW, but in the hybrids it is limited to 213 kW and mated with an electric motor for a total output of 252 kW. The electric motor 275 N.m of torque and the drivetrain as a system is coupled with an E-CVT continuously variable gearbox and
special F-Sport dynamic mechanical enhancements. F-Sport features firmer springs, adaptive variable damping, thicker anti-roll bars, a variable gear ratio steering system, bushing changes and larger front brakes with high-friction pads.
The GS’s impressive list of interior appointments is headlined by what is described as the world’s first 31-cm Electro Multi Vision display screen. A new-generation multimedia system makes full use of the extra screen real estate, and commands via Lexus’ updated remote touch interface “mouse”, are now more intuitive.
What’s billed as a first on a hybrid car is the F-Sport’s Lexus Dynamic Handling (LDH) system, with Dynamic Rear Steering (DRS). This new technology integrates DRS, Electric Power Steering and Variable Gear Ratio Steering (VGRS). Monitoring vehicle speed, steering direction and driver inputs, the system calculates the optimum angle for all four wheels.
Prices range from R494 400 to R771 700.
Wallpaper: See New on the block (July 2012 issue) for wallpaper images of selected cars.