Lexus GS 2013 to 2020 Buyer’s Guide (Fourth Gen)

Just like the previous generations of the Lexus GS, the 2012 to 2020 car is famed for its fantastic build quality and excellent reliability. It’s a car that will sweep you along in luxury and will probably do so for many miles without a hitch. However, don’t let that lull you into a false sense of security as just like with any other car, a poorly maintained fourth generation Lexus GS can be trouble, especially as maintenance costs and repairs can be pretty pricey on these cars.

That’s why we have put this buyer’s guide together to let you know some of the things you should watch out for when looking at buying a used 2011 to 2020 Lexus GS.

How to Use This Fourth Gen Lexus GS Buyers Guide

This is a pretty big buyers guide, so use the table of contents below to skip to the section you want to read. The first thing we will cover is the history and specs of the Lexus GS L10. Following that, we will get into what to look out for when inspecting a used Lexus GS and then we will finish up with some more general car buying advice (how to get the best deal, more general questions, etc.).

The History of the Lexus GS L10 & L11 (2012 to 2020)

Credit: Lexus

Development of the fourth generation Lexus GS began a few years after the launch of the S190 series car. Yoshihiko Kanamori, Lexus’s Chief Engineer at the time, was put at the helm of the project, while Katsuhiko Inatomi was given the job of being the lead designer.

While the project would start in 2007, it wasn’t until the New Your Auto Show in 2011 that Lexus would give the world a taste of what they had been working on. The first model shown was in the form of the LF-Gh concept. With a hybrid powertrain and a host of new advanced technologies, this concept sedan was a definite step into the future for the GS badge.

It also featured a completely redesigned body when compared to the previous generation GS. The front grille was enlarged, and the sportier styling gave the car a more aggressive appearance that was more inline with its grand touring nature.

On the inside the concept was designed with a more driver focussed interior in mind, with a completely new instrument panel that featured better visibility. The extensive use of genuine, high-quality materials and rich, finely honed details also helped to create a space that was consistent with the idea of a fully-fledged luxury grand touring sedan.

Lexus Unveils the Production GS

Credit: Lexus

Not long after the hybrid concept was shown, Lexus announced that the all-new GS 350 would be unveiled at a press release at Pebble Beach on the 18th of August. Those who liked the design of the hybrid concept would have been pleased to find that only minor changes to the design were made for the production GS.

The taillights, side mirrors, fog lights, exhaust tail pipes and door handles all received slightly toned-down styling, but the aggressive, somewhat futuristic appearance of the concept was kept for the final product.

At the heart of the new GS 350 was a 306-horsepower, 376 Nm (277 lb-ft) of torque, 3.5-litre V6 engine that was powerful enough to get the new Lexus from 0 – 100 km/h (62 mph) in around 5.7 seconds. The potent engine was matched to a six-speed paddle-shift transmission, and drivers could select from a total of four different modes, Eco, Normal, Sport S, and Snow, with the latter of which being controlled by a separate button rather than the control knob in the centre console. Cars equipped with Adaptive Variable Suspension gained another sport mode, Sport S+, that offers even more dynamic performance.

Credit: Lexus

The more aggressive body and V6 engine weren’t the only talking points of the new car, with the GS receiving a completely new interior. Like the exterior, the interior shared many similarities with the concept. Lexus gave the car a generous helping of high-quality leather, brushed metal and wood inserts.

One of the biggest areas of change inside the cabin was around the dashboard and controls. The centre of the dash is dominated by a recessed display and all the controls were refined to provide a more streamlined user experience and a more modern look. Lexus gave standard models an eight-inch display, while buyers who selected the optional navigation system received a much larger 12.3-inch screen that offers split-screen functionality.

Another area where buyers could upgrade the car was the sound system. The standard 5.1 Surround Sound system wasn’t exactly poor, but it couldn’t hold a candle to the 835 watt, 17 speaker 7.1 Mark Levinson system that was available as an optional extra.

Some other standard features of the new GS included a rear backup camera, LED ambient lighting accents for the cabin, a new analog clock make from a solid ingot, Bluetooth capabilities and an SMS text-to-speech function that reads incoming text messages so the driver doesn’t have to take their eyes off the road.

More Than just the 350

Credit: Lexus

Lexus didn’t just announce the GS 350 and leave it at that. They also announced higher and lower tier models like the GS 250 and the GS 450h hybrid.

Producing around 209 PS (154 kW/206 bhp) from its 2.5-litre Dual VVT-I V6 engine, the GS 250 was the base model of the range. However, selecting this lower end option didn’t mean buyers would have to miss out on some of the great optional extras on offer, with the 12.3-inch screen, the Mark Levinson 17-speaker Audio system and S-flow air conditioning system with nanoe air purifying technology being available at an additional cost when ordering.

The significantly lower output from the smaller engine meant that performance was dramatically reduced when compared to the GS 350. While the top speed is roughly the same at around 229 km/h (142 mph), the 0 – 100 km/h (62 mph) time is significantly different, with the GS 250 only mustering a time of around 8.5 seconds, nearly three seconds slower than its bigger brother.

Credit: Lexus

For those who wanted the best of the best, Lexus introduced the GS 450h. Built around a hybrid system consisting of a 3.5-litre V6 and a high-torque electric motor, the GS 450h was the most powerful model announced. However, despite its nearly 40-horsepower advantage over the GS 350, acceleration and top speed performance remained roughly the same. Of course, outright performance figures weren’t really the main selling point of the GS 450h over the 350, with the hybrid car having a significantly better fuel efficiency and better base specs.

Along with the different powertrain, the GS 450h also had some subtle visual changes when compared to the GS 350, including; blue hybrid badges/designations, a special front grille, different 18-inch alloy wheels, a Lexus Hybrid Drive engine cover, a slight blue tint to the headlamps, clear talk light covers and a power meter that replaces the tachometer (much like on Toyota and Lexus’s other hybrid models).

F SPORT Package

Credit: Lexus

For those who wanted a bit more out of their GS 350 or GS 450h, they could opt for the F Sport package. While actual engine performance wasn’t increased, F Sport cars came with Adaptive Variable Suspension, thicker anti-roll bars, changes to the bushings, bigger front brakes with better pads, 16-way power adjustable sport seats, and a multitude of other changes as well.

On the visual side of things, Lexus swapped the standard wheels for bigger, more aggressive 19-inch rims. They also fitted a more striking front bumper and added a new spoiler and rear valence. To top it all off F Sport cars came with a smattering of “F Sport” Badges and some changes to the interior trim.

The F Sport package was made available from the 2013 model year in some markets, while some other countries would have to wait until the 2014 model year.  

Lexus GS Fourth Gen Sales Begin

The GS 350 and the GS 250 were the first models to hit showroom floors. Japanese buyers could place their orders from the end of January 2012, while those in the United States would have to wait until the next month. Sales of the hybrid version of the fourth gen GS in Japan began in March of the same year, with the rest of the world getting the car a number of months later.

Changes for the 2014 Model Year

It wasn’t long before Lexus introduced some changes to the L10 series GS, with the most notable being the introduction of an eight-speed automatic transmission for the 2014 model year. This new transmission was limited to rear-wheel drive versions of the GS 350 and was designed to not only improve fuel efficiency, but also performance as well.

Another big change was the addition of a Siri Eyes Free mode. Limited to iPhone models from 4S onwards running at least IOS 6, this mode lets drivers interact with Siri using their vehicle’s microphone and speakers. The feature is operated by pressing the steering wheel’s off-hook switch for around two seconds, and it allows for commands such as making phone calls, dictating text messages and emails, reading incoming messages and much more.

Lexus Introduces the GS 300h

Credit: Lexus

The 2014 model year also saw the introduction of a new model, the GS 300h. Like the 450h, the 300h is powered by a hybrid powertrain, but this time Lexus combined the electric motor with a smaller 2.5-litre Atkinson power unit for a combined output of around 223 horsepower and 221 Nm (163 lb-ft) of torque at 4200 rpm. This meant that the new hybrid model was good for a 0 – 100 km/h (62 mph) time of around 9.2 seconds.

The introduction of the 300h also saw a new entry level trim option added to the range. Labelled the “SE”, this new trim level joined the Luxury, F Sport and Premier options already available on other GS models.

Credit: Lexus

Standard features of the 300h SE included 17-inch wheels, a 12-speaker sound system with DAB radio and DVD player, push button start, cruise control, parking sensors, xenon headlights, and power adjustable, heated front seats. Some of the optional upgrades were available as well, such as the 12.3-inch display and Premium Navigation system.  

Like the top 450h model, the 300h Premier came equipped with all the bells and whistles, including the Mark Levinson 17-speaker hifi, system, upgraded wheels, 18-way electronically adjustable memory front seats, the new colour heads-up display that was added for the year, Adaptive Variable Suspension and LED fog lamps.

Lexus Brings More Updates for 2016 Models

More changes would come for the 2015 GS lineup with the 3.5-litre 2GR-FSE being replaced by the newer 2GR-FKS engine. The newer 3.5-litre motor essentially combined the D-4S system from the older engine with the Atkinson cycle that was used on motors like the one in the GS 300h. This not only helped to improve fuel efficiency, leading to reduced fuel costs for the owner, but it also boosted power slightly to 315 PS (311 bhp/232 kW).

Along with the new engine, there were also some slight styling changes to the exterior of the car, with new wheels, trim pieces and exterior lighting. Lexus also equipped the 2015 GS with a revised infotainment system that features improved voice recognition and graphics.

