Lexus GS200t

New turbo spells the end of another atmo

DAMION SMY

FIRST AUSSIE DRIVE

EVERYBODYíS doing it Ė Ferrari, BMW, even Porsche. Downsizing, that is. So when Lexus decides to put a turbocharged fourbanger in its BMW 5 Seriessize GS sedan, it shouldnít come as much of a shock.

The GS200tís 2.0-litre turbopetrol is an absolute peach.

While it makes the same power as the RC200t, its refinement and buttery-smooth character suit the GSís premium mantra perfectly.

Lolling about town, the refinement of the engine isnít immediately obvious because itís so quiet. In fact, you neednít bother with the hybrid GS; the near-silent operation of the 200t is remarkable.

At $75,000, the Luxury spec is the entry point for the two-tier line-up, which is headlined by the larger-wheeled, more aggressively styled GS200t F-Sport at $83,000.

The GS has a spacious cabin, with solid, well-finished materials that look a little dated, highlighted by a dreaded foot-operated park brake that lowers the tone.

Yet the depth of the GS200tís talent stretches from aroundtown limousine-like refinement to a dynamic ability thatís pleasantly surprising. The ride on the F-Sportís 19-inch alloys may not be as silken as the driveline combo, but the GSís cornering abilities reveal an agility thatís completely unexpected.

The steering doesnít offer a lot of feedback, despite the chassis communicating the surface beneath, but the roll into corners is well controlled and overall handling is benign and predictable, with strong roadholding allowing a concerted attack through any corner.

Part of this carís dynamic ability is courtesy of the new Ďperformance damperí fitted to all GS models, which better isolates the front-end, while thereís also revised spring rates and a new shock absorber piston shape, all aimed at reducing NVH.

When pushed, the 2.0-litre livens up, with good response, but itís more a flow of power than a strong surge, and the eight-speed automatic upshifts briskly and smoothly at 6000rpm. The engine note builds, but even under full load it maintains its hushed composure, never over-reaching to become coarse, nor showing signs of struggle.

Its 7.3sec 0-100km/h claim is a whopping 1.3sec quicker than the GS250 V6 that this car replaces, and its 8.0L/100km economy is significantly better than the V6ís 9.3L/100km as well.

The $75K starting price is almost $3K more, but there is more gear, including a Pre- Collision Safety System. With all that refinement and polish, the GS200t wonít have you rushing to your destination, but it fulfils its premium brief well. n VH

Tough times

The GS will face increasingly tough opposition in 2016. The new-generation Jaguar XF, which is not only a dynamic dream but far more opulent than its predecessor, will be keeping Lexus salespeople awake at night. But the real nightmare will be the new Mercedes-Benz E-Class that arrives in October, taking over the role of Mercís techno tour-de-force from its S-Class flagship. And before the year is out, an all-new BMW 5 Series and Audi A6 are expected to be unveiled before arriving here in 2017.

PLUS & MINUS

Dated interior; base-car cabin feels low-spec; only two trim levels Engine and cabin refinement; fit and finish; far superior to the old V6