For those who want a luxury car that is known to be reliable and dependable, the third generation Lexus GS (S190) is a great option. Prices have dropped considerably over the years, so they are an excellent purchase for the buyer who doesn’t want to break the bank.
There are a number of different versions of the GS S190, including the GS 300, the GS 350, and of course the hybrid GS 450h model. In this buyer’s guide we are going to be covering everything you need to know about purchasing one of these cars, along with the history specifications and more.
How to Use this Lexus GS S190 Buying Guide
We are going to be covering a lot of information about the different versions of the third generation Lexus GS, so make sure you use the table of contents below to navigate to the sections of the guide you want to read.
To begin with we will cover the history and specifications of the S190 GS to give you a bit of a background of the vehicle. Following this, we will get into the buyer’s guide and then we will cover more general car purchasing advice like how to get yourself the best deal on a used car.
The History of the Lexus GS S190
The GS range really started off life as the Toyota Aristo. While this model was reserved for the Japanese market, Toyota would rename it the GS and brand it under the Lexus brand for foreign markets.
When Lexus/Toyota originally developed the first generation GS (known as the S140), they intended for the car to assume the price position of the LS 400 flagship, which had since moved upmarket since its launch in 1989. However, the price of the GS would creep up to around US$38,000 by the time the car launched, $3,000 more than what Lexus original asked for the LS.
Modest sales would follow the launch of the first gen GS and in the latter years of production, sales drooped markedly, largely thanks to the rising of the Japanese yen against the dollar and the resultant price increase to as much as $46,000.
With the lukewarm reception to the S140 GS, Lexus and Toyota went back to the drawing board. Work on the new version started in May 1994 under chief engineer Yasushi Nakagawa. Eighteen months later, the final production design by Akihiro Nagaya was approved and in January 1997, Lexus debuted the “High Performance Sedan” (HPS) concept at the Detroit Auto Show. This concept gave potential buyers and the motoring press a taste of what the future GS would be like.
By August 1997, the second generation Aristo was ready for sale, while the new version of the Lexus GS would have to wait until October the same year to get its time in the spotlight. The new GS 300 and the V8 powered GS 400 proved to be a much bigger hit than the previous generation model. Lexus shifted over 30,000 units in the first year and even more the next year. The new GS was also named Motor Trend’s Import Car of the Year for 1998 and featured on Car and Driver’s “Ten Best” list from the same year through to 2000.
A Glimpse of the New Generation
With the massive success of the second generation model, Lexus decided to keep the car in its lineup for a total of eight years, significantly longer than the first gen version. However, the team at Lexus didn’t stand still. They worked on a third generation version of the car and in October 2003 they premiered the LF-S (Lexus Future Sedan) concept car that, like the 1997 HPS, gave a glimpse of the design and features of the upcoming GS.
The concept included a slingshot cabin, fastback rear deck lid, and a much sleeker, more modern profile. Lexus also gave the concept features such as a windshield cleaning system, side cameras and a glass roof. However, these final features did not make it into the final production model of the GS.
Lexus Launches the Third Gen GS
The following year after the LF-S concept made its debut at the Tokyo Motor Show, the world got its first look at a pre-production version of the third gen GS at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
Lexus’s engineers and designers not only created a car that was more refined and modern, but also more powerful, significantly safer and extremely comfortable. Two engine options were announced with the car, a 4.3-litre V8 and a new 3.0-litre V6 power unit, that replaced the old straight-six one from the old model.
Both engines were mated to a new six-speed automatic transmission with a sequential, manual shift function. Lexus claimed that this combination gave the new GS much faster and substantially smoother acceleration, along with improved fuel economy.
To improve the car’s ride and handling performance, Lexus introduced a new Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) system for some models that gave the driver the ability to adjust the damping between four different settings depending on the road conditions and their driving style.
To compliment the AVS, the new generation GS was given lightweight double wishbone suspension at the front and a compact multilink set-up at the rear. More attention was paid to the aerodynamic efficiency and insulation provisions to ensure that noise, vibration and harshness were kept to a minimum.
Sleek New Design
The new GS was the first Lexus car to be conceived under the company’s new range of design principles known as “L-finesse”. The name is represented by three Japanese kanji characters which translate as “Intriguing Elegance, Incisive Simplicity, and Seamless Anticipation”.
For the normal person, this meant that going forward, Lexus’s cars would be designed with features such as a fastback profile, a lower-set grille and more sculpted modern bodywork. Many of these design ideas made their way onto the LF-S concept and the new generation GS built upon them. The car was also given a longer wheelbase and shorter front and rear overhangs than its predecessor. All this combined helped to create an appearance that was significantly sportier than the rather reserved second-generation GS.
A More Luxurious Interior
The new design approach continued on the inside of the car, where Lexus made extensive use of premium wood, polished metal, and leather, which gave the third generation GS a luxurious feel. Other additions to the interior included features such as water repellent front door glass, solar energy absorbing glass, an acoustic windshield, auto-dimming side mirrors, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, and supremely comfortable 10-way adjustable power heated seats for the driver and the front passenger.
A 7-inch touchscreen display was installed into the centre console and a three-pod instrument cluster with machined aluminium facings and an anti-glare feature was unique to the new GS. For those who wanted a bit more, Lexus offered the different models of the GS with the optional extras:
- Ventilated seats with perforated leather
- Power moonroof
- Power rear sunshade
- Rain-sensing wipers
- Mark Levinson 330 watt, 14 speaker, 5.1 surround sound premium sound system
- XM-satellite radio
- DVD-based navigation
- A backup camera
- Bluetooth connectivity
Improved Safety and Additional Features
Safety was another big area of focus for the design team with the introduction of knee airbags for the driver and front seat passenger, along with variable force front airbags that use impact sensors to determine the most effective degree of inflation.
An Adaptive Front-Lighting System (AFS) was implemented on V8 versions of the GS S190, however, the system was not made standard on the V6 car and instead was available as an optional extra. Another optional feature was a radar-based Pre-Collisions System (PCS) with Dynamic Radar Cruise Control. When the PCS is automatically engaged it can provide as much as 0.3g of deceleration if the driver does not react to any imminent crash warning. All third generation GS models were given Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), Anti-lock brakes, electronic brakeforce distribution, and brake assist.
To round up the new changes and additions, the Lexus engineers equipped the new GS with a keyless entry and start system known as Smart Access, an automatic Tyre Pressure Monitoring system (TPS), and Adaptive Front-Lighting System (AFS). The AFS feature was first introduced on the LS430 and it dramatically improves the night-time vision at junctions and through bends by swivelling the headlights in line with the vehicle speed and turning angle.
2005 Sales Begin
2005 was a big year for the Lexus brand. Not only did sales start for the new generation GS, but the brand was also introduced into Toyota’s home market of Japan. Prior to this, Lexus branded cars were reserved for foreign markets and the Japanese market received Toyota badged versions.
In the UK, the third generation GS went on sale in April 2005 with prices starting at £30,400 for the base model GS300. Japanese customers were treated to the GS 350 and GS 430 versions of the car from September of the same year, while Americans would have to wait until March 2006 for the GS 300 and GS 430.
The GS 430 made use of the 4.3-litre V8 engine from the previous generation, while the GS 300 was fitted with the shiny new V6 unit. Toyota fitted the same 3.0-litre V6 engine to both the Toyota Mark X and the Toyota Crown, however, the GS 300 was never made available to Japanese customers.
The GS 300 was also the first Lexus sedan to be equipped with an all-wheel drive system, which could vary the torque between the front and the rear from 50/50 to 30/70, depending on the driving conditions.
2007 Model Updates and Changes
In 2007, Lexus decided to drop the GS 300 in the United States and other export markets, replacing it with the GS 350. Another change was that the rated power for the 2007 GS 430 dropped from 300 to 290 hp, while power for the V6 car was rated at 303 hp and 371 Nm (274 lb ft) of torque.