The safety system of the fourth generation GS also received some big updates as well. Buyers now had the option (standard on some models) of the Lexus Safety System + which combines a Pre-Collision System (PCS) with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Alert (LDA) with Steering Assist, Intelligent High Beam (IHB) and All-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control.

Lexus Introduces the GS 200t

Credit: Lexus

Another big addition for 2015 (2016 model year) was the inclusion of a new model, the GS 200t. Powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine, this new model featured the smallest engine in the range. All of its 245 horses (241 bhp/180 kW) are sent to the rear-wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission and according to Lexus at the time, the car featured excellent fuel economy, with a highway estimate of 33 mpg.

The Lexus GS F Makes its Debut in 2015

Credit: Lexus

Lexus spiced up the GS line with an “F” badged model in 2015. The car was initially unveiled at the North American Auto at the start of the year, with sales starting closer to the end of the year.

The new GS F’s main party piece was its monstrous Direct Injection VVT-iE 5.0-litre V8 engine with 467 horsepower on tap. While this wasn’t as much as some of the other performance sedans in the GS F’s class, most reviewers concluded it was more than enough to give the car some real get up and go. To help make the car feel even quicker, Lexus matched the powerful V8 engine to a rather rapid eight-speed Sport Direct Shift transmission that gets the job done in as little as 0.1 seconds.

The changes didn’t stop at the engine and transmission, with some serious attention directed to the car’s body. Lexus’s team massively improved body stiffness via a number of different methods, including increasing the number of spot welding points, utilising laser welding, and implementing high-stiffness glass adhesives. To bring the most out of the stiffened body and improve steering response, engineers working on the car completely reworked the suspension.

Credit: Lexus

New brakes that could better cope with the significantly higher levels of power and speed were also one of the main drawcards of the GS F. The car now featured uprated Brembo six-piston calipers with 15-inch discs at the front and four-piston calipers with 13.6-inch discs at the rear. The diameter of the master cylinder was also increased, and the addition of high-friction pads also helped to increase stopping performance.

Other notable performance features and additions included the Torque Vectoring Differential (TVD) torque control system and the Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM) system. The TVD system allows drivers to switch between three modes – Standard, Slalom, and Circuit—to provide superior cornering under a broad range of situations, from driving on standard roads to high-intensity circuit laps.

Exterior & Interior Changes for the GS F

Credit: Lexus

The exterior of the GS F also received some changes to better compliment its performance under the hood. A large new front grille and large air ducts helped to not only improve cooling performance, but also gave the car a more racer-like appearance. Carbon fibre parts, including a small rear spoiler were also fitted, and newly designed 19-inch polished aluminium wheels cover the enormous brakes.

On the inside there were some more big changes as well. New high-back sports seats were installed that provide better support during enthusiastic driving. The steering wheel and shift knob were also unique to the GS F, with them now featuring three-colour stitching in white, black, and blue. Sports pedals were also included and of course buyers could select a number of optional extras such as the 17-speaker Mark Levinson sound system (options depended on the market).

End of the Fourth Gen GS

Credit: Lexus

After rumours of the demise of the GS line, Lexus announced that sales of the fourth gen car in Europe would halt in 2018, while it would continue until 2020 in some other markets including the United States. However, before sales stopped completely Lexus announced one last special edition model – the GS Black Line.

Based around the 350 F Sport, the new special edition car featured some exclusive features such as gloss black F Sport wheels, gloss black trim pieces, and a special black spoiler. There were also changes to the interior with red accents on the door panels, steering wheel and centre console.

The Black Line was limited to a total production run of 210 models, making it the rarest fourth generation model produced.

Lexus GS 2012 to 2020 Specifications

Non Electrified Models

ModelGS 250GS 200tGS 350GS F
Year of production2011 – 20202015 – 20202011 – 20202015 – 2020
LayoutFront-engine, rear-wheel driveFront-engine, rear-wheel driveFront-engine, rear-wheel drive or all-wheel driveFront-engine, rear-wheel drive
Engine/Engines2.5-litre 4GR-FSE V6Turbocharged 2.0-litre 8AR-FTS l43.5-litre 2GR-FSE V6 3.5-litre 2GR-FKS V65.0-litre 2UR-GSE V8
Power209 PS (154 kW / 206 bhp)245 PS (180  kW / 241 bhp)306 PS (225 kW / 302 bhp) – FSE 315 PS (311 bhp/232 kW) – FKS473 PS (348 kW / 466 bhp)
Torque253 Nm (187 lb-ft) at 4,800 rpm350 Nm (258 lb-ft) at 1,650 – 4,400 rpm376 Nm (277 lb-ft) at 4,800 rpm – FSE 380 Nm (280 lb-ft)530 Nm (390 lb-ft) at 4800 -5600 rpm
Gearbox6-speed automatic8-speed automatic6-speed automatic 8-speed automatic from the 2014 model year onwards8-speed automatic
Suspension FrontIndependent, Double wishboneIndependent, Double wishboneIndependent, Double wishboneIndependent, Double wishbone
Suspension RearIndependent, Multi-linkIndependent, Multi-linkIndependent, Multi-linkIndependent, Multi-link
Brakes4-wheel, power assisted, disc brakes4-wheel, power assisted, disc brakes4-wheel, power assisted, disc brakesFront – 380 mm (15 inch) Vented Discs Rear – 345 mm (13.6 inch) Vented Discs
Weight (curb)1,665 kg (3,671 lbs)1,665 kg (3,671 lbs)1,721 kg (3,794 lbs)1,765 kg (3,891 lbs)
Top speed229 km/h (142 mph)229 km/h (142 mph)229 km/h (142 mph)270 km/h (168 mph)
0 – 100 km/h (62 mph)8.5 seconds7.6 sec5.7 to 5.9 seconds4.5 seconds

Hybrid Models

ModelGS 300hGS 450h
Year of production2013 – 20202011 – 2020
LayoutFront-engine, rear-wheel driveFront-engine, rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive
Engine/Engines2.5-litre 2AR-FSE l43.5-litre 2GR-FXE V6
Power249 PS (183 kW / 245 bhp)345 PS (254 kW / 340 bhp)
Torque310 Nm (229 lb-ft) at 3,500 rpm500 Nm (369 lb-ft) at 3,000 rpm
Gearbox8-speed CVT8-speed CVT
Suspension FrontIndependent, Double wishboneIndependent, Double wishbone
Suspension RearIndependent, Multi-linkIndependent, Multi-link
Brakes4-wheel, power assisted, disc brakesFront – 334 mm (13.15 inch) Ventilated discs Rear – 310 mm (12.2 inch) Ventilated discs
Weight (curb)1,665 kg (3,671 lbs)1,855 kg (4,090 lbs)
Top speed229 km/h (142 mph)250 km/h (155 mph)
0 – 100 km/h (62 mph)7.2 seconds5.7 to 5.9 seconds

Lexus GS Fourth Gen Buyers Guide

Credit: Lexus

Now that you have a bit of background info about the fourth generation Lexus GS and the models produced, lets get into the buyers guide section of this article. As with other Lexus models, the different versions of the GS L10 tend to be very reliable if maintained properly, however, it is important to keep in mind that maintenance itself can be expensive. Additionally, just like with any other car, a poorly maintained GS is usually going to cause a lot more trouble than one that has been looked after properly.

As with most inspections of cars produced after the year 2000 or so, we highly recommend bringing along an OBD2 scanner like this one from BlueDriver. These sort of scanners allow you to scan and read fault codes on a vehicle, which could potentially uncover serious faults with the car you’re examining. There is a wide variety of OBD2 scanners available, and we have thoroughly reviewed several models on our website, including the Autophix 3210, Fixed Scanner, and the BlueDriver Pro, for your convenience.

Arranging an Inspection of a Fourth Gen Lexus GS

  • Look at the car in person – While buying without physically inspecting a vehicle first has become more popular, we still recommend that you try and examine a car yourself first before handing over any money. If you can’t do that, we recommend that you get a reliable friend or third-party to do so for you.
  • Take somebody with you – Another suggestion we have is to have a friend or helper accompany you during the inspection. Having another person present means there will be an extra set of eyes, ears, and hands to spot any potential issues that might otherwise go unnoticed if you just do the inspection yourself. Additionally, your friend/helper can offer their perspective on the Lexus GS you’re examining and give you their thoughts on whether or not they think it is a good buy.
  • View the Lexus GS at the seller’s home or place of business – It can also be a good idea to inspect a used vehicle at the seller’s residence or place of business (dealership for example). This can give you some info on the car’s typical storage, parking, and usage conditions. If the fourth gen GS you are interested in is stored outdoors on the street there is a higher chance of it developing bodywork issues such as, rust, leaks, and other related problems.
  • Another thing we recommend that you do is to check the condition of the roads where the car is located. If these roads are rough or filled with potholes, pay extra attention to the wheels, tyres, suspension, and other relevant components, as there might be an increased likelihood of premature wear or damage.
  • Inspect the vehicle in the morning rather than later in the day – This isn’t something you have to do, but by inspecting a used car in the morning it gives the seller less time to clean up any potential issues such as a big oil leak.
  • Ask the seller not to drive or warm up the Lexus GS prior to your arrival – A warm engine can hide a number of different problems, so it is best to inspect a used fourth gen GS when it is cold.
  • Don’t tell a dealer you want to view a particular car before your arrival – Giving a dealer advanced noticed that you intend to inspect a specific vehicle can give them additional time to address or clean up any potential issues. However, this may not always be possible and will depend on how the dealer operates.
  • Try to avoid inspecting a used Lexus GS L10 in the rain – Water has the ability to conceal bodywork and paint problems, which is why we recommend that you go back for a second viewing if it is raining during the first inspection of the car. A second inspection under dry conditions may help reveal any hidden issues that might have been temporarily concealed by water on the bodywork.
  • Get the car in direct sunlight if possible – Ask the seller to move their Lexus GS outside if it’s being kept in a garage or showroom, as indoor lighting can cover up defects that are be visible in natural sunlight.

