Photo Credit: Lexus/Ray PearsonKnowing the Lexus GS 350 F Sport Sedan I was to put through its paces shared the DNA of the world-renowned Lexus LFA supercar was a bit intimidating. A friend recently had the opportunity to drive the LFA and described it as “a sports car on Viagra.”
I was planning something far less erotic. My series of day trips in Southern California was mapped out to provide maximum exposure to road conditions perfect for the touted handling and creature comforts of the GS. At the same time, I wanted to give readers a bit of inspiration to explore close-to-home staycation trips that would not break the bank, and address the wanderlust promise of all road trippers: “someday I will.” Here are three highlights:
Angeles Crest Highway (CA Route 2) runs from the Los Angeles community of La Ca?ada-Flintridge, northeast to Wrightwood, through the Angeles National Forest in the San Gabriel Mountains. At the beginning of the trip, heavy fog and rain made for dicey driving. The luxury car's “Heads Up Display” projected my speed onto the windshield, enabling me to remain focused on the road. At about 4,000 feet elevation, dazzling sunshine and blue skies exploded through the mist.
Mount Wilson Observatory and its forest of radio and television transmitters was a wonderful stop. Budding astronomers will love seeing the 100-inch telescope and the visitor center’s educational displays of the cosmos and various artifacts. Just west of the Dawson Saddle Summit, sickening vistas of the devastation caused by the 2009 Station Fire could be seen for miles.
Descending from the 8,000-foot summit, the road was a dizzyingly serpentine collection of turns actually made more fun to drive because of the car’s firm grip on the road. From Wrightwood, it was an easy connect to freeways leading back to reality from stunning scenery and exciting driving.
Interstate 10 from Los Angeles to Palm Springs gave me a chance to experience the GS’s fuel economy. On cruise control at 68 mph for most of the 110 miles, the V-6 3.5-liter engine got 29.7 mpg. And, they were comfortable miles as well. I am 6-feet, 6-inches tall and weigh a bit north of 250 pounds. The car felt ergonomically comfortable for my long legs, and I especially liked the oversized center console. The first stop on this staycation drive was to take a tour of the San Gorgonio Wind Park, straddling both sides of I-10.
The park is an outcropping of high-tech windmills called wind turbines and is made up of individual wind farms—in this case, 41. Adjacent to the park are solar farms. Just one of the solar farms covers 25 acres of panels and contributes about 8,000,000 watts to “the grid.” After the fascinating tour, I found a deserted stretch of frontage road to test something I had never done with any car before: try the “0 to 60 in 5.7 seconds” claim. With the GS in Sports Mode, and with a snap of the neck, I had at it. I’m not sure about the .7 part, but the car got to 60+ in about six seconds. Awesome!
California Route 74 connects Palm Desert and Orange County with two roller coaster-like mountain routes, easily negotiated by the road-handling ease of the GS. The Pines to Palms Highway segment, from the desert floor and over the 4,500-feet summit in the San Bernardino Mountains, eventually leads to the Ortega Highway segment. This equally circuitous route, rising to over 3,000-feet, links Lake Elsinore with Interstate 5 in Orange County. The handling and traction of the car, thanks to the wider stance of the LFA-inspired 19-inch wheels, were as brilliant as the routes were challenging.
The Lexus GS 350 Sports Sedan I drove on these trips had a base price of $46,900. With various add-ons, including the F Sport Package, Mark Levinson Premium Surround Sound System, Navigation Package and others, the out the door price is $60,349.
Visit Lexus.com to learn more about the Lexus GS 350 F Sports Sedan.