DRIVEN: YOKOHAMA V105/LEXUS GS 350 IN JAPAN

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GTChannel
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          It’s not often we get to test drive an exciting grand touring machine in another country, but we had the opportunity to test Yokohama’s all-new Advan Sports tires (codenamed V105) in the heart of Tokyo. The tires will be available in the U.S. this summer, but it has already gone on sale in other countries. So we decided to go to it, instead of waiting for it to come to us. Yokohama promises it to be exponentially better than the current Advan Sports (V103). Although the tires are OE (Original Equipment) on sports luxury cars from Mercedes-Benz and Audi, we wanted to see how well they performed in an aftermarket role, so we installed them on a brand new Lexus GS 350, and then navigated the tricky streets of Tokyo, Japan.

          GTChannel ran a preview blog on the V105s a few months ago, after attending the global launch of the product in Spain. The new V105s were developed at the Nürburgring, so needless to say, performance was the priority. We evaluated the tires back to back with the V103 and found the new Advan Sports (V105s) were superior in every way, including wet weather grip and traction. According to Yokohama, virtually every feature of the tire has been improved, including structure, tread pattern and compound. To improve steering stability, a new Matrix Body Ply structure was developed especially for the V105. Weight has been reduced while maintaining rigidity, resulting in better handling and a more comfortable ride. The latter was what was immediately evident when we cruised the traffic-heavy highways of downtown Tokyo. (For more detailed information on the V105s, go to our report at http://www.gtchannel.com/blog/preview-yokohama-advan-sport-v105.)

          Our test car, the JDM Lexus GS 350 proved to be the perfect vehicle for our V105 city test. We drove a stock Lexus GS 350 last year and came away thoroughly impressed. It comes equipped with a 3.5-liter V-6 with VVT-I (Toyota's valve timing technology) that produces 306 bhp at 6400 rpm and 276 lb.-ft. of torque at 4800. The shifting duties are performed by a 6-speed automatic transmission with a manual mode, and although the hardware is basically carryover from the past model, new features have been added to make the driving experience sportier. Some of the features from the Lexus IS F have been adopted, including faster shifts, earlier torque converter lockup and downshift throttle blips. Also, it can be switched among four driving modes by a control on the center console: ECO, for better fuel economy (in this mode the instrument panel turns blue); SPORT S mode for better acceleration (here the instrument panel turns red), SPORT S+ mode (available with F SPORT and Luxury packages) that not only changes the shift points, but also automatically engages the sport setting of the adaptive variable suspension, steering system; and VDIM (Vehicle Dynamic Integrated Management). Back then, we thought that the GS 350 was among the best handling cars in its class. Power delivery and handling were very good. Now, the car's handling has been made even better with the V105s. With the stock tires, the GS 350 could not outperform the BMW 535i around a makeshift autocross course we created; however, armed with the new V105s, we're sure the Lexus can best the 530i around any track...it's too bad we didn't have both cars on hand in Japan. On city streets, the Lexus and Advan Sports tires were a match made in heaven, as the tires provide exceptional grip and traction, along with unequaled quietness and excellent fuel economy.

         As for hardcore autocross/track comparisons, we'll have to wait until the tires are available here because there just aren't any twisty roads in the Tokyo area. Then we'll mount them on our version of the Lexus GS 350 and see exactly how much these tires improve the sporty luxury sedan's overall demeanor. From the photos, they already spice up the car's appearance (thanks partly to the sporty Advan Kreutzer wheels).