Buying a Lexus GS IV with Significant Problems

As with any used car, you are going to come across a few Lexus GS IVs out there with problems (hence why this guide exists). Generally, we recommend that you avoid buying any used GS with significant problems and just go with the cleanest example possible. However, if you understand what the problems are and you can find out roughly how much you will need to fix them, buying a used car with issues can sometimes be a good deal if you can get it at a bargain price.

It is crucial to bear in mind that the problems you uncover may be more extensive and expensive to repair than initially estimated, so it is a good idea to factor in a price creep when assessing repair quotes.

Where is a Good Place to Buy a Lexus GS L10?

Apart from your usual local dealers and auction sites like eBay, TradeMe, Autotrader, and Gumtree, owners’ clubs can be great places to find quality used cars for sale. This is because the owners in these sorts of groups tend to look after their cars a bit better and are more knowledgeable about maintaining them. Here are a few examples of some groups/clubs:

ClubLexus – Founded by Michael Kilty an enthusiastic Lexus owner from Southern California. This site covers all different models produced by Lexus including the fourth generation GS.

Lexus Owners Club North America – Another club dedicated to all things Lexus. Based in North America.

Lexus Owners Club United Kingdom – Pretty much the same as above, but dedicated to the UK based community.

How Much Should I Pay for a Lexus GS IV?

Credit: Lexus

This really depends on a number of factors from what model you are looking at, to the condition a particular car is in, where it is being sold, and much more. For example, a late model GS F in pristine condition is going to be worth a lot more than a GS 250 that has seen a lot of action.

Buying from an official Lexus dealer will often come with a higher cost as well, but it can offer some benefits such as better buyer protection and an extended warranty. However, it is best to check what protections/warranty are on offer in your local area as this does change depending on where you are in the world. Third-party warranties when buying from non-Lexus or Toyota dealers are also usually available. We recommend that you check these out to see what they cover as once again it may change depending on the location and provider.

As we can’t really provide you with an exact figure of what you should pay for a particular fourth gen Lexus GS, we recommend that you use the prices from auction/classified or dealers sites as a rough guide. We also recommend that you add a bit to your budget for any unexpected expenses that may occur after you purchase the vehicle.

Checking the VIN/Frame Number

It is always a good idea to check the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) or chassis number. The VIN can usually be used to gather a bit of information about a particular car like when it was manufactured, what engine it has, etc. It can also be fed into a checker service or website that may be able to tell you if the car has been written off at any point.

Where can I find the VIN on a 2012 to 2020 Lexus GS?

You should be able to find the VIN in the following locations?

  • Bottom of the windscreen on the passenger side (right-hand drive)
  • On the manufacturer’s label on the inside of the passenger door (right-hand drive)
  • Under the front right seat under a cover

The VIN is a series of 17 characters and should look something like this – JTHBP1BL3KAXXXXXX (this is for a GS F)

What is the Best Model Year 4th Gen GS?

This really depends on a number of factors. For instance, if you want the 8-speed transmission but a GS 350 car, you are going to have to get a 2014+ model as ones prior to that came with a 6-speed gearbox.

Generally later versions of the Mk4 GS came with more features and tech. For instance, GS 350 models produced from the start of production to around 2015 didn’t come with many of the advanced features as standard, whereas from the 2016/2017 model year a lot of these features were included in the normal price. These extra features included things like adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, brake hold, an upgraded display and nav system, and more. The 2016 model year onwards also received a restyled front end and some changes to the interior.  

Many 2018 models were also upgraded with better 19-inch ten spoke wheels that gave the GS 350 a much better overall appearance, so these are even more sought after for those looking for the best.

In summary, 2013 to 2015 models are going to be the least expensive as they have the least features and are obviously the oldest. Model years 2016 and 2017 are often regarded as the best value as they come with many of the advanced features as standard and have the facelifted design. 2018 cars onwards are generally the most expensive as they are the newest and many came with nicer wheels (for the GS 350).

Engine

Credit: Lexus

Just like with many other Toyota/Lexus engines, the ones used in the different versions of the fourth gen GS tend to be very reliable and robust. However, this doesn’t mean you can get away with no maintenance, so check the service history thoroughly!

Starting Your Inspection

Check that the bonnet/hood opens smoothy and that the struts hold it up fine. Its not a terrible problem if the struts do need to be replaced, but it is always something you can use when trying to get a discount.

We also recommend that you have a look at the hinges and catch for any signs that they have been replaced, as this may indicate that the vehicle has been in some sort of accident or had another kind of issue.

Don’t be fooled by a spotless looking engine as this could be a sign of an owner who has washed it to cover up a problem such as an oil leak. On the other hand, a really dirty engine bay could be a sign that the Lexus GS has been owned by somebody who hasn’t cared for it well.

Do a quick general check for any obvious issues or modifications. If you notice something like a huge oil leak straight away, we probably wouldn’t waste anymore time on the vehicle and would thank the seller for their time and move on. Once you have given the engine bay a quick onceover, do a more thorough inspection, checking for the following things we will go through in the rest of this section.

Checking the Fluids

As always, it is a good idea to check a used car’s fluids (engine oil, coolant, etc.) before making a decision on the vehicle. The condition of the fluids in a fourth gen Lexus GS can give you a bit of information about how it has been maintained and what its current condition is like.

Watch out for any black sludge as this can indicate that the oil hasn’t been changed in a while. Black sludge can also be caused by excessive idling and/or numerous short trips, environmental contaminants, hot spots in the engine, and more. Engines that suffer from this problem are more likely to experience excessive oil use, lower oil pressure, and possibly even louder running or strange tapping/clicking noises.

Metallic particles and grit in the engine oil is also another important thing to watch out for. While tiny metal shavings in the oil are normal, they aren’t normally visible to the naked eye, so if you can clearly see them there is probably an issue. Larger metallic particles and grit can indicate a more serious issue like contamination, bearing failure, and much more.

Don’t forget to check for foamy, frothy, or milky-looking oil as well, as this could indicate a very serious issue like head gasket failure. This sort of problem may also be the result of overfilling or condensation in the oil. If the cause is from overfilling, the bubbly/foamy oil generally won’t be discoloured, whereas if contamination has occurred due to a leaking gasket or cracked block, the foam will generally be lighter in colour.

If you are interested in purchasing a particular Mk4 Lexus GS, it can be a good idea to get the car’s oil analysed prior to purchase. We wouldn’t do this on every GS you come across, but if you are seriously considering a particular car this could save you from some nasty surprises down the road. Some dealers and sellers may have already got a test done, which is only a good thing in our eyes as it shows that the car is probably in better condition than if they didn’t have the test results on offer (although, make sure the analysis was done by somebody legitimate and trustworthy).

How Often Should the Engine Oil Be Changed on a Lexus GS Mk4?

In most markets Lexus recommends that the engine oil and filter be changed at around 16,000 km (10,000 miles) or every 12 months for all the different models of the fourth gen GS (GS 350, GS 450h, etc.). If the GS is driven in very harsh conditions like the following, it should be serviced every 8,000 km (5,000 miles) or every 6 months:

  • Vehicle is used in dusty, dirty conditions/roads
  • Frequent journeys shorter than five miles in temperatures below freezing (32° F or 0° C)
  • Prolonged periods of idling and/or driving at low speeds over long distances, such as in police, taxi, or door-to-door delivery services.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the service/maintenance indicator light can come on at around 8,000 km (5,000 miles). This light is just reminding you to do things like rotate your tyres, check tyre pressures, check fluid levels, and so on.

If you find out that the car you are looking at hasn’t been serviced properly we would be cautious. While the fourth gen GS is generally a reliable car, poor servicing is always one of the main causes of car issues, so try to find one with good service records.  

Oil Leaks from a Fourth Gen Lexus GS

Oil leaks generally aren’t a problem on the different versions of the fourth generation Lexus GS. However, there are some reports of the 3.5-litre 2GR engine experiencing timing cover leaks at a higher rate than many of Toyota’s other engines (not just in the GS, but also cars like the Highlander and Avalon as well).

Most of the time a timing cover leak on the 2GR (and other engines in the GS range) seems to be nothing more than a slight weep, so its not a major issue. Despite this it is still a good idea to check the timing cover thoroughly as a more serious leak will cause issues over time.

While a timing cover leak is arguably the most common leak on the different motors fitted to the fourth gen GS, don’t forget that it could be coming from somewhere else as well. Something like a rear main seal leak can be seriously expensive to fix, so assume the worst and hope for the best.

Check for leaks both before and after a test drive, and don’t park in the same spot when you return from a test drive if possible. If you notice any puddles of oil it is best to simply walk away as the car probably isn’t worth your time (could be something simple like an oil filter issue, but we wouldn’t count on it).

Does the Lexus GS L10 Have a Timing Belt or Chain?

