Fun-to-drive is not often the first thought that comes to mind when it comes to Lexus sedans.
Luxurious, yes. Comfortable, no doubt. Quality, the highest.
But until recently, “fun to drive” was a concept Lexus reserved for special models like the IS F, a performance version of its entry level sports sedan that packs a 5.8-liter V8 engine under its hood and carries a plus-$63,000 price tag.
The one Lexus model that has consistently come closest to giving its driver some punch to go along with its cushiness has been the GS 350, and that is especially so in the 2014 model.
The redesign for 2013 gave the GS 350 the look and feel -- and performance -- of a true luxury sports sedan, one that stood up to its European rivals in the segment.
Some slight tinkering on the GS 350 for 2014 made it only better. The most significant change is the matching of the 3.6-liter V6 engine with an eight-speed, automatic transmission with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters in rear-wheel-drive versions. AWD GS 350s retain the six-speed automatic.
The new transmission makes the 2014 RWD models a tick quicker with a zero-to-60 mph time of 5.7 seconds, according to the company, while keeping fuel economy at 19 miles-per-gallon city, 29 highway. AWD numbers are 5.8 seconds and 19/26 mpg, respectively.
Drivers have the choice of three standard driving modes -- Eco, Normal, and Sport, and yes, the Sport mode really does have a positive effect on throttle response. The GS 350 is rated at 306 horsepower (at a 6400 rpm) and 277 pound-feet of torque (at 4800 rpm), the high rev levels being a result of its normally aspirated engine.
Driving experience also is enhanced by the addition of the optional F Sport package that adds a fourth mode, Sport +, that includes a firmer setting for the suspension system and other adjustments for an even sportier performance.
Meanwhile, the interior oozes Lexus class with the use of high-quality materials throughout the cabin and an array of technological features, many of which are operable through either the Siri Eyes Free voice control or the Lexus Remote Touch system and its point-and-click, mouse-like controller.
That system, by the way, can be distracting. Using the controller, you move a cursor on the screen and click to get to the desired function, such as SiriusXM satellite radio, requiring the driver to take eyes off the road, not a good thing.
Fortunately, you can avoid having to use the Remote Touch system to perform some tasks, such as using the controls on the steering wheel to adjust the audio or punch the buttons on the center stack to turn the A/C up or down.
Pricing for the GS 350 starts at $48,610 (including destination and delivery) for RWD models to $50,860 for AWD versions. That puts the GS well under the price tag for the LS 460 ($73,050 and $75,995, respectively) and in the $10,000-plus range for ES and IS models.
There’s also a hybrid version of the GS that starts at $61,340.
For more information and specs on the GS 350, checking the accompanying slide slow.