The GS Goes Hybrid
Perhaps the biggest update for the 2007 year was the inclusion of a hybrid model known as the GS 450h. The car was unveiled at the New Your International Auto Show in 2005 and production started the next year as a 2007 model. Japanese buyers could get their hands on the hybrid vehicle as early as March 16 2006.
When released, the GS 450h (code GWS191) would become the first mass-produced luxury rear-wheel drive hybrid car. The luxurious hybrid car combined both a 3.5-litre 2GR-FSE V6 engine with an electric motor and a continuously variable transmission to provide ultimate driving comfort.
This was smooth drivetrain made use of Lexus’s Hybrid Drive system, which gave the car a Super Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle (SULEV) rating. Unfortunately, one of the downsides of the hybrid Lexus was the rear-mounted battery. This battery consumed a significant amount of space in the rear trunk/boot, however, this was dramatically improved in 2009 when Lexus redesigned the trunk to increase space by around forty percent.
Naturally, the addition of the hybrid system increased weight significantly. The GS 450h weighed in at a rather hefty 1,875 kg (4,134 lbs), around 180 kg (397 lbs) more than the V8 and over 240 kg (529 lbs) more than the base V6 car.
Despite all this weight, the hybrid car can hit 100 km/h (62 mph) in roughly 5.3 seconds thanks to the powerful 339 hp (253 kW) drivetrain. However, the top speed is a rather modest 210 km/h (131 mph). When it launched, the highway fuel economy was rated at 9.4 litres/100 km (25 mpg), while the city fuel economy was slightly lower at 10.7 litres/100 km (22mpg).
A key feature of the hybrid GS was dual Variable Valve Timing that monitors the engine’s speed and load and then responds by delivering optimum power depending on the situation. Torque is increased at lower speeds, while power is increased for higher speeds and better acceleration.
Interior and Exterior Design
The styling, fixtures and fittings were all much the same as the standard petrol engined variants, but there were some slight changes. While standard features on many cars now, the GS 450h came with a keyless entry system and an 8-sensor parking assistance system that made fender benders during parking a thing of the past (or just much less likely).
New lightweight 18x8.0-inch alloy wheels were paired with 245/40 ZR18 performance tyres for better steering response and handling performance. Like the standard versions of the car, the hybrid GS came with the Adaptive Front-Lighting System (AFS) and xenon bulbs were implemented to provide more light while using substantially less power than a conventional halogen bulb.
The interior was what you would expect from a top model GS with a combination of unique wood and leather. Depending on the interior colour selected, the wood could be bird’s-eye maple, black bird’s eye maple or red walnut.
2008 GS 460 (URS191)
Hot on the heels of the hybrid version of the third generation GS was a new V8 model with a 4.6-litre 1UR-FE/1UR-FSE engine that was rated at 342 hp (255 kW) and 460 Nm (339 lb-ft) of torque. This new powerful engine was combined with a smooth 8-speed transmission and the 0 – 100 km/h (62 mph) time was roughly five and a half seconds.
Like the 450h and its predecessor the 430, the GS 460 featured Lexus’s Active Stabilizer Suspension System for improved handling performance and comfort.
Along with the introduction of the more powerful GS 460, Lexus also gave the GS range a slight refresh with a revised front bumper, headlights, grille, turn signals, wheels and exterior colours on the cards. Additionally, there were some slight changes to the interior with a redesigned steering wheel, revised instrument cluster gauges, and some different trim pieces.
2010 GS 450h
2009 saw the introduction of an updated version of the hybrid GS 450h at the Frankfurt motor show. The 2010 GS 450h featured new HDD navigation and DAB-ready audio systems. Lexus offered two audio systems with the 450h: a 10-speaker Lexus premium package and a 14-speaker Mark Levinson Premium Surround Sound System.
A distinctive new grille with a series of horizontal bars of different thicknesses was included along with new 18-inch allow wheels. Additionally, the hybrid-blue rear lamp clusters were modified to incorporate larger, transparent outer lenses.
On the inside Lexus installed a new hybrid-blue backlit stop/start button and there was a new range of interior options such as Venaro Grey semi-aniline leather upholstery.
End of Production
By December 2011 a new version of the GS was ready and production of the third generation S190 car came to an end.
Lexus GS S190 Specifications
|Model||GS 300 & GS 350||GS 430 & 460||GS 450h|
|Year of production||2004 – 2011||2004 – 2011||2006 – 2011|
|Layout||Front-engine, rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive||Front-engine, rear-wheel drive||Front-engine, all-wheel drive|
|Engine/Engines||3.0-litre 3GR-FSE V6|
3.5-litre 2GR-FSE V6
|4.3-litre 3UZ-FE V8|
4.6-litre 1UR-FE V8
|3.5-litre 2GR-FSE V6 hybrid|
|Power||220 – 245 hp (164 – 183 kW)|
303 hp (226 kW)
|279 – 300 hp (208 kW – 223 kW)|
342 hp (255 kW)
|339 hp (253 kW)|
|Torque||310 Nm (229 lb-ft)|
372 Nm (274 lb-ft)
|417 Nm (308 lb-ft)|
460 Nm (339 lb-ft)
|362 Nm (267 lb-ft)|
|Gearbox||Six-speed automatic||Six-speed automatic|
|Suspension Front||Double wishbone||Double wishbone||Double wishbone|
|Suspension Rear||Independent, multi-link||Independent, multi-link||Independent, multi-link|
|Brakes||4-wheel, power assisted, disc brakes||4-wheel, power assisted, disc brakes||4-wheel, power assisted, disc brakes|
|Weight||Roughly 1,620 kg (3571 lbs)||Roughly 1,695 kg (3737 lbs)||Roughly 1,875 kg (4,134 lbs)|
|Top speed||230 – 240 km/h (143 – 149 mph) limited||240 – 250 km/h (149 -155 mph)||210 km/h (131 mph)|
|0 – 100 km/h (62 mph)||5.7 – 7.2 seconds||5.4 – 6.4 seconds||5.3 seconds|
Lexus GS S190 Buyer’s Guide
Now that we have taken a good look at the history and specifications of the third generation Lexus GS, let’s take a look at what you need to know about buying one of these luxury 4-door sedans. While the GS is known to be one of the more reliable luxury vehicles on the road, poor maintenance can lead to issues, so it is important to check each car you are interested in thoroughly.
If a problem does occur on one of these vehicles it can be a real headache and a bank account breaker, so take your time!
Arranging an Inspection of a Third Gen Lexus GS
Setting up an inspection is an important part of the used car buying process. Below we have listed some things to keep in mind when arranging an inspection of an S190 series Lexus GS:
- Look at the car in person or get a reliable third party to do so for you – Buying a used car without inspecting it first can be a recipe for disaster. While you may get lucky, you may also wind up with an expensive lemon. If you can’t view the Lexus GS yourself, get a reliable third party to do so for you. For those looking at importing a GS from Japan, enlisting the help of a trusted importer is always a good idea (you read more about why this is a good idea here).
- Inspect the car at the seller’s house or place of business – This is usually a good idea as it will give you a bit of an idea of how and where the third gen Lexus GS you are interested in has been stored. Another thing you can check is the condition of the roads. If they look bad the suspension and steering components may have worn at a quicker rate.
- View the Lexus in the morning – We recommend this because it will give the seller less time to clean up any issues such as a big oil leak and they are less likely to pre-warm the car.
- Take a helper with you – A second pair of eyes is always helpful, even if they are not very knowledgeable about cars. A helper will be able to give you their thoughts on the Lexus GS S190 you are looking at and may be able to spot something you missed.
- Try to avoid inspecting a used car in the rain – If you go to look at a Lexus GS S190 in the rain, try to go back for a second viewing. Water on the bodywork can hide numerous different issues that you may have spotted if the car was dry.
- Be cautious of freshly washed cars – This sort of ties in with the above, but also watch out for sellers that have washed the engine bay and underside of the vehicle. If they have done this it may suggest they are trying to hide an issue (oil leak, etc.)
