Lexus has delivered its 2nd generation petrol/electric powered GS hybrid the 450h. Pricing starts at just 50 quid under €60K for the entry level Executive model. This version is well equipped but if you have deeper pockets the F-Sport gets more toys (€72,950) while the Premium gets everything bar the kitchen sink thrown in for €76,250. GS450h it is clearly a substantial purchase that has to be justified against excellent alternatives from the likes of Audi, BMW, Mercedes Benz and Jaguar.
The exterior is freshened up, less rounded and generally smarter looking. This new styling delivers a far more European-looking luxury car. GS450h is now more purposeful especially when specified in ‘F Sport’ trim. The front end is very angular and impressively aggressive while remaining true to the GS’s original shape. The grille is dominated proudly by the now famous ‘L’ badge, while below the bumper line the grille is more pronounced and menacing (in a good way of course).
Inside GS, fit and finish is top class. The cabin is a very comfortable place to be and for high mileage users the standard 12-speaker Mark Levinson audio system makes a joyous sound that simply shrinks journey times but get this, ‘Premium’ buyers get a 17-speaker version - that is just showing off! The big news, thanks to better packaging of the battery system is boot size that is now 60% bigger! This is a massive improvement. Another significant addition is a version of BMW’s iDrive controller – although Lexus won’t like the comparison. The mouse-like controller sits under the driver’s left hand and can be palm or fingertip operated. Initially I found it tricky to operate precisely and was more than a little frustrated at times trying to select various entertainment or vehicle settings. After a few hours, as with most things, I became more proficient with the controller’s use but it needs more work.
Petrol power with 450h is delivered by a creamy 3.5 litre V6 that pushes out 292bhp/352nm. 0-100km/h takes just 5.9 seconds in the rear wheel drive car. The push in your back under hard acceleration is very impressive in the 450h thanks to the combination of extra 200bhp/275nm delivered from the electric motor. A number of driving modes and gearbox (CVT automatic) modes are available to the driver to allow for greater control over the dynamic driving experience. Ultimately the question enthusiastic drivers are bound to ask is can the GS450h be as good a driver’s car as the equivalent 5 Series. I’d have to say I’d have more fun on the track in a Beemer, particularly as the CVT automatic gearbox, even in Sport+ mode isn’t that sporty. However in the real world the Lexus does so many things effortlessly well that it makes a strong case for itself.
Lexus made a decision long ago to go the hybrid route and sadly without a diesel GS to go head to head with the dominant BMW520d Lexus cannot compete in the sales charts against the volume selling Bavarian. The GS 450h is green though as the entry car sits in tax band B, while F-Sport and Premium fall into band C – that’s impressive for such a powerful car. GS450h is an exclusive luxury machine that offers an alternative to the usual German luxury suspects that dominate the sector.