A spot of localised interrogation reveals the words most associated with Lexus are: ‘soft', ‘comfortable', ‘old-mannish', ‘reliable', ‘tape deck' and ‘dentist'. Which makes the brand sound like an old people's home. Ever considered a Lexus? Probably. Then you bought a BMW or Audi.
Lexus wants us to rethink the prejudice. And this new GS is the spear-tip of a shiny new direction. This particular car is the GS450h F-Sport, packed full of clever tech and sporting one of the most aggressive bumpers ever seen on a production car. The rest of the launch range - a non-F-Sport 450h and a 205bhp 2.5-litre GS250 petrol V6 - are a little less visually intimidating, but they all get a serious refresh. So that means a new platform, all-new interiors and exteriors and revised drivetrains.
The 450h gets a new version of the Lexus Hybrid Drive, a 3.5-litre Atkinson cycle V6 petrol in tandem with an electric motor to give 338bhp or, depending on demand, either running solo. Nickel-Metal Hydride batteries take care of the energy storage, and a six-speed sequential shift E-CVT manages the transfer to the rear wheels. It adds up to a respectably fast saloon, and an especially fast hybrid: 0-62mph in 5.9 seconds and limited to 155mph. So far, so good.
It stays positive. The GS450h was always pretty rapid. But you got the feeling that when you pushed it hard, it got clear of its comfort zone. Now it's more distinctly vigorous. All cars get adaptive variable suspension, but the F-Sport goes one better with Lexus Dynamic Handling, featuring dynamic rear steering, a variable-ratio steering rack and electric power steering. Translation? The rear wheels steer in the opposite direction to the fronts under 50mph for that nimble feeling, in the same direction at higher speed for stability, and the electric steering changes ratio and weight depending on demand. It's good. More distinct than before, easily more dynamic. But complex and not - understandably - with all that much natural fluency.
The inside has also undergone a serious revamp. The battery pack is now stacked rather than laid flat in the rear, meaning a much bigger boot and improved knee room throughout. The interior is more European - think thoughtful and sober - with the slick dash dominated by a huge 12.3in screen, good-quality materials thoughout, and all the comfort-orientated buttons you could wish for in a generous standard spec.
It makes the GS450h F-Sport a lovely sports cruiser, capable of driving around in quiet munificence. Quick and quiet on the day-to-day, slightly anonymous (F-Sport excepted), rapid rather than devastating, relatively efficient and pleasing company.
3456cc, V6, RWD, 338bhp, 255lb ft, 47.8mpg, 137g/km CO2, 0-62 in 5.9secs, 155mph, 1820kg
Better than the old GS, surprisingly nimble, nice interior and a properly interesting choice.