Credit: Lexus

As you can see from the bullet points below, all of the different models in the fourth gen GS range use timing chains instead of belts, which means you don’t have to worry about changing them at a specified interval.

  • GS 250 – 2.5-litre 4GR-FSE V6 – timing chain
  • GS 200t – 2.0-litre 8AR-FTS l4 – timing chain
  • GS 350 – 3.5-litre 2GR-FSE V6 – timing chain
  • GS 350 – 3.5-litre 2GR-FKS V6 – timing chain
  • GS F – 5.0-litre 2UR-GSE V8 – timing chain
  • GS 300h – 2.5-litre 2AR-FSE l4 – timing chain
  • GS 450h – 3.5-litre 2GR-FXE V6 – timing chain

While timing chains should generally last the lifetime of the engine, premature stretch/wear can occur, so keep that in mind and listen out for any strange rattling noises from the timing area. If a complete and sudden failure does occur, this will almost certainly cause significant damage to the engine, but this is extremely unlikely.

Most of the time issues with the timing chain aren’t actually due to the chain itself, but the tensioner/tensioners. If the tensioner needs to be replaced for whatever reason it is probably best to replace the chain as well. Another thing to keep in mind is that if the GS you are looking at hasn’t been serviced properly with regular oil and filter changes, it is more likely to suffer from timing chain issues as the engine oil lubricates the chain.

Cooling System

A malfunctioning cooling system can lead to some pretty catastrophic damage to the engine, so take your time making sure it is working properly. Thankfully, all the fourth gen GS models seem to have a pretty robust cooling system and there are no ‘specific’ Mk4 GS issues to watch out for. However, we will go into some general issues and things to be aware of when checking the cooling system.

Coolant Condition

If you can, try to get a look at the coolant tank and the coolant inside. The location of the tank will be slightly different depending on the engine/powertrain the GS is running. Additionally, plastic covers somewhat conceal the tank on many of the models and make it more difficult to access. To get a better look at the tank you can remove the cover, but we would check with the owner before doing so and keep in mind that aging plastics can be brittle.

Check to see what colour the coolant is as Toyota Pink (Super Long Life) coolant should be used in these cars. Toyota Red can also be used in the different versions of the fourth generation GS as well, but that is more intended for older vehicles, whereas Pink is what Toyota uses in their newer cars. You can read a bit more about the difference between the two here

Some people have got away with running non-OEM coolants in their Mk4s, but we would personally be a bit cautious of cars that have aftermarket coolant in them. While it may be fine now, it could cause trouble in the future.

The standard Pink Coolant from Toyota is usually good for up to around 160,000 km (100,000 miles) or 10 years from the factory. This means that a good number of fourth gens will be coming up for their first coolant change about now or will have just had a change, so we would check this in the service history. From the second change onwards, Lexus/Toyota recommend replacing the coolant at a slightly shorter interval of around 100,000 km (60,000 miles).

If you notice any gurgling noises it could indicate that the coolant level is low or that there is a leak somewhere in the system. A gurgling noise can also be indicative of a bad water pump, so keep that in mind as well.

Another thing to watch out for is brown and muddy looking coolant as this probably indicates that a change is needed.  

Coolant Level and Leaks

While you are checking the condition of the coolant, make sure you have a look for any leaks around the expansion tank, coolant lines, and underneath the GS. If you notice any crusted coolant this can indicate that a leak has occurred at some point. Alternatively, it may simply be down to something simple like a slight spill when servicing.

If the fourth gen Lexus GS you are looking at has just recently had a coolant change, don’t be too alarmed if you notice a very small coolant leak. This can happen if debris become lodged between the mating ring and the seal ring. This creates a small gap, allowing coolant to bypass the seal and drain out of the weep hole. The good thing is that this should only be temporary and should fix itself relatively quickly. However, we wouldn’t just assume that this is the problem as the leak could be due to a more serious and expensive problem.

Make sure you check for leaks both before and after a test drive. When you return from a test drive, park in a different spot and let the GS sit for around 10 to 15 minutes before you recheck for any leaks. If you don’t see any leaks but smell the sweet aroma of coolant, there is a good chance that there is still a leak somewhere in the system. If you notice any very serious leaks we would probably walk away, as there is a much higher chance that the GS overheats or has overheated in the past.

Look for Air Bubbles in the Coolant

Keep on eye out for any bubbles in the coolant as while this is quite common when the engine is warming up, it can be a sign of problems once the motor is up to temperature. If you do notice any bubbles, it could be down to anything from a bad bleed, a faulty radiator cap, a blown head gasket and much more. Another thing to keep in mind is that excess air (bubbles) in the cooling system can lead to a reduction in cooling performance, which can lead to more serious problems occurring.

Thermostat Problems

The thermostat is often one of the most likely parts to fail in the cooling system, so watch out for an erratically behaving temperature gauge, overheating, lack of coolant flow, coolant lines that are cold to the touch, etc. Replacing the thermostat can be reasonably expensive and you want to make sure the behaviour we just listed isn’t caused by a more serious problem as well.

Check the Heater

The heater is one of the best things to use when checking to make sure that the cooling system is operating correctly. This is because a malfunctioning heater can be a sign of cooling system problems and we have listed some of the common causes of heater issues below:

  • Clogged heater core – If the heater core is clogged it will restrict coolant flow and the heaters won’t work properly.
  • Bad thermostat – A bad thermostat will restrict or limit the flow of coolant, which will prevent heat from reaching the cabin and passengers.
  • Failed water pump – If the water pump is not working, coolant won’t be circulated through the system and the heaters won’t work. Other signs of a failed water pump include strange whining/chuffing sounds, knocking noises, coolant leaks, overheating, and possibly even smoke or steam.
  • Low coolant – If there isn’t enough coolant insufficient heat transfer will occur, so the heater won’t work properly or at all. This is probably the easiest one to check as you can inspect the coolant reservoir tank.
  • Stuck blend doors – If the blend doors are stuck in the cold position no warm air will reach the cabin.

Head Gasket/Cooling System Failure

Unlike some other cars out there, head gasket failure doesn’t seem to be much of a problem at all on these cars. However, it is still important to know the signs of head gasket failure, so keep an eye out for the following:

  • Noticeable white smoke from the exhaust pipe
  • Sweet smelling exhaust fumes
  • Overheating engine
  • Bubbles in the coolant or expansion tank
  • White, milky oil
  • Reduced engine power
  • Fouled spark plugs
  • Signs of low cooling system integrity
  • Presence of a coolant smell from the oil
  • Steam coming from the front of the Lexus GS L10

If you suspect a blown head gasket in a fourth generation Lexus GS, it is probably best to move onto another car. There are numerous well-maintained examples out in the in the market, and it may not be worth investing your time and effort into repairing one with such a severe problem (even if you can get it at a great price).

Fuel Pump Problems

There was a massive recall involving around 1.8 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles for a fuel pump in 2020. The cars affected by the problem include models produced from around 2013 to 2019, including the fourth generation GS 300 with the model year 2018 to 2019. Other versions and model years of the Mk4 Lexus GS weren’t included in the recall, but it may be worth checking with your local Lexus dealer just to make sure.  

According to Toyota, the problem with the faulty fuel pumps is that they could suddenly stop working, causing the vehicle to stall and leaving the driver stranded by the side of the road.

Pretty much all affected cars should have had this problem fixed by now, but we would just double check with the owner and in the service history to make sure. You could also ring Lexus as well to see if the recall was actioned upon.

You can read a bit more about the problem here.

Exhaust System

Credit: Lexus

There really isn’t anything specific to be worried about here, but it is always a good idea to check the exhaust system thoroughly for any problems as they can be expensive to fix. Listen out for any weird noises such as rumbling, scraping, rattling. Ticking and whistling sounds are also something to watch out for as well, especially if they change with the engine speed. Lastly, check that the exhaust is held on firmly as if it moves a lot the hangers probably need some attention.

O2 Sensor Problems

O2 sensor failure is a definite possibility, especially as these cars age, so keep an eye out for the following:

  • Activation of the Check Engine Light along with fault codes.
  • Notable decrease in fuel efficiency.
  • Sulphur or ‘Rotten Egg’ odour coming from the exhaust.
  • Dark/black smoke from the exhaust.
  • The Lexus GS’s engine displays weird symptoms such as hesitation, skipping, bucking, or power surges.
  • Emission test failure – Get a test done to find this out or use the emissions test feature on your OBD2 scanner if you have one

Catalytic Converter Problems

Some of the above symptoms can also be a sign of CAT failure as well. Unfortunately, replacing a catalytic converter on the fourth generation Lexus GS can be very, very expensive, so be cautious if you notice any of the following:

  • Activation of the Check Engine Light along with fault codes.
  • Smell of sulphur or rotten eggs from the exhaust
  • Reduced acceleration and sluggish engine performance.
  • Weird symptoms such as hesitation, skipping, bucking, or power surges.
  • Excessive heat under the Kia Stinger
  • Dark/black smoke from the car’s exhaust
  • Emission test failure – obviously going to need to get a test done to find this out or use the emissions test feature on your OBD2 scanner if you have one

Using an OBD2 scanner to check for fault codes is going to probably be your best method of determining whether or not the catalytic converter is at fault. If you do notice the symptoms above, we would probably pass on the GS unless you can get it at a great price. While it could be an O2 sensor, if it is a CAT, you will probably be looking at quite an expensive bill to get it repaired.

