Lexus GS (2012-2018)

By Jonathan Crouch

Models Covered

4dr saloon (GS 250 / GS 300h / GS 450h / GSF V8)


With its GS model, Lexus spent years trying to create a full-sized executive saloon alternative to cars like the BMW 5 Series, the Mercedes E-Class or the Audi A6. This is the fourth generation model introduced in 2012 and mainly sold here in hybrid form. This MK4 design was sharper than its predecessors, both to look at and to drive, as well as being safer and more practical. This won’t be the first model of its kind you think of if you’re looking for a used car in this sector, but include a GS in your deliberations and you might find it a tempting proposition.

The History

The full-sized executive saloon segment in the UK has long been dominated by four cars – and this, Lexus’ fourth generation GS – was never one of them. But then that’s often been a compelling reason for a small but loyal band of management level business buyers to choose it as they sought to make a discreet but distinctive statement amongst a sea of BMW 5 Series, Audi A6, Mercedes E-Class and Jaguar XF models in the company carpark. Indeed, being different has always been what this car has been about, hence its 2006 introduction of the kind of pioneering petrol electric hybrid engine that rivals took ages to get around to matching.

By 2012 though, the main segment players were starting to dabble with hybrid power, which led to a thorough re-think of this car by the Japanese brand in this GS model’s fourth generation form. It was still rear-driven and there was still no diesel option. But there were key changes. Most notably, we got a GS450h hybrid variant more powerful, more practical and more efficient than before when it was launched in 2012 alongside a conventional petrol-engined GS250 variant that was then quickly dropped. A lower-powered GS 300h hybrid was added to the range in 2013, then a conventional V8-powered GS F sports saloon joined the line-up in 2015. The GS range was dropped completely in early 2019 to make way for the new front driven Lexus ES model.

What You Get

This fourth generation GS was a more confident piece of design than any of its predecessors, an approach emphasised by the neat ‘spindle-shaped’ arrangement for the upper and lower front grilles, a sort of ‘flattened hourglass’ design now a trademark of all the brand’s latest cars. The sleeker body is the same length as the previous generation model but slightly higher and wider and certainly more dynamic-looking thanks to shorter front and rear overhangs.

And inside? Well interiors have always been a Lexus strongpoint and this one is no exception to the rule. Carefully crafted satin trim details, high quality stitching and brushed aluminium highlights are all pleasing to the eye, as is the analogue clock forged from a single ingot of metal. More importantly perhaps, the layout of the long, sculpted dash gives the driver and front passenger a sense of roominess and the shape of the front doors and centre console combine to offer the sense of being safely cocooned in the car. The dashboard is divided into two zones. One for upper displays, including the option of a huge 12.3-inch multi-media screen, the largest fitted to any production car from this period and big enough to fully display two different functions at once – say sat nav and stereo info for example.

What To Look For

Lexus has an unparalleled track record for reliability, and the GS generates a particularly low percentage of warranty claims. We struggled to find any buyers who had a bad word to say about it in our ownership survey. Only one we came across had had to repair anything – and that was only an automatic side mirror tilting function. Still, it's worth doing a very thorough check and getting any faulty electrical items fixed under warranty. It's highly unlikely that there will be any (just as well as some of the systems are incredibly complex) but check sunroof and window motors and make sure the leather and paint is in tip top shape. The hybrid drive system is incredibly tough and we've never heard of a failure. The wheels can be prone to kerbing, so factor in any refurb costs if they've been dented or scuffed. Insist on a full service history.

On The Road

At launch back in 2012, two GS models were offered. One was conventional, a GS250 model with a normally aspirated 207bhp 2.5-litre VVT-i V6 petrol unit (a variant quickly dropped from the range). Nice enough, but the draw of hybrid technology is what convinced the majority of GS customers to opt for this car. At launch in 2013, there was the 292hp GS 450h and a year later, this derivative was joined by the slightly more affordable 181hp GS 300h variant. In 2015, a high performance V8 conventionally-engined GS F sports saloon model was added to the range, putting out 477bhp.


This is a refreshing car in so many ways. Instead of simply copying its competitors in the full-sized executive saloon segment, Lexus continued to take a different approach with this fourth generation GS. You could ask why there’s no diesel engine – but in doing so, you’d also have to answer the question as to why one might be needed when in hybrid form, this car can match the fuel and CO2 returns of any direct comparably performing V6 diesel rival you care to name, and do so with greater refinement and less poisonous emissions from cheaper fuel.