Expectations were low for the Lexus GS200t.
Up until 8 a.m. on the day it showed up, I thought I'd be reviewing a Kia Soul. But that car was damaged and before I knew it a gunmetal gray GS showed up. I hadn't heard much about the car the past few years. Honestly, I was expecting it had fallen behind the class and was consigned to mediocrity until its next update.
Boy, was I wrong. What I discovered, in the next week, was that the GS is one of the most overlooked gems in the automotive world.
Like everyone else, I was skeptical of the hourglass/spindle/predator face/vacuum cleaner/megatron grille that Lexus adopted as they tried to shake the image of being an old person's car.
But across its lineup, Lexus has smoothed out the styling clashes and made a very attractive family of cars. Aside from the jaw-dropping LC 500, the GS is easily the most effective deployment of the grille. Given that the LC 500 easily creeps into six-figure territory, the $52,295 car you see here is probably a smarter choice for your wallet.
It looks aggressive without being overbearing, and the angular styling up front is carried over to a sharp rear end. The L-shaped daytime running lights look awkward from a few angles, but catch it in the right light and the GS200t is truly a stunning design. But it doesn't get five stars.
While there's an argument to be made the GS is one of the most attractive sports sedans, the 200t base model I had isn't even the best looking GS in the lineup. That honor goes to the GS350 F Sport.
Simply put, the interior is an absolutely lovely place to spend time. The seats are fantastic and material quality is exactly as you'd expect from Lexus. Even the volume knob is milled out metal and feels a cut above the car's $50,000 price range. That volume knob also controls the Mark Levinson premium audio system, which is up there with the best I've heard. Even at full, ear-throbbing volume, the music is crisp and beautiful.
The dash is flowing and gorgeous, wrapping around a massive 12.3-inch screen. That, I'm afraid, is where things start to go wrong. While the screen itself is absolutely gorgeous and can be customized to your heart's content with navigation and musical data, it's soiled by a bone-headed control system. The mouse-style controller requires far too much attention to be used while driving.
I did slowly get used to the mouse controller, but it seemed like an unnecessary frustration. There are a variety of buttons and knobs to perform pretty much everything but navigation, so you won't need to deal with the system too often. Fix the infotainment, and this interior is easily a perfect five.
At no point did I feel that the 241-horsepower, turbocharged four-cylinder was wanting for power. It was quiet even when you pushed it, and the torque arrived remarkably linearly. It took a long time for Lexus to roll out a turbocharged mill, but they nailed it on the first go.
It's linked to an eight-speed transmission that does its job entirely unnoticed with smooth and well-timed shifts. The chassis is a masterpiece, with an absolutely serene ride not compromising the composed cornering behavior.
Lexus' suite of automated driving assists are on board as well, and I can report they work as advertised. The lane keeping and radar cruise control systems are a bit more cautious than competitors, encouraging complete attention at all times. Credit to the company for making these life-saving technologies standard equipment.
The GS is, to me, the best value in the luxury sedan market. At $52,295 for this well-equipped model, you get a cheaper price than competitors and you truly don't sacrifice anything but power; the chassis, drivetrain, interior, style, and technology all meet the standards of the class. You just can't get an insane twin-turbo V8 like the Germans offer.
The GS200t F Sport is the best call, but since you can't get all-wheel drive a lot of northern customers will find themselves forced into GS 350 F Sports. Don't pity them, as in my limited experience the 350 is just as potent and excellent.
Note: For 2018, it appears the GS200t has been renamed GS300.
I found the GS to be one of the most compelling packages on the market. A great chassis, fantastic drivetrain and all-important safety equipment rolled into an attractive package. If Lexus ever solves its infotainment woes, the GS will be one of the best cars on sale.
Driving Experience: 5
Price as configured: $52,295