2002 Lexus GS


2001 Lexus GS

This 2001 review is representative of model years 2001 to 2005.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 7

Bottom Line:

Strong performance and lots of luxury but lacks edginess of top rivals.
  • Luxurious
  • Very fast with larger V8
  • Good handling
  • Unique styling
  • Oddly shaped trunk
  • Erratic power window operation
  • Spoiler has add-on look

The Lexus GS sedan provides the smoothness and luxury expected from a Lexus with much of the performance of a top European sports sedan, especially with its available V8.

However, some buyers of fast, luxurious foreign sedans may feel this Japanese Lexus model is a little too soft and opt for a European BMW or Mercedes-Benz model.

European-Style Sedan
Introduced for 1998, the GS was the first Lexus offering really good communication with roads. For one thing, it had the rear-wheel-drive setup of European rivals for good weight distribution. This is no nose-heavy front-drive car.

But, with the exception of its fairly new, edgy IS 300 model, Lexus puts luxury first. So don't expect the GS to feel like a 5-Series sedan. In fact, this Lexus is more at home during high-speed highway cruising than tackling winding two-lane backroads.

Athletic Moves
Still, the 2001 GS has very athletic moves with its sophisticated all-independent suspension, although the fast steering doesn't feel as communicative as BMW steering. A traction control system adds stability and a Vehicle Skid Control system helps keep the GS going on its intended course if, say, a driver enters a curve too fast.

The GS comes as the $38,555 GS 300 with an inline six-cylinder engine, and as the $47,355 GS 430 with a more powerful V8. The engines are very sophisticated—especially the V8—and both models are very well equipped. The GS 430 has standard leather upholstery, which is a $1,660 option for the GS 300.

New Features
Cosmetic changes for the 2001 model year include a revised grille and larger dual exhaust outlets with stainless steel tips. New features include side curtain airbags up front, more interior wood trim, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, water-repellant front door glass and an electronic compass. The GS 430 gets High-Intensity Discharge headlights for better illumination.

Being the most powerful GS model, the 430 gets most of the attention. Mechanical changes for it include an engine enlarged from 4 to (you guessed it!) 4.3 liters.

The V8 has the same 300-horsepower rating of last year's engine, but provides more torque for better responsiveness. It delivers the same fuel economy as last year's V8.

Not to be overlooked is the GS 300, which has an unchanged (you guessed it again!) 3.0-liter engine. It produces 220 horsepower and pretty strong acceleration.

The GS 300 hits 60 mph in 7.6 seconds, while the GS 430 zips to that speed in just 5.8 seconds. Top speed of the GS 430 is electronically limited to 149 mph, while the GS 300 can reach 144 mph.

Powerful Brakes
Don't want to go that fast? Well, you need not worry about stopping distances because the brake pedal has a solid feel and there is a brake-assist feature that allows surer stops in emergency situations.

Both models are heavy, at approximately 3,700 pounds, and there's little difference in government-estimated fuel economy: Both are rated at 18 mpg in the city, while the GS 430's highway figure is 23 and that of the GS 300 is 24.

Long Cruising Range
Actually, I got 26 mpg while during mostly steady cruising at 65 mph in the GS 430 during a 1,000-mile drive. The nearly 19.8-gallon fuel tank allows a long cruising range, but costlier premium gasoline is recommended.

For the first time, the 2001 GS 300 gets steering wheel-mounted manual-shift buttons for the GS' smooth 5-speed automatic transmission, which helps provide fast launches and delivers quick downshifts. The GS 430 loses such buttons this year, but you can still shift the automatic manually with its floor-mounted gear selector.

Although several years old, the GS continues to look racy and unique. However, the $440 rear spoiler offered for the GS 430 has a tacked-on look and doesn't help the car's appearance.

Five a Squeeze
The posh interior easily accommodates four tall adults, but five occupants is a squeeze because the back seat lacks the shoulder width to comfortably allow three passengers. Also, that back seat has a hard center section and no good place to put feet, thanks to the center driveline hump for the rear-drive layout.

Front seats are very comfortable on long drives. And a power-adjustable steering wheel and power driver's seat that is nicely positioned in relation to the wheel and pedals should allow virtually all drivers to get comfortable.

While generally quiet, the interior isn't as silent as one might expect it to be with such an upscale car. Thus, the expensive, optional Mark Levinson audio system sometimes can't be fully enjoyed.

Gauges have special lighting during the day to make them easier to read, but are set too deeply in the three-pod instrument cluster. Trunk and fuel cover releases are semi-hidden, although other controls can be easily seen.

The optional navigation system's touch screen contains audio and climate functions and can be difficult to use. The owner's manual occupies most room in the glove box, but the console has a fairly large, covered storage area. Console-mounted cupholders have a cover and are nicely placed.

Frustrating Power Window Operation
But power window controls are certain to drive you crazy. Windows have a one-touch power-up and power-down feature and trying to stop them from zooming completely up or down with their control buttons often seems impossible. It doesn't seem worth the effort after a few fruitless tries. Shame on Lexus—operating windows should be virtually effortless in the GS.

The trunk is fairly large, but has an awkward two-level design that makes it hard to fit large suitcases and other bulky objects. Also, rear wheelwell housings eat into cargo space—as do the trunk lid's old-fashioned, manual hinges, which can damage cargo. Where's the compact hydraulic trunk lid struts found even on some economy cars?

The GS is solidly built. But its trunk lid still has a tinny sound when closing. However, doors shut with a reassuring "thunk."

The GS—even the V8 model—isn't quite a BMW. But then, it's not supposed to be.


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BB05 - 9/15/2014 8:01:30 PM