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For many years, Lexus has kept a steady hand in offering one of the most reliable luxury vehicles on the road today. The path to near perfection in such an area has continued on but not without a small compromise when it comes to the GS 200t, which would be on its way to perfection despite one factor that stuck out during my week with the midsized luxury sedan.
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The Lexus GS has always been an admirable vehicle since its conception to bring a fight to the German midsized sedan competition. In its fourth generation, the Lexus GS offers a range of three primary trim levels, the 200t, 350, and GS F, in addition to one hybrid trim, the 450h. Each trim can be had in an F Sport trim adding sporty accents, unique grilles, larger wheels, sport-tuned suspension with adaptive dampers, and sports seats. At the base level, a new 200t trim, first offered as a 2016 model year, brings a new powertrain to the table that attempts to pin both decent performance and fuel efficiency. Though, as my assessment stood when I first tested the new 2.0-liter turbocharged engine in the new Lexus RC 200t F Sport, its initial power output remains to be underwhelming even in the nicely-balanced GS sedan.
Touted as the new “GS Turbo,” Lexus offers respectable performance figures on paper with 241 horsepower and 258 ft-lbs of torque directed to the rear wheels through an 8-speed automatic transmission. The decent balance and light-on-its-feet feeling that the GS’s chassis offers is a welcomed aspect not only for enthusiasts but anyone who takes pride in piloting a well-mannered luxury sedan on a variety of roads. Adding an F Sport package only improves upon the welcomed stability and livens up the ride quality with adaptive dampers that can now be separately put into a Sport mode through a new Customize drive mode setting.
The drivability of the new Lexus GS 200t F Sport is inviting in many ways. Though, the singular factor of the GS 200t’s performance is the substantial turbo lag when initially accelerating. While the new 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine is among the smoothest I have experienced of its kind, the turbo lag sometimes kills the mood in enjoying how well the engine revs up to its peak power output rpm to carry the 3,800 pound GS without much noticeable strain. Once things get moving beyond 15 mph, the turbocharged engine is inspiring and the 8-speed automatic transmission does a relatively decent job to kick down to the proper gear and smoothly transition on up-shifts. Seldom, the 8-speed automatic transmission will require a full-throttle input to react quickly to land in the proper gear during those times that you have the immediate need to overtake or jump on a merging highway ramp. Otherwise, the only disconcerting aspect remains to be the unpleasant turbo lag, which I found to be almost dangerous if you must ever jump into fast moving traffic from a stop without anticipating a slow start.
Getting away from my single disappointment in the Lexus GS 200t, with the attractive F Sport add-ons the GS 200t looks the part of a luxury sports sedan that means business. The optional orange-painted brake calipers, which are upgraded 4-piston calipers clamping down on two-piece rotors, aide in the braking department with an assured feeling when coming to a stop. The ride quality is a good balance of sport and comfort, which can be dialed to the sporty side by selecting the Sport+ drive mode or customizing the body control through the new Customize drive mode setting. Additionally, the steering feel through the latest tune of the electric steering rack provides just enough communication to translate somewhat of a nimble feeling through the chassis.
The interior of the new Lexus GS 200t F Sport continues the appealing look that you get from the exterior. The contrasting color palette of my test vehicle adds a luxury and sporting appeal, as does the beefy heated and leather-wrapped F Sport steering wheel. The front heated and ventilated seats provide soft bolstering but prove to be mostly supportive, at least to match the athleticism of the GS 200t F Sport. The larger summer performance tires, another part of the F Sport package, appear to be the only factor of road noise. Otherwise, the cabin is relatively quiet with a faint buzz and welcomed whistle of the turbocharged 4-cylinder engine at certain rpms. The creature comforts of a dual-zone automatic climate control, a clever digital dashboard inspired by the LFA supercar, and now-standard adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning with mitigation, and automatic high-beam controlled LED headlights, make the GS a more attractive value. The use of Lexus’ latest Remote Touch infotainment system, despite the large 12.3-inch screen, is the awkwardness of the mouse controller. As I have said before in previous Lexus reviews, the touch controller is somewhat of a distraction and takes too much attention to utilize quickly, even if you modify the customization of the controller’s feedback.
In retrospect of what the Lexus GS is known for, the new 200t in the F Sport trim is a fills a void where Lexus can now offer a lower price point for the GS yet adding fuel efficiency over the V6-powered GS 350. To contrast, the new Lexus GS 200t, while down on power compared to the GS 350 V6’s 311 horsepower, the base GS 200t gets 22 mpg city and 33 mpg highway. The GS 350 gets 19 mpg city and 27 mpg highway. While the GS 200t is touted as the base model, it can still be had with most of the GS 350’s options, including the attractive F Sport package, color heads-up display, and navigation package. Even though the GS 200t isn’t as robust as the GS 350 regarding instant power, most consumers, who aren’t enthusiasts, will not mind the turbo lag as they are not looking to win any races from the stop light. Overall, the power delivery is agreeable for those outside of the enthusiast spectrum, provided they don’t plan on overtaking anyone from a stop.
At a starting price of $46,310 before any fees or options, the new 2017 Lexus GS 200t appeals to those who have been petrified at the German competition’s prices. The impeccable fit and finish, historic reliability factor, and an offering for a more efficient package all-around, makes the new GS 200t a smart buy. My nearly loaded test vehicle guised in the F Sport package comes to an as-tested price of $57,735, including a $975 handling, delivery, and processing fee.
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