Road test: Even the trees are smiling at Lexus GS450h

The Lexus GS 450h hybrid drive train.
The Lexus GS 450h hybrid drive train.

TALKING the talk seems to be the preferred option over walking the walk.

Going green is often at the forefront of discussions nowadays, but while we've embraced solar, recycling and various other environmentally friendly initiatives, enthusiasm for the mechanical greenie are being shunned.

Research has found buyers like the idea of environmentally conscious offerings yet when it comes to the showroom they don't want to sacrifice the power or convenience of traditional drivetrains.

But the tide is slowly turning. We've seen increased availability of electric vehicles as the motoring world looks toward a life without oil.

The Lexus GS450h is a fine example of new and old technologies working in tandem.

While boasting impressive performance abilities, this hybrid has a five-star rating from the government's green vehicle guide with fuel consumption figures to rival a compact hatch.

Sitting atop the GS range, it's not cheap - not unlike other environmentally friendly offerings currently available.

This GS line-up is a much-improved product and a quick stint behind the wheel is testament you don't need to sacrifice performance for saving the planet one drive at a time.

Comfort

There is some "wow" factor within the hybrid GS cabin. Our test machine was in range-topping Sports Luxury trim and it provided a refreshing change from the bland black colour schemes we often find in luxury sedans.

With brilliant bamboo-coloured wood trim, extra-wide colour screen, stitched leather dash and an analogue clock create a wonderfully plush environment.

Up front the driver and passenger enjoy comfy seats, which have cooling and heating features, along with good head room and plenty of useful spaces.

The pilot's seat automatically moves back and the steering wheel drops into the dash to allow for simple entry and access.

Those in the back also get their own controls for seat heating and air-conditioning, but leg room can be limited for adults if those up the front are lanky. Lexus has continued with its mouse-style operation system, which is easy to use and find the various menus, but it does take some concentration to get the cursor into the right spot.

On the road

Easy to drive and beautifully quiet, the GS450h is an impressive package.

While steering can sometimes feel lifeless with limited feel, the hybrid drivetrain boasts a savage side with outstanding punch from standstill.

The battery packs and associated technology contribute to a hefty kerb weight, which limits the GS' ability to be thrown around like a sports car, but it still possesses ample grip and is well balanced.

You can switch between various driving modes, including Economy, Normal, Sport or Sport+.

Turn the dial on the console and it makes changes to the suspension, steering, engine response and the continuously variable transmission.

The sporting modes are particularly fun and Sport+ even magically introduces a tachometer to the digital gauges.

For those wanting to take control there are paddle shifters for manual style gear shifts.

In all conditions the GS soaks up the bumps well and travels in near silence.

Depending on acceleration it can run purely on battery power but in most cases the engine and electric motor work in tandem.

What do you get?

The Sports Luxury trim leaves little need for the options list. With features such as 10 airbags, stability control, parking sensors, reversing camera, blind-spot monitors, power heated/cooled front seats, keyless start, satellite navigation, CD/MP3 sound system, Bluetooth, sunroof and alloy wheels all standard, it's the kind of kit that costs you many thousands more on European equivalents.

Other options

A new hybrid player comes in the form of the Infiniti M ($99,900), and there is also the BMW Active Hybrid 5 ($122,900), while other fuel efficient diesels worth considering are the Jaguar XF 3.0D Premium Luxury ($112,500), Audi A6 3.0 TDI ($116,500) and the Mercedes-Benz E350 CDI ($136,485).

Practicality

The boot is much bigger than its predecessor and a useful 465 litres, although the battery positioning does encroach on space and means the rear seats can't fold.

Storage spaces are good up front, including two cup holders that can accommodate bottles, and easy access to the 12V socket and USB port.

Running costs

For a car of this size and with an ability to sprint from 0-100kmh in under six seconds, the average fuel economy figure is impressive. We achieved slightly higher than the claimed 6.3 litres but not far off.

Servicing can be expensive, but you're covered by a four-year 100,000km warranty and Lexus has an impressive buyer program.

Funky factor

It's executive styling at its best, nothing outlandish from the outside. Within the cabin it's pure luxury with an opulent ambience... the wood trim is something special, and looks great on the steering wheel.

The lowdown

Bragging rights have changed nowadays. Features and fuel efficiency trump displacement and quarter mile times. Yet the hybrid GS remains a solid driving package with brilliant performance credentials, all wrapped in silk. We loved the bamboo-colour interior of the test car...rather un-Lexus in its styling.

It may not be running on water and pumping out clean oxygen, but it's a toe in greener waters.

Vital statistics

Model: Lexus GS450h Sports Luxury.

Details: Four-door rear-wheel drive large luxury sedan.

Engine: 3.5-litre V6 plus electric motor generating maximum power of 254kW @ 6000rpm and peak torque of 352Nm @ 4500rpm.

Transmission: Continuously variable automatic.

Consumption: 6.3 litres/100km (combined average).

CO2: 147g/km.

Performance: 0-100kmh in 5.9 seconds.

Bottom line: $121,900.

Topics:  cars, lexus, motoring, road test



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