What is a Third Generation Lexus GS Worth?
This really depends on a range of different factors. Are you looking at a GS 300 or do you want a used GS 450h in excellent condition? If it is the latter, you are going to have to cough up a few more dollars. Other factors such as where the car is being sold, who it is being sold by, its model year and mileage can have a big impact on the sale price.
To find out how much you should expect to pay for a third generation GS we recommend that you go on your local auction/classifieds websites. Check the prices and make a mental note of the condition/spec level. From here you can work out roughly how much you need to spend to get the Crown you want.
What is the Best Lexus GS S190?
While you can’t go far wrong with any of these cars, early model GS 300s seem to have a higher number of issues and reliability complaints. For those looking at a hybrid model, you may want to avoid early ones produced before 2009 as they have a smaller trunk/boot.
Generally, the later model you can get the better as more of the niggling issues were sorted and they will command a higher price if you do decide to sell the car in the future.
When it comes down to GS 300 vs 350 vs 430 and so on it is a bit more difficult to answer. The GS 460 and 450h are probably the best cars to go for if you want all the bells and whistles. However, problems with the GS 450h’s hybrid system can be eye wateringly expensive to fix, so bare that in mind. If you are looking at luxury on a budget, a GS 300 or 350 is probably the way to go.
Is a Third Gen Lexus GS Expensive to Run & Own?
Overall, these cars are very reliable and you should get many miles of trouble free motoring as long as they have been maintained correctly. However, problems and expensive maintenance bills can be a frequent experience if maintenance has been less than satisfactory.
The good thing about buying a GS is that there should be more than a few competent Lexus or Toyota specialists who can work on the car for you in your area. Dealers will probably charge a bit more for any work, so avoid them if you are trying to save a buck.
Hybrid GS 450h models will probably be the most expensive to maintain as if there is a problem with the hybrid drivetrain you could be up for some serious expense.
Where is a Good Place to Buy a Lexus GS S190?
Generally, the best first step is to avoid the auction sites and go straight to an owners club. Owners in these sorts of clubs are usually a bit more enthusiastic about there cars and will look after them better. We have listed a few examples below, but it is worth searching for Lexus/Toyota clubs in your local area.
ClubLexus – Founded by Michael Kilty an enthusiastic Lexus owner from Southern California. This site covers all different models produced by Lexus including the third 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.
Another great place to source a Lexus GS S190 from is a trusted importer/dealer. If they don’t have a GS on hand, they may be able to work with you to find a suitable one for you from Japan.
Auction/classifieds sites such as Trademe, Craigslist, Gumtree and more are often good places to look as well and there may be a bigger range on offer. Buying private will often lead to a cheaper price than purchasing off a dealer.
Is it Worth Getting a Mechanic to Inspect the Car Prior to Purchase?
While it is not completely necessary, it is usually a good idea to get a mechanic to do a final inspection prior to purchase. There is no point in taking every car you are interested in to a mechanic, but if you are just about to buy a GS and want to make double sure it is in good condition, a trip to a trusted Lexus mechanic or specialist may be a good idea. It is also a good idea to ask the owner if they will let you take the car to a mechanic to get their reaction. If they don’t want you to, it may be a sign they are trying to hide something.
Lexus dealers will usually offer to do an inspection for you, so it is a good idea to ring a local one in your or the cars area to see if they can look at the car. They may also be able to tell you about the service history of the third generation GS you are looking at.
Checking the VIN/Frame Number
You should always try to get a look at the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number)/frame number of a used car prior to purchase. The VIN can tell you quite a bit of information about a specific GS and its history. VINs usually consist of a series of characters and numbers and they are assigned by manufacturers to a vehicle at the factory. The VIN on a Lexus GS 300 for example should look something like JTH BH96S XXXXXXXX.
The VIN can be found on most of the body panels of a third generation GS, so check around the vehicle to find as many as possible. Make sure that the VINs on the different body panels match as otherwise it may suggest that there is or has been a problem (replaced body panel from accident damage for example).
As we mentioned earlier in this article, the third generation Lexus GS was fitted with a range of different engines that include the following:
- 3.0-litre 3GR-FSE V6 (GS 300)
- 3.5-litre 2GR-FSE V6 (GS 350)
- 4.3-litre 3UZ-FE V8 (GS 430)
- 4.6-litre 1UR-FE V8 (GS 460)
- 3.5-litre 2GR-FSE V6 hybrid (GS 450h)
All these engines are fairly robust and reliable if they are maintained correctly, however, there are some things you need to watch out for.
When you first lift the bonnet/hood, take a good overall look at the engine bay and watch out for any glaring issues such as a big oil leaks or broken or missing components. Most of the engine is covered by plastic covers so make sure they are in good condition and are firmly fitted.
A completely spotless engine bay is usually a good sign, however, it may also be an indication of an owner who is trying to cover something up. If the engine bay and/or underside of the vehicle is wet, it may suggest that the seller has washed the GS to hide an issue!
Taking a Look at the Fluids
Once you have given the engine bay a quick once over it is time to move onto checking the fluids. If the fluid levels are too low or too high, it is a sign of a poorly maintained vehicle and excess wear or possibly even total engine failure can occur. Additionally, if you notice any foreign particles such as grit or anything else in the fluids in the third gen GS you are inspecting it could be a sign of big trouble.
As we mentioned just above, much of the engine is covered by plastic covers, but you should still be able to access the oil dipstick to the left of the engine, while the coolant tank is on the side closest to the front of the vehicle.
Talk to the owner/seller about their service schedule for the car and what oil, oil filter and other service components they use. Depending on where you live in the world, the recommended service schedule for a S190 Lexus GS may be different. In some markets (like the United States) Lexus recommends replacing the oil every 8,000 km (5,000) miles or every six months, while in other ones they recommend replacing it every 16,000 km (10,000 miles) or so. Remember to make sure that the oil filter has been replaced with every oil change.
If the owner has changed the oil and oil filter more frequently than the recommend service interval it tends to suggest that they look after their car well. Alternatively, if the Lexus GS S190 you are looking at has not had an oil change in a long time it is a sign of poor maintenance.
Oils with a weight of 0W-30 and 5W-30 are generally recommended, however, from 2010 onwards Lexus recommended 0W-20 weight oils.
Looking for Oil Leaks
While oil leaks shouldn’t really be an issue on any of the engines in the third generation GS range, some owners have reported a few issues. Leaks around the timing cover seem to be the most common problem, but these should be fairly slow and insignificant. Lexus did issue a Technical Service Bulletin (EG001-07) for Lexus GS 300 S190 models because of a small leak around the timing cover and/or camshaft housing sub-assembly.
There was also a problem with a rubber hose that feeds oil to the VVTi system on 2GR and 3GR engines. This hose can eventually breakdown and fail, leading to an oil leak. Lexus and Toyota did carry out a recall for the issue and replaced the rubber hose with a metal pipe, which fixed the issue.
If the rubber hose fails it can lead to a very serious leak and a rapid loss of oil pressure, which may result in a total loss of the engine. However, most of the time it will simply lead to a minor oil leak and the hose will need to be replaced. By now most of the hoses will have been replaced, but it is worth checking.
Make sure you check for oil leaks both before and after a test drive to make sure there are no nasty surprises. Look for leaks both in the engine bay and under the car and if you notice any puddles of oil under the vehicle walk away.
Oil Consumption Issues
Talk to the owner about how much oil the GS you are looking at uses. The 1UR-FE engine inside the GS 460 is known to consume a bit of oil between changes, however, it does not seem to affect all cars. Other engines in the range can burn a bit of oil as well, but it seems to be more common on the 1UR in the GS 460.
Timing Belt or Timing Chain?
The following engines in the range use a timing chain instead of a belt, so there is no need to worry about replacing them.
