We all live hurried, stressful lives. We work hard toiling away at our individual professions, rush to get kids to and from school, shop for groceries, mow grass, do laundry; all sorts of mundane chores that take up most of our day. When our head hits the pillow each night we are exhausted, yet we know that tomorrow we shall be forced to do it all over again.
What we need is a little ‘me’ time; a time to escape the everyday pressures that take up our lives. I suppose we could quit our jobs, abandon our kids and move to a tropical Caribbean island; there to be served fruity tropical drinks by scantily clad natives with six pack abs and amble bosoms. We could… but of course we can’t. That’s because we were raised to be something known as ‘responsible adults’. We must contribute to society, work at our jobs, raise our children and be useful citizens. That doesn’t mean however we can’t find snippets of our day for a little ‘me’ time.
You see we must drive to those jobs, that school, the grocery store. And if we must do these things, why not consider the drive itself as our ‘me’ time. And that’s something the 2013 Lexus GS 350 can deliver quite nicely.
For the uninitiated, Lexus owners seem almost like a cult; they extol the virtues of the car, defend its honor whenever they need to. No wonder; Lexus is known for having quality standards that are nearly legendary with features that cause longtime Lexus drivers to be almost rabid in their loyalty to the brand. After a week behind the wheel of the GS 350, I can understand why.
The GS 350 is known as a midsize luxury sedan, but once behind the wheel it can be nearly anything you can imagine. It is a four door sedan with styling that doesn’t stand out from others in its class, but with the duel exhausts in the back the look hints that it can do much more than deliver groceries.
Available in rear wheel or all wheel drive with either a regular gas or hybrid model, standard features include xenon headlights that move around corners likes a set of cartoonish eyes, a power-closing trunk, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, an iPod interface and a 12-speaker surround-sound audio system. However, if you are willing to spend a bit more the optional features are nearly limitless.
The rear wheel drive model I drove for the week had the Luxury Package ($5,750) which includes such niceties as rain-sensing intermittent windshield wipers with mist cycle, heated and ventilated front seats, power rear sunshade and Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) with electronically controlled shock absorbers. It also had a drive mode select with normal, ECO, and Sport modes. The model also had the Navigation System ($1735) which includes a 12.3-inch split-screen multimedia center-console display.
Trying to explain everything one can do with this system would take up an entire novel; suffice to say that in addition to Satellite Navigation with live traffic and where to get lunch, there’s such useful information as fuel mileage or trip time. This system makes you feel like you are in control of your very own Federation starship; especially at night when you push the start button. The screen dings to life, warning you to be safe and the engine fires, the noise barely audible behind the noise dampening. It’s as if it’s saying, ‘okay you may go now.’ With the backup camera you can skirt future lawsuits by avoiding the neighbor’s car parked in the street after a night of drunken revelry , again.
No the 2103 model has no touch screens, that was abandoned along with the replacement of the previous Camry platform with the bigger Avalon's, but whatever information you need can be found at your fingertips, literally. There is a small joystick sort of device on the center console that controls the system; it allows you to do nearly everything except play Pac man which I suspect would be worse than texting while driving.
The whole point of the GS 250 isn’t all the gadgets though. It isn’t about the gorgeous hand stitched leather throughout; it’s about being there to serve, you the driver. With over 300 horses delivered by a DOHC 24-valve 3.5-liter V-6 at your disposal you can maintain your responsible adult status or shed it and become a newly licensed teenager with time to kill an open road and no curfew.
That open road is where the GS 350 really shines. I took it on an uncluttered highway; soon it was cruising at 80 miles per hour, gliding effortlessly over the surface with minimal road noise, noise that was easily cancelled out by turning up the surround sound and tuning in my favorite satellite station. I had to smile and wonder how long it would take me to get from Florida to Los Angeles; something I would actually look forward to doing in this car. But make no mistake, while being in traffic can equalize any car, if you have to be stuck in gridlock there are far worse places to be. The cabin seems more than adequate, the leather seats can be positioned to make it as just right as a three bears story and the climate control will make the experience as comfortable as sitting in your own living room in your shorts. When the traffic starts moving again the power and throttle response will allow you the freedom to zip through it with ease; you’ll begin to notice openings that previously you never would have dared go but now have the confidence to fill.
Find a twisty road, turn the dial to sport mode, which tightens the steering and stiffens the suspension a bit, and lose yourself if only for a while. The six-speed automatic is more than capable of meeting your need for speed, but in the manual mode paddle shifters that come standard allow you to imagine you are in a DTM racer lapping the Nurburgring. Yes this Lexus is far from that; but hearing the noise as you punch the throttle, made to sound like a throaty V8 thanks to intake resonator piping induction, and you will start speaking with a German accent for a bit. I took it in this mode to a favorite hidden one mile stretch of road with a nice curve in the center. I was at 110 when I hit the curve and 130 when I had to slow down, something that was no problem thanks to the electronic brakeforce distribution which helps maintain control during braking. I made several runs like this in both the automatic and manual modes and each time it was an exhilarating thrill. Another thrill was the ability to produce a nice burnout when leaving a stop light; something I only did once. But that allowed the responsible adult to be left in the spacious backseat; a backseat which by the way features its own set of controls for the music and climate control system.
There were only a few negative points; the joystick position for one, if you reach over it to grab your drink you will almost invariably bump it causing the system to go bonkers for a moment. And you’ll need to plan on sitting in your driveway for an hour the first time as you try and figure out everything; although I was told your Lexus dealer will help you do all that and avoid the neighbors staring as they wonder just what you are up to.
The truth is that there are so many gadgets, maybe too many, that during my week I used only those I needed for everyday driving. I never got around to using all the available apps, though no doubt given time I could become a wiz. Lastly I found the turn signal a bit annoying. Remember: One slight tap to change lanes, the signal stays on for a few seconds, or a firmer tap to keep it on until you execute a full turn. It takes some getting used to and I apologize to those I was in front of and confused until I learned this. And I’m not quite sure who Mark Levinson is or what he has to do with the ‘Premium Surround Sound Audio System’ … it sounds great there seemed nothing about it that made me go ‘wow’.
Minor annoyances aside the Lexus GS 350 is a more than able machine. Sure you can enjoy the comforts during an otherwise boring commute; drive sensibly and get from point A to B but you have the ability and the power, to own your little slice of the road, shed your responsible adult status. No matter your choice you can now look forward to driving anywhere; escape the pressures of everyday life and benefit from a little ‘me’ time.
Bottom Line: Not much to say, just a damn fine car.
2013 Lexus GS 350
Engine: 3.5-liter V6
Horsepower/Torque: 306 hp/277 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: 6-speed automatic with steering wheel paddles
Wheelbase: 112.2 in.
Length/Width/Height: 190.7 x 72.4 x 57.3 in.
Brakes: Four-wheel power-assisted discs, with four-sensor, four-channel Anti-lock Braking
System (ABS), Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist.
Steering: Electronic Power Steering (EPS) System, 2.8 turns lock-to-lock.
EST. MPG: 19/28
Average MPG during test: 22.8
0-60: 5.7 seconds
Rated top speed: 144
Top speed during test: 130
Headroom: 38.0/37.8 in
Legroom: 42.3/36.8 in
48-month/50,000-mile basic limited warranty with roadside assistance for 48 months/unlimited miles.
72 months/70,000 miles powertrain and restraint system coverage.
72 months corrosion perforation protection coverage, regardless of mileage.
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