Fleet News

LEXUS GS300 SE

Lexus

Review

GERMANY has got the executive car sector sewn up. Whether your allegiance lies with BMW, Audi or Mercedes-Benz, they have got the cars most people want to buy.

Jaguar keeps up the British end and valiantly battles against the hordes of A6s, 5-series and E-classes and from the east there’s Lexus, which has gone from pretty much zero to a global brand in just 15 years.

And now it has its third generation GS saloon, the first to use the Japanese firm’s new ‘L-finesse’ design language.

Lexus hopes this will give the GS more road presence, and from the front it is certainly more distinctive than the rather bland versions which came before. The steeply raked headlights and bold L-badge in the grille show confidence, but it appears the designers lost a bit of bottle as they came to pen the rear – it resembles a Toyota Camry, which is no good thing.

Inside, it’s a bit of a hit-and-miss affair, too. The interior is flawlessly built and loaded up with every conceiveable gadget and gizmo you could dream of but it all looks too clinical – you could be driving a top-spec Toyota were it not for the L badge on the steering wheel boss. However, there is a huge amount of space inside, both front and rear, while the boot is equally voluminous.

On the road, the Lexus impresses in many ways – the engine is whisper quiet at motorway speeds, the gearbox shifts are imperceptible and wind noise is non-existent.

Only the VVT-i head on the engine spoils things. This is a system similar to that used by Toyota in its cars and it means the engines really have to be revved hard to extract all the power. This suits some sports cars quite well but feels a little out of place in a big luxury saloon like the Lexus GS300.

Having said that, the 245bhp 3.0-litre V6 under the bonnet sound goods as it approaches the red line. But the ride falls somewhere between sporting executive and luxury saloon.

The Lexus handles well but the trade-off is a jittery ride, with the wheels and suspension translating every bump in the road into a low-frequency chatter through your backside. But what the Lexus has going for it is equipment. There is virtually nothing more you could want to add to this SE-spec version.

Items fitted as standard include cruise control, keyless entry and ignition, 10-speaker stereo with six-CD changer, satellite navigation, ventilated leather seats with memory function and parking sensors with a rear-view camera.

It’s a comprehensive package and goes some way to explaining why the Lexus costs more than its SE-spec rivals here.

It will also remain a rare sight on the roads, as Lexus is planning to sell just 2,500 models in a full year. If it’s gadgets and exclusivity you want, the Lexus is for you.

Three rivals to consider:

  • Audi A6 3.2 FSI SE Multitronic
  • BMW 530i SE auto
  • Mercedes-Benz E280 Elegance Tiptronic

    P11D price

    ALL of our cars are in mid-specification SE trim, although the Lexus is the most expensive at the front-end. But you do get an awful lot of gadgets for your money. You would have to raid the options lists to spec-up the others to the level of the GS. A scan down the options list, adding such essentials as leather seats and satellite navigation, sees the price of the Audi jump to £38,000 and the E280 to £39,000.

    Audi £32,287
    Mercedes-Benz £33,117
    BMW £33,357
    Lexus £35,672

    SMR costs

    THE Audi proves to be the cheapest in terms of servicing, maintenance and repair costs over three years and 60,000 miles, with a likely garage bill of £2,250. Next up is the Lexus on £2,670, just edging the BMW 530i into third place. The Mercedes-Benz will cost £2,850 over the same period. The Lexus performs well here when you take into account that it needs a health and safety check over 10,000 miles, whereas the others all operate flexible maintenance schedules. The Lexus needs a major service every 20,000 miles.

    Audi 3.75ppm
    Lexus 4.45ppm
    BMW 4.50ppm
    Mercedes-Benz 4.75ppm

    Fuel costs

    THANKS to its use of clever engine valve technology, the BMW is the most fuel efficient car here, returning an average of 30.4mpg, which translates into a fuel cost of £7,890 over three years and 60,000 miles. Close behind is the E-class, with its new V6 engine, on 30.1mpg for a cost of £7,968. The Audi and Lexus both return an average 28.8mpg, meaning visits to the petrol station will cost £8,328 over 60,000 miles.

    BMW 13.15ppm
    Mercedes-Benz 13.28ppm
    Audi 13.88ppm
    Lexus 13.88ppm

    Depreciation costs

    THE BMW is one of the most expensive cars in this comparison, but it also has the strongest residual value prediction. CAP estimates the 530i will retain 40% of its cost new after three years and 60,000 miles, giving a depreciation cost of £20,052. A penny per mile further back is the E280, which is predicted to retain 38%, the same as the more expensive Lexus. The Audi has the lowest RV prediction of 35%, although it is easily the least expensive at the front-end.

    BMW 33.42ppm
    Mercedes-Benz 34.11ppm
    Audi 34.93ppm
    Lexus 37.12ppm

    Wholelife costs

    WITH the lowest depreciation costs and offering the highest combined fuel economy, the BMW wins this contest. It is more than a penny per mile less expensive to run than the second-placed Mercedes-Benz, a saving of £642 over three years and 60,000 miles. The Audi runs the E-class close for third place on 52.56ppm, while the Lexus is 3p a mile further back thanks to its higher front-end price – costing £2,528 more than the 5-series over the traditional fleet operating cycle.

    BMW 51.07ppm
    Mercedes-Benz 52.14ppm
    Audi 52.56ppm
    Lexus 55.45ppm

    Emissions and BIK tax rates

    THE Mercedes-Benz offers drivers the route to the lowest company car tax bills, with a 40% taxpayer facing a monthly bill of £342. Just £3 more a month will get the same driver behind the wheel of the BMW, while the Audi costs £366 a month and the Lexus £392, mainly down to its higher front-end price. All incur a VED bill of £165 a year.

    BMW 224g/km/31%
    Mercedes-Benz 224g/km/31%
    Lexus 232g/km/33%
    Audi 235g/km/34%

    Verdict

    WITH the lowest running costs and the second cheapest company car tax bill, the BMW will please both fleet managers and drivers. Factor into the equation its great driving dynamics and it is the clear winner. While it may not have the lavish level of standard equipment that the Lexus has, it makes up for it with a more cost-effective performance. The BMW is also the cheapest for contract hire rates, costing £634 a month compared to a huge £801 for the Lexus.

  • WINNER: BMW 530i SE auto

    Fact file:

    Delivered price standard car (P11D value): £35,672
    CO2 emissions (g/km): 232
    BIK % of P11D in 2005: 33%
    Graduated VED rate: £165
    Insurance group :16
    Combined mpg: 28.8
    CAP Monitor residual value: £13,400/38%
    Depreciation: 37.12 pence per mile x 60,000 £22,272
    Maintenance: 4.45 pence per mile x 60,000 £2,670
    Fuel :13.88 pence per mile x 60,000 £8,328
    Wholelife cost: 55.45 pence per mile x 60,000 £33,270
    Typical contract hire rate: £801
    All figures based on 3yrs/60,000 miles.
    Monthly rental quote from HSBC Vehicle Finance

    At a glance

    We like:

  • Lavish specification
  • Strong RV forecast
  • Interior space

    We don't like:

  • Jittery ride
  • High running costs
  • Contract hire rate
  • CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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