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2004 Lexus GS430

     In the rarified realm of luxury cars, there are two basic flavors.
     One is the traditional road yacht that floats down the highway with grace, style, and gluttonous size. The other is the midsize sports sedan that aims to exhilarate the driver with sharp handling and gobs of power while coddling passengers with a modestly upscale cabin.
     Lying somewhere in between is the Lexus GS sedan.
     The GS — available with either a V-8 engine (GS 430) or a six-cylinder version (GS 300) — doesn’t fit the traditional mold for full-blown luxury cars. It doesn’t have road-hogging size with enough legroom for Shaq on stilts, instead opting for an ordinary, Camry-like size that leaves back-seat passengers drooling when they see a passing Lincoln Towncar. It’s extremely nice, but it’s no flagship.
     At the same time, it doesn’t make your pulse jump enough to be called a true sports sedan. Acceleration, especially with the V-8, is breathtaking, but the cabin is so silent and the suspension so buttery that it’s nearly impossible to tell how fast you’re driving without looking at the speedometer. It’s quick, but it’s no BMW.
     Despite its refusal to fit neatly into these notions of sports sedans and luxury cars, the GS is a fantastic car to drive in the real world. Sure, it’s not perfect for either twisty mountain roads or daylong cruises on the interstate, but it’s hard to beat this car’s combination of luxury, fun, and simplicity for commuting to work or driving to the grocery store.
     But no matter where you drive it, this car has one overriding feature: smoothness. Everything about it – how switches and buttons operate, how the engine revs, and certainly how it drives on the highway – is seemingly refined to a level of perfection usually reserved for fine gems or space telescopes. It’s this smooth, effortless feeling that makes it a joy to drive.
     Nonetheless, the GS offers performance to spare. With the V-8 engine, the GS 430 is Lexus’s fastest vehicle, reaching 60 miles per hour from a standstill in just 5.8 seconds. That’s lightning fast. Brakes are similarly impressive.
     Compared to a true sports sedan, handling is only marginal. It doesn’t have the precise, razor-sharp feeling of its German competition. However, considering how soft and luxurious its highway ride is, the GS’s maneuverability and cornering potential are outstanding.
     Style-wise, the GS is pretty bland. It won’t turn many heads because it looks similar to most new midsize family sedans. Then again, that’s part of this car’s appeal because it fits quietly between the snootiness of a full-size luxury car and the flashiness of a sports sedan.
     In typical Lexus fashion, the GS doesn’t skimp on luxury goodies. Seats are covered in thick, soft leather, while tasteful wood trim makes the interior feel opulent and inviting.

     Technology is perfectly integrated with the rich look. Lighted instruments automatically change their brightness based on how much ambient light hits them, and a remote control lets you lower all the windows and open the sunroof to cool the car on hot days.
     As if that’s not enough to impress the Mercedes driver in the lane next to you, a dual-zone climate control system features soft-touch controls, a charcoal filter, and a smog sensor that automatically switches the ventilation to recirculate mode when a smelly diesel belches fumes. It’s brilliant.
     Also, if you’ve got the money, opt for the Marc Levinson stereo system. It’s pricey, but it’s the best car stereo you can buy from the factory. Levinson’s well-known home stereo systems can cost many thousands of dollars, so the relatively low price in a Lexus makes it look like a steal in comparison.
     All in all, the GS impresses for its luxurious feel with a slightly sporty flare. It defies classification as either a sports sedan or an all-out luxury car, but the resulting blend approaches automotive perfection at a fair price.

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