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Lexus GS Turbo 2016 Review: Enforced Character

Derryn Wong
09/06/2016

Singapore – The idea of a turbo Lexus is no longer heathen heresy. As Lexus itself says, naturally-aspirated (aka NA, i.e. non-turbo / non-supercharged) engines have, until now, worked very well – and continue to do so.

But the drive for lower emissions and better performance is one which simply can’t be achieved without modern turbocharger tech. If you count the once NA faithful, they’ve all migrated towards forced induction: Mercedes-AMG, BMW M, even Honda’s next, much-anticipated Civic will be turbocharged.

Lexus has gone turbocharged, as we’ve already seen in the NX, new RX and the IS, all of which pack the first turbocharged Lexus engine in history, the 8AR-FTS, and now it finds a home under the bonnet of the GS large sedan. As it is with the IS range, the turbo engine replaces the old 2.5-litre V6 engine, 4GR-FSE, which reaps numerous benefits.  

On paper the benefits are clear: The GS Turbo is more powerful, quicker, less thirsty and more efficient than the old GS 250. In real life though, the benefits are even more distinct.

Like the smaller IS sedan, and perhaps even more so, the GS has always been a highly underrated car when it comes to driving fun, and it’s always delivered sweet handling combined with more traditional Lexus qualities. And, in 250 guise, it’s always felt like it could do with more grunt. The GS F is the obvious extreme example, but even here the GS Turbo has a 35bhp boost to horsepower and nearly 100Nm of torque extra.

It’s deceptive, though. The power on the old 250 built up slowly, the car only really moving as the needle edged towards 5,000rpm, but the turbo feels the same, just that the timeline is much more compressed. It’s not a kick or a punch, as the Continentals favour, but a hint of a pause, then a gradual, generous swell of torque comes in, accompanied by a pleasing purr.

That’s with Eco or Normal drive modes engaged – there’s also a Sport mode which makes the drivetrain go hyperactive (or slightly hyperactive, it’s still a Lexus after all) and deliver its punch quicker. Not that you’d feel threatened anyway: the GS Turbo never feels fast, although you might be going rather quickly, since as before the refinement and ride quality is uniformly excellent and still amongst the best you can find in this segment.

With the Turbo replacing the 250 as the base model, there are three variants on offer here: The basic Executive model, a higher-spec Luxury model (tested here) and an F Sport model. The price premium of the latter two is $18,000 for each.

All models other than Executive come with adaptive suspension as standard, so the Luxury we tested has an extra Sport+ mode which stiffens up the ride and handling.

Even in that mode though, the GS never lets bumps cajole your bottom, while also delivering one of the more involved-but-still-refined drives in the big sedan class.  The only downside is that the GS is still a heavy car, even if it doesn’t feel that way while driving, and compared to its German rivals it consumes and emits more.

There are a few interior updates:The steering wheel is a new three-spoke design, the driver’s display screen is now larger, and clearer, while the Remote Touch Interface controller and its handrest has also been updated for more ease of use.  

At the same time, the GS also gets facelifted so that it appears more aggressive in the new Lexus way: The spindle grille is now one huge, uninterrupted piece (as on the ES and IS, for example) and instantly recognisable as a Lexus. It’s nicer too, since the body-coloured ‘bar’ that separated the grille and lower air-intakes is now deleted. The headlights and taillights are also re-designed, and the rear gets a tidier treatment with integrated tailpipes and a rear diffuser.

The model we tested isn’t even an F Sport model, but the more aggressive look sits well with the GS and its much improved turbo drivetrain, which merely serves to sharpen one aspect of the car that’s always been in the shadows until now.


Lexus GS Turbo Luxury

Engine 1,998cc, 16V, inline 4, turbocharged

Power 241bhp at 5800rpm

Torque 350Nm at 1650-4400rpm

Gearbox 8-speed automatic

Top Speed 230km/h

0-100kmh 7.3 seconds

Fuel efficiency 8.0L/100km

CO2 186g/km

Price $252,000 with COE

Availability Now

Also Consider: BMW 528i, Mercedes-Benz E 250

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About the Author

Derryn Wong

CarBuyer's chief editor brings 15 years of experience in automotive journalism. Previously, he was the editor for Top Gear Singapore, and a presenter for CNA's Cruise Control motoring segment. He's contributed to The Business Times, Today, and many other publications, and also covered technology as editor of Stuff magazine. An avid motorcyclist and photographer, he is the Chief Slave of two cats. Follow him on Instagram @werryndong

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