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Monday, August 20, 2012

2012 LEXUS GS BREAKS INTO MZANSI






Lexus South Africa, tired of twiddling thumbs on the sidelines while the German trio have their way with potential customers, has launched the brand new redesigned 2012 GS range into the market. Led by the ultimate GS – in the absence of a possible GS-F – the 450h, it seems Lexus is in a rather foul mood this time around.


Previous GS models launched in Mzansi have tended to concentrate mainly on the mid to high-level segments of the market, resulting in a rather limited penetration. Lately though, things have changed. With the new GS 250, an entry-level heir apparent was created. It’s powered by the existing 2.5-litre V6 petrol with natural aspiration. It delivers 154kW at 6400rpm, as well as 253Nm of torque at 4800rpm. Essentially it’s the same engine used in the IS 250. Lexus says it will accelerate from 0 – 100km/h in 8.8 seconds, using its 6-speed automatic gearbox. Unfortunately during my two days strapped to the front seats of the new GS I didn’t get to drive the GS 250, simply because it was not around.

However, the GS 350did get some IN4RIDE treatment in the form of a few lashings around some wide sweeping roads and long straights. It turned out to be quite a revelation. Through some years of driving experience behind the wheel of several Lexus, one now generally expects these Japanese lux machines to behave a certain way. Surprise surprise! Immediately after pushing the start button the 3.5-litre naturally aspirated V6 sprung to life, simultaneously bringing the speedo needles on to the dance floor of lights. A tap on the accelerator then returned some warmth on the blood stream, through another dance of the eardrum. Gee, GS really means business.

As the V6 growledits way down the streets of small Western Cape towns, it drew stares probably not only for the growl, but also the stunning new looks. That, via a 6-speed automatic, it metes out 233kW at 6400rpm and 378Nmat 4800rpm, might have had something to do with my wide smile. But what also induced the facial expression was just how good it felt to drive this car. Traditionally with Lexus you expect comfort yes, you expect a fair bit of power yes, and you also expect pretty much nothing else. Not this time. I enjoyed throwing it around bends, watching it almost lose itself a little on corners, powering past slower traffic and giving back some good steering feedback. It’s not so Lexus “traditional” anymore, it’s now entering the sacred bowels of German executive fun!

For the performance samuraiin us, there is the GS 450h hybrid. Built on the same V6 architecture, 450h also adds an electric motor and battery pack. Maximum push is 213kW at 6000rpm and 345Nm + 275Nm of thrust, sent to the wheels through a CVT gearbox. They say it will accelerate from standstill to 100km/h in 6.1 seconds, but we only managed 6.9 seconds on our test equipment in Gauteng. Nevertheless an average fuel consumption figure of 6.9 litres per 100km more than made up for it.

Of course this wouldn’t be a Lexus, especially a GS, if wasn’t laden to the forehead with all the latest tech kit and other goodies. Most of all, it’s all standard! Now, you’d expect me to list the usual automatic aircon, electric windows, leather seats and xenon lights as standard right? Yes, all these are indeed factory-fitted for you. But wait, there’s more. You also get satellite navigation, a reversing camera, a large 31cm screen on the dash that helps access all sorts of information, and something called Remote Touch Interface, which is like a little computer mouse that navigates the screen. I must say, it’s not the world’s most intuitive device, even though it’s in its second generation now. I often found myself clicking on the wrong icons because of this. A simple wheel/ knob would have done the job I reckon.

Other standard stuff includes daytime running lights in LED format, seat heating/ cooling, Bluetooth connectivity and cruise control. All standard. Higher-specced models (designated F-Sport and SE) can also add things like a very powerful 17-speaker Mark Levinson sound system and a moonroof as standard.

Bansai is probably apt when it comes to the styling changes. As I’ve hinted earlier, Lexus has really been at the back of the queue when it comes to excitement in this segment. Why, even the Audi A6 has consistently been more heart-thumping than equivalent GS models. Not anymore. With a dress code called F-Sport, Lexus ensures that your presence is instantly recognised wherever you drive. In addition to the new “spindle grille” design that looks like that alien from Predator movies when it opens its mouth. An F-Sport front bumper, boot spoiler, smoked dark wheels and aluminium interior trim complete the performance look.

Lexus SA through Toyota SA, has been in the country now for well over a decade. Probably due to poor marketing decisions and lack of investmentin their product, they just haven’t had the same kind of success they enjoy in the US for example. With a new attitude towards their flagship brand – so aptly demonstratedby this very good GS range – things are guaranteed to change for the better.


Lexus GS Pricing
GS 250 EX (R494 400)
GS 350 EX (R564 900)
GS 450h F-Sport (R753 700)
GS 450h SE (R771 700)

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//PART 2