2013 Lexus GS450h | Road Test
|Good||Handling, Excellent build quality|
|Bad||Cramped interior, heat from batteries seeps into the cabin|
|Specs||3.5L, V6, 1.9kWh Ni-MH, 338hp, 255 lb-ft, E-CVT, RWD|
|Price||AED 295,000 (As Tested)|
A Sporty Hybrid?
Hybrids. There are 2 types of people that buy hybrids. The first are celebrities. They drive around in their hybrids during the day so they can earn some green credentials while they secretly enjoy taking a spin in their gas guzzlers when no one is looking. The second are the tree-hugger kind who actually care about the planet and think by driving a hybrid they are playing their part. Sadly, there aren’t a lot of either type of buyers in the Middle East so for Lexus to have not one but more than one Hybrid cars in their model line up, is rather intriguing.
Let’s face it, the Middle East isn’t exactly Hybrid friendly. The Prius has been around since 1997. That is 16 years for you mathematically challenged petrolheads. And in those 16 years I haven’t met one person that said to me “I wish Toyota sold the Prius here”. That is how appealing a Hybrid is. Hybrids are bought so you can save money on gas and protect mother earth for the future generations. With petrol retailing at AED 1.72 a Litre, trying to offset the initial cost with the savings made on gas will take a lot longer than anywhere else in the world.
As for being kind to the environment, the awareness just isn’t there in our part of the world. The only reason for a Hybrid to sell in the Middle East is the rarity factor. So when Lexus offered us the new 2013 Lexus GS450h for a few days we were keen to find out if it is worth that extra 30 grand over its traditional petrol powered cousin.
The powertrain on the 2013 Lexus GS450h is a 3.5L, V6, direct injection petrol engine working in tandem with a 1.9kWh electric motor that is good for 338 hp and 255 lb-ft of torque combined, mated to a 6 speed CVT. That’s okay, don’t fret. This CVT feels different. On a sports car, these are pretty good numbers. On the GS450h it feels just about right, considering the car weighs 2325kgs (the hybrid adds an extra 135 kgs).
Thanks to the powerful electric motor and the nicely isolated cabin you are not subject to the steady high revving engine noise typical of CVTs that can get very annoying too quickly. Floor the accelerator and the electric motor works in tandem with the petrol counterpart giving a boost in acceleration while the CVT finds the right ratio for optimum acceleration.
With all those added components you can definitely feel the weight of the car when it picks up speed. It is hardly lethargic though, with a 0-100kph time of 5.9 seconds (claimed).
There are 4 drive modes that can be engaged via a rotary selector. Eco mode, Normal, Sport and Sport+.
Eco mode sips the least amount of gasoline while optimizing aircon usage. Throttle response is sedated and revs are kept to a minimum to ensure unnecessary downshifts are avoided. The tachometer is replaced with a dial that shows Charge, Eco and Power signifying whether you are charging the batteries, driving economically or driving with a heavy foot.
In ‘Normal’ mode throttle response was marginally better although the overall feel wasn’t very different. Switch to ‘Sport’ mode and you get a Tachometer and a red glow in the instrument panel. Throttle response is sharper and the steering is tighter making this Japanese luxury a little aggressive. Handling isn’t sports car like but for a sedan that is this big and weighs this much it is brilliant.
One more click to the right and you engage ‘Sport+’ which does all of what Sport does plus makes minor changes to the suspension increasing traction around corners.
Along with the F-sport badging on the car, what you get is 4 wheel steering which does a remarkable job at making the car go exactly where you want it to with confidence. The ride is a little stiff on this mode but never enough to make you feel uncomfortable. Whether you are on your school run during rush hour or on a cruise along the east coast, the drive modes hardly make a difference to your comfort in the well appointed luxurious cabin.
In terms of design, this is probably the first Lexus to breakaway from the old understated boring design to feature a much more aggressive front grill, smoked 19” sport alloys and smoked lamps. +1 to Lexus for sticking JUST 2 badges that say Hybrid on the entire car. All of this still doesn’t give the car enough road presence and it somehow reminds you of a slightly modified IS. It even feels almost the same size!
The modern sharp design carries on to the cabin with a neat looking dash and a classy looking LED illuminated analog clock bang in the middle. This being the F-Sport version, you get the customary F-sport badging on the steering and the carpets. Also in the F-Sport version you get a full leather sports steering minus any wood trim on it. The wood trim in the doors and the dash is replaced with aluminium inserts instead.
The F-Sport also gets a 17 speaker Mark Levinson sound system capable of rivalling your home theatre while the massive 12.3” screen makes you look at it in awe every time you use it. The screen is more than just a looker, the size is perfect to display information in a split screen configuration and the remote touch is an excellent way to access functions without actually reaching out to touch the screen.
Left-handed drivers beware, controlling the mouse like controller with your right hand is going to be a massive challenge. The material is very nice to touch and feels premium, whether it is the leather on the seats or the thick carpets with F-Sport badging. However, the centre console takes up way too much space making it feel slightly cramped on the sides.
Driving position is excellent though and if you can’t find that sweet spot using the 16-way adjustable seat you must be crazy! The centre stack is a little fat and can make it feel a little cramped in the front while the raised transmission tunnel at the back and the raised centre seat makes it impossible to seat more than 4 adults. Legroom is satisfactory and far from what you could classify as Luxurious.
There is a considerable amount of heat that is generated around the centre seat (close to which the batteries are probably stacked) which can make it quite uncomfortable. And this is when it isn’t even proper summer! What was extremely disappointing was the lack of rear climate controls. For a car in this segment that is something that you would take for granted.
Surprisingly there was very little storage space all around the car. The boot can take a decent amount of cargo thanks to the batteries being stacked horizontally.
The GS starts at AED 185,000 for the entry level model with a 2.5L, V6 and goes all the way to AED 295,000 for the all singing all dancing Hybrid version. There is the slightly less powered (and 135kgs lighter) GS350h which comes with the same petrol engine sans the electric motor and is also 30 grand cheaper. If you are after a Lexus GS that might be the one to look at.
So what is the 2013 Lexus GS450h then?
Is it a sports car? Well, It is a hybrid with a CVT, so not really, no. Is it a luxury sedan? Not really. It can only seat 4 adults in a luxurious but not very spacious cabin. The quality of materials is top notch and the quality of hide is absolutely brilliant. But when you fork out AED 295,000 for a luxury sedan these issues are more than just little flaws that you can ignore.
Lexus seem to have got it all confused with the 2013 Lexus GS450h.
They have tried to breakaway from their old underrated image but we’re not sure what they ended up with. It is neither a sporty sedan nor a luxury sedan. It is sort of lost in the process of trying to be someone it isn’t.
To us it seemed like the designers and engineers were constantly battling it out internally as to what to have on the car and what not to. The GS450h is no sports car by any stretch of the imagination. It is however a premium luxury sedan (with more than a few flaws) that handles like a sports car.