Cape Town - Lexus SA first introduced the GS to South Africa in 2006, by then it was already three-generations old. A fourth-generation arrived in 2012 and now, in 2016, the automaker has made many subtle changes to the refreshed version.
The automaker claims the GS fits into the mainstream segment and much like its entry-level LS and premium IS models, is also driving performance orientated.
Lexus SA says: "The role of GS is to bridge the gap between the entry model sedans namely ES and IS and flagship LS sedan by combining dynamic rear wheel drive with spaciousness, comfort and luxury."
The Minor Change GS will only consist of two models in South Africa - the GS 200t and GS 350 F-Sport.
If fierce had a look...
The new 'Minor Changes' model as Lexus SA calls it, is more assertive in terms of looks. Its sportier stance is evident in its front bumper, radiator grille, fog lights and headlights with what Lexus calls an “intelligent fierceness” theme.
It might have an aggressive stance but it's a beautifully designed vehicle. It has sharp, contrasting lines and curves which flow into each other. The new Lexus spindle grille still resembles a Japanese samurai warrior to me and the narrow LED headlight clusters perfectly compliments the look, along with that accented lines in front of the car.
How does it drive?
When I set eyes on the new GS at the Mount Nelson Hotel in Cape Town, where Lexus SA had launched the car, I just wanted to get in and drive off - possibly as fast as what the car looked. It exudes a sporty stance and begs to put its performance to the test.
But, once you slide behind those sumptuous leather seats, all you want to do is play some soft, classical music and cruise along the highway. In fact, I wanted to take off my shoes and relax since the deep blue model I was driving had an off-white interior and soft-touch materials that just screams lavishness.
Lexus has launched a new 2.0-litre turbo engine which was first introduced on the NX, IS and in the new RC the automaker recently launched here in SA. It kicks out 180kW/380Nm
The 200t unit also features a four-cylinder Atkinson cycle with dual Variable Valve Timing Intelligence with D-4ST technology. It's mated to an 8-speed direct sport shift automatic transmission.
The ride is as smooth as shop-bought custard. The 2.0-litre unit has a soft grumble which sounds cute instead of menacing, at odds with its aggressive looks. So in that regard, it's somewhat disappointing and left me confused on what to do behind the wheel. I'm sure the GS350 F-Sport would make up where the 200t lacks in rumbling notes.
The steering wheel is solid, and felt almost larger than most in such a sporty model. One would expect it to be petite. With that said, steering response is receptive and the car goes where you command it.
Gear-changes are effortless when using the paddle-shifts on the steering wheel but when driving normally in auto the gears seem a bit frantic in finding its ideal sweet spot during accelerating.
Hence my confusion - not knowing if I should have driven it like it was stolen as its exterior suggests or cruise like 'Miss Daisy' because of its extravagant cabin.
What's to like?
Toyota's generally sport an uncluttered facia but because Lexus is more premium, there are usually more buttons to go with more equipment. Well, the automaker knows less is more so the GS is fairly neat and tidy.
It has these cool flop down-styled temperature digits reminiscent of old alarm clocks or of those used at the airport back before digital formats came about.
It also has a beautiful analogue clock in the facia which features GPS automatic time adjustment.
According to Lexus SA, this means it automatically reverts to the country's time you happen to be driving in... Just in case you take a road trip from Cape Town to Cairo.
The clean horizontal sweep of the dashboard has been emphasised by high-end audio panel with 'milled aluminium knobs', says the automaker, whilst the climate control section adopts a new, high-contrast, Electro Luminescent Display (ELD) for improved visibility of temperature settings to the GS’s three-zone air-con system.
Wheels24 journalist Sean Parker's impression on the new GS:
The new Lexus GS200T is a welcome addition to the range. It blends opulence, solid build quality and a frugal engine in a competitive package.
Lexus, for as long as I have been familiar with the brand, has always trumped its German rivals when it comes to standard features in its models. The GS200T is no exception. I particularly liked the heated and cooled leather seats.
The car's dimensions lend them-self to a limousine-esque driving style, and it's aided by one of the smoothest transmissions I've tested in a while: an 8-speed auto.
What's the new engine like? Well it doesn't feel under-powered with 180kW/350Nm from its 2.0-litre turbocharged unit. It's more boulevard cruiser than a brisk luxury sedan. It excels on the road with an exquisite ride quality courtesy of a double wishbone (front) and multilink (rear) suspension.
It's a good all-round package that deserves to be taken seriously. The quality and specification is nothing to be scoffed at and perhaps shouldn't be seen as a sporty sedan but more of a luxurious cruiser.
BMW 5 Series
Standard specs in the 200t GS
Auto and easy door lock (Luggage Closer)*
Speed auto door lock
Hill Assist Control 3
Tyre Inflation Warning with Auto Location
4.2" TFT Multi Information Display
LED daytime running lights
LED front fog lights
Bluetooth, AUX and USB x 2
Back guide monitor
12.3" EMV Screen
Dual auto air conditioner
Driver and passenger heatable seats
Outer mirror (Auto Retractable, heated and electrochromic)
Leather steering wheel
Leather seat material
18” Alloy Wheels
Would I buy it?
Not too sure. Perhaps if I was looking for a niche, premium sedan. It has amazing styling, comfortable driving, a huge boot and it's cheaper than its rivals.
It has a host of standard driver support systems, including Tyre Pressure Monitor (With Auto Location), Park Distance Control, Hill Assist Control and Vehicle Dynamic Integrated Management (VDIM) – which manages systems such as Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), anti-lock braking and electric power steering.
It comes with a four year or 100 000km service plan and a standard Lexus Distance Plan Plus.