MOTORING : Latest Lexus beats rivals hands down.
Lexus is about to introduce some of the most sophisticated electronics ever seen on a car as it gears up for a global assault.
The new Lexus GS not only heralds the next generation of cars from the Japanese brand famed for all-round excellence, but it is also the vehicle that will trailblaze new markets across the world.
Amazingly the new territories include Japan for until now Lexus has aimed itself primarily at North America and Western Europe - not at its homeland.
And to make sure it impresses in areas that will include Russia and China for the first time as well, the latest Lexus GS will come complete with onboard systems never before seen on a car at such a price.
It is not cheap and at pounds 46,755 the range-topping GS430 V8 is some pounds 6,600 more expensive than the car it replaces.
It is also more expensive than some of its key rivals in the executive class such as the Jaguar S-Type, the BMW 5 and the Mercedes E-Class.
But the new GS has built on the refinements that have made Lexus renowned over the past 16 years and the new car is a composed performer. The slightly snatchy feel of the old car has been eliminated by a stiffer body, tighter suspension and more feel to the steering.
Where it beats the opposition hands down is with technology - and most of it is to do with safety.
The new GS has just gained five star ratings in the latest Euro NCAP crash tests and that is testimony to what Lexus calls Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM) system.
The system is designed to predict an emergency and prepare the vehicle and occupants accordingly.
Basically it uses computers to bring together other systems such as traction control, stability control and active steering but its secret weapon is a forward facing radar beam which is part of the active cruise control set upIn cruise control mode, the radar senses the distance between you and the car in front and keeps vehicle separation to a pre-determined - and safe - distance.
In an emergency the radar is used to detect an unavoidable impact and prepares emergency braking and seatbelt tension in advance of collision. The results are remarkable.
Another part of the VDIM system controls skids by automatically compensating for any slide via the adaptive steering and, again under test conditions, the GS stopped in a straight line on a skid pan.
The safety measures are on top of 12 airbags - including class-leading driver knee bags - and a specially designed front bumper and bonnet for improved pedestrian accident protection.
The GS is also fitted with electronically operated brakes as well as the latest in satellite navigation systems which uses a full colour eight inch touch screen display.
On sale as of April 15, the new GS line up comprises four models with the entry level GS300 priced at pounds 30,400.
That is powered by a three-litre V6 which develops 245bhp giving a top speed of 148mph and 0 to 60 time of 7.2 seconds. Fuel consumption is a claimed average of 28.8mpg. The figures for the V8 in the GS430 are even more impressive at 6.1 seconds for 0 to 60, maximum speed restricted at 155mph and still averaging 24.8mpg.
Both also score for business users with CO2 emissions of 232 and 269g/km respectively - and those are lower than its major rivals.
Inside and out the new GS marks a sea change in Lexus styling. Dubbed L-finesse, it uses more angular design cuts to the body while the interior, although packed with kit, feels very conservative.
Perhaps too conservative for the GS430 appeared to be almost identical in trim to an SE-L specification GS300 costing pounds 8,000 less.
And Pound for pound, Lexus still offers unbeatable value when it comes to refinement and specification but the degree of sophistication that is now offered on the GS is almost beyond comprehension to the average motorist
The new Lexus GS is the vehicle that will trailblaze new markets across the world