Fleet News

Lexus GS300 SE auto - 9,000 miles



EVERY so often, the road testers at Fleet NewsNet indulge in a mega key-swapping session, in which the participants never know what they are going to end up with. Such an occurrence happened the other week and when I put in my thumb, I pulled out the biggest and juiciest plum in the fleet at present, in the shape of the Lexus GS300 SE.

I was pleased, not only because it is the most expensive car we are currently testing, but also because I had carried out something of a hatchet job on our last Lexus, the RX300, in a previous long-term road test and was eager to set the record straight somewhat, as I hold the Lexus marque in general in the highest esteem.

If any car was built to carry five people from A to B in the utmost peace, serenity and opulence, this Lexus is it. For a list price of £30,950 on the road, you simply won't find another luxury vehicle with so many standard goodies.

But that's only half the story. Firing up the powerplant reveals a complete lack of engine noise - in fact on several occasions I have turned the key again under the mistaken impression that the engine hasn't started. Even at motorway speeds, driver and passengers can converse in whispers as they glide along effortlessly.

This car comes with a standard autobox too, along with 'up' and 'down' gearchange buttons on each side of the steering wheel. But why anyone would want to bother with these when a quick dab on the throttle produces a nifty kickdown is beyond me.

Acceleration is brisk for such a large vehicle, with 0-60mph coming in 8.5 seconds and a top speed of 140mph. If all this power isn't enough, serious speed nutters can opt for the GS300's big brother the GS430 at £36,995, which offers a 0-60mph of 6.3 seconds and a top speed of 155mph. My advice would be to save the cash and take the smaller engined car - it's plenty fast enough.

In the cabin, those seats (leather of course) are like club armchairs and the few long journeys I have undertaken in the Lexus so far have resulted in no back twinges. The car has a lot of 'wow' factors for passengers too - for instance, the way the electrically-powered steering wheel automatically raises itself to maximum height when the ignition key is removed to make it easier for the driver to alight. Magic.

Another factor that impresses me about this car is the stereo radio/cassette/CD player. One of my pet hates, as a committed technophobe, is all those fiddly little buttons that you sometimes find on car stereos. No such problems here, thank goodness. Without having to resort to the owner's manual, I have managed to find my way round the large, clear, push buttons to operate the system to my satisfaction.

I have only two complaints about my Lexus - the colour and the shape. I'm sorry to disappoint the company's designers but I prefer the shape of the older GS - and a quick straw poll among my colleagues recently showed that I wasn't alone.

This car seems, like me, to be putting on a bit of middle-age spread as it gets older and has lost that sleek, rounded look of old. And the black colour means that however much you wash it, the car still looks dirty and seems to act as a magnet for every single passing speck of dust.

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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