- 3.0-litre 3GR-FSE V6 (GS 300)
- 3.5-litre 2GR-FSE V6 (GS 350 & 450h)
- 4.6-litre 1UR-FE V8 (GS 460)
In some rare cases owners have had to replace the chain due to stretch or some sort of other issue, but we wouldn’t worry too much about this when purchasing a third generation Lexus GS. If you notice a strange noise coming from the timing chain area it is more likely to be a problem with the chain tensioner or guide pulley. If this is the case, a replacement of the timing chain, chain tensioner and guide pulley may be necessary.
Unfortunately, the GS 430 fitted with the 4.3-litre 3UZ-FE V8 engine is the odd one out and uses a timing belt/cambelt instead of a chain. The timing belt should have been replaced every 145,000 km (90,000 miles) or every 5 years, so make sure it has been done. The 3UZ is an interference engine which means that if the timing belt goes it can lead to major engine damage and an extremely large repair bill.
If the third generation GS 430 you are looking at has not had its timing belt replaced and is well passed the service interval be very cautious. Not only could the belt break at any point, it is also a sign of poor maintenance. If the belt is coming up for replacement or needs to be replaced now, try to get a hefty discount or get the seller to do it for you (make sure they show you proof it has been done).
Along with the timing belt it is also a good idea to replace the following:
- Serpentine Belt
- Water pump
- Coolant replacement/flush
- Idler 1 & 2 pulley
- Belt tensioner
P0016/P0017 Fault and Timing Issues on GS 450h Models
If you notice a CEL light in stop start traffic that comes and goes when the engine switches from electric it may be an issue with the timing chain. It is believed that the VVTi system changes the timing, so the error isn’t always detected. Here is a good write up on the issue for the Toyota Tacoma, but it still applies to the GS 450h. Other S190 cars fitted with GR engines may experience the issue, however, it seems to be more of an issue on hybrid models.
Accessory Drive Belt Tensioner Noise on S190 GS 460 Models
In December 2008, Lexus issued Service Bulletin L-SB-0164-08 for 2008 Lexus GS 460 cars. In these vehicles an ‘abnormal; noise may be heard from the engine accessory drive belt area. An improved belt tensioner was developed to keep the tensioner pulley in alignment with the other pulleys. Make sure this work was carried out if you are looking at one of these cars from this period.
The cooling system should be in good working order and there should be no leaking coolant or overheating issues. If there is a problem with any one of the following components it may lead to engine damage or possibly even total engine failure.
Look around the coolant tank and any hoses you can get to. Make sure there is no crusted coolant as it indicates there may be a leak.
- Radiator – removes heat from the water/coolant
- Thermostat – sends water/coolant that is hotter than the target temperature to the radiator to be cooled
- Water Pump – belt that is driven from a pulley. Pushes water/coolant through the engine – usually needs to be replaced around the 96,000 to 145,000 km (60,000 to 90,000 mile mark)
- Overflow or Expansion bottle – removes air from the system and provides a filling point
- Coolant Lines – hoses that allow water/coolant to remain contained as it moves through the engine/cooling system
Toyota Pink (Super Long Life) Coolant should be used in these cars, so ask the seller and check the service history to see what has been used. The cheaper Red Long Life Coolant can be used but Toyota Pink is intended for newer vehicles. You can read a bit more about the difference between the two here. Other
Toyota Pink Coolant should be good for up to 160,000 km (100,000 miles) or 10 years from the factory and then need to be changed every 100,000 km (60,000 miles). This means that all of the third generation GS cars you come across should have had at least one coolant change. If this has not happened, or the coolant is brown/muddy in colour it is a sign of a poorly maintained vehicle.
Gurgling noises may indicate that the coolant level is low or that there is a leak. Alternatively, this issue may be a sign that the water pump is past its used by date.
What Are the Signs of an Overheating Lexus GS S190?
While the cooling systems for all of the engines fitted to the third generation Lexus GS are fairly robust, it is important to know the signs of an overheating car and/or a head gasket failure.
- Temperature gauge on that is on the high side
- Bubbles in the radiator or coolant overflow tank
- White and milky oil
- Spark plugs that are fouled
- Low cooling system integrity
- Smell of coolant from the oil
- Sweet smelling exhaust
- Leaking or crusted coolant
- White smoke from the exhaust pipe (especially if you see lots of it)
If you notice any of the issues above on the S190 GS you are looking at it is probably better to move onto another car. Lexus sold quite a few third generation GS models, so there is no point in wasting time with a car that is overheating.
Water Pump Issues
The water pump on GR and 1UR series engines can fail prematurely. It is not uncommon for failure to occur around the 96,000 km (60,000 mile) mark or possibly even much sooner. If the Lexus GS S190 you are looking at has a failing or failed water pump do not purchase the car until a replacement has been carried out. Alternatively, get the owner to give you a nice fat discount and get the pump replaced yourself.
While the water pump itself isn’t too expensive to source, the labour to take out the old one and put the new one in can take anywhere from 3 – 6 hours depending on who you take it to.
The main symptoms to watch out for if the water pump is failing/failed are coolant leaks, high temperature readings, and in the worst case scenario steam or white smoke. If the third generation Lexus GS you are test driving is overheating, shut down the car immediately to prevent any further damage.
Checking the Exhaust System
Try to get a look at as much of the exhaust system as possible as a problem here could be expensive to fix. Use a torch/flashlight or your phone to get a better look at hard to see areas, and you can use a mirror as well. Here are some things to watch out for:
- Accident damage – Arguably your biggest concern. If somebody has gone over a speed bump a little bit too quickly or gone over a curb that is too high it may have damaged the exhaust system. The odd scrape and scratch is to be expected, but if the exhaust looks like it has been through the wars it suggests that the owner has been careless with their GS.
- Black sooty stains – This is usually a sign of a leak. Sometimes the fix is simple, but if the problem seems really bad a new exhaust may be required. Pay particular attention around any welded areas.
- Bad Repairs – A well repaired exhaust is perfectly fine, but watch out for bodge jobs that have been done for a quick sale
- Corrosion/Rust – While modern cars like the third generation Lexus GS don’t rust nearly as badly as old cars, the problem can still occur. The issue is usually more of a problem in countries with harsh winters and those that salt their roads.
- Low rumbling, scraping and rattling noises – These sorts of noises can indicate a problem with the exhaust, so keep an ear out for them.
AWD Exhaust Issues
All-wheel drive GS 300 and GS 350 models seem to have more of an issue with rusting and leaking exhausts. The problem area tends to be the mid pipe near the O2 sensors. The cause of the issue is down to a flimsy heat shield and poor quality fabric that collects water, leading to rust formation. A muffler/exhaust shop should be able to repair the problem at a fairly low price, but if you take it to a Lexus dealer they will probably charge you an arm and a leg. You can read a bit more about the issue here.
The Lexus GS is a bit sportier than the LS, so more than a few owners have fitted aftermarket exhausts to their cars. This isn’t a problem as long as the new exhaust is of good quality. Owners tend to change the exhaust to alter the exhaust note, increase performance, or alternatively, they may have just done it to replace an original exhaust that was in bad shape.
If you are looking at a third generation GS with an aftermarket exhaust, try to find out the manufacturer or custom builder. Note them down and then check any reviews. If the exhaust is a crappy mild steel one from some no name brand you are probably better off finding another GS as other corners may have been cut with the car.
Check to see if the Spark Plugs Have Been Replaced
The spark plugs should have been replaced every 160,000 km (100,000 miles) if iridium or platinum plugs have been used. Quite a lot of owners like to replace the plugs much earlier at around 96,000 km (60,000 miles), which is a sign of a good owner.
If you get a mechanic or specialist to inspect the car for you, make sure you get them to check the spark plugs as they can tell you quite a bit of information about how the engine is running. This guide has a bit more information on spark plug analysis.
