Lexus GS450h Review Long Term Update
OK, I know it’s a hybrid, which are supposed to be all about improved fuel economy and less harmful emissions and all that, but with a rocket launching 275Nm of instant torque on tap from the millisecond you drill the throttle (meaning from zero rpm), the GS450h accelerates with silly amounts of giddy-up.
And it keeps on going too until the needle hits 4800 rpm and then you’ve got all 368 Newton-metres pulling for you. It’s impressive stuff from what is essentially a 3.5-litre V6, with a little assistance from an electric motor.
With this much high-tech grunt at your beckon disposal, anytime, anywhere, queue jumping at the lights becomes standard practice, especially when you know that only the first three cars will make it through some of those infuriating intersections.
Despite being addicted to this kind of hybrid power, and who wouldn’t be? I was equally keen to better my 11.9-litres/100km (urban kilometers only) with a trip to the NSW State Nippers Titles at Swansea Belmont with my eight year-old daughter, luggage included.
That said the Sydney to Newcastle F3 Freeway is a quality piece of tarmac and I wasn’t about to coast along at anything less than the maximum speed limit, which oddly enough, seems to change every few kilometers for reasons I can’t quite fathom.
After an hour of whisper quiet cruising, the computer had calculated fuel consumption at 8.3-litres/100km, which I hasten to add, included more than a few overtaking maneuvers along the way.
Better still, on our return journey with even more traffic back to Sydney, fuel consumption was reduced to a thoroughly commendable 7.8l/100km due to slightly lower speeds, but you’ll have to trust me on that, as we forgot to snap a shot of that particular read out.
You’ve got to remember that the Lexus GS450h fights in the super heavyweight division, tipping the scales at just over 1900 kilograms, which when you consider its unusual mix of performance and fuel efficiency, is nothing short of extraordinary.
But that’s the whole idea with this particular hybrid; you get sizzling V8 power along with warp speed inducing torque, while consuming no more fuel than a feisty V6 petrol car.
My only bugbear with this vehicle relates to the electric power steering, I’m still not sold on it, especially when compared to the driver feedback and feel; you get from hydraulic power assistance.
To be fair though, the Lexus system employed on the GS450h is known as Variable Gear Ratio Steering (VGRS) and while it’s a quick response setup and there’s plenty of weight from dead centre, it just doesn’t feel as natural as some hydraulic units.
Suspension wise though, its well sorted, with a nice balance between comfort and body control, particularly when you moving quickly along a winding stretch.
In fact, once you switch from the “Sport” suspension setting from “comfort” mode, you can push the car hard into corners without a whole lot of body roll, despite the hybrid’s substantial weight.
Apart from the usual luxury kit we’ve come to expect as standard equipment in a Lexus (that’s any Lexus – they rewrote the Rolls Royce book on build quality and luxury) I’ve discovered several features, which might seem insignificant to many, but make all the difference to me.
It’s the ultra thick pile carpet, which feels positively luxurious on bare feet after a swim at the beach, and would be three times the density of what we have in our bedrooms at home.
Or it’s the multitude of super bright LED’s, that light up each and every foot-well in the car, which makes that desperate search for those all-important hairclips and scrunches a dead easy task, especially when you arrive home late at night in the pitch black.
Small things for sure, but it’s this kind of attention to detail, which frequently gets Lexus over the line, in front of some very creditable competition.
At $123,800 (minus sunroof) Lexus manage to cram every conceivable luxury item available to the automotive world into the GS450h, and it still undercuts the German competition by at least several thousand dollars. And that’s without taking into account the cost of options from those other manufacturers or the superior performance to fuel economy ratio of the hybrid against similarly powered petrol cars in this luxury sports segment.
For example, most luxury cars are equipped with seat warmers these days (not what I’d call a welcome option on Sydney scorcher when the mercury hits 40 degrees), but very few offer air-conditioned seats as standard kit, as does the Lexus. It’s become a favourite feature of mine, and something of a necessity on those dreadfully humid days.
I’ve also taken a considerable interest in the overall cabin noise or (NVH) noise, vibration and harshness inside the GS450h, asking myself the question, “Just how quiet is this car?”
It’s absolutely whisper quiet, if not, sound proof inside the cabin.
Each and every window is one touch, open and close, and while that’s pretty much routine these days on most luxury cars priced north of 100 grand, it’s more the fact that you can’t hear them during the opening and closing operation. It’s practically silent, but for a barely audible “sssp” sound.
That’s also your cue to switch on the high-end 14-speaker Mark Levinson audio system, which will sound significantly better than whatever you have at home.
Connection to my iPhone is via a relatively unsophisticated auxiliary plug, but the good news is, that the 2010 model has full iPod integration, which means, you can access all your songs and playlists from the steering wheel controls.
As far as Lexus goes, the GS450h is a midsize car, but I can assure you, that I had five adults in this car on a two-hour journey and all reported the ride was both comfortable and spacious.
It’s the abundance of legroom that surprises me most, given its segment classification.
Overall, the GS450h remains a very easy car to live with as a daily drive and has been utterly problem free although, that’s just something you expect from any car wearing a Lexus badge.
My next report will be from behind wheel of the 2010 model car, which has had somewhat of a front and rear hybrid makeover, as well as several additional safety features and a few interior styling improvements.