16 January 2004

Here is the first proof that Lexus is chasing a desperately needed change in design direction. The new GS saloon, shown for the first time at the Detroit show, is light years ahead of the current dowdy saloon – if not quite as beautiful as the LF-S concept shown at Tokyo last autumn.

Parent company Toyota has admitted that its cars lack the panache of European rivals and is to give more prominence to design. The new GS is the first product styled under the new mantra.

It will go on sale next year to fight the new BMW5-series, Mercedes E-Class and, by then, all-new Audi A6. The current GS saloon was launched back in ’97.

The new car’s wheelbase is 2in longer than the current model’s, despite the overall length rising by just 0.5in. Lexus claims the cabin offers more passengers and luggage space.

Buyers can choose between V6 and V8 engines with a minimum output of 245bhp. For the first time, four-wheel drive will be offered on a Lexus saloon, but only on the V6. Rear-drive is standard. Transmission is by six-speed auto with a nudge-shift option.

In 2006, Lexus will launch its first diesel engine, followed by a low-emissions hybrid petrol-electric model.

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