Luxurious GS450h gives hybrids a good name
There isn’t much more anyone would need in a luxury car than what the GS450h delivers.
Ride is smooth and controlled, the engine gives it plenty of power when needed and handling is responsive too, if not sports car precise. The interior is swathed in leather and luxury and styled to impress any of your non-luxury-car owning friends. The exterior is upscale, without being showy.
Then there’s the hybrid feature with an electric motor that generates 180 horsepower from the batteries that get much of their oomph from regenerative braking. This naturally aids the car’s quiet running, almost stealth-like as it powers down at stoplights and then kicks into electric mode as you accelerate away from a stop. If you need more power, there’s a plenty from the gas-powered 3.5-liter V6 that pumps a generous 338 horses.
Smoothing that acceleration, even when you want to blast away from the riff-raff, is an electronic variable speed automatic transmission, which like most CVTs aids gas mileage and eliminates the feel of gears shifting. This is a fine one.
It’s no small task to push the rear-drive GS up to cruising speeds either. It weighs in at slightly more than 2 tons at 4,190 lbs. Yet while the car feels substantial it never feels bulky or heavy. Its 112.2-inch wheelbase spreads the repercussions from nasty road bumps, so ride is well controlled and comforting.
An adaptive variable suspension helps that and there’s a drive mode select that allows a driver to choose whether he or she wants a Normal, Eco or Sport SS acceleration mode. Eco is the default and is fine for city driving and helps you save gas, while Normal is a little peppier and still good for driving around town, especially if some of that is in the 40-45 mph range. Lead-footers will prefer the Sport S/S mode as it allows the car to rocket away from stoplights. Manual shifting via paddle shifters behind the wheel also is available.
Stability and traction control are standard and there are four-wheel ventilated disc brakes too. A $5,645 option package includes 18-inch nine-spoke wheels for looks and all-season tires for traction.
You’d expect a Lexus hybrid to perform well and this one is aces, but it’s the interior that wowed most of my passengers.
The metallic gold (Satin Cashmere Metallic) test car featured a black over saddle brown leather interior with elegant looking medium tan wood trim across the dash and doors and as a major portion of the steering wheel, which is heated. Brushed metal trim accents the dash, doors and wheel too and there are two easy-to-see round gauges in front of the driver, along with a power tilt/telescope steering wheel that powers up each time the ignition is shut off.
The radio/info/navigation screen mid-dash is indented with a hood over it to shield against reflections on sunny days. It also was far enough away from the driver that it was easy to glance at without being distractacting.
The Lexus’s seating is soft semi-aniline leather, two-tone in this one. It’s perforated and also includes 18-way driver adjustments for the lumbar and side bolsters, if you want to tighten things up for aggressive driving. Three memory settings are available for the driver’s seat and the armrest on the console slides back to expose a power rear sunshade button. Classy!
That pricy luxury package mentioned earlier also includes rear heated seats, adaptive Bi-LED headlamps, 3-zone climate controls, the sunshade, heated seats up front and more. Other gee-whiz features include a lane departure warning system for $500, and a pre-collision system that runs $2,000. It will audibly alert you if danger is detected, help brake and also watch to see if your eyes are closing because you’re getting drowsy. If you’re a long-distance driver regularly, these could be helpful safety devices. I’m not a fan of cars emitting loud noises just as a possible crisis unfolds as it seems only to distract a driver. Plus some of these are too sensitive and go off when little out of the norm is unfolding in front of the car.
Other electronic and luxury features include a power sunroof, premium sound system with voice recognition, satellite radio, Bluetooth technology, HomeLink, rain-sensing wipers and headlight washers. I was surprised though that the GS did not have a blind-spot warning system.
While the Lexus dash is well laid out and I could easily figure out most of the electronic doodads and screens, I still am not a fan of the mouse knob on the console as a way to tune the radio, etc. It’s awkward, although better than BMW’s, and distracts you from watching the road. I encourage every driver with a system like this to dial in your radio BEFORE putting the car in gear.
There’s really not much to dislike here, nor should there be, when a car starts at $58,950. Add in $875 delivery and options and the test car hit $68,139. A rear-drive GS350 with 306-horse V6 starts at $46,900 and moving up to AWD pushes that to $49,450. At any of these prices I was shocked that Lexus was charging $64 for a cargo net and $105 for a trunk mat. Those should be standard here, no questions asked.
I also was surprised that the trunk in a 190.7-inch long car is just13.0 cubic feet. While it would hold several suitcases, it was way too shallow to carry my dad’s wheelchair, something most compact to midsize cars handle with ease.
On the plus side, the GS450h is rated at 29 mpg city and 34 mpg highway. I got a solid 29.3 mpg, a bit short of the trip computer’s 31.8 mpg estimate. But for a car of this size and weight, those are good figures. Be aware the car’s V6 drinks premium petrol too.
The GS450h is a pleasant ride that shouts, no, make that sings, luxury. It coddles its riders and delivers good gas mileage to boot. If you still want something more, well ….
FAST Stats: 2013 Lexus GS450h
Hits: Smooth quiet hybrid luxury car with good fuel economy, super comfortable interior with stellar dash layout and styling. Heated/cooled seats and heated steering wheel, plus a luxury feel interior. Good power, ride and handling.
Misses: Smallish trunk for this size car due to batteries for hybrid, plus a mouse you use to dial in many of the electronic functions, instead of buttons.
Made in: Japan
Engine: 3.5-liter VVT-i V6, 338 hp; electric drive motor, hybrid drive, 180 hp
Transmission: Variable speed automatic
Weight: 4,190 lbs.
Wheelbase: 112.2 in.
Cargo: 13.0 cu.ft.
Base Price: $58,950
Dealer’s Price: $54,826
Lane departure warning system, $500
Luxury package w/heated rear seats (18-inch split 9-spoke wheels w/painted silver finish, all-season tires, Bi-LED headlamps w/adaptive front lights, heated wood/leather steering wheel, semi-aniline leather interior, 3-zone automatic climate control, 18-way power front seats w/power 4-way lumbar, side bolsters, articulating headrest, extendable lower cushions, butterfly headrests, memory seats, rear door sunshades, heated rear seats), $5,645
Pre-collision system (brake, driver attn. monitor w/closed eye detection, $2,000
Cargo net, $64
Trunk mat, $105
Test vehicle: $68,139
Sources: Lexus, www.autos.yahoo.com
Photos: Courtesy of Lexus