Another thing to be aware of is that the CATs are sometimes removed on cars. This is sometimes done when fitting an aftermarket exhaust system, so if the exhaust is not original be mindful of that. Another reason why a CAT may be missing is if one has failed and it has been too costly to replace for the owner. Lastly, another rather unfortunate reason is that in some parts of the world it has become popular to steal catalytic converters from cars for the materials inside them.

If the CATs have been removed on the Mk4 Lexus GS you are looking at, it will almost certainly fail any emissions tests that may be required for road worthiness. This means that you could be up for a big expense to just make the car road worthy in some countries/locations.

What Is the Correct Idle Speed on a Fourth Gen Lexus GS?

Once warm you should find that the idle speed sits at around 700 to 800 rpm on all of the fourth generation GS models. Don’t be too concerned if it is a bit higher when cold as it is perfectly normal for these cars to idle around 1,500 rpm when they are first started.

If the idle speed continues to remain at a high speed or it is lumpy it could be down to a range of different things from spark plug problems, injector issues, electrical gremlins and much more. You are unlikely to find the exact cause of the problem during a short inspection, so we would be cautious. Additionally, if the problem was an easy fix the owner probably would have got it sorted before putting their Lexus GS up for sale.

Bad Engine Mounts

Failing/failed engine mounts are a possibility, especially on higher mileage fourth gens, so keep an eye out for the following symptoms:

  • Engine movement – Check to see if there is any excessive movement when revving the engine (this is where a helper can come in handy)
  • Excessive vibrations/shaking – Typically, excessive vibrations from bad mounts are usually most noticeable during idle. If the shaking is really bad, the car’s body may even shake.
  • Clunking, banging or other impact sounds (especially during shifts) – Noises such as these may be a sign that the engine is shifting slightly due to a failing or failed engine mount.

Installing new engine mounts isn’t usually too expensive, but keep in mind the symptoms above could also be a sign of another issue such as bad injectors, worn transmission mounts, etc.

Batteries on Hybrid Models

If you are interested in one of the hybrid models (GS 300h or GS 450h), one of your biggest concerns should be the batteries. The warranty covers the batteries for up to 8 years or 160,000 km (100,000 miles). In some markets this can be extended up to 15 years as long as a hybrid health check is carried out annually or every 16,000 km/10,000 miles.

Unfortunately, if the batteries are out of warranty and they need to be replaced you will be up for a very expensive repair bill on these cars. You can usually get remanufactured batteries for a slightly lower price, but they are still pretty expensive, so you really want to watch out for the following on any hybrid Lexus:

  • “Check Hybrid System” error on the dashboard
  • Car cuts out but the electronics (music, lights, etc.) still work – try accelerate, if nothing happens the hybrid system/batteries may have failed
  • No energy flow between the engine, hybrid system and batteries on the dashboard/central display.
  • OBD2 reader displays codes relating to the battery and hybrid system
  • Batteries go to empty after the car has been sitting for a few hours (when they were previously green) – This will be difficult to tell during a short inspection
  • Reduced fuel economy (as the hybrid system is not functioning correctly)
  • Internal combustion engine seems to be doing more of the work (sort of linked to the above)

As replacing the batteries can be so expensive, we absolutely recommend that you get yourself an OBD2 scanner or take the car to a Lexus specialist or dealer to get the codes read before purchase.

While the batteries shouldn’t be much of a problem at the moment as these cars are still fairly new, they will become more of an issue in the future. For those reading this Lexus GS buyers guide well into the future, we recommend that you try and find a GS 300h or 450h that has had a battery replacement, especially if it has done a lot of miles.

Inverter Failure on Hybrid Models

While the batteries are probably the most common failure point for the hybrid system on both the GS 300h and 450h models, the inverter can also cause issues as well. If there is a problem with the hybrid inverter on the Lexus GS you are looking at, you may notice some of the same symptoms we listed in the batteries section above. Alternatively, the car may not start at all, but keep in mind that this could be caused by other problems as well.

Just like with the batteries, the inverter on both the GS 300h and GS 450h can be seriously expensive to fix, especially if you go to an official Lexus dealer. A third-party Lexus or Toyota specialist may be a bit cheaper, but it is still going to be an expensive repair. You can also save some money by buying a used inverter from a wrecker, but obviously this depends on if there is one available, and there are risks with doing it as well.

With the above being the case, if you find out that there are any problems with the inverter or batteries on the used 300h/450h you are inspecting, we would probably pass on the vehicle unless you can get a very, very big discount.

Test the Air Con/Climate Control

Air conditioning problems are always something to watch out for, especially as they can be quite expensive to fix. Make sure that plenty of cold air comes out of the vents when the air conditioning is set to the lowest setting. When you do this, turn off the auto temp setting as this will impact how the climate control/air con works (however, remember to check that the auto setting works as well). If the A/C feels very weak or no cold air comes out at all, don’t let the seller convince you that it just needs a regas/recharge. While that could be the case, it could also be a much more expensive problem like a failed/failing compressor. Below we have listed some of the main causes of air con problems:

  • Refrigerant Leak
  • Compressor failure
  • Bad blower motor
  • Faulty blend door actuator
  • Dirty or clogged condenser
  • Dirty cabin air filter

Smoke from a Lexus GS L10

Credit: Lexus

Smoke or steam from the tailpipes is always something to watch out for when inspecting a used Mk4 Lexus GS (or any car for that matter). Don’t worry too much about a small amount of vapour from exhaust on startup as this is perfectly normally and is just condensation in the exhaust. It should go away fairly quickly, but if it stays for the entire duration of the test drive or it seems like quite a bit there may be a problem.

We recommend that you get the seller to start their Lexus GS L10 for you for the first time. This way you can see what comes out the back of the car when it is started and how the seller treats the vehicle. If they rev the engine like crazy when it is cold it probably means they haven’t treated their GS well. Here are what the different colours of smoke can indicate:

White smoke

A whole load of white or grey smoke coming from a car’s exhaust could indicate that water/coolant has entered the cylinders due to a blown or leaking head gasket. To confirm if it’s coolant, watch out for a sweet smell from the exhaust. If the smoke is thick and lingers for a while, it could imply that the block or cylinder head is fractured.

Blue/Grey smoke

The presence of this colour smoke could be attributed to various factors, such as worn piston rings, valve seals, and other potential issues. When checking for this sort of smoke it can be handy to have someone follow you while you test drive the Lexus GS. Alternatively, keep an eye on the rear-view mirror or get the seller to drive the car for a bit while you look out the back.

Black smoke

This type of smoke is typically an indicator that the engine is running excessively rich and burning an excessive amount of fuel. A whole load of different factors could be contributing to this problem, from dirty intake components to spark plug problems, injector issues, and much more. If the exhaust has a fuel-like smell, the engine is most likely running too rich.

Another thing to keep in mind is that unburnt fuel being sent through the exhaust system can lead to premature catalytic converter failure, which as we discussed already can be an expensive problem.

Ask the Owner What Fuel They Use

Talk to the owner about what sort of fuel they put in their GS as these cars need premium fuel.

Rebuilt or Replaced Engines

Sometimes it is necessary to rebuild or replace an engine. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a rebuilt or replaced engine in a fourth gen Lexus GS, however, just make sure that the work was carried out by a competent Lexus or Toyota specialist. Definitely be a bit more cautious if the work was done by a home mechanic as while there are plenty of good ones out there, many have more ambition than skill and you don’t want to be buying somebody’s unfinished project.

Try to avoid fourth gens that have only just had an engine rebuild or replacement as they are more of an unknown. A car with 5,000 km (3,000 miles) is going to be a safer bet than one that has only travelled 500 km.

We wouldn’t worry too much about Lexus GS Mk4s with a rebuilt or replaced engine at the moment, as the motors in these cars are very tough and the generation is still relatively new (at the time of writing this guide). However, we wanted to include this info as rebuilds and replacements will become a bit more common as these cars age.

Transmission

Credit: Lexus

Depending on what model and year GS you are looking at the transmission will either be a six-speed or an eight-speed automatic/CVT (GS 350 was fitted with an 8-speed from the 2014 model year onwards). All of the transmissions fitted to the fourth-generation car tend to be very reliable and shouldn’t cause too many issues.

Lexus/Toyota states that the transmission fluid is a “lifetime fill” and you shouldn’t have to change it (not sure for all markets however, so let us know if it is different in your location in the comments below).While this may be the case, many owners still like to change the fluid as they don’t believe in a lifetime fill. We tend to agree with them in this case, so if the owner has changed the fluid it is probably a sign that they care for their GS quite a bit.

Most owners who do change their fourth gen’s transmission fluid will usually get it done around the 100,000 to 160,000 km (62,000 to 100,000 mile) mark. If the fluid has never been changed and the car has done big miles, it is often recommended that you don’t change the fluid at all as it can release debris and detritus that could lead to reduced transmission life.

When it comes to problems that you should watch out for, a big one is a whining noise as this can often indicate an issue with the transmission or diff. However, if you are looking at a GS F don’t be too concerned if you hear a slight whining noise that almost sounds like a supercharger at higher engine speeds. This sound is usually caused by the transmission holding onto the gear at higher revs, so upon reengagement of the accelerator, the car is still in the part of the power curve which provides good power deployment. If you do notice this noise when test driving a GS F, check to see what drive mode the car is in as it should only happen in Sport+.

