Reviews

2006 Lexus GS430 Road Test

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It never fails. I road test a bunch of cars, become impressed with a few and, in the process, bump up my expectations of how a fine car should feel and perform. I’m astounded at how good cars have actually become. The quality of engineering in today’s vehicles means that a driver no longer has to choose between ride and handling, performance and gas mileage, or a powerful engine and one that is silky-smooth and quiet. Then along comes a car like this 2006 Lexus GS 430 and it forces me to re-think all those glowing accolades that I had heaped on lesser cars that I thought were so great.

The Premium Sport Sedan category is a tough segment to compete in. There are a number of outstanding choices and you won’t go wrong with any one of them. In order to be a player here, a car has to have passionate styling, great handling, a quiet, smooth ride, comfortable seats and superb performance from a quiet engine. After that, the car needs something that sets it apart from the crowd.

Source: My Car Board
Category:$45,000 to $55,000 Premium Sport Sedan
Who
should buy
this car:
A person who refuses to compromise between a luxury sedan and an all-out performance sedan.
Comparable
cars in
this class:
Acura RL, Audi A6, BMW 5 Series, Cadillac STS, Infiniti M45, Jaguar S-Type, Mercedes E-Class

The new GS has all of these qualities in abundance and then some, but what sets it apart from the crowd is pretty much what they had since the model was introduced in 1993, the Lexus reputation for absolute bulletproof reliability.

Lexus is using the BMW 5 series as a benchmark for this class and has set its sites on raising the bar to a new level. This is an ambitious target indeed, but Lexus has proven time and again that they have the ammunition to carry it off.

The first thing you notice when you see the new GS is that Lexus is finally taking styling very seriously. This car is as sleek as you can make it while still leaving room to comfortably seat 5 adult passengers. You can see some styling cues from the previous GS, mainly around the front grill and headlight area, but the overall look is very clean and elegant, perhaps a bit safer than the aggressively styled previous model. Lexus promises that this new styling direction will find its way to future models in the Lexus lineup.

The interior is clean, comfortable and well organized, especially for the driver. Lexus has always designed controls that perform complex functions, while being thoughtful, simple and easy to understand. To clean up the cockpit even more, Lexus took the controls that are not often used while driving, and placed them together in a flip-down panel to the left of the steering wheel. When this panel is closed, there is a smaller built-in compartment that can flip open and is perfect for change and other small items.

The 7″ LCD display in the central stack is standard even if the navigation system is not ordered. Buttons on either side of the screen control what is displayed. The screen is also touch sensitive so that you touch pictures of buttons to easily navigate through the system. In my opinion, this is a much easier system than the single knob found on other cars in this class.

Lexus likes to add their special touch to the instrument cluster. In this case, the three dials look like they are made from machined aluminum with white markings. Because of a hi-tech lens that uses variable transparency glass that electronically darkens or lightens to eliminate reflections, the gauges are easy to read, day or night. And the tachometer has been reengineered to respond more quickly and accurately to changes in RPM.

This car is a technological tour de force, but you would never know it just by looking. The electronic wizardry shows itself by making you more comfortable or causing you to feel like a better driver than you might actually be. Some of these high tech features include:

The ride was firm, especially on the GS430 with the run-flat low profile performance tires, but it was never objectionable. Wind noise and road noise were typical Lexus quiet. The six speed sequential automatic transmission was like butter during relaxed cruising and a mind reader during aggressive romps. Take the car into a fast turn and the transmission will hold its gear, enabling you to accelerate out of the turn in the correct gear. Move the shift lever to the left and you are in manual mode where you can choose to shift yourself. A minor disappointment is the lack or paddle shifters behind the wheel or even up-down shift buttons on the steering wheel spokes like on the previous GS300. But this car felt so good on the road that I was easily able overlook this minor shortcoming. A true manual transmission is not available on the GS.

We had the opportunity to drive the GS in all three configurations: The GS 300 with rear-wheel drive, the GS 300 with all-wheel drive and the GS 430 with rear-wheel drive. The GS 300 is equipped with a 3.0 liter V6 engine that produces 245 horsepower, while the GS 430 had a 300 horsepower V8. The biggest difference between the V6 and the V8 was smoothness and the sound of the engine at full throttle. The GS 300 was plenty fast, going from a standing start to 60 mph in a brisk 6.8 seconds, but the engine felt like it had to work a bit harder to achieve these fast times.

