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2013 Lexus GS in Vegas

Lexus finally went all in on the Super Bowl, will it pay off?

The new Lexus GS rode Super Bowl hype into the national consciousness recently, and the automaker invited journalists out to Sin City to push the new luxury sports sedan to its limits.

On the heels of the first ever Lexus Super Bowl ad, Lexus gathered members of the automotive press together at the Palazzo Resort and Casino in fabulous Las Vegas for a weekend devoted to exploring what the GS can do.

After shuttling the reporters to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway north of The Strip, Lexus set up both an extended speed track and a short rally course to try out the power and handling of the GS.

The four door mid-range performance car settles between the bigger, richly appointed Lexus LS and the smaller, performance themed IS series. I drove a 2011 Lexus IS F sports sedan out to Las Vegas for this event, and that car’s big V8 and loud, angry revs always give new Lexus designs something to shoot for from year to year. While the $375,000 Lexus LFA super car sits way up on top of the automaker’s line, the IS F is also a special car – a machine that changes what it means to drive a Lexus.

It’s clear that the Toyota sister company wants their GS to do the same. With a new grill inspired by the LFA super car, the GS packs the elite technological sophistication you’d expect from a Lexus – with the addition of an industry-leading 12-inch-wide navigation and menu screen for navigation, audio control and other functions.

Of the three variations of the GS, the dynamically kitted out 350 F Sport was trotted out en masse for the track day. Media drivers could try their lap time on the dynamic handling rally course (I came around in 36.4 seconds – close to the top, but not the fastest time…) and on a much larger speed track with sweeping turns and long straightaways.

The F Sport’s Variable Gear Ratio Steering (VGRS), Lexus Dynamic Handling (LDH) system and Dynamic Rear Steering (DRS – that slightly steers the back wheels to reduce understeer) smoothed out the challenges of the bigger track. With all of that technical help on board, the GS is perpetually smooth, yet aggressive at speed. I was able to ride it hard and return it to its keepers with the distinct smell of burning rubber and hot brakes still hanging in the air. Just a few years ago making such a claim about any Lexus would have seemed ridiculous.

The GS was less entertaining on the rally course. While helping the GS hunker down on a larger track, all of that assisting technology takes away a lot of the natural feel of precision driving. The tech definitely makes the GS safer, but a little less adventuresome. That’s a minor complaint, though, when you consider the likelihood that GS buyers will be rushing out to rally race their luxury sports sedan.

As the sun set over the dusty speedway, with the earth shattering roar of NHRA dragsters testing on the main track fading in the distance, we came away from our hours behind the wheel of the GS pleased with the direction Lexus is headed. As their muscled up, VXF-filled Super Bowl ad suggests, Lexus is veering away from the stuffy and the bloodless and reaching out to irresponsible fools like me who like to drive.