A lot of owners complain that the 8-speed transmission is jerky when cold, especially at slow speeds. The main cause of this problem is down to the fact that Lexus and Toyota programme their transmissions in a way to minimise wear and tear at lower temperatures. Once the transmission is up to temperature the jerkiness should go away and shifts should be very smooth. If the problem persists, we would be cautious as while it could be something simple, it could also be something very, very expensive (transmission problems can be a nightmare to fix).

If you are looking at a six-speed equipped fourth gen GS you shouldn’t encounter this problem of jerkiness when cold. While the six-speed does feature similar programming, it doesn’t seem to suffer as badly, probably because there are two less gears to deal with.

Apart from the above, check that the transmission works as intended. Test it and both low and high speeds, and don’t forget to see how it performs when the car is stationary. Any serious jolting or clunking could be a sign of an expensive problem, especially when shifting from drive to reverse and vice versa. If you have any suspicions about the transmission we would walk away as while the fix may be simple, a lot of transmission problems can be very pricey to repair.

Differential Problems

While differential problems don’t seem to be common on the different versions of the fourth gen GS, they will become more common as these cars age and wear, so listen out for any strange whining or grinding noises that change with the car’s engine speed.

A bad wheel bearing can sometimes be confused with a diff or transmission problem, so keep that in mind. You can do a bit of a test for wheel bearing issues by turning hard left and then hard right. If the noise gets worse in one direction and better in the other it is likely to be a wheel bearing.

Steering and Suspension

Credit: Lexus

One of the most commonly talked about issues here is the a subtle steering problem that often appears when driving on freeways/highways (it can happen at other times as well, but just seems to be more common when doing this sort of driving).What usually happens is that the steering wheel sticks in the turning position and doesn’t return to the centre. The driver then needs to forcefully re-recentre the wheel and they may experience a slight notchy feeling when doing so. The vast majority of the time the problem is down to the steering rack, but for a small number of unlucky owners replacing the rack hasn’t fixed the issue.

If the fourth gen GS you are looking at is still under warranty, Lexus should replace the rack for you, but more than a few owners have complained about Lexus’s support here. They have often had to go out for multiple drives with somebody from the Lexus dealer before they will agree to replace it. This is because the problem doesn’t always appear and can be somewhat random, however, the issue seems to be common enough that most Lexus dealers should have knowledge of it.

For those cars out of warranty you will need to pay for the repair yourself, which can be quite expensive depending on where you live in the world.

Another thing to watch out for is a powering steering fault light/code. This is usually down to a faulty electrical connector, but a more serious problem could also be the cause, so keep that in mind as well. We have embedded a video below that explains how to fix the problem if it is the former.

If the GS you are inspecting has AVS (Adaptive Variable Suspension), make sure you check that it is working as intended as some owners have experienced failure (usually due to a shock issue/leak). Replacing the shocks or repairing another AVS problem can be quite expensive out of warranty, so it is important to check for any issues. Failure/leaks can also appear surprisingly early (usually in areas with rougher roads), so don’t just assume that because the shocks are relatively new, there won’t be a problem.

Apart from those specific fourth gen GS problems, keep an eye out for the following issues that may indicate that the suspension and steering components need some attention:

  • Dipping and swerving when the brakes are applied
  • Excessive Rear-end squat during acceleration and rear end wobble over bumps
  • Tipping during cornering
  • High speed instability or floaty/nervous feeling through the steering wheel
  • Delayed or longer stopping distances
  • Uneven tyre wear
  • Excessive bounce after hitting a bump or when pushing down on the suspension (suspension should only rebound once when pushed down otherwise it may indicate that the shocks are worn)
  • Sagging or uneven suspension
  • Knocking, clunking or creaking sounds during a test drive
  • Rattles – drive over some bumps – there should be no noise from the suspension components (however, you may hear some rattles from something in the cabin).
  • Clicking sounds (especially at full lock)

Don’t forget to visually examine the suspension and steering components. A torch/flashlight and a mirror can be useful tools to have on hand for areas that are hard to see. If you notice that the components on one side of the vehicle are different or seem newer than the other, it may suggest that the vehicle has been in some sort of accident. You should also be on the lookout for rust as this can be quite a common issue with the steering and suspension components on these cars if they are driven in places with harsh winters/salted roads.

If you notice one or more of the symptoms above it may be due to something simple, but it could also be an expensive repair as well. If you are still interested in the GS and it does have some suspension or steering issues, we would probably try to find out what exactly is the cause before purchasing the vehicle.

Check the Wheel Alignment

The 4th gen Lexus GS you are test driving should track nice and straight, so if you notice that it veers to the right or left on a flat straight section of road it is probably down to bad wheel alignment. Improper alignment can lead to excessive tire wear, which can be costly in the long term and can also compromise the driving experience and safety.

Most of the time a simple realignment is all that is needed, however, in some cases bad wheel alignment can be a sign of serious suspension/steering issues or even accident damage.

Wheels

Credit: Lexus

Checking the wheels thoroughly on any used car is a good idea as they can often be a good indicator of how it has been treated. For example, lots of curb damage may indicate that the owner or a previous owner has been a bit of a careless driver. Of course, a bit of curb damage is to be expected, especially if the GS has done a lot of miles, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use the problem to your advantage when discussing the price.

Another thing to check for are any dents, cracks or buckling as depending on how bad the problem is the wheel may need to be replaced. Cars running larger 19-inch rims and above are going to be more susceptible to this problem than those running the smaller base rims. If one or more of the wheels do need to be replaced, definitely factor that into the price as they can be quite expensive to source, especially if you are looking at something like a GS F.

If the Lexus GS has aftermarket wheels, make sure they are the right size and fit properly. Larger aftermarket wheels may affect the car’s ride quality and increase the risk of curbing. If the GS has aftermarket wheels, ask the owner to see if they still have the original wheels, as they can add value to the car. If the original wheels are not available, try to negotiate a discount on the price.

Tyres

Nice quality tyres can be expensive and to get the best out of a Lexus GS you are going to want some good ones. Here are some things to watch out for:

  • Amount of tread – If there is minimal tread left try to get a discount as you will need to get the tyres replaced in the near future.
  • Uneven wear – Wear should be even between the right and left tyres on the Lexus GS. Additionally, make sure wear is even across the tyre itself.
  • Brand – They should be from a good or well-reviewed brand – if they are from a poorly reviewed brand it suggests that the owner has cheaped out on maintenance.
  • Same tyre – In terms of tyre make, type and tread pattern on each axle (preferably on all four wheels) – mismatched tyres can lead to poor handling performance, increased wear and may even be dangerous.
  • Pressure – It can be a good idea to check tyre pressures when conducting an inspection. If the tyre pressures are wrong it can cause the car to pull to the left or right during acceleration. Incorrect tyre pressures can also lead to increased wear and fuel consumption as well.

Brakes

Brakes shouldn’t be too much of an issue, but it is important to visually inspect them thoroughly and make sure they are working as intended. The GS F and F Sport brake components are more expensive if they need to be replaced, so keep that in mind if you are looking at one of those cars/packages.

A lot of owners with aftermarket pads and rotors complain of brake squeal/noise, which goes away when they put the original OEM components back on. This seems to be more of a problem with the front brakes and not all owners with aftermarket component have had issues (it just seems to be quit  common).

Make sure you test the brakes in various different situations at both low and high speed. If you find that the brakes are weak or spongy there is a problem as they should be more than adequate for road use, especially on the more performance oriented models. 

Another thing to be on the lookout for when test-driving a Lexus GS L10 is any shuddering or shaking through the steering wheel. This could indicate that the discs are warped, which is often more of an issue on cars that are tracked and driven hard regularly.

Seized calipers are another thing to watch out for. If one or more calipers have seized, the car may pull to one side, feel like it is low on power, and the brakes may get extremely hot and produce a distinctive acrid smell or even smoke. In some cases, the car may not want to move at all or produce a loud thud-like noise when pulling away. Pinkish coloured discs can be another sign that the calipers have seized as well.

The last thing to check is the parking/hand brake. Find yourself a nice incline and make sure that the brake holds the car.

Exterior/Bodywork

Credit: Lexus

Body and exterior issues are always something to be on the lookout for as they can be a nightmare to fix and can drastically reduce the value of a car.

Accident Damage

Crash damage is one of the most serious things to watch out for when inspecting a used car. We have put together some things to watch out for that may indicate the Lexus GS you are looking at has been in an accident and/or had bodywork repairs:

  • Misaligned panels or large panel gaps – Lexus is famed for their build quality and panel gaps, so if you notice any misaligned panels on the GS it may suggest that it has been in a collision. Make sure you inspect the bonnet/hood, doors, bumpers, boot/trunk, etc. for any uneven gaps. Uneven gaps on one side of the vehicle when the other side is nice and even are a good sign of accident damage.
  • Doors that drop or don’t close properly – Have a good look at the doors as if they are loose or difficult to open/close, it could be a sign that the Lexus GS has been in an accident. Additionally, if the doors drop when opened there is some sort of issue that needs to be investigated further.
  • Inconsistencies such as waving, rippling or different coloured panels – Once again the quality control on these cars was exceptional good, so a problem here is more likely due to a respray/repair. However, it is also possible that something like a slightly different bumper colour is caused by paint fade. Additionally, dealers sometimes get a respray done at the front if there are a lot of stone chips, so that may be the cause of the inconsistent paint job.
  • If the bonnet/hood looks like it is popped when it is not – Even a minor collision can cause this sort of problem.
  • Damage to the mounting supports for the headlights or surrounds of the taillights – Repairing the area around the lights and getting it straight can be very difficult, so check them closely.
  • Bent or broken parts underneath the car – While checking the underside of the GS Mk4, make sure that everything is properly aligned. Inspect the suspension, brake and steering components, and if there are any differences between the right and left sides it could be a sign that the Stinger has been in an accident.
  • Rust in strange locations – Can be a sign of accident damage.
  • Paint runs or overspray – This is unlikely to be a factory issue and is more likely the result of some sort of repair. As we mentioned above, some dealers may perform a respray on the front of the car to address stone chips, which does not necessarily mean that the car has had significant damage.
  • Missing badges or trim – Could be due to repair work (body shop couldn’t find replacements) or a number of other things (stolen, etc.).

