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SOME things are bound to keep getting bigger - the US budget deficit, a middle-aged man's waistline, and of late, the front grille of the latest Lexus.
The signature spindle grille of the Japanese luxury brand is a prominent feature of the current model range. On the facelifted GS sedan, it has undertaken three-dimensional qualities.
Four years after the fourth-generation Lexus GS was introduced, it has been refreshed with the said grille, as well as new head and tail lamps.
The headlamps are now full LED, with the daytime running lights repositioned outside the cluster on the bodywork in their trademark L shape.
At the back, the slimmed-down LED lights are also L-shaped. They are accompanied by a sporty diffuser flanked by the twin trapezoidal pipes in a reshaped bumper.
The interior also gets a subtle makeover with a sportier steering wheel that has a smaller boss, as well as a new four-dial instrument cluster. The Optitron meters now have a bigger 4.2-inch TFT multi-information display, up from 3.5 inches before.
There are also some cosmetic enhancements to the wood trim (more premium) and door switches (more metal trim). But the most important ergonomic changes are the addition of a thumb-activated "enter" switch for the remote touch interface and seats with new stitching and leather grain.
More significant, however, is that there is now a four-cylinder engine under the hood.
The entry-level GS250 with a naturally aspirated 2.5-litre V6 has been replaced with GS200t's "small displacement" turbocharged petrol engine.
Also called the GS Turbo, its 2.0-litre unit drives the rear wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission. This may be the same powertrain as the one in the IS200t, with the same power and torque figures, but it behaves very differently.
This is because as a mid-sized saloon, the GS Turbo is a different proposition from the IS200t compact sedan.
For one, the GS Turbo is a much larger car - 4.88 metres long with a 2,855 mm wheelbase. At about 1,700 kg, it is also heavier with a more extensive list of standard equipment.p
For example, the three trim levels (compared with two for the IS) include sybaritic 18-way adjustable front seats (versus 10-way for the IS) with power switches for the front passenger seat shoulder. So are the powered rear sunshade and rear side sunshades.
This also means the GS Turbo is targeted at a different audience, one which may use it as a chauffeur-driven saloon.
The GS Turbo's front double wishbone and rear multi-link suspension system is also a bit more softly sprung. There is the same brilliant AVS, or Adaptive Variable Suspension, with its adaptive dampers, available for the two upper grades.
The ride is pillowy in Normal and Sport S, but tightens up in S+, where the GS Turbo acquires more body control. But it is still nowhere as sporty as the IS200t.
For its target segment, the understated luxury and ride comfort of the GS have always made it an attractive alternative. Now with an extensive makeover that includes a smaller and punchier engine, it seems this executive express is even more so.
Lexus GS Turbo
Engine: 1,998cc inline-4 turbocharged
Gearbox: 8-speed automatic transmission
Max power: 241 hp@5,800 rpm
Max torque: 350 Nm@1,650- 4,400 rpm
0-100 kmh: 7.3 secs
Top speed: 230 kmh
CO2 emissions: 186 g/km
Average OMV from: S$50,000
Price from: S$258,000(with COE)
Distributor: Borneo Motors