We like the quality of the maps on the navigation system. The lines are cleanly drawn, the colors are nice, and the resolution makes them easy to read. The system also offers a very full points-of-interest database and a variety of methods for entering destinations, including by freeway entrance and GPS coordinates. But other than those points, the system doesn't offer any particularly advanced technology. The maps are stored on a DVD, although we never noticed much hesitation or lag from the system. Route guidance offers useful graphics to indicate upcoming turns, but the system doesn't have text-to-speech, so it can't read out the names of streets. And it doesn't have live traffic reporting, which would have been nice during our test period with the car.
Lexus bundles the navigation system with an upgraded Mark Levinson audio system, which produces excellent sound. There are 14 speakers around the cabin, including 3 in each front door, 2 in each rear door, and 2 on the rear deck, along with a subwoofer and center fill. These speakers are powered by an 11-channel 330-watt amplifier, resulting in very clear reproduction with solid bass that doesn't distort or rattle the speakers when the volume is up. The only thing lacking with the stereo were audio sources, which were just basic. Our car merely had a six-disc changer that can read MP3 CDs and DVDs, and an auxiliary input jack. XM satellite radio and iPod integration are also available. These choices felt a little spare next to those of the Infiniti EX35, which we recently reviewed.
We had no trouble pairing our Samsung SGH-D807 phone to the GS 460, but the system didn't proactively download our contact list. Rather, once we entered the phonebook function in the car, we could send contacts to the car individually. This is more a limitation of our phone, as other phones will let you send your entire contact list at once. Although there are no buttons on the instrument panel for directly accessing the phone functions, the voice command system works well for this purpose.
The only other significant tech feature is the reverse camera and parking sensors, which come with the navigation and stereo package. The reverse camera doesn't offer advanced features, such as animated overlays that show the car's path, merely just the view behind the car.
Under the hood
The powertrain in the 2008 Lexus GS 460 is testament to what an automaker can do through efficient engineering. This 4.6-liter V-8, producing 342 horsepower, uses variable valve timing and the eight-speed automatic transmission to bring in impressive fuel economy. The EPA rates the GS 460 at 17 mpg city and 24 mpg highway. The tank average we saw during our test period was just over 20 mpg, at 20.4. That's an impressive figure, especially considering that it equals what we saw in the 3.5-liter V-6-powered Infiniti EX35, while offering about 50 more horsepower.
The GS 460 doesn't hold back the power to achieve this fuel economy, either. You can still stomp the gas pedal and roar--or rather, whisper--up to 60 mph in no time at all. Even though there are eight gears to get through, you don't feel the shifts, as the transmission seems programmed to change gears at optimal RPMs. Putting the transmission into sport mode, we were a little baffled to see a numeric gear indicator appear on the instrument cluster, and remain static no matter what gear the transmission was actually using. This number does show which gear you will be shifting from when you start using the manual mode, but we would prefer if the indicator showed the current gear, and let you enter manual mode from that point.
As we pointed out above, the steering lacks road feedback, although it precisely turns the wheels without too much play in the wheel. The suspension automatically tunes itself to road surface and driving style, although you can preempt all that and put it into sport mode, which delivers a more rigid ride and does a good job of keeping the car flat in the corners. You can also tune the torque, going from standard mode to a power setting, which dials in maximum torque, or a snow setting, which keeps torque low so as not to spin the wheels.
Further helping the road-holding performance and safety is Lexus' Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM), a system that takes input from multiple sensors, including wheel speed, steering angle, and brake pressure. These sensor inputs are used to regulate traction control, the steering ratio, and other car systems. During our track adventure with the GS 460, we felt some help from these systems as we put stress on the car around the corners. Essentially, it seemed to keep the back end from stepping out.
Beyond the fuel economy, the powertrain also delivers an Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle rating for the GS 460, an impressive feat for a car of this size and power.
The 2008 Lexus GS 460 shows up with a base price of $52,620. The major option package combines the navigation system and the premium Mark Levinson audio system, for $3,630. We had sundry other cosmetic and functional options on our test car, bringing the total, with $765 destination charge, to $59,318.
We give the GS 460 a high rating for performance, as it is amazing what Lexus wrings out of this V-8. And Lexus remains the only car maker with an eight-speed transmission. The sport gear on the car is also very impressive. The GS 460 earns a good rating for cabin tech. The gadgets are all of good quality, but there are a lot of advanced features missing. On the design front, we like the touch-screen interface, and give it high marks for that, as well as the general practicality of the car.