Idler Pulley Problems
A squealing or rattling sound on 2GR equipped cars may be an idler pulley issue. Many recommend changing the belt at around the 160,000 km (100,000 mile) mark as preventative maintenance. Not a big problem, but get a discount if the Lexus GS you are looking at has the issue.
Batteries on the GS 450h
The batteries are going to be one of your biggest, if not the biggest concern on a used Lexus GS 450h. Lexus warrantied the batteries for 8 years or 160,000 km (100,000 miles). However, in some markets Lexus can extend the battery warranty up to a total of 15 years as long as a hybrid health check is carried out annually or every 16,000 km/10,000 miles (make sure this has been done).
While Lexus/Toyota’s hybrid systems are generally very reliable, it will may not be possible to drive the car if the system has failed completely. Below we have listed some signs that the batteries may have failed in the GS 450h you are looking at:
- “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 P0A80 (replace battery) and or P3016 (check any other codes as well).
- Batteries go to empty after the car has been sitting for a few hours (when they were previously green)
- Reduced fuel economy
- Internal combustion engine seems to be doing more of the work
If the batteries need to be replaced move onto another GS 450h as the cost to replace them simply isn’t worth it unless you can get an incredible deal. As the issue can be extremely expensive to fix, 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.
If you are interested in a Lexus GS 450h we recommend that you try to find one that has had the battery pack replaced. If it hasn’t had the battery replaced, get a hefty discount on the vehicle and put the money away so you can get the batteries changed at a later date.
GS 450h Inverter Failure
While the batteries are the most common failure point for the hybrid system on a Lexus GS 450h, the problem could also be the inverter. If this is the case you may notice the symptoms we listed in the batteries section just above or the vehicle may simply not start at all.
Like replacing the batteries, replacing the inverter on a GS 450h will be an extremely expensive process if you take the car to Lexus. A Lexus or Toyota specialist may be able to give you a better deal and some owners have had luck changing the inverter themselves, but there is no guarantee.
Carbon build-up can be an issue on all GR engines in the range, but it seems to be more of a problem on GS 300 models. Due to the nature of the high compression V6 engine design, there can be a build-up of carbon inside the parts of the power unit surrounding the combustion area. Valves and other components can become coated with this carbon and then the engine can display the following symptoms:
- Idle that is rough/inconsistent
- Vehicle shaking and low idle (may feel like the car is about to stall)
- Surging revs when you stop at the lights
- Illumination of the Malfunction Indicator Lamp (MIL) with the codes P0300, P0301, P0302, P0303, P0304, P0305, and/or P0306
- Excessive oil consumption that exceeds 1 litre every 2,000 km (1,250 miles)
The problem was so bad that Lexus had to issue a letter to all 2006 – 2010 IS 250 and GS 300 owners explaining the problem. Lexus offered to correct the problem and extended the warranty on affected cars.
Lexus/Toyota may be able to clean up the issue for you, but it will probably come back at some point. Below we have listed some things that can help prevent or delay the issue:
- High octane gas
- Full synthetic oil
- Synthetic oil stabilizer
- Intake manifold cleaning – should be done every 80,000 km (50,000 miles), so check to see if the owner has done this.
Fifth Cylinder Failure on 2GR and 3GR Engines
While there isn’t too much information on this issue, there have been reports of scouring on the fifth cylinder on 2GR-FSE and 3GR-FSE engines fitted to the GS 300, GS 350 and the GS 450h. This issue is caused by a design flaw that leads to excessive amounts of oil consumption. With time, scratches can appear on the cylinder wall.
Apparently, the only wall to fix this issue is to replace the entire cylinder block as the thin walls of the cylinder liners make it impossible to bore the block. The main signs of this problem seem to be excessive oil consumption.
Regular servicing should go a long way to prevent this issue, so be very cautious of a poorly maintained third generation GS (or any used car for that matter).
Starting a Lexus GS S190 for the First Time
Rather than starting the car yourself for the first time, we recommend that you get the owner or seller to do so for you. We have two reasons for this:
- So you can get a look at what comes out the back
- If the car revs the engine hard when it is cold you know to walk away
At a later point in the inspection/test drive we recommend that you start the vehicle yourself and check for any warning lights on the dashboard. If no warning lights come on the dash during start-up, it may be a sign that the owner has disconnected them to hide an issue. Make sure the CEL does not stay on otherwise it indicates a problem (do not purchase the car without finding out what the issue is). See the video below for the start up sequence of a 2006 Lexus GS 300 (around 1:00).
What Should the Idle Speed Be on an S190 Lexus GS?
The idle speed will vary slightly depending on the model, but expect it to be in the 700 – 800 rpm range. It is perfectly normal for the idle speed to be higher when you first start the vehicle and when you turn on the air conditioning.
Idle issues could be caused by a whole range of different issues from carbon build-up to spark plug and coil issues or possibly even dirty intake components. If the problem was a simple fix the owner probably would have got the issue sorted prior to sale (or they simply haven’t noticed).
Loud Clicking or Crackling Sound on Startup
Listen out for a clicking, crackling or clattering noise when the car is completely cold and it is started. If you do hear such a sound it could be a problem with the valve springs or cam gears. The problem usually becomes first apparent around the 96,000 km (60,000 mile) mark, but it may occur at any time.
Lexus covered the issue under warranty but as most of these original warranties are now expired (some may still be covered under extended/new warranties), you will have to foot the bill for the repair cost. At a repair cost of around US$1,200 to $2,000 (depending on where you go), this is not a cheap problem to fix, so make sure you listen out for problem.
The only real way to determine if the car you are looking at has this issue is to take it to a competent Lexus/Toyota specialist. Additionally, watch out if the seller has pre-heated the vehicle as it may hide the issue.
Some owners have had luck eliminating the issue by switching from conventional to synthetic oil, but this is more of a cover up and the problem will probably return at some point.
Finally, if the Lexus GS you are looking at is equipped with an aftermarket exhaust there may be a bit of a crackling noise, which can be very easily confused with the problem above. This is perfectly normal and is usually more apparent in cold weather.
Take a Look at What Comes Out the Back
As we wrote earlier, get the seller to start their Lexus GS for you while you have a look at what comes out the back. You can hold up a white piece of paper or cloth in front of the exhaust and see how much soot gets on it. A very small amount is okay but be cautious if notice a lot.
Small amounts of vapour on engine start-up is perfectly fine and is usually just caused by condensation in the exhaust (usually more noticeable on a cold day). Lots of smoke or vapour is a sign of a big issue, especially if it doesn’t go away. Below we have listed what the different colours of smoke usually indicate:
White smoke – If you notice lots of white smoke from the third generation Lexus GS you are looking at, it may be a sign that water has made its way into the cylinders due to a blown/leaking head gasket. Give the exhaust a good whiff and if it smells sweet, it is probably coolant.
Blue/Grey smoke – This colour smoke could be caused by a whole range of things from worn piston rings, valve seals or a bad turbocharger. If you see this colour smoke on startup it may be a sign of a bit of an oil burning issue or that the vehicle has been thrashed. To test for this colour smoke during a drive, get somebody to follow you while you are in the GS S190. Take the engine through its rev range and see what comes out the back. If you don’t have a helper, get the owner to drive for a bit while you look out the back.
Black smoke – This sort of smoke is usually a sign that the engine is running too rich and burning too much fuel. There are quite a few things that could be causing this issue from something like dirty intake components to incorrect spark timing and more. If the exhaust smells of fuel, the engine is almost certainly running too rich.
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 Lexus GS S190, however, just make sure that the work was carried out by a competent Lexus or Toyota specialist.
Try to avoid S190s that have only just had a 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.
Is a Compression or Leak Down Test Necessary?
While one of these tests is definitely not necessary when purchasing a used third generation Lexus GS, they can be handy ways to find out the health of a particular car’s engine. If you are taking a GS to a mechanic or specialist prior to purchase we recommend that you get them to do a compression or leak down test.
A leak down test usually takes more time to perform, but it will give you a more accurate and detailed picture of the engine’s overall health and condition.