If you find out the Lexus GS L10 was involved in an accident, try to determine how severe it was. Minor to moderate damage that was repaired by a skilled body shop/panel beater is usually fine and it can be a great way to get a bit of a discount. However, if the accident was serious and/or the repairs were done poorly we would probably pass on the vehicle.

Most sellers will try to downplay accident damage and watch out for those who try to claim their car hasn’t been in an accident when it clearly has. Alternatively, if the seller can’t provide information about why there is damage and repairs, it is possible that it occurred while somebody else owned the vehicle.

Rust/Corrosion

While rust and corrosion isn’t as much of a problem on modern cars like the fourth generation Lexus GS it can still happen, so make sure you keep an eye out for it. The actual body seems to be pretty resistant to rust, but a number of owners have complained about issues with the underside of their GS Mk4 (fasteners, suspension and steering components, brakes, etc.). If the rust seems quite bad we would pass on the vehicle as it is probably worse than it first appears on the surface and you could wind up with a very expensive repair bill. This forum post has a good example of rust on a fourth gen GS, so we suggest that you check it out.

Factors That Can Make Rust More Likely on a Lexus GS L10

  • The vehicle has spent time in countries or areas with salted roads (UK, parts of North America, etc.)
  • Car has spent time in countries or areas with very harsh winters (often linked with the above)
  • Vehicle is often parked or stored near the sea for prolonged periods
  • Always kept outside (never garaged)
  • Accident damage (stone chips or more significant damage)
  • Rubbing body parts
  • Old or no underseal in places where it is needed (parts of North America, etc.)

If you live in a location where rust is a common issue it can be a good idea to ask the seller if their Lexus GS has been rust proofed. It isn’t really necessary in places that don’t salt their roads and don’t have harsh winters, but it can go a long way to preventing/minimising rust in places like the UK and Canada.

Be cautious of black rubber undercoating as rust can often form underneath it. Additionally, some dishonest sellers may apply it prior to sale to conceal existing rust. Oily/wax-based undercoating is a better option as it allows you to see the original condition of the frame.

Sunroof/Moonroof Problems

If you notice a strange clunking or rattling noise that seems somewhat random it could be the sunroof/moonroof seal. Lexus did issue a TSB (Technical Service Bulletin) for this problem back in 2014 and apparently an improved seal was introduced, but some owners still seem to experience this issue.

Sourcing a new seal isn’t that expensive and you can replace it yourself without removing the glass. If the glass needs to be removed for whatever reason it will be a pricier fix as it is a much more involved process.

Interior

Credit: Lexus

The interior is generally pretty hardwearing on the fourth generation Lexus GS, but it is important to make sure everything is in good order as a problem here could be quite expensive to fix. This definitely applies to the seats as if they are in a bad way and need reupholstering you will be looking at quite a big bill (perforated leather seats can be extremely expensive to repair).

Another thing to watch out for is seat movement during acceleration or braking. If this happens while you are test driving the car it is a major safety issue and will be an MOT/WOF failure. Make sure all the seat adjustments and features work as well as once again it could be a very expensive fix to fix a problem here.  

If you notice excess wind noise that seems like it is coming from the sunroof it is probably the same seal we talked about just above. At around US$50 for a replacement it isn’t a major problem, but it will definitely be a bit more expensive if you take the car to Toyota/Lexus to get it fixed. Remember, a bad seal can also lead to a strange clunking/rattling noise as well.

To check for any other strange noises, make sure you test the car at a range of different speeds as sometimes an annoying noise may only appear under a certain driving speed/condition. A fairly common complaint from GS owners is a rattle/clicking noise that seems to originate from the centre of the dash. This could be down to a number of things, but a common cause of the issue as the fan on the back of the stereo unit. Replacing the fan yourself is a very involved process, so doing this kind of fix is not for the faint hearted.

Credit: Lexus

Another cause of a clicking sound could be the air mix damper servo motor unit. These servo units are quite delicate and the labour to replace one is very high, so if this is the cause of the problem you could be looking at a very, very expensive repair bill (especially if you need to do more than one). Some owners have had luck cleaning/replacing the motors themselves and a member on Club Lexus has a great guide on the process.  

If you are looking at a 2013 GS 350 there was a TSB (L-SB-0065-12) in August 2012 for a problem with the boot being difficult to close. All affected models should have been fixed now, but it is worth checking in the service history just to make sure.

Don’t forget to check for any leaks or signs of dampness in the cabin. Water can cause damage to the electronics and lead to unpleasant odours. If you notice water residue on the bottom of the floor mats, it could be a sign of a past or present leak. Leaks from an unusual place could be a sign of accident damage.

Credit: Lexus

Another thing to do is to pay close attention to the headlining above the driver’s seat. While smoking is less popular than it used to be, if the headlining appears discoloured, it may be an indication that the car has been owned by a smoker.

Cars equipped with the LUX package are quite a bit rarer than base or F Sport models, so expect to cough up a bit more coin if you want one of those. LUX Sport cars have different wheels and the interior trim should be finished in gloss (wood trim, etc.). Some of the other features include rear controls, better seat controls, seat memory on the passenger side, and more. Another thing is that Lexus discontinued the LUX package in 2017, so 2018 models onwards never came with it (we are not sure if this is the same in all markets though)

Electronics & Other Things

Credit: Lexus

Make sure that all the electronics, door locks, keys, etc. work as intended as electrical gremlins can be a nightmare to fix. Pay particular attention to the infotainment system as these are particularly expensive to fix.

Verify that the owner still possesses the original keys that came with the vehicle when it was new. Replacing a GS key can be quite expensive, so use this to negotiate a better price if they don’t have the correct ones.

Credit: Lexus

Early fourth gen cars could be equipped with Lexus’s night vision system called “Night View”. This system uses near-infrared light to detect pedestrians and objects that might be hard for drivers to see at night. Unfortunately, it required the driver to look away from the road and it was discontinued early in the L10’s lifecycle, making cars with the system extremely rare.

Absence of warning lights during startup may indicate a problem or that they have even been disconnected for some reason. On the other hand, if they remain illuminated, further investigation is required and it may be necessary to take the car to a Renault specialist to determine the cause of the warning light before making a purchase. An OBD2 scanner is also something we recommend that you take to any inspection of a fourth generation Lexus GS as they can help you determine the cause of a warning light.

Drive Modes

Credit: Lexus

Don’t forget to try out the different drive modes and make sure they work as intended. We have listed what the different modes should do below:

Eco Mode – Throttle response and engine power are moderated/limited to improve fuel efficiency. Blue lights should illuminate the gauge cluster and some other systems are optimised for efficiency as well.

Normal – The standard driving mode that provides the best balance of fuel efficiency and engine performance for regular driving.

Sport – This mode alters the powertrain for faster gear changes and more performance orientated throttle control. The gauge cluster lighting also changes to red to and the transmission shift points are altered in certain situations.

Sport+ – The highest performance mode is basically the same as “Sport”, but with the added benefit of stiffer suspension and increased steering response.

General Car Buying Advice for a Lexus GS L10

Credit: Lexus

How to Get the Best Deal on a Fourth Gen GS

When considering purchasing a Lexus GS, whether from a dealership or a private seller, it is important to remember that knowledge is power. Being well-informed about the car buying process can help you save money and make a more informed decision.

Research heavily – Before beginning your search for a GS, it’s a good idea to determine your preferred specifications and condition. Are you looking for a low-mileage, recent year GS 450h, or would you be open to an earlier GS 350 that has done a lot more miles?

Shop around – It is always best to shop around a bit before you make a purchase. Lexus sold a reasonable amount of these cars so don’t limit yourself to one seller, dealer, area or auction platform.

Go look at and test drive multiple Lexus GS L10s if possible – It is a good idea to test drive as many cars as possible This will help you determine what makes a good and what makes a bad fourth generation Lexus GS.

Adjust your attitude – Avoid impulsive buying decisions when searching for a Lexus GS. Being in a rush to purchase a car increases the likelihood of getting ripped off. Take your time evaluating potential GS Mk4s and only consider cars that show promise, unless you’re specifically looking for a project vehicle.

Use any issues with the car to your advantage – Pay attention to any issues or wear and tear. Use these problems to negotiate a lower price during the purchase, mentioning specific repairs or replacements that need to be done such as new tyres or brake pads.

Don’t trust the owner completely – It is important to keep in mind that not all sellers are completely honest about the condition of their vehicle. While some may be truthful, others may exaggerate or omit certain issues with their Lexus GS in order to make a quick sale. It is essential to conduct a thorough inspection of the car and verify the information provided by the owner, rather than relying solely on their word.

