I’m spending a week in the stylish 2016 Lexus GS200t. This rear-wheel-drive luxury sedan costs just over $50K (properly optioned) and competes with cars like the BMW 5-series and the Audi A6. With a new turbo-charged, 2.0L inline four cylinder engine that offers 241 HP and 258 LB FT of torque, there’s been a lot of talk in the automotive world as to whether the downsize from the previous year’s six-cylinder was a good idea.
Formally designated as the GS 200t, the Lexus 2016 GS Turbo is the new in-line turbocharged four-cylinder variant of the Japanese luxury carmaker’s popular midsize, rear-wheel-drive GS luxury sport sedan. Competing against cars like the BMW 5-series with regards to size, performance and amenities, the GS Turbo is about $15,000 less than a similarly equipped 5-series. The GS Turbo uses the same engine as the 200t models of the RC, IS and NX but is its 241 hp enough for a luxury sedan that weighs 3,805 lbs?
To test the GS, I took it on two separate trips back and forth from Los Angeles to Palm Springs. I had a chance to cruise on the freeway at (near) triple-digit speeds in the desert, ride in bumper-bumper traffic on a busy freeway, drive it in-town around Palm Springs in traffic and parking lots and also cruise around Los Angeles. It’s a comfortable, luxurious car to drive with the proper amount of mass necessary for a good luxury sedan experience. The size is roomy and spacious without feeling like a big boat to handle and the power is adequate with the ability to dial it up to acceptable using the Sport mode. The car shines on the twisty canyon roads around Los Angeles, where in the Sport mode, the power is more than adaquate and instantly accessible. The handling is crisp yet always luxurious, those seeking a more hardcore experience should seek out the GS Turbo F SPORT and it’s more track-oriented handling and suspension.
The GS Turbo is stylish and sleek, looking almost identical to its other GS model brothers. The GS Turbo features the new large Lexus grille, making it quite recognizable from the front. Rear styling is also attractive. From the side, we get a bit more Toyota-ish, especially with the stock 17-inch 9-spoke alloy wheels and lack of any body contouring or ground effects on the non-F SPORT models.
With 241 hp and 258 lb ft of torque, the power of the GS 200t is there but it’s not overwhelming. It’s only zippy in the Sport mode (there is a Normal and Eco mode as well) as that increases the revs and reduces the downshifts. If I was after performance I would have to seriously consider paying the additional $4,385 for the V6-powered GS 350, which gets you another 70 HP. The GS Turbo’s 2.0L in-line four features a twin-scroll turbocharger that offers the power at a low 1,650 RPM with the help of variable valve timing and includes Atkinson-cycle operation for fuel efficiency. The car is rated at 22 mpg city and 33 mpg on the highway.
On the freeway, the power is enough for fun driving and it’s a smooth, elegant car to drive. A quick tap of the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters gives you the additional revs for any passing or on-ramp needs. To connect the power to the road, there’s an 8-speed, direct-shift transmission. With regards to fuel economy, with a combination of regular and aggressive driving from L.A. to Palm Springs, I got about 34 mpg using both Sport and Normal drive modes. With careful driving and the car in Eco mode, returning from Palm Springs I was able to coax it up to 38 mpg without really missing any performance or feeling the car was too under-powered. With the car in Sport mode, canyon driving is extremely enjoyable with the car really holding the gears well, providing an excellent use of the available horsepower.
Lexus shines here with their Enform Destination system. This reviewer makes frequent use of the system, similar to GM’s On-Star. The driver can hit the button for an instant connection to a Lexus operator, tell the operator the desired location or destination and the operator can search it and then enter it into the car’s navigation, allowing for true hands-free driving. The information is all displayed on a 12.3-inch high-resolution split-screen in the center of the dash. One note, the Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, part of the optional Lexus Safety System and Pre-Collision System, is a bit weird as it senses the car going over the lane lines and gently vibrates. Fine and useful when you’re nodding off, a bit startling when you’re just trying to change lanes.
Inside the cabin
The styling is on-point and the fit and finish are what you expect from Lexus. Those looking for a more sporty look and feel should check the GS Turbo F SPORT, which has the F SPORT seats and interior touches (and performance upgrades). Surprisingly, there was some road noise on the freeway, noise that sound insulation (or other acoustic technology) should keep out in a $50,000 sedan. Front seats are large and comfortable, rear seats are also spacious, really taking advantage of the car’s midsize dimensions. The optional Mark Levinson Premium Surround Sound Audio System is seriously amazing. The 835-watt unit has 17 speakers with what the brand calls 7.1 Channel Architecture. Your ears will hurt before the sound becomes distorted, it’s the best system I’ve ever heard in a car.
Base price for the 2016 Lexus GS 200t is $45,615. The review car had the following options: Lexus Safety System and Pre-Collision System ($635), the Mark Levinson Premium Surround Sound Audio System ($1,380 and worth every penny!), the Lexus Navigation and Enform system with display ($1,730), the one-touch power trunk ($400), Intuitive Parking Assist ($500) and a Premium Package with rain-sensing wipers, ventilated front seats and a power rear sunshade ($1,400) for a total cost of $52,600, including the $940 Lexus delivery, processing and handling fee. Currently in Los Angeles, the GS Turbo can be leased for $399 a month with $2,299 down (36 month lease through Lexus with 10,000 mile a year limit).
The GS Turbo is the base model of the GS series, moving up there’s the GS Turbo F SPORT ($53,285) with the same engine but the F SPORT interior and exterior styling touches and performance upgrades. From there we move into the GS 350 ($50,000), with the V6 engine and about 70 more HP, also the GS 350 F SPORT ($54,115) with again the F SPORT styling and trim. There’s a GS 450h ($63,080) and GS 450h F Sport ($68,125), with a more powerful hybrid Atkinson-cycle V6 (338 HP vs 311 in the GS 350) to top out the line.
The bottom line
If you want a rear-wheel drive luxury sedan, with rock-solid Lexus build quality and performance, this is your car. If massive power and track-level performance are secondary to your desire for a lower price point and slightly better fuel economy, again, the 2016 Lexus GS Turbo is a great choice. The 2016 GS Turbo, when properly optioned at about $53,000, delivers a luxury sedan with performance and technology that would cost $10,000 to $20,000 more in a car from BMW, Mercedes or Audi. And you get a car with Lexus build quality, reliability and lower maintenance and repair costs than models from those German automakers.