Lexus GS launch – Yas Marina Circuit
We were at the UAE launch of the all-new GS last month
By Shahzad Sheikh
What’s the coolest thing about the new GS? The new looks, that distinctive grille, that massive dashboard screen, or is it LDH? What’s LDH? Read on…
Meeting the Lexus ‘Miester’
Lexus ‘Miester’, Yoshiaki Ito , is drawing lines on the back of a business card. We’re at Lexus-hosted dinner in Dubai, the night before trying out the all-new GS at Yas Marina Circuit the next day. The jovial Japanese gentleman is one of only three ‘Miesters’ in the Toyota Corporation and he’s responsible for testing an evaluating all new Lexus models.
And he’s got a glittering track record – in the 80s and 90s he pioneered research into car performance, carried out track training and driver evaluation, as well as developing such iconic cars as the Toyota Supra and Celica GT4, in addition to working on eight Lexus models.
Earlier I had asked him if the new GS was a sports saloon? ‘Ah, so, it’s sporty, but comfortable…’ replies Chief Expert, Vehicle Evaluation & Engineering Division 1 (according to his business card). Not a full-on sports saloon, in the way the IS-F is, for example. ‘Why are we driving it at Yas Marina then?’ I enquire.
At this, the mild-manner Japanese test driver, suddenly became very animated and got visibly excitable, which is unusual for a Lexus person from Japan, believe me.
Active rear action
Despite his very broken English (or at least a very good act at broken English), he is eager to explain the coolest feature of the new GS. The lines he’s scribbled represent the front and rear wheels, and he’s trying to demonstrate how the active rear-wheel steering works. Through a series of gestures and hand movements we’re totally getting each other though.
The LDH (Lexus Dynamic Handling) and combines the dynamic rear-steering systems with electric power steering and variable gear ratio steering. Computers monitor speed, steering direction and the driver’s inputs and works out the best angle for all four wheels, which it can then independently manage the angles of – yep that means the front wheels can automatically initiate corrective lock, even whilst your hands haven’t moved, whilst the rear can counteract oversteer but turning into the slide and maintaining grip.
It can even account for yaw rate and turn the rear wheels up to 2 degrees – in the same direction at speeds over 80kph and opposite directions below that speed.
Spooky. But there’s more, it’s all tied into Anti-lock Braking System; Traction Control; Vehicle Stability Control; and Adaptive Variable Suspension.
There’s two downsides of all this clever kit, the first is that the really cool LDH stuff is only fitted with the F-Sport package, and secondly (and this is entirely a personal bias) it’s yet another step on the path to taking away all driving responsibilities from the actual human behind the wheel.
I feared the system would feel unreal and artificial when I got to Yas Marina. Sure enough the Circuit had been rearranged with slaloms and avoidance manoeuvre simulations to demonstrate the dynamic abilities.
We had literally two very brief laps in each of three engine configurations – GS250, GS350 and GS450. The latter two came with F-Sport included.
The snap verdicts
GS450 – the full-fat edition was potent but did feel a little overweight compared to its brothers. Felt like a car that demolish distances with ease, and still handle the twisty bits with aplomb.
GS250 – on a track this felt rather underpowered, but would be fine for the daily commute and lift the dreariness with its inviting cabin. Chucking it through the cones was a chance to check the car’s agility without LDH and it was actually very able and adept, moving from heavy understeer on sweepers to oversteer on the sharper turns.
GS350 – somehow got to save the best for last, but this engine perfectly matches the nature of the car. It could be argued that it’s underpowered, but there’s sufficient here to get you into trouble, except that the handling theatrics keep you well out of trouble. This car is the best balanced all-rounder.
How was F-Sport LDH Active Rear Steer?
In a word – phenomenal. You can really feel the system working, which seems slightly odd and off-putting at first, but you quickly adapt to it. The movement of the car though the slalom and corners was more fluid, more stable, but still very enjoyable.
With the computer-orchestrated back moving in tune with the front, there’s an illusion that you are sliding this car around and catching it instantly and elegantly. You’re not, the rear wheels are turning into the slide to maintain grip and whilst the fronts are automatically correcting your direction of travel.
It does the job of a reassuring four-wheel drive system, like Audi’s Quattro, but it’s less stubborn, less rigid, allows more movement. Certainly on grippy surfaces the LDH seems a better solution for a saloon.
Keeping you safe
As entertaining as it is, the real benefit that becomes immediately apparent, and is then underlined by …. Jumping in and taking me for a ‘hot’ lap is the fact that this is ultimately an incredible safety feature. Particularly for the style of driving here in the region.
At 160kph on the long straight, he simulates an emergency avoidance, and swerves sharply from one side to the other. So severe is the g-force that it leaves a crick in my neck, but the car doesn’t even seem momentarily unsettled, the electronics immediately getting on with saving your life.
If you think about a friend or relative that might be blasting along a highway and suddenly encounters a hazard such as a car with a blowout, or a stray camel in front, you’d want them in no other car than this in order to successfully survive a high-speed swerve.
The new GS is on sale now at your Lexus dealer. GS450 prices have not been revealed yet, but the rest of the range is priced as follows:
GS 250 Premier: 195,000 AED
GS 250 Prestige: 215,000 AED
GS 250 Platinum: 220,000 AED
GS 350 Premier: 235,000 AED
GS 350 Prestige: 240,000 AED
GS 350 Platinum: 275,000 AED
GS 350 Titanium/F-sport: 290,000 AED
It’s a genuinely good looking Lexus, potentially taking over the mantle from the IS as the best looking car in the range, well-equipped and presented. It’s a bit on the pricey side, but my pick would definitely be the GS350 Titanium with the F-Sport pack. It could even save your life.