Go between sellers/dealers – If you are looking at multiple cars, let the owner/seller know. This way they will know that you have other options and they may try to undercut the price.

Be prepared to walk away – If you are not happy with the deal, simply walk away. You may miss out on the car or the seller may get back to you with a better offer.

Mileage vs Condition  

When looking at any used car, we always recommend that you prioritise the condition of a vehicle over its mileage. While low mileage is a great selling point and can be good, it can also be a bad thing as well. Short distance trips do not allow the engine to warm up properly, which can lead to increased component wear and reduced engine life.

Additionally, rubber seals and plastic parts will deteriorate over time, regardless of mileage, and cars that are not used regularly may be more susceptible to rust and electronic failures. Therefore, it’s important to thoroughly inspect the vehicle and take its condition into account before making a purchase.

Service History and Other Documentation 

Credit: Lexus

It is incredibly important to check any vehicle’s service history and any additional paperwork that goes along with it. While the servicing doesn’t need to be done at a dealer, it should be carried out by a competent Lexus/Toyota specialist or mechanic (especially for major repair work). Home mechanic work is okay, but it is much harder to gauge the competence of a home mechanic than checking reviews for established businesses.

The service history will give you a good idea of how the Lexus GS Mk4 you are inspecting has been maintained. In addition to this, receipts and paperwork for modifications (if the car has any) can help you determine whether they have been done by an experienced tuner or a bad one.  

If the owner can’t or won’t let you see the service history, you should probably pass on the vehicle. A complete service history will only add value to any vehicle your purchase and will make it easier to sell the car in the future. One thing to keep in mind is that a lot of the time the service history is stored digitally with Kia, which may be why the seller can’t show you it at the time of inspection.

Additionally, you can check websites such as CarFax (USA) and CarJam (NZ) for more information about the car you are thinking of purchasing. These sort of websites can be incredibly useful, but there is usually a cost associated with them. 

Questions That You Should Ask the Seller/Owner  

  • How often do you drive the car? 
  • When was the last service and who was it serviced by? 
  • How much oil does it use? 
  • What oil do you use in the car? 
  • What parts have been replaced?
  • When were the coils, spark plugs, leads changed?
  • What’s the compression like?
  • What modifications have been made to the vehicle? 
  • Has the vehicle overheated at any point or has the head gasket failed? 
  • Has the car been in any major or minor accidents? Is so, what repairs were made? 
  • Is there any money owing on the car? 
  • Have you got any information on the previous owners and how they treated the vehicle? 
  • How are the speakers
  • Is there any rust? 
  • Has rust been removed at any point? 
  • When were the brake pads replaced and have the calipers seized at any point in time? 
  • Where do you store/park the car usually? 

There are loads more questions you can ask the seller, but we feel these are some of the most important. 

Things That Would Make Us Walk Away from a Fourth Gen GS

Credit: Lexus

Here are some things that would make as walk away from one of these cars. While you may be happy with a vehicle with these problems, we are not.  

  • Overheating problems or blown head gasket
  • Significant Crash Damage or poorly repaired roof 
  • Money owing on the car  
  • Stanced  
  • Modifications with no paperwork or carried out by a poorly reviewed tuner  
  • Excessive amounts of power
  • Bad compression 
  • Bad resprays 
  • Significant rust problems  
  • Engine swaps with non-standard engines  
  • Significant track use (although tracked cars are often maintained well, so this can be argued the other way)
  • Major engine or transmission issues  
  • Owner who is not forthcoming with information (could be trying to hide something) 

Notes on the Owner  

The owner is one of the most important things to think about when viewing any vehicle. You need to ask them plenty of questions when inspecting their fourth gen Lexus GS (however, don’t trust their answers completely). Remember, it is your problem if you wind up buying an absolute lemon. Here are some things to watch out for.  

  • How long have they owned the vehicle? If it is less than 6 months it tends to suggest that the car needs major work done to it that they can’t afford. It also could be a sign that they deal cars as well. 
  • Do they thrash the car when it is cold or continually launch the vehicle? If so, you are better to walk away. 
  • Why are they selling the vehicle? Could be a genuine reason or they may be trying to offload their problem onto an unsuspecting buyer. 
  • What sort of area do they live in? Is it a good area or a complete dump? 
  • How do they respond when you ask them simple questions? 
  • Do they know anything about the Lexus GS and the model they are selling (GS 350 vs 450h, etc.)
  • What can they tell you about previous owners? 
  • Do they have lots of cars on their drive? If they do it may mean they are a dealer. 
  • What is their reaction when you ask them about money owing on the car? Tell them you are going to do a check and see how they respond. 
  • What is their reaction to you asking for details for HPi check?  
  • How do they react if you ask to do a compression test on the vehicle?
  • How do they respond when you ask them to show you the service history and paperwork for the car? 

If you get a bad feeling about the owner, you are better off moving onto another fourth generation Lexus GS.

Lexus GS 2013 to 2020 Buyer’s Guide Conclusion

Credit: Lexus

Overall, the different versions of the Lexus GS L10 are great cars and they tend to be very reliable, especially if maintained properly. Unfortunately, as they are a luxury car they can be quite expensive to fix if a problem does occur, and this is where a lot of owners get into trouble. Still, if you get a good one it should provide you with many miles of motoring enjoyment.

We will continue to add info to this guide and if you have any additional information you feel should be included, let us know in the comments below.

References

Lexus UK (12/04/2011) – Lexus LF-Gh concept previews the future of GS – Lexus LF-Gh concept previews the future of GS – Lexus UK Magazine

Lexus Canada Newsroom (04/08/2011) – LEXUS TO REVEAL ALL-NEW LEXUS GS LUXURY SPORT SEDAN AT PEBBLE BEACH – LEXUS TO REVEAL ALL-NEW LEXUS GS LUXURY SPORT SEDAN AT PEBBLE BEACH | Lexus Canada

Nelson Ireson (18/08/2011) – 2013 Lexus GS 350 Preview: 2011 Pebble Beach Concours – 2013 Lexus GS 350 Preview: 2011 Pebble Beach Concours (motorauthority.com)

Lexus UK Media Site (21/11/2011) – Lexus Unveils the new GS 250 – Lexus Unveils the new GS 250 – Lexus Media Site

Lexus Newsroom (23/08/2012) – All-New Fourth-Generation 2013 GS 350 Injects New Level of Driving Excitement to the Lexus Line-Up – All-New Fourth-Generation 2013 GS 350 Injects New Level of Driving Excitement to the Lexus Line-Up – Lexus USA Newsroom

Lexus Canada – Compromise no more: the 2011 Lexus GS 450h hybrid performance luxury sedan features advanced performance, intelligent refinement and contemporary luxury –Compromise no more: the 2011 Lexus GS 450h hybrid performance luxury sedan features advanced performance, intelligent refinement and contemporary luxury | Lexus Canada

Lexus Canada (25/10/2011) – Lexus to Reveal New 2013 GS 350 with F SPORT Package at 2011 SEMA Show – Lexus to Reveal New 2013 GS 350 with F SPORT Package at 2011 SEMA Show | Lexus Canada

Lexus Newsroom (24/09/2013) – Lexus GS 350 Delivers Ideal Blend of Luxury, Sport and Alluring Design – Lexus GS 350 Delivers Ideal Blend of Luxury, Sport and Alluring Design – Lexus USA Newsroom

Lexus UK Media Site (19/09/2013) – New Hybrid Lexus GS 300h Leads the Field on Company Car Tax – New Hybrid Lexus GS 300h Leads the Field on Company Car Tax – Lexus Media Site

Toyota Global (25/11/2015) – Lexus Brings ‘F’ Series Exhilaration to the GS Sedan – Lexus Brings ‘F’ Series Exhilaration to the GS Sedan | Toyota Motor Corporation Official Global Website

Lexus Newsroom (23/04/2020) – LEXUS CRAFTS THE “BEST EVER” GS INBLACK LINE SPECIAL EDITION MODEL – LEXUS CRAFTS THE “BEST EVER” GS INBLACK LINE SPECIAL EDITION MODEL – Lexus USA Newsroom

Uibalnme (05/11/2017) – Moonroof rattling / clunking? Here’s the fix! – Moonroof rattling / clunking? Here’s the fix! – ClubLexus – Lexus Forum Discussion

ChickenNug (22/05/2022) – 2015 GS 350 RWD Transmission Fluid Change – Page 2 – ClubLexus – 2015 GS 350 RWD Transmission Fluid Change – Page 2 – ClubLexus – Lexus Forum Discussion

Thallium (29/04/2019) – Transmission Filter & Fluid Change in GS350 RWD Results – Transmission Filter & Fluid Change in GS350 RWD Results – ClubLexus – Lexus Forum Discussion

Luisvm (20/03/2018) – Steering Issue Finally Resolved – LONG, LONG POST – Steering Issue Finally Resolved – LONG, LONG POST – ClubLexus – Lexus Forum Discussion

Bladest (23/06/2022) – How bad my car is rusted please analize and inspect brakes.. rust inspector needed? – How bad my car is rusted please analize and inspect brakes.. rust inspector needed? – ClubLexus – Lexus Forum Discussion

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  • Ben

    From his early days playing the original Gran Turismo and with his Hot Wheels car set, Ben has had a long interest in all things automotive. His first foray into the world of automotive journalism was way back in 2009 and since then he has only grown more interested in the industry. Ben also runs and heads up the video production side of Garage Dreams, focusing on small informative documentaries about some of the world's most legendary cars.

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