Some owners will get a compression test done before sale and put the results in the advertisement. The most important thing with the results is to make sure that they are all roughly the same (within around 10% of each other).
November 2007 – Issued for Lexus S190 GS 300 models produced from 21 December 2004 to 27 October 2005 – Possible high pressure stress areas in the two fuel pipes located on the engine’s fuel delivery manifold. Fractures could form in the pipes overtime as a result of high fuel pressure pulsations and naturally corrosive agents in the fuel.
July 2010 – Issued for Lexus GS 450h and GS 460 models produced from February 2007 to August 2008 – Valve springs may crack and break from excessive stress.
October 2010 – Issued for Lexus S190 GS 300 models produced from 28 September 2004 to 28 February 2006 – There was an issue where the engine may not start or it may stall due to a loss of fuel pressure. This was down to the fuel pump wire harness insulation having insufficient flexibility, which could lead insufficient electrical connection.
October 2014 – Issued for Lexus S190 GS 300, GS 450h and GS 460 models – Sealing property of the gasket between the fuel pressure sensor and the fuel delivery pipe could degrade over time. This may lead to fuel leaks and could pose a fire hazard. Lexus recommends to stop driving the vehicle immediately if you smell fuel inside or outside the car.
Lexus fitted the S190 range with the following transmissions:
- 6-speed A760H/1E automatic
- 6-speed A960E automatic
- 8-speed AA80E automatic
There isn’t too much to worry about when it comes to the different transmissions above. The transmission fluid should have been changed every 96,000 – 160,000 km (60,000 – 100,000 miles), however, in some markets Lexus/Toyota doesn’t recommend that you change it at all. If it hasn’t been done it doesn’t necessarily suggest poor maintenance as it depends on what Lexus recommended.
Apart from the above make sure you take the car through all the gears and make sure it shifts good at both low and high engine speeds. Watch out for any big jolts or clunks when shifting, and try changing into the different positions when the car is stationary. Walk away from a Lexus GS with a grinding, whining or whirring gearbox as you could be up for some serious expense.
Steering and Suspension
There shouldn’t be too much to worry about here apart from the usual wear and tear items. The ride on GS models is a bit stiffer than something like an LS, but they should still be supremely comfortable. If the steering feels floaty or nervous there is a problem that needs to be investigated.
Another thing to watch out for is aftermarket suspension. Quite a few owners have fitted stiffer suspension to their third generation GS cars, which can lead to a harsher ride.
If you feel a vibration through the steering wheel it could be anything from a damaged tyre to an out of balance wheel, or even a bent wheel. Below we have put together a quick list of the main things to watch out for when it comes to the suspension and steering components.
- Dipping and swerving when the brakes are applied
- Excessive Rear-end squat during acceleration
- Tipping during cornering
- High speed instability
- Delayed or longer stopping distances
- Uneven tyre wear
- Excessive bounce after hitting a bump or when pushing down on the suspension
- Leaking fluid on the exterior of the shock/strut
- Sagging or uneven suspension
- Knocking, clunking or creaking sounds during a test drive (this may be caused by something else, but bad suspension and steering componentry is a common issue)
- 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 – could be caused by a damaged axle boot or a bad wheel bearing
Remember to visually inspect as many of the suspension and steering components as possible. A torch/flashlight and a mirror can come in handy here. If you notice that the components are different from one side to the other it may be a sign that the vehicle has been in an accident and/or has been repaired poorly.
Checking the Wheel Alignment
Remember to check that the Lexus GS S190 you are inspecting drives straight with minimal wheel corrections. The best place to check this is on a flat, straight section of road.
Incorrect wheel alignment can lead to excessive/uneven tyre wear and can make the driving experience less safe and enjoyable.
Should I Purchase a Lowered Lexus GS S190?
This is really up to you but we would personally avoid any third generation Lexus GS that has been lowered. Lowering a GS can cause odd issues such as a swaying or shaking feeling at idle due to the altered front suspension angles. A really well setup car may be fine, but most lowered S190s have anything but a good suspension setup.
Wheels & Tyres
While you are checking out the suspension components, remember to have a good look at the wheels and tyres to make sure they are in adequate condition. If you notice lots of curb damage it may be a sign that the vehicle has been owned by a careless driver.
A lot of S190s have been fitted with aftermarket wheels. If the third generation GS you are looking at has aftermarket wheels check with the owner to see if they have the originals. Most sellers probably won’t have them and if they don’t, try to get a bit of a discount (even if you like the aftermarket ones).
While you are inspection the wheels, have a good look at the tyres for the following:
- Amount of tread– Check how much tread is left on the tyres as if they need to be replaced soon you should try to get a discount on the S190 Lexus GS
- Uneven wear– Wear should be even between the right and left tyres. Additionally, make sure wear is even across the tyre itself (check the inside and outside edge)
- 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 and may even be dangerous.
Visually inspect the brakes and watch out for any obvious issues. If the pads and/or rotors look like they need replacing make sure you get a discount or get the owner to replace them before purchasing the vehicle.
Make sure that the brake fluid has been replaced every 2 years or so otherwise it suggests poor maintenance. If the Lexus GS S190 you are looking at hasn’t been driven in a while expect to see some slight surface rust on the rotors/discs (not a major issue and should go away once the car is driven for a bit).
If you find that the brakes are weak or spongy there is a problem as they should be more than adequate for road use. Listen out for any squealing or rumbling noises when the brake pedal is depressed.
A shuddering or shaking feeling through the steering wheel could be a sign that the discs/rotors are warped and will need to be replaced. This issue usually becomes first apparent under high speed braking, so make sure you do a few high to low speed braking runs.
Another thing to keep an eye out for is any erratic braking that causes the car to pull to one side. This sort of problem may be a sign of a sticking/seized caliper and you may hear a loud thud when you pull away for the first time. Sticking/seized calipers can often happen if a car is left to sit for a while and is usually more of a problem on the rear calipers on a third generation Lexus GS.
A rattling noise from the rear of the vehicle could be down to the parking brake cables. To fix the issue the parking brake cables should be adjusted to reduce free play in the parking brake shoe. This problem affects GS 300, GS 350, GS 430 and GS 450h variants of the S190.
The last thing to check is the parking/hand brake. Find yourself a nice incline and make sure that the brake holds the car.
October 2010 – Issued for Lexus S190 GS 300 models produced from December 2004 to 6 December 2005 – Brake fluid contained insufficient polymers which leads to the brake master cylinder rubber seal becoming dry and curling. This problem could lead to a brake fluid leak from the rear of the brake master cylinder, causing the brake fluid level to drop and a warning light on the dashboard.
Body & Exterior
Bodywork issues can be an expensive nightmare, so make sure you are happy with the condition of the exterior of the third generation Lexus GS you are inspecting.
Rust is far less of an issue on S190 Lexus GS cars than it is on earlier models, however, don’t let that fact lull you into a false sense of security. Rust can still form in and on various different areas of a third generation Lexus GS and it can be a major problem.
To check for rust, look over the car thoroughly, paying particular attention to the wheel arches and wells, sills, door edges, underside of the car, exhaust, window wiper blades and just under the door mirrors. Also lift up the carpets in the boot and check for any signs of corrosion.
Small amounts of surface rust are usually fine, however, the problem is often much more serious than it first appears. Rust/corrosion can also be a sign of accident damage as well. If you notice lots of rust move onto another S190 Lexus GS as the one you are looking at probably isn’t worth your time or money.
Things That May Make Rust More Likely to Form
- Vehicle has spent time in countries or areas with salted roads
- The Lexus GS you are looking at has spent time in countries or areas with very harsh winters
- Vehicle is often parked/stored by the sea for significant periods of time
- If the Lexus GS S190 has always been kept outside (never garaged)
- Accident damage (stone chips or more significant damage)
If you are looking at a Japanese import Lexus GS, ask the seller or owner if the car has been rust proofed or had some sort of underseal applied to the bottom. A good number of Japanese cars were never rust proofed, so the problem can quickly form when they get to a country like the United Kingdom where the roads are salted and there is a lot of rain. Fresh imports from Japan are less likely to have rust/corrosion issues, but it can still occur.
