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The Daily Drivers | By Peter Couture and Lyra Solochek, Times Staff Writers

The Daily Drivers: The 2011 Lexus GS 350 is cushy, but short on style

Lexus recently introduced a limited-edition supercar, the LFA, that starts at $375,000. So what does that have to do with the GS 350 sedan? Nothing, unless you consider the LFA is the halo car that Lexus hopes will elevate its sometimes stodgy image — one the GS 350 does little to dispel.

Appearance: You have to give Lexus credit for knowing its audience. This sedan doesn't make many concessions to style. The roofline is rounded, and ends rather abruptly at a short rear deck. The car has a wide stance anchored by optional 18-inch alloy wheels. Up front is the signature Lexus waterfall grille. We found the chrome trim especially striking against the Smoky Granite paint of our tester.

Performance: The 3.5-liter V-6 turns out 303 horsepower — Camaro and Mustang V-6 territory — and makes for lively pickup in the 3,700-pound car. The 6-speed automatic shifts smoothly, but we found the brakes and steering a bit too touchy for our taste, especially for a "luxury sports sedan." The 350 has Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management, which adjusts braking, steering, stability and traction for a more controlled ride. Despite that, Lyra found it wasn't too difficult to get the rear end loose on quick takeoffs. (There's also a GS 350 AWD version.)

Interior: Like other Lexus models we've driven, there is an abundance of luxury and comfort features. The cabin of our tester was all black leather and red-walnut wood trim — not much in the way of contrast. Maybe because of that, we found the interior lighting a bit too dim; if you drop something at night, you may have a hard time finding it. The leather seats are comfortable and well-bolstered, with the front ones also heated and vented. The rear passengers will find adequate, if not ample, legroom. Peter thinks taller passengers might feel a bit squeezed. Lyra found the AC controls cumbersome with several settings (including the fan speed) that are controlled on the high-resolution touchscreen and not by a button. The electrochromatic gauges are supposed to reduce glare, but Lyra thought they were difficult to read during the day. At night, the backlight numerals on gauges were crisp. Elsewhere, we liked the all-automatic windows, the power moonroof with one-touch buttons and the power rear shade. One of our major nits: Why does a much-used control such as the mirror adjustment need to be in a drop-down control panel on the left side of the steering wheel? It should be on the door and easy to reach. Our 3 favorites

Peter Couture

Power shade: I always find this a nice touch in our Florida climate.

Overall feel: Solid and secure.

Steering wheel: I like the design and placement of the controls.

Lyra Solochek

Luxury package: The backup camera and nav system make this a worthwhile package.

Seats: Comfortable with good bolstering.

Windows: Convenient one-touch open/close for all of them.

The bottom line: Compared with other luxury sports sedans we've driven from its competition, the 350 left us wanting. Still, if comfort is your priority, then the interior may make up for the lack of driving excitement.

2011 Lexus GS 350

Price: $46,000 start, $48,910 as tested

Powertrain: 3.5-liter V-6, 6-speed automatic, RWD

Horsepower: 303 at 6,200 rpm

Torque: 274 pound-feet at 3,000 rpm

Curb weight: 3,704 pounds


in inches:

Wheelbase, 112.2

Length, 190.7

Width, 71.7

Fuel economy:

19 miles per gallon city, 26 mpg highway

Safety features: Air bags and curtains, including side impact and knee, supplemental restraint system, Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management, automatic collision notification, adaptive front lighting system, smart stop technology

Options worth considering: Hard disc drive navigation system, 18-inch wheels



The Daily Drivers: The 2011 Lexus GS 350 is cushy, but short on style 02/25/11 [Last modified: Monday, February 28, 2011 10:42am]
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