Signature Lexus grille adds a sharper look to the front end.
Signature Lexus grille adds a sharper look to the front end.

Lexus' challenger to the E-Class, 5 Series and A6 has always been something of an inconspicuous, somewhat bland contender for those that really didn't want to go mainstream, or for those swayed by the hybrid technology that the previous version brought to the class.

The new GS that you see here hopes to change that with its “bolder design” and “more engaging driving experience.” Though it is clearly more distinctive at the front end, with its 'spindle' grille that will feature on all future Lexus models, the side view plays it safe in elegant fashion while the rear styling has perhaps too many Hyundai Sonata overtones.

As for driver involvement, a redesigned chassis with a wider stance and stiffer structure aims to provide crisp and precise handling. The suspension has also been redesigned with large bushings in the front and an all-new multi-link set-up at the back.

The engine line-up appears to offer much the same. Lexus has confirmed that South Africans will be offered a range of petrol and hybrid models when the GS arrives next year, and more will be revealed when the car makes its first appearance at the Johannesburg International Motor Show this October.

It appears that all markets will get the GS 450h petrol electric hybrid and as far as conventional engines are concerned, Europe will receive a 2.5-litre V6 petrol, while the USA (and likely SA too) gets a 3.5-litre V6. Lexus has only released details on the latter, its power output pegged at 228kW - a healthy gain from the current GS 300's 183kW.

Cabin space is said to have improved despite the car's dimensions remaining unchanged and Lexus also promises a “richly appointed interior” with three types of wood on offer and meticulously detailed contrast stitching throughout.

The long, sculpted dashboard includes a clean centre stack and a high-res display screen. A nifty new feature is the energy-saving climate control system that directs airflow only to the areas where passengers are actually seated. There's also an improved Bluetooth system that offers automatic phonebook download and streaming audio.

The safety arsenal includes 10 airbags (including knee-bags for both front occupants, and side airbags for rear occupants) and buyers can opt for a pre-collision system that uses the radar cruise control system to warn the driver of upcoming objects that may present a hazard. If the driver fails to respond, the system will even automatically brake the car up to two seconds before impact.

The new GS also offers the usual list of active safety features like night vision enhancement, head-up display, blind spot monitor, lane keeping assist and lane departure warning.