Looking for Rust Repairs
It is not only important to look for present rust, but you should also keep an eye out for signs of past rust repair (mismatched paint, paint overspray etc.). Watch out for any areas that may have been resprayed or cut out and replaced. You should also check the service history and with the owner (however, don’t trust what the owner says completely as they may be trying to hide something from you).
Use a magnet on steel sections of the car (cover it with a cloth so you don’t damage the paintwork) or a coating gauge thickness tool such as this one to find any areas that may have been repaired.
This is probably going to be a much more common issue than something like rust on a third generation Lexus GS. Accident damage is a serious issue that needs to be investigated closely and many sellers or owners will lie about the severity of an incident and the resultant repairs.
In the section below we have listed some signs that may indicate that the third generation Lexus GS you are looking at has been in contact with something it shouldn’t have been in contact with:
- Bent or broken parts underneath the car – Check to see if everything is straight underneath the GS and watch out for any replaced parts. Take a good look at all the suspension, steering and exhaust components for damage.
- Rust in strange locations – May be a sign that the Lexus you are inspecting has been in a crash or has some other sort of problem. The most common cause of rust on the bodywork is usually from stone chips.
- Paint runs or overspray – While this could be a factory issue, Lexus’s quality control is exceptional so it is probably due to repair work.
- Missing badges or trim – Could be due to repair work (body shop couldn’t find replacements) or a number of other things (stolen, etc.).
- Misaligned panels or large panel gaps – Check that the bonnet lines up correctly and fits as it should. Additionally, check the bonnet catches as if they look new the car has probably been in an accident. You should also check the doors and the lights for any damage or signs of past damage. Once again Lexus’s quality control is outstanding, so this problem is much more likely to be from some sort of accident.
- Doors that drop or don’t close properly – If the doors drop or don’t open/close properly the GS S190 you are inspecting may have been in an accident.
- Inconsistencies such as waving, rippling or different coloured panels – Indicates a respray which may have been conducted as a result of accident damage or rust.
- If the bonnet/hood looks like it is popped when it is not – This may indicate that the Lexus GS S190 you are inspecting at has been crashed into something (even a light knock can cause this problem).
- Damage to the mounting supports for the headlights – This is very difficult to fix if the car has been in an accident, so watch out for this.
Discovering past or present accident damage shouldn’t make you walk away immediately, however, it does need to be investigated closely. Crash damage that was minor to moderate that has been repaired correctly by a skilled body shop or panel beater is perfectly fine. If the damage was very serious and/or the repairs very poor, move onto another S190 GS.
If the owner/seller tries to cover up or lie about the accident it suggests that the problem is worse than first appears. Alternatively, if the owner can’t tell you much about the accident/damage it may have happened when a previous person owner the vehicle.
Windscreen Rattle and Creaking Rear Window
Pre-2010 Lexus S190 GS 300, GS 430 and GS 450 vehicles can suffer from a rattle from the windscreen. This is usually heard from the inside of the car at the top or bottom of the windscreen. Lexus claimed that the problem could be caused by one of both of the following things:
- The two windscreen stoppers at the bottom and the top of the windscreen: or,
- The windshield retainers which are bonded to the lower edge of the windscreen
In September 2005 a Service Bulletin was issued for 2006 model year Lexus GS 300 and GS 430 vehicles. The reason for the bulletin was due to a creaking noise that was emitting from the upper portion of the rear window glass on some vehicles. Lexus believed that the issue was down to the two glass stoppers that were bonded to the top of the glass. These stoppers would rub against the body, causing a creaking sound.
October 2012 – Issued for Lexus S190 GS models produced from January 2005 to October 2011 that were fitted with a Genuine Lexus Detachable Towing Hitch – The towing hitch was affixed on a bracket next to the tow hitch housing. In some cases, the tow hitch can develop a crack when under severe loads, leading to fractures forming.
The interior on these cars is built to a high standard with later models featuring a few refinements and changes. There were quite a few different trim options, so don’t expect to find the interiors on all of the cars you inspect to be the same.
Remember to thoroughly check the interior components and trim for any damage, wear or stains. While Lexus sold quite a few of these cars, getting replacement trim pieces can be surprisingly expensive, especially if you source them directly from Lexus.
Check the seats thoroughly as if they are in poor condition it may be a sign that the GS S190 you are looking at has had a hard life. 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.
Remember to feel around the cabin and in the trunk/boot for any dampness, paying particular attention to the carpets. There was a Technical Service Information Bulletin (AC003-07) issued in February 2010 for water on the front and/or rear carpets for 2006 GS 300 and 2007 GS 350 models. The problem with these vehicles was that the HVAC evaporator drain could become blocked which would lead to a leak. Another thing to check when looking for leaks is to lift the floor mats and look at the underside of them. If you notice any water residue it may be a sign of a past or present leak.
Excessive amounts of wear on the seats, steering wheel, carpets, shifter and pedals for the mileage may indicate that the GS S190 you are looking at has had a hard life.
Remember to have a look at the headlining above the driver’s seat. If it is a slightly different colour it may be a sign that the third generation Lexus GS you are inspecting has been owned by a smoker. A smell test will also help you determine whether or not this is the case as well.
Rattle from the Instrument Panel
There was an issue with the instrument panel on 2006 – 2007 model year GS 300 , GS 350, GS 430 and GS 450h variants of the S190. The problem was a rattle from the front of the instrument panel at the base of the windscreen. This issue should have been fixed by Lexus, but make sire it was done.
Electronics, Air Conditioning , Locks Etc.
There isn’t too much to talk about when it comes to the electronics. Just make sure that everything works as intended. Switch on all of the lights, check the parking sensors, windows, infotainment system, etc. and make sure they all function as intended. A problem here could be expensive to fix.
If the GS you are looking at is fitted with a non-functioning Mark Levinson sound system it will be expensive to get repaired. The base sound system is not as expensive to fix, but just make sure it works as intended and there is no/minimal crackling from the speakers.
Some people have fitted aftermarket infotainment systems like the guy in the video below. If the GS you are inspecting has one of these, try to find out who did the install to make sure they are well reviewed. Also ask the seller if they have the original parts.
Another thing to check is that the air con/climate control system works properly. If it doesn’t, don’t let the seller convince you it just needs a re-gas as it may be something like the compressor (expensive fix).
Don’t forget to check the warning lights on the dash both during engine start-up and while the car is running. If no lights appear during start-up the seller may have disconnected them to hide an issue. Lastly, take along an OBDII scanner or take the car to a Lexus or Toyota specialist or dealer to have the codes read as there may be a hidden issue. Watch out for sellers who have cleared codes without fixing or investigating the cause.
Odour from the Air Conditioning
In February 2009, Lexus issued another service bulletin for all variants of the S190 from the 2006 model year to 2008. There was a problem with the air conditioning system where it would emit a strange odour. A revised A/C amplifier, a non-charcoal interior cabin filter and an improved evaporator sub-assembly were implemented to fix the issue.
April 2006 – Issued for all Lexus S190 GS models produced until that date – The heating agents within the curtain and knee airbags was insufficient. As a result, expansion of the gas in the inflator may have been insufficient to properly inflate the airbags during a collision.
General Car Buying Advice the for a Lexus S190 GS
How to Get the Best Deal on a Third Gen GS
This information applies to both dealers and private sealers. Knowledge is power and it can save you a lot of money when purchasing a vehicle.
- Research heavily – Prior to starting your search for a Lexus GS S190, figure out what specs and condition you are happy with. Do you want a low mileage GS 460 or are you happy with a GS 300 that has travelled far? Are modifications okay or do you want a stock model.
