Quick Drive: 2013 Lexus GS350 AWD

By Brandon Turkus

July 26, 2012

—Lake Orion, Michigan
From a practical point of view, adding all-wheel drive to the Lexus GS350 makes a whole heaping helping of sense. After all, every other car in this class offers an all-wheels-driven solution. BMW has its xDrive, Mercedes offers 4Matic, and Audi has its legendary Quattro system. While Lexus hasn’t thought up a clever brand name for its AWD, it has given us a week in the car to see how it stacks up in the luxury car marketplace.
Even though the driven wheels are different, the GS utilized the same 3.5-liter V-6 engine that we tested in the rear-drive car. This mill churned out 306 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque. Power was distributed by a six-speed automatic transmission, just like the rear-drive GS. Despite these similarities, the GS AWD didn’t feel as fleet of foot as the standard car.
[Click here to read our review of the 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD]
The numbers told us the same thing, with the sprint to 60 miles per hour taking 6.0 seconds, as opposed to the 5.7-second run in the rear-drive car. From an experiential standpoint, our tester lost out in the lower part of the rev range, and didn’t seem as willing to rev. Throttle response, even in the most-hardcore Sport mode, felt just a hair sluggish, as well.
Quick Drive: 2013 Lexus GS350 AWDWhile it might not be as quick off the line as the rear-drive GS, its lack of pace couldn’t be blamed on the transmission. Left in full auto, it delivered crisp upshifts regardless of throttle input, and downshifts happened at the right time with a minimal amount of hunting through the gears.
The manual mode allowed us to take things into our own hands, and performed well. The steering-wheel-mounted paddles were properly sized and easy to use. The action was smooth, and the transmission responded well to our inputs.
The GS350’s handling profile wasn’t dramatically altered when going from rear to all-wheel-drive models. This was still a moderately sporting car, with decent roll control, plenty of grip when pushed, and balanced handling overall. Our big complaint in the suspension department was that the damping felt just a tad too soft. We noticed a fair amount of vertical motion in relaxed cruising situations, which didn’t aid highway stability.
Like the 2013 Lexus ES, the GS350 AWD is a prime car if comfort is your big concern. It’s exceptionally quiet at speed, managing wind noise and tire roar well. It wasn’t all good though. The Intake Sound Creator (a membrane in the A-pillar that pipes induction noise into the cabin) began to sound artificial after a few days, and really didn’t fit the overall character of the car (that of the relaxed luxury sedan).
Lexus’s new interiors have been a strong area lately, and we continue to be impressed with the GS. The wood-rimmed steering wheel felt good in the hand, and the overall layout of the cabin grew on us during our week with it. We were still having a hard time coping with the new mouse interface for the infotainment system, having trouble switching between screens. An option to alter the force-feedback of the mouse when transitioning screens would be a welcomed addition.
If you need an all-wheel-drive luxury sedan, Lexus’s GS makes a very strong case. That being said, if you can survive without all-wheel grip, we’d really recommend opting for the rear-drive GS—a more entertaining ride for a bit less cash.
2013 Lexus GS350 AWD
Engine: V-6, 3.5 liters, 24v
Output: 306 hp/277 lb-ft
Weight: 3970 lb
Fuel Economy, City/Hwy: 19/26 mpg
0-60 MPH: 6.0 sec
Base Price: $49,450