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Lexus GS 250 Luxury

Click to view picture gallery“Since the Lexus brand came to
  the UK twenty years ago, the range
  has expanded with hybrid
power
  sources
becoming the mainstay
 
models— now the latest GS 250
  versions offer a 206bhp non-hybrid
  2.5-litre V6 petrol engine
...”

THE FOURTH-GENERATION GS 250 executive four-door saloon (BMW 5-Series size) fresh in the showrooms now comes with 2.5-litre petrol power
but, if you prefer, you can still specify the usual 341bhp 3.6-litre V6 hybrid petrol-electric powertrain. However, what you can't have is a diesel engine; not in the GS line-up, and not in any other Lexus model range either.

Although hybrid power is a core powertrain philosophy for the Lexus brand, the new GS range has seen the re-introduction of a petrol engine option after it had been deleted in 2009 due to low sales: all thanks to UK customer feedback from private buyers who wanted a more affordable GS; more affordable, that is, than the expensive-to-buy hybrids.

The result? The price entry-point for the new GS range has fallen by a very significant 12,000: the least expensive new model is the GS 250 SE petrol variant priced at 32,995; the starter price for the hybrid models is 44,995 for the GS 450h Luxury.

Okay, so the hybrid versions have lower CO2 emissions (141-145g/km) which means comparatively cheaper road tax (135). Admittedly the 2.5-litre petrol model's 207g/km of CO2 results in a 600 first year road tax bill but it reduces to 270 from the second year onwards.

“The four-door executive
saloon has an all-new
exterior and interior
which uses what Lexus
likes to call its
‘L-finesse’ design
philosophy —
the proportions are well
balanced and kerb
appeal is really classy
...”
And, yes, the GS 450h hybrid also scores when it comes to fuel economy with 46.3mpg in the Combined Cycle against 31.7mpg for the GS 250 petrol model. That noted, the 12,000 price difference buys an awful lot of petrol as well as offsetting the added road tax costs.

Of course, a diesel powered GS would be an even better choice but there isn't one. And don't hold your breath because none is due.

Still, diesel or no diesel, Lexus sales in the UK continue to grow: up by 33% last year; and in the first seven months of this year they have grown again by 20%. While Lexus might be a highly respected premium brand, one much praised for build quality and reliability, they cannot compete in sales volume terms with the likes of Audi and BMW. But for some discerning UK drivers, niche models are more appealing.

My test model was the likely best-seller, the GS 250 Luxury priced at 35,995 which makes it 9,000 cheaper than the hybrid GS 450h Luxury. Incidentally, both versions (SE and Luxury) of the new GS come with automatic transmissions as standard.

The four-door executive saloon has an all-new exterior and interior which uses what Lexus likes to call its 'L-finesse' design philosophy. On the outside the principle feature of this is a much stronger frontal treatment with sharper styling lines and a new spindle grille that gives the GS greater road presence. The proportions are well balanced and kerb appeal is really classy.

At 4,850mm the new GS is the same length as the previous one, with a wheelbase of 2,855mm. Headroom has increased by 30mm in the front and 25mm in the rear, plus there's 20mm more knee-room in the back. Also increased are the front and rear tracks (by 40mm and 50mm respectively) for a wider, bolder stance.

More gains are to found in the boot: the extra 30% now offers a total of 552 litres. Unusual in this sector are split rear seats that fold for extra space. Your eye can't see another increase but it's there: a 14% improvement in the body's torsional rigidity.

In most respects the interior is beautifully crafted with a dual-zone driver-focused cockpit. In addition to all the usual executive items of spec are several innovative technologies making their first appearance in the new GS.

“In most respects
the interior is beautifully
crafted with
a dual-zone driver-
focused cockpit
...”
These include a new energy-saving air conditioning system which uses less power; and there's a second-generation Lexus Remote Touch Interface linked to the world's largest 8-inch in-car multimedia display screen.

This uses a joystick-cum-mouse-type controller to select most driver support functions within the car — everything from the sound system to the SatNav to the air conditioning. However, the controller is a bit fiddly to use, overly quick to react and can easily select the wrong setting.

Whilst the analogue clock, air vents and radio controls all look top quality, there are some cheap looking black switches set within the smart fascia. Also, the cheap-feel plastic electronic handbrake lever is hidden away behind the steering wheel — and it's not a joy to use either.

The standard audio system has twelve speakers with a CD player and features DAB radio. Other equipment includes Bluetooth, leather upholstery, power front seats, dual-zone climate control, smart entry memory front seats and steering wheel adjustment, push-button start, cruise control, stability and traction control, and alloy wheels.

The Luxury spec adds aluminium scuff plates, piano black gloss interior trim, rear-view camera, automatic headlights and wipers and front and rear parking sensors.

There is also a rotary controller that allows the driver to select the drive mode: Eco, Normal or Sport. This function changes the responses of the accelerator, automatic gearchange points and also adjusts the output of the AirCon.

Eco mode worked best once underway and in the cruise; during acceleration, particularly in traffic on roundabouts and getting away from traffic lights, it made the GS 250 rather sluggish.

“Using Eco mode during
several long journeys
covering 700 miles in
total helped to
achieve the remarkable
and easily obtained
36.2mpg overall fuel
consumption — 4.5mpg
better than the official
figure
...”
However, I did use the Eco setting for much of the time during several long journeys covering 700 miles in total, which no doubt helped to achieve the remarkable and easily obtained 36.2mpg overall fuel consumption — that's 4.5mpg better than the official Combined Cycle figure.

New to the GS range, the GS 250 2.5-litre V6 petrol engine utilises D-4S direct injection and Dual VVT-i intelligent variable valve timing on both intake and exhaust camshafts. The unit develops 207bhp and 191lb ft of torque at 4,800rpm, sufficient for the GS 250 to hit 62mph in 8.6 seconds and run on to a top speed of 143mph.

The new engine is matched to a close-ratio six-speed automatic transmission with a sequential manual shift mode that allows faster gearchange speeds with early torque converter lock-up to reduce power absorption and loss.

The result is a quiet and relaxed power delivery — just the thing Lexus customers love — allied to good fuel economy.

Likes: Overall refinement, comfortable, composed and predictable handling, mostly perfect interior design and of high quality (although there are some cheap looking plastic switches), comprehensive specification, good fuel economy for a V6 petrol engine and good performance — and as much as 12K cheaper than the petrol-electric hybrid versions.

Dislikes: High taxes. No diesel engine option — and without one, the true sales potential of the GS in Europe, including the UK, will not be met.

I know this goes against the Lexus core image of sports petrol or petrol-hybrid powertrains. But that's what the GS needs to meet its sales potential against the likes of the Audi A6, BMW 5-Series, Jaguar XF and Mercedes E-Class. Infiniti, Chrysler and Cadillac all initially tried to sell executive cars in Europe with no diesel engine option; they learnt. —
David Miles

Lexus GS 250 Luxury | 35,995
Maximum speed: 143mph | 0-62mph: 8.6 seconds | Overall test MPG: 36.2mpg
Power: 207bhp | Torque: 191lb ft | CO2 207g/km