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Driving our new 2013 Lexus GS350 from Tennessee to Connecticut

Consumer Reports News: June 13, 2012 04:08 PM

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As I file this report, I'm in the middle of a two-day journey to drive our 2013 Lexus GS350 from Tennessee back to our test track in Connecticut. Why Tennessee? Well, finding a rear-wheel-drive GS with all-season tires in the northeast proved not just difficult but impossible.

To find the right car for our test program, we called and emailed state-by-state, moving ever-further south. We finally hit pay dirt rather far from home in Nashville, TN. I was able to stay with my parents in nearby Bowling Green, KY, and thereby save a few dollars on hotel and meal costs. (Thanks, Mom!) But the trip is still 17 hours (or so) and about 1,000 miles total. Day 1 took me from Bowling Green to Pittsburgh, PA.

Early observations: The new GS is far nicer to drive long distances in than the last version. I took our previous GS on a CT to Washington, D.C., trip, and that car's cramped interior and tiny trunk were major annoyances.

But this redesigned car is relatively roomy, both in the front cabin and trunk. Spending 10-plus hours behind the wheel, with just a few stops to stretch, eat, and sightsee, hasn't proved difficult thanks to the comfortable seats. Our $57,983 GS has the $5,750 Luxury Package, which includes 18-way power front seats. (We also got the $1,735 Navigation Package, $1,380 Mark Levinson sound system, $500 park assist, and $318 cargo net kit.) These comfortable chairs have multiple lumbar adjustments, as well as an extendable seat cushion and adjustable upper bolsters. And the larger trunk is able to swallow my luggage and all the stuff my parents have asked me to bring to CT, a feat the old GS couldn't perform.

Suffice to say, I'm not uncomfortable, although I do find the angle of the armrest on the door odd. It has a strange slope that forces my arm off of it and into my lap. Perhaps that's because Lexus knows my right hand is likely occupied with the joystick-like controller for the Enform system.

2013-Lexus-GS350-Pandora-error.jpgI think that if app-based systems are the future of car infotainment, we are all in for headaches. Granted, I've had just one day with Enform, but already I've learned (through helpful legwork of the gentleman who sold me the car) that my 1.25-year-old Motorola Droid X doesn't play well with it. Or at least the Pandora music app.

While I can stream Pandora Internet radio via Bluetooth without issue, the Enform app would only play 30 seconds of each song during my drive yesterday. Totally resetting everything now results in a "Pandora Error" screen, even though my Pandora account is linked to the car. I have had better luck today, but I remain frustrated by this hit-or-miss performance.

The rest of the system is much like those of other cars in this category: busy at best, distracting at worst. There will be more to come on the infotainment system as we put the GS through our controls and usability tests.

But first, I need to complete my trip back to the track. At least this adventure will accelerate the car's break-in period.

Jon Linkov

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