Lexus, the Car Company
This all-new sports sedan is just the beginning of things to come for Lexus.
|The 2006 GS retains the previous generation’s long, swooping roofline and general profile while picking up subtle cues from LF-A and LF-C concepts.|
The Lexus GS is the first new car from Lexus since September 2001. The product of a 40-month development period, Lexus engineers focused on increasing the performance they felt was lacking in the previous generation benchmarking it against the BMW 5-series.
So what’s new on the GS?
The GS comes with a choice of two engines. The 3.0L V-6 (coded 3GR-FSE) has four valves per cylinder with dual intelligent variable valve timing as well as direct cylinder injection. The V-6 produces 245 hp at 6,200 rpm and 230 lb. ft. of torque at 3,600 rpm. The 4.3L V-8 (coded 3UZ-FE) also features four valves per cylinder, continuously variable intelligent valve timing and sequential multiport fuel injection. The V-8 makes 300 hp at 5,600 rpm and 325 lb.ft. of torque at 6,350 rpm. Zero to 60 times are 6.8 and 5.7 seconds with top speeds of 143 and 149, respectively.
Both six- and eight-cylinder models are mated to a new close-ratio 6-speed automatic transmission with an auto-stick option, allowing the driver to make the gear selections.
New for the GS is an all-wheel-drive option, available on the GS 300, the first all-wheeldrive car produced by Lexus. The AWD system uses a wet-type multi-disc clutch along with a planetary gearset in the transfer case. The system also makes use of an electronic control strategy that collects information from wheel speed and yaw sensors as well as throttle angle and steering input. Hydraulic controls are used to vary the front/rear torque split from 30/70 to 50/50. The normal modus operandi is the 30/70 split, giving the car a rear-wheel-drive feel under normal circumstances with the 50/50 kicking in when loss of traction is detected.
Complementing the AWD system is Electronic Traction Control. When wheel slippage is detected, the system applies braking to the slipping wheel(s) and transfers the torque to the non-slipping wheel(s) on the same axle. Between traction control and the hydraulic torque split, Lexus has complete electronic control of the AWD system.
| The cockpit-style interior features rich wood trim. |
The AWD-optioned GS300 is aimed at the snow markets — particularly the Northeast. Lexus feels that, competing against Mercedes’ 4matic and BMW’s X-drive, the lack of an AWD system would limit sales in that region. Lexus expects 42 percent of V-6 buyers to opt for the $1,950 option, which also includes run flat tires.
The exterior design has been changed quite a bit. While LF-concept touches are most prominent in the headlights, subtle LF design cues are carried throughout the vehicle. The new design language isn’t all about the signature Lexus look. The new GS sedans boast a .27 coefficient of drag.
While all the basics, like aerodynamics and powertrain were carefully considered, Lexus also kept its focus on offering the luxury sedan buyer all the accoutrements they’d expect and a few more, just for good measure.
Among the litany of features for the GS is the Smart Access keyless entry/start, presumably akin to the system seen on the Toyota Prius and Avalon. The driver needs only to have the key fob in their possession when approaching the car. Sensors detect the driver’s presence and unlocks the doors and start a lighting sequence that first, illuminates the side mirror and area directly around the door. Once the door is opened, soft blue lights come on in the foot wells. The only thing missing is a “sounds of nature” cd that could very easily be placed in the optional Mark Levinson premium surround sound stereo system. The 5.1 surround sound audio system features 14 speakers, 330 total watts of power and, according to Levinson, has less than 0.1 percent harmonic distortion.
|The GS picks up on the recent Lexus/Toyota trend of hiding vehicle controls in pull-down trays.|
Some of the other bells and whistles added to the GS have a lot more serious issues at heart. The Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management system is designed to integrate and manage the Electronically Brake Distribution system (EBD), Electronic Power Steering (EPS), Variable Gear Ratio Steering (VGRS), Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), Brake Assist (BA), Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD) and engine torque via the electronically controlled throttle. The system collects data from all the sensors and anticipates vehicle skids assisting the driver in controlling the vehicle. The use of throttle- by-wire and steering, that is nearly “by-wire,” lent itself to this process.
The steering system is comprised of a brushless electric motor integrated into the steering rack. This eliminates the need for any hydraulic power steering apparatus. The “pinion” part of the steering assembly is really just a torque sensor. Inside the unit is a torsion shaft with torque sensors on each end, known as “resolvers.” When the driver creates steering input, the “resolvers” measure the amount of twist generated in the torsion bar, end versus end, comparing the readings from both ends of the torsion bar.
When the amount of twist reaches a predetermined value, the ECU analyzes speed, yaw rate and steering angle measurements and determines if intervention is needed. If driver assist is necessary the ECU engages the electric motor and provides the voltage needed to provide the prescribed assist.
The techy steering also provides assistance Variable Gear Ratio Steering (VGRS), designed to allow for fewer turns of the wheel to maneuver at low speeds. According to Lexus, conventional steering would require 3.3 turns from lock to lock while the VGRS is capable of doing the same lock-to-lock movement in only 2.7 turns. It also functions at higher speeds and can adjust up to 3.2 turns to more closely match conventional steering to help avoid overreaction in emergency situations.
As expected in a car in this price range, the Lexus GS features a comprehensive crash strategy, which dual-stage front air bags, front knee airbags, front seat side airbags as well as front/rear curtain shield airbags. Lexus has also placed a driver seat position sensor to help assist optimal deployment. The GS also features an Omni-Directional compatibility body structure.
Customers will find their GS replete with a parking assist function as well as a rearview camera that clicks on when the vehicle is shifted into reverse. The lighting intensity of the gauges is customizable and the gauge cover can be adjusted to reduce the amount of glare coming off of the brushed aluminum.
Base price for the GS 300 is $42,900 ($44,850 for the AWD model) with the GS 430 coming in at around $51,125. Lexus is projecting a 25 percent take rate on the GS 430 with the 300 scooping up the other 75 percent. The line will expand with the forthcoming introduction of the GS 450H (hybrid), set to be unveiled at this year’s New York Auto Show in April. This will be the first luxury car offering in that segment and will be based on a new V-6 powertrain.
With the powers that be at Lexus feeling that the SUV portion of its lineup is dialed in, the focus will turn to cars. The GS is the first in a line of new cars that will share the new platform and borrow styling cues from the LF-A and LF-C concepts that have debuted at recent auto shows.