Lexus GS450h Review:
Lexus’ new GS450h midsize luxury hybrid offers smooth, quiet operation, and there isn’t much more anyone would need in a luxury car.
The ride is smooth and controlled, the engine gives it plenty of power when needed and handling is responsive, 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 power from regenerative braking. The car runs quiet, almost stealth-like as it powers down at stoplights and then kicks into electric mode as you accelerate away. If you need more power, there’s plenty from the gas-powered 3.5-liter V6 that pumps a generous 338 horsepower.
Smoothing out that acceleration is an electronic variable speed automatic transmission that improves gas mileage and eliminates the feel of gears shifting.
It’s no small task to push the rear-drive GS up to cruising speeds. It weighs slightly more than two tons at 4,190 lbs. Yet the car never feels bulky or heavy. The 112.2-inch wheelbase spreads the repercussions from road bumps, so the ride is well controlled and comforting.
An adaptive variable suspension helps that and there’s a drive mode option that allows a driver to choose between 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 SS mode as it allows the car to rocket away from stoplights. Manual shifting is available via paddle shifters behind the wheel.
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.
You’d expect a Lexus hybrid to perform well and this one does, but it’s the interior that impressed most of my passengers.
The metallic gold 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 and there are two easy-to-see round gauges in front of the driver, along with a power tilt/telescope steering wheel.
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 distracting.
The Lexus’ seating is soft leather, two-tone in this one. It is 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.
That luxury package includes rear heated seats, adaptive Bi-LED headlamps, 3-zone climate controls, the sunshade and heated seats up front. Other 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, these could be helpful safety devices.
Other 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 and distracts you from watching the road.
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-horsepower engine 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.
I also was surprised that the trunk in a 190.7-inch long car is just 13.0 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.