- Shop around – It is always best to shop around a bit before you make a purchase. There are loads of different S190s out there in different levels of condition and spec, so don’t limit yourself to one seller, dealer, area or auction platform.
- Go look at and test drive multiple S190 GS cars – It is a good idea to test drive a many cars as possible, so you know what makes a good and what makes a bad third generation Lexus GS.
- Adjust your attitude – Never rush into a purchase. If you are desperate to buy a car you are more likely to get ripped off. Take your time when looking for a Lexus GS for sale and only go for promising looking cars.
- Use any issues with the car to your advantage – Take a mental note of any issues you find with the vehicle. When it comes to discussing the price, use these problems to try and drive down the price. For example, if the car needs new tyres or brake pads make a point of it and try to get the seller to reduce the price.
- Don’t trust the owner – While some owners/sellers are honest about their cars, many will lie to get a quick sale. Take in what the owner has to say but back it up with a thorough inspection.
- 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
Mileage vs condition is always a hot topic for debate, but we feel that it is always better to buy on condition and then on mileage. Lots of owners make the mistake of believing that they are preserving their car by not driving it. In reality, this is completely false and not driving a vehicle can actually do more damage than good.
Short distance trips do not allow the engine to warm up properly, which can lead to increased component wear and reduced engine life.
Rubber seals and plastic parts will fail regardless of mileage and can even deteriorate quicker on cars that don’t get used often. Letting a car sit will not prevent rust or stop the electronics from failing.
Service History and Other Documentation
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 or Toyota specialist or mechanic (especially for major repair work).
The service history will give you a good idea of how the S190 Lexus GS 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.
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?
- When was the timing belt last replaced?
- 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 car had any problems with carbon build-up?
- 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?
- Have the batteries replaced (GS 450h)
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 Third Generation GS
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
- Money owing on the car
- 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 (probably not a major issue as these cars are not known for their track capabilities)
- Major engine or transmission issues
- Owner who is not forthcoming with information (could be trying to hide something)
- Battery issues on hybrid models (only purchase if you can get a massive discount on the vehicle)
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 Lexus (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 S190 GS and the model they are selling (do they know about the differences between the different models)?
- 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 S190.
Importing a Third Gen Lexus GS from Japan
Lexus sold quite a few of these cars in Japan, so it is a popular place to import them from. Below we have given you a quick rundown on the importing process and what to keep in mind when looking to import a Lexus GS S190 from Japan.
How to Import an S190 GS from Japan
While importing a Lexus GS S190 from Japan may seem a bit daunting, it is actually relatively simple. The first thing we recommend you do is to Google search something like “import Lexus GS (whatever model you are interested in)”. You will be greeted with loads of different websites to choose from. These websites will let you search for one of these cars based on their age, generation, condition, price and more.
Most of the websites/companies you encounter should be based in Japan, but you may find some other ones that are located in different parts of the world.
Make sure you check reviews/feedback of any website or auction house you want to use. While you are unlikely to get completely scammed, many of these websites will be economical with the truth about a vehicle. We have listed a few examples of Japanese importers/exporters below:
JDM Expo – Is an independent subsidiary of Nikko Auto Co., which is recognized as on the most reliable exporters of Japanese cars in the country.
Car From Japan – is another large portal for connecting overseas buyers with Japanese second hand cars.
Japan Partner – Is one of the fastest growing exporters of used Japanese vehicles.
Note: many of these sorts of websites do not provide a grade or auction check sheet. The grade, auction check sheet, and car map are vital to picking a good car. Buyer beware!
Use a Private Importer
While the websites above are a handy way to give you a general idea of what to expect when importing a third generation Lexus GS, we recommend that you go with a private importer. A trusted private importer will be able to find a suitable S190 for you and import it, saving you the hassle. While it may cost you a bit more (sometimes it is cheaper) you are more likely to get a better vehicle.
You can get a full explanation of why we recommend using a private importer here.
How Does the Japanese Car Grading System Work?
The auction houses and car exporters in Japan all get their vehicles in roughly the same way. The difference between them is how much support they are willing to provide, how honest they are, and how they grade their vehicles
They will provide what is known as an ‘auction check sheet’ – a document that contains most of what you need to know about the vehicle. As you can’t see the vehicle personally, you will have to rely on the check sheet and other information on the listing to make a decision. If the seller/website is not willing to provide you with an auction check sheet or additional information on the car, don’t proceed any further.
Before you make a purchase you need to learn how to read an auction check sheet. The sheet contains information on the make, model, condition, specifications and any other notes. There will be a grade on the sheet that denotes the overall grade of the vehicle.
While the grade on a check sheet is important, you should not rely on it to make a final decision. Different companies have different methods for grading their vehicles, so a grade 4 for one company may be a grade 3.5 for another.
Some websites may use a different grading system and if you can’t view the auction check sheet, you should contact the seller/exporter.
Use the grade to reduce the number of GS cars you are looking at and then use the check sheet and additionally information to make a decision. We also recommend you pay a third party to check out the car for you if possible (hence the recommendation for a private importer).
The Auction Check Sheet
Below you can see an example of an auction check sheet. The grade is located in the top right corner of the check sheet. You will notice that there is both a letter and a number grade. The number indicates the overall condition of the vehicle, while the letter shows you the interior grade. At the bottom right of the check sheet is the ‘car map’. The car map tells you information about the exterior of a fourth gen Lexus LS and where any problems are located.
Additionally, the sheet contains information about the specs of the vehicle and any modifications (major or minor). The inspector may also write some additional notes about the car.
What Does the Number Grade Mean?
- Grade 7 to 9 or S– New car with delivery miles.
- Grade 6– Same as above but with a few more miles.
- Grade 5– Vehicle is in excellent condition with low miles.
- Grade 4.5– Overall condition is great, but may have up to 100,000 miles on the clock.
- Grade 4– Overall condition is good, but can have low or high miles.
- Grade 3.5– Similar to grade 4, but some work may be needed and they usually have more miles.
- Grade 3– Can be the same condition as grade 3.5, but with more miles. Alternatively, the car may have lower miles but require more work.
- Grade 2– Very poor condition car and may have significant mechanical or exterior issues. Not necessarily a right off, but you would have to be a brave buyer to purchase one of these.
- Grade 1– Is modified in some way (can be extensive or something simple).
- Grade 0, A, R, RA– Some repair history that can be major or minor.
The Letter Grade
As we wrote earlier, the number grade is usually accompanied by a letter that indicates the interior grade. An ‘A’ indicates that the interior is in exceptional or good condition. A ‘B’ indicates that the car is in average condition, while a ‘C’ displays that it is in poor condition. Grades below C show that the car’s interior is in very poor condition.
The Car Map
The check sheet will also contain what is called a “car map”, which tells you all the information you need to know about the exterior condition of the car. It will show the location of any problems or damage to the vehicle. Any problems are indicated by a letter and a number. The letter tells you what the issue is and the number indicates the severity. You can read more about the car map in our “How to Import a Car from Japan” guide.
Our Guidelines for Importing a Lexus GS from Japan
- Always demand to see and have the auction check sheet before making a purchase
- If you can’t read Japanese or the company won’t provide a translated check sheet, get help from somebody who speaks/reads Japanese.
- Try to go through a private importer
- Check that the chassis number on the check sheet matches the one on the frame
- Cross reference the check sheet with other websites
- Don’t rely on the grade (always check the auction sheet thoroughly)
- Investigate each website/service thoroughly (reviews, feedback, etc.)
- Be careful of heavily modified vehicles
- Get someone to inspect the car for you if possible. Ask for photos and get a good run down of the condition.
- Avoid cars with unknown mileages
- Stay away from bargains that seem to be too good to be true
- Stay away from grade 0, A, RA, R vehicles that have been involved in accidents
Know Your Country’s Importation Laws
Always make sure you check your country’s importation laws as you may find you can’t bring the vehicle you want in. For example, some countries have certain restrictions on importing cars under a certain age.