Lexus GS450h: Should you be interested in a Luxury Hybrid?

Japanese luxury car firm Lexus, which is the premium brand for Toyota, has had a few ups and downs in recent years. However, the brand is putting all the downs behind them as they look towards the future with new models.
One of their latest offerings is the GS-line for 2013. This is an all-new model and takes over from one of the best models it had ever produced. But the question is, is this new version better than the model it replaces?
I got the chance to find out at an event held by Lexus in Scarborough, On.
While most of Lexus’ new models were on hand at this event, the one I wanted to try out the most was the GS450h.
Why this model? Because the last GS450h was one of my favorite Lexus models, and I wanted to see if they managed to improve on it.
From the styling point of view, I’m not so sure. I find the new face of Lexus cars, with their spindle grille to be a bit too dramatic, and then the rest of the body looks very tame and featureless in comparison. I think the older car had a more elegant look, however if you want to be noticed, the new car (which has a face that resembles the alien creature from the “Predator” movies) will get you plenty of attention.
Open the door, and instantly the new interior gets a win over the older model. The design is much more luxurious and packs even more technology. The main highlight inside is the 12.3-inch LCD display which houses most of the vehicles functions. Thanks to the clarity of this screen, everything is easy to read. However, the computer mouse-style knob that allows you to go through this cars many menu functions, takes some getting used to. It is not as intuitive as some rival systems.
Other detail I liked inside the GS450h is the way they have designed the wood and placed a very high-end clock on the dashboard. It seems Lexus got their inspiration from luxury yachts, which is always a good thing. So be in no doubt, you will feel rich just being in this car, as long as you’re in the front seats.
Jump in the back, and I was disappointed by the fact that there was no space for my feet to go. Well thought out interiors have space for your feet to go under the front seats, which makes riding in the back much more comfortable. This sadly doesn’t have that, so if you have adults to carry around on a regular basis, this is not an ideal car for the job.
As for carrying items, the trunk in the new GS450h is somewhat larger than the model it replaces, so you can carry more groceries home.
Getting home means you have to drive, so how does it drive?
Well my drive at this event was far too short to get a proper feel of the car, but it displayed that it is very smooth, very quick, and handles quite well.
The engine itself hasn’t changed much at all. It is still a 3.5-liter, V6 engine, plus an electric motor which still runs on a nickel-metal hydride battery pack (unfortunately not a lithium-ion battery pack). Net output is 338-hp; down 1-hp from the previous model. Like the old model, power is fed only to the rear-wheels via a CVT automatic gearbox. But buying a hybrid is all about fuel economy, so has that improved? The new model is said to average 6.5-liters/100km in the city, and 6.2-liters/100km on the highway (a 30% improvement in economy according to Lexus over the model it replaces). However, since I haven’t spent a week in one yet, I’m not sure what the actual numbers will be like at this moment.
Part of the reason for the fuel economy improvements according to Lexus is their Atkinson cycle combustion system, which allows for better breathing for the internal-combustion engine, making it more frugal.
Just because it’s frugal doesn’t mean its not fast, this hybrid luxury sedan can sprint from 0-100km/h in just 5.7 seconds. Performance numbers like that would be respectable for many sports cars.
Given its fully independent suspension geometry and a good chassis set-up, it handles as well as you would expect from a luxury car of this caliber these days. I just wish the steering had a bit more feel. So while it is nice to drive, I’m not over the moon in love with it, at least not yet.
However, if all I mentioned sounds tempting to you, you can head over to your local Lexus dealer now and buy one. Prices for the GS450h start from $64,650 (in Canada). That is also a lot less than the previous model.
So, should you buy a luxury hybrid? Well, if you want to save the planet a little more than the average guy, then maybe yes. But, is it the best car in its class? I’m not fully convinced. However, if you’re a fan of Lexus products, you’ll surely like this one.

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