By 2007, Lexus had 13 different models on the market in Canada, not including all-wheel-drive variations, hybrids and next-generation models. Suddenly, it seemed, Toyota's upscale division had gone from being a marketer of luxury niche products to a full-line manufacturer catering to virtually every taste in the market.
Roughly in the middle of the range was the GS 350, which, by 2007, was in its third generation and could be had with either all-wheel-drive or conventional rear-wheel-drive.
Either way, what you got was a refined exercise in comfort and performance. It wasn't the most expensive model Lexus put forward, but the GS 350 had all the necessary extras and modcons to make it as much a luxury-mobile as its more expensive stable-mates. More to the point, it felt like a prestige automobile, which is what this market was all about.
How much does that new car cost?
It also got a performance shot in the arm this year, with 300 horsepower on tap - up some 55 hp from the previous version. This was enough to give it a 0-100 km/h time in the seven-second neighbourhood.
This somewhat surprising giddy-up came courtesy of a 3.5-litre V-6 that featured dual overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder, variable valve timing and a throttle-by-wire arrangement Lexus called its Electronic Throttle Control System with Intelligence (ETCS-i). In a nutshell, this electronically relays the position of the gas pedal to a small electric motor - via the vehicle's Engine Control Module - which opens and closes the engine's throttle accordingly. In this application, it was imperceptible and seamless. This engine was new for 2007.
Transmission was a six-speed automatic only with a manual shift feature, and the GS 350 featured a traction control system, vehicle stability control and a hill-start assist, which meant you wouldn't roll backward when you pulled away from a dead stop on a steep hill. Brakes were ventilated discs all round, with ABS, electronic brake force distribution and brake assist. Suspension was tried-and-true double wishbones up front and multi-link control arms in the back.
If there was one word that applied to the GS 350 it would have to have been: "subtle."
On the face of it, this was just another Lexus - although one with a $62,000 price tag - but it had a bad-boy side to its goodie two-shoes personality. All the usual politically correct prerequisites were observed - fuel economy, Tier Two emissions, a full roster of safety equipment and all the rest, but all things considered, the GS 350 was a bit of a sleeper.
Two safety recalls are on file with Transport Canada and the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. One involves a voluntary recall from Lexus for possibly faulty valve springs in the engine which could, under extreme circumstances, lead to engine failure, while the second is a warning about the use of ethanol fuels, which could cause the fuel rails to wear prematurely and eventually affect the fuel injection system. In both cases, these glitches affect a wide range of Lexus models and will be repaired gratis by dealers. Interestingly, the GS 350 is one model that seems to have escaped the all-encompassing Toyota/Lexus faulty gas pedal and floor-mat recall campaign.
And just one technical service bulletin on file with NHTSA for this vintage of Lexus. It's for "alternate" front brake pads, which presumably means that original equipment should be used when replacing these.
Consumer Reports magazine likes this particular Lexus, but not excessively so. Despite giving it top ratings in virtually every category, CR gives the GS 350 a "average" used-car prediction rating. The fuel system seems to be problematic, as do the brakes and audio system. Apparently, "squeaks and rattles" are an issue as well. Some comments from owners: "very stiff ride," "voice-activated controls are a waste of time," and "Beware. Car dies after five days of not being driven." An undersized trunk is also a common gripe.
Market research company J.D. Power, meanwhile, gives the GS 350 decent ratings, but not the best. It gets a "better than most" grade for overall dependability, but "about average" for powertrain quality and dependability. Good marks just about everywhere else, though.
From its just-under $60,000 base price in 2007, the GS 350 has dropped to about half of what it cost new. Prices seem to be in the high-$20,000 to mid-$30,000 neighbourhood, depending upon whether it's the Special Edition or Luxury version and whether it has all-wheel-drive. AWD models seem to be about $1,500 pricier.
How much does that new car cost?
2007 Lexus GS 350
Original Base Price: $59,750; Black Book Value: $33,650-$35,050; Red Book Value: $29,975-$31,075
Engine: 3.5-litre V-6
Horsepower/Torque: 303 hp/274 lb-ft
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Drive: All-wheel and rear-wheel
Fuel Economy (litres/100 km): 11.0 city/7.5 highway; regular gas
Alternatives: BMW 5-Series, Audi A6, Mercedes E350, Infiniti M35, Acura RL