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2017 Lexus GS200t review

Four-cylinder hybrid was never really a match for the Lexus GS' rear-drive credentials. Turbo power aims to fix that.

What's new?

While Germany's leading premium nameplates have been using downsized turbo engines for years, it was only recently that Lexus decided to employ a similar principle.

After applying the new 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol-turbo to the NX and RX SUVs, RC coupe and IS saloon, Lexus has extended it to today's GS in facelifted form.

Badged as GS200t, the motor produces 245hp and is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission rather than the six-speed units found in the NX200t and RX200t.

Tested here is the entry-level version priced at 4.4 million baht. It serves as a direct rival for the BMW 530i, which is being soft-launched in Thailand today in latest-generation form. The Mercedes-Benz E-class and Volvo S90 aren't available with petrol power in Thailand -- yet (read: plug-in hybrid coming in the future).

But the more crucial question is whether the GS200t will be a better car to drive than the GS300h, which has bagged merits and flaws on the move ever since it was available in pre-facelift guise.

Although the GS300h is some 400,000 baht dearer than the GS200t, it has more standard equipment. So, let's assume that you aren't concerned about the price difference because we're talking about a 4 million-baht import, after all.

What's cool?

Low-speed ride is taut and quiet. 

When we drove the NX200t and RX200t with the new turbo engine, we found them rather pointless because SUVs tend to fare better with diesel or hybrid motors delivering good low-end punch.

However, this so-coded 8AR-FTS seems to work quite well in the GS200t, with additional thanks going to the newer gearbox it's been hooked up to. Even though not sharp, engine response in the GS200t is miles ahead of the GS300h, whose lethargy could be blamed on its CVT auto gearbox.

And once the GS200t reaches open roads, it continues to offer plenty of zest all the way up to the engine's redline. In fact, this turbo unit is a worthy replacement for the naturally aspirated 2.5-litre V6 in the now-defunct GS250, which suffered from insufficient mid-range punch.

Remarkably, the GS200t handles and rides more predictably and smoothly than the GS300h. The taut, quiet low-speed ride is one of the best around in the executive saloon class, while the light steering doesn't really backfire in corners or in a straight line at high speeds.

In other words, the GS200t feels more capable than the GS300h in exploiting the car's rear-wheel-drive credentials.

What's not?

The biggest fault in the GS200t is none other than fuel consumption. You'd be quite lucky to achieve the 12.5kpl average Lexus is claiming.

Although the GS200t is loaded with an unrivalled amount of airbags and pampering items like front seats with cool-air ventilation, practically no driver-assist tech features in it. That's because Lexus has reserved them only for the super-rare and expensive GS350 and GS450h.

And speaking of the GS's facelift, the exterior seems more effective than the interior. The fascia, for one, is well-made and feels premium, but has some ergonomic glitches like some switches totally obscured by the steering wheel and over-sensitive mouse-pad operation on the centre console.

Buy or bye?

Both the GS200t and GS300h have their strengths in appealing to slightly different buyers.

While the GS200t scores with a resolved chassis and punchy engine for keen drivers, the GS300h has the hybrid credentials (like being able to drive silently and cleanly in car parks) for urbanites with restrained driving styles.

But one thing's for sure: the GS200t is in a much better position than the GS250 is trying to steal some attention from rivals with traditional petrol power. In fact, the GS200t should have been born a long time ago.

GS200t guns for BMW 530i in power terms.

Turbocharged four-pot is more responsive than hybrid model. 

Fascia feels premium but isn't free from ergonomic glitches.

Seats are some of the comfiest around. 

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