Premium midsize car; Built in Japan
  • 4-door sedan
  • longitudinal front-engine/rear-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $4,600 – $13,800*


1998 Lexus GS 400


1998 Lexus GS 400


1999 Lexus GS 400 interior


2000 Lexus GS 300


2000 Lexus GS 400

Pros:
  • Acceleration
  • Build quality
  • Side airbags
  • Exterior finish
  • Interior materials
  • Quietness
  • Steering/handling
Cons:
  • Fuel economy
  • Navigation-system controls

All told, GS is the only true Japanese alternative to taut-handling German sport sedans, without losing the posh, smooth ride of a Lexus. Prices are a drawback, but the GS is still worth a look if you’re shopping in the Lexus level. We prefer the BMW 540i and Mercedes-Benz E430 over the GS 400, which makes the GS 300 our pick as the better value of the duo.

Overview

From 1993-97, the Lexus GS 300 failed to attract legions of buyers. Redesigned for 1998, the midrange rear-drive sedans from Toyota’s luxury division came in two flavors: GS 300 with a 6-cylinder engine, and a new GS 400 with a V8 borrowed from the bigger LS 400. Both engines grew more potent for 1998, thanks to Variable Valve Timing/Intelligence (VVT-I). Each model used a 5-speed automatic transmission, but the GS 400 added “E-shift,” a quartet of steering-wheel buttons that allowed sequential manual gear selection. Upshifts were made using either of two buttons on the steering wheel’s face, while downshifts were accomplished by comparable buttons on the backside.Though the GS wheelbase shrunk half an inch, the new sedans measured 6 inches shorter overall. Even so, Lexus claimed increased passenger and cargo room.Seat-mounted front side airbags were standard. So was a Vehicle Stability Control anti-skid system, integrated with the standard antilock braking and traction control. Like the flagship LS 400, both GS models offered an optional in-dash navigation system with touch-screen display. Rivals included the Acura RL, BMW 5-Series, and Mercedes-Benz E-Class.

Yearly Updates

1999 GS 300/400
Addition of standard Daytime Running Lights was the sole change for 1999.
2000 GS 300/400
A standard Brake Assist feature went into both models for 2000, as part of the Vehicle Stability Control system. It automatically provided full hydraulic power in response to quick, strong brake-pedal movement. Child-seat anchors were added to the rear parcel shelf.
2001 GS 300/430
Subtle styling revisions and a larger V8 engine mark a mild freshening of Lexus midline model. The GS 400 becomes the 430 as a 4.3-liter V8 replaced the 4.0-liter unit. All models get side curtain airbags, wood interior trim, and an electronic compass. New audio and navigation systems and high-intensity-discharge headlamps are optional.
2002 GS 300/430
For 2002, the navigation system got revisions including multiroute calculation, simplified graphics, and route preview, along with a faster computer and the ability to play DVD movies on its dashboard screen.
2003 GS 300/430
Lexus’ midrange sedan gets only minor trim and equipment changes.
2004 GS 300/430
The GS 300/430 received no major changes in 2004.
2005 GS 300/430
Lexus’ midrange sedans are little-changed for 2005. New-design ’06 models are expected by summer ’05.

Engines

longitudinal front-engine/rear-wheel drive

Placing a different engine in each model gave the Lexus buyer a choice of two distinct driving experiences. An inline 6-cylinder engine in the GS 300 produced 225 horsepower. The GS 400 got a 300-horsepower, 4.0-liter V8. Both models used a 5-speed automatic transmission, but the one in the GS 400 included steering-wheel buttons to upshift and downshift manually when desired.

dohc I6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.0/183
Engine HP 220-225
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 220
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed automatic

20/25

17.2

dohc V8
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 4.0/242
Engine HP 300
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 310
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed automatic

17/24

17.9

dohc V8
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 4.3/262
Engine HP 300
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 325
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed automatic

18/23

Road Test

With any engine, these sedans have silky powertrains, ultralow noise levels, ample midrange punch, and powerful, undramatic braking. The automatic transmission is smooth and responsive and the “E-shift” buttons on the GS 400 do their job well enough. Wind and mechanical noise are minimal enough so tire roar becomes noticeable, especially with the optional low-profile 17-inch tires. Both engines demand premium fuel. Test GS 400 sedans have averaged 17.9 to 19.0 mpg, while a GS 300 returned 17.2 mpg (with more city driving).

These sedans offer a higher level of control than prior Lexus models. Both GS models blaze ahead with ironlike stability at high speed. Unlike other Lexus sedans, they also corner with grippy precision, aided by firm and responsive steering. You can expect a trifle more body lean than in a 5-Series BMW, and the GS isn’t quite as “tossable” on curvy roads. At the same time, you get a ride that’s comfortably supple over most any surface, though the GS 400 can turn fidgety and thumpy over tar strips and expansion joints.

Passenger and cargo room are better than before, though not by much, in a rather cozy interior. Rear entry/exit isn’t the best either, though all doors open exceptionally wide, and back-seat head room remains tight for 6-footers. Otherwise, space is ample for four adults, or five in a pinch (perhaps literally). Though not exceptionally roomy, the trunk is satisfactory. GS drivers face a well-arranged Lexus dashboard that presents large gauges and large, simple minor controls.

Like all Lexus models, this one is solidly built and carefully finished, crafted of top-quality materials, though we noted a couple of uncharacteristic interior rattles in a GS 400. Cabins are trimmed in supple leather and gorgeous wood.

Ratings

Model Tested: 2001 Lexus GS 300

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.

Performance

Acceleration - 6
60%
Fuel Economy - 4
40%
Ride Quality - 7
70%
Steering/Handling - 6
60%
Quietness - 8
80%

Accommodations

Controls/Materials - 7
70%
Room/Comfort Front - 8
80%
Room/Comfort Rear - 4
40%
Cargo Room - 4
40%

Other

Value - 6
60%

Total: 60

Specifications

4-door sedan
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
110.2 189.0 70.9 56.7
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
14.8 19.8 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
39.2 37.4 44.5 34.3
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 1999 GS 300/400 4-door sedan

NHTSA

(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
N/A0%
Front Passenger Injury - N/A
N/A0%

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
N/A0%
Rear Passenger Injury - N/A
N/A0%

HLDI

(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision 142
Injury 71
Theft 421

Trouble Spots

Air conditioner
Description: The A/C fails to operate accompanied by failure of the temperature gauge, transmission-selector light, and the outside-temperature indicator just displays two dashes, but the system returns to normal if the key is switched off and on, requiring replacement of the A/C electronic-control unit. (1998)
Oil consumption
Description: Excessive oil consumption caused by sludge buildup on the cylinder heads. Company is extending warranty. (1998-01)
Audio system
Description: If the CD player stops working, but returns to normal when the key is cycled, or the there is cross-talk on the AM band, the company will replace the radio-tuner assembly. (1998)
Electrical problem
Description: Using the wrong cigar-lighter element (wrong size for the socket) can cause a short circuit. (1998-2000)

Recall History

1998
Description: Due to manufacturing defect of yaw-rate sensor, Vehicle Stability Control system can operate improperly if sensor is affected by certain electromagnetic waves, as from a cellular phone; should this occur, brake may operate unexpectedly, affecting steering and speed control.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.

Pricing

Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.