As for the GS 430, it was uncannily smooth and quiet for a car with this kind of performance envelope. Floor the throttle and you are greeted with a 0 to 60 blast in 5.7 seconds with no more than a sultry whisper coming from the ultra-smooth V8. This is one of the silkiest engines in the business.

Don’t get me wrong. If you compare the V6 to any other V6 in this class, the Lexus V6 comes out on top (with the possible exception of the Acura RL), just don’t try to compare it with the Lexus V8. Is the V8 worth the more than the $8,000 difference in price? It is for me. Of course, if you drive either car more conservatively, you would be hard pressed to tell which engine was under the hood.

Despite the trick steering and all the electronic wizardry, this car felt smooth and natural on the road. This car had the directional stability of a Japanese Bullet Train, in other words, as good as it gets. The ride felt luxury car smooth, especially on the GS300 with the standard rubber, while remaining relatively flat during aggressive cornering.

The standard sound system is quite good and includes an in-dash 6 disc changer and cassette tape system with DolbyB and C noise reduction. The system comes with 10 speakers and Digital signal processing with Automatic Sound Levelizer (ASL). But the real news is with the optional Mark Levinson sound system. This is a 5.1 surround system with 11 channels of amplification. The system will hold 6 audio CDs and can play DVD videos as well. The car must be in park with the parking brake set in order to view the video on the LCD screen.

The surround sound was simply amazing. Switching between normal stereo and surround sound opened a whole new dimension to the music. True, I’m not an audiophile, but my guess is that a real music connoisseur would be quite satisfied with this system.

Front and rear park assist is another option that deserves special mention. This system will display a graphic of the car on the screen showing any obstructions around the car, front or rear. It will even display the angle of the front wheels and knows the direction the car is steering toward.

A DVD based GPS navigation system is an available option. This is a fourth generation system for Lexus and comes with over 6 million points of interest. You can also set a destination by phone number. The system contains over 10 million business entries for selection. If you order the navigation system, you also get a backup camera that displays a color TV image of the rear whenever you put the car in reverse.

Standard safety features include:

Do not drive one of these babies unless you can afford it. Once you drive the GS 430, you will be looking to see how much equity you have left in your house. The last time I drove a car that was this good, I had to pinch myself to make sure that I wasn’t dreaming. I woke up in time to hear my high school science teacher ask me “So what is your answer to the question, Mr. Ofria?” This time, my arm may be black and blue, but the car is here and it is real.

Specifications

GS430GS300
Engine Type4.3-liter V8, DOHC 32 valve with
continuously variable
valve timing with intelligence
(VVT-i).
3.0 liter V6, DOHC 24 valve with dual continuously variable
valve timing with intelligence (VVT-i)
Horsepower300 @ 5,600 RPM245 @ 6,200 RPM
Torque325 lb.-ft @ 3,400 rpm230 lb.-ft. @ 3,600 rpm
Fuel
Recommended
Premium 91 Octane Unleaded.Premium 91 Octane Unleaded.
Transmissions6-speed sequential-shift
electronically controlled
automatic
6-speed sequential-shift electronically controlled
automatic
Drive Type
(std)
Drive Type
(opt.)
Rear-wheel drive
N/A
Rear-wheel drive
All-wheel drive
Tires – Standard
All-season Option
245/40R18 Z-rated summer tires
18″ all-season run-flat tires
225/50R17 V-rated summer tires
17″ all-season run-flat tires
Overall Length190″190″
Wheelbase112.2″112.2″
Width71.7″71.7″
Turning
Diameter
34.1 ft Curb to Curb34.1 ft Curb to Curb
Curb Weight3,745 lbs.3,536 lbs.
Fuel Tank18.8 Gals.18.8 Gals.
Miles Per GallonEPA city 18, hwy 25.EPA city 22, hwy 30.
Acceleration 0 to 605.7 Seconds6.8 Seconds
Base Sticker Price$51,125 + $650 destination charge$42,900 + $650 destination charge

Standard Equipment
(partial list)
GS-300 Premium Sport Sedan

The GS-430 also adds:
(partial list)

Major Available Options

For more information on the GS, visit Lexus.com.

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Author

Charles Ofria

Automotive Expert

Charles Ofria was an automotive journalist who was active in the automotive industry for over 40 years. During the '70s, he was owner-operator of Ofria Automotive, a thriving auto repair shop in Brooklyn, NY. During that time he became involved with auto mechanic training when he set up courses to help prepare mechanics to take the then new A.S.E. (Automotive Service Excellence) mechanic certification exams.

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