Lexus puts a small engine at the bottom of its GS range. And the mid-size four-door saloon appears better for it.
WHAT IS IT?
This is the new entry-level GS sedan, a car that’s now offered with four-cylinder, V6 and stonking-great V8 engines, as well as more frugal hybrid models.
WHY WE’RE DRIVING IT
The GS200t gets the new 1998cc turbo-petrol four-cylinder that we’ve seen in the NX SUV and the RC coupe. It replaces the V6-powered GS250 and is faster, more efficient and comes with more kit.
BMW 5 Series, Audi A6, Mercedes-Benz E-class, Jaguar XF, Infiniti Q50
THE WHEELS VERDICT
The GS200t offers a premium limousine experience for a better price than the rest of the GS range, with excellent refinement from its drivetrain and solid road manners. It’s spacious, well made and has some unexpected flavour in its chassis dynamics, even if it’s not a class leader.
PLUS: Engine and cabin refinement, strong fit and finish, far superior to its predecessor
MINUS: Dated interior, base-car cabin feels low-spec, only two trim levels
THE WHEELS REVIEW
EVERYONE’S doing it. Ferrari. BMW. Even Porsche. Downsizing, that is. So when Lexus decides to put a turbocharged four-pot in its BMW 5 Series-sized GS sedan, it shouldn’t be such a big shock. Yet no one bought the four-cylinder Holden Commodore back in the day, and did you know there’s a 2.0-litre turbo Ford Falcon on sale? Thought not.
In the GS, the 1998cc turbo-petrol is an absolute peach. It makes the same power as in the RC200t we’ve tested, and the same unit first appeared in the compact NX SUV. Yet its refinement and buttery-smooth character suit the GS’s premium mantra perfectly.
Lolling about town, the refinement of the engine isn’t immediately obvious, as it’s so quiet. In fact, you needn’t bother with the hybrid GS if it’s refinement you’re after, as the near silent operation of the 200t is remarkable.
At $75,000, our entry-level Luxury spec is the starter for the two-model line-up, headlined by the larger-wheeled and more aggressively styled F-Sport, which costs $83,000.
All GS models have the same spacious cabin, with solid, well-finished materials that look a little brittle and dated compared with a Mercedes E-Class, for instance. Same goes for the centre-screen in our test car, which by the large borders is clearly defined as the lower-spec variant. And, of course, there’s the dreaded foot-operated park brake.
Yet the depth of the 200t’s talent stretches from around town, limousine-like refinement to a dynamic ability that’s pleasantly surprising. The ride on the standard 17-inch alloys, which notes every inch of the pattered test route we’re on, may not be quite as silken as the driveline combo, but the GS’s cornering abilities reveal an agility that’s completely unexpected.
The steering doesn’t offer a lot of feedback, despite the chassis communicating the surface beneath, but the roll into corners is well controlled and overall handling is benign and predictable with strong road-holding allowing a concerted attack through each corner.
Part of that is courtesy of the new ‘performance damper’ fitted to all GS models, which better isolates the front end, while there are also new coil-spring rates and shock absorber piston shapes, all aimed at reducing NVH through better control. Lexus also says that as part of the GS range update, all models now have a stiffer body with additional laser and spot-welds.
When punished, the 2.0-litre livens up with good response but – like in the RC200t we tested, which has the same engine – it’s more a flow of power rather than a strong surge, and the eight-speed auto changes at 6000rpm where it steps up through gears briskly and quietly. The engine note builds, but even under full load it maintains its smooth composure, never overreaching to become coarse, nor showing signs of struggle.
The GS 200t’s 7.3sec 0-100km/h claim is a whopping 1.3sec quicker than the V6-engined GS250 that this car replaces, and its 8.0L/100km economy is significantly better than the GS250’s 9.3L/100km, too.
It also means that the $75,000 staring price is almost $3K more, too, but Lexus has added more standard equipment that includes its Pre-Collision Safety System and All-Speed Adaptive Cruise Control, with its Auto Emergency Braking able to bring the GS200t to a complete stop from any speed. Yet with the refinement and polish, the 200t won’t have you rushing to get to your destination as it fits the premium brief so well.
But wait, there’s more
THE GS has a tough fight on its hands in 2016 as it faces increasingly tough opposition. The new Mercedes E-Class will arrive, and will take over the role of techno tour-de-force flagship from the German maker’s S-Class. Also keeping Lexus salespeople awake at night will be a new-generation Jaguar XF, which is not only a dynamic dream, but will be far more opulent than its predecessor. The Audi A6 was updated in early 2015, and the fifth generation is expected to be shown in 2016 before arriving here in 2017. An all-new BMW 5 Series is expected then, too.
Model: 2016 Lexus GS200t
Engine: 1998cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v, turbo
Max power: 180kW @ 5800rpm
Max torque: 350Nm @ 1650-4400rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
0-100km/h: 7.3sec (claimed)
Fuel economy: 8.0L/100km
On sale: Now