Downside: If fuel economy is your primary concern, buy something else. The GS 430 drinks a lot and takes premium gasoline only. Also, there is the matter of steering feel. Aficionados of European performance cars may find the steering on the GS 430 a tad loose -- that is, over-assisted by the power steering system. This took some getting used to. But I've never had so much fun becoming acclimated to anything as I did to driving this car.

Ride, acceleration and handling: Steering feels light. But overall handling is excellent. The GS 430 is responsive -- it goes exactly where you point it. Acceleration will leave you grinning widely. Electronic braking assistance helps stop the car with authority in panic and normal braking.

Head-turning quotient: The 2006 GS 430 bids goodbye to the more-oval-than-thou look of yesteryear. The new exterior lines are muscular, sexy and athletic. There is more of a fastback look to this one.

Body style/layout: The GS 430 is a front-engine, luxury, rear-wheel-drive, mid-size sports sedan. It has a welded steel, unitized body. Other GS models include the Lexus GS 300 rear-wheel-drive and GS 300 all-wheel-drive sedans.

Engine/transmission: The 2006 GS 430 comes with a 4.3-liter V-8 engine that develops 300 horsepower at 5,600 revolutions per minute and 325 foot-pounds of torque at 4,400 rpm. The engine is mated to an electronically controlled six-speed automatic transmission that also can be shifted manually.

Cargo and fuel capacities: There is seating for five people. Luggage capacity is 12.7 cubic feet. The fuel tank holds 18.8 gallons of required premium unleaded gasoline.

Mileage: I averaged 21 miles per gallon in city/highway driving. Highway-only driving yielded 24.6 miles per gallon, very close to the Environmental Protection Agency's 25-mpg highway performance rating for this car.

Safety: Loaded. Front, knee, side and head air bags; traction and stability control; available Toyota/Lexus-patented Pre-Collision System (PCS) that helps warn the driver of an imminent crash, and automatically activates passenger restraint system if the PCS computer determines that a crash is unavoidable.

Price: Base price on the tested 2006 GS 430 is $51,375. Estimated dealer's invoice price on that model is $49,300. Price as tested is $58,215, including $6,280 in options and a $560 destination charge. Estimated dealer's cost with options is $54,000. Prices sourced from Lexus, and Prices are subject to change.

Purse-strings note: The GS 430 is a top contender in the performance luxury sedan market. If you can pay, you can play.