One little letter can do a whole lot for a vehicle. While it may seem miniscule, subtle and quiet, the lowercase “h” has been transforming Lexus products for years and it doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon. Without that “h”, the GS sedan is sporting, sharp, quick and powerful. It carries the kind of elegant strength that can make a BMW 5-Series quiver in fear and a Mercedes-Benz E-Class run back to Germany. For decades, the GS has been the bad-boy of the Lexus line up and was once pictured on the cover of Motor Trend Magazine obliterating its rear tires. In 2007 however, the namesake spawned a model so revolutionary and different that an entirely new segment was born. Instead of hurtling towards an apex completely sideways, the GS Hybrid coasted towards a destination with a kind of sophisticated efficiency thought not to exist. Now that a new generation is here, the little “h” is once again calming down the Japanese sports sedan. Enter the 2013 Lexus GS450h.
In conventional form, the all-new GS sedan is right on par with the rest of the middle ground sports sedan world. It is rear drive, puts out smooth but potent power and uses a tuned suspension set up. On paper, there really is no difference between a GS350 and a Mercedes-Benz E350 and for good reason. When a formula is proven, you simply don’t mess with it. Even still, Lexus isn’t one to just sit back and watch and in 2007, they changed the sports sedan game for ever. When the hybrid version of the third generation GS sedan was launched, it was the first of its kind and soon after, the best from around the world followed suit. What that Lexus proved was that rear drive, sharp suspension, heated leather seats, navigation and high output powerplants don’t have to combine to be inefficient.
To find out just how much a letter can change a car, we got behind the wheel of a 2013 Lexus GS450h. Base MSRP for the new car is $58,950 which is $12,000 more than a base GS350 but a couple grand less than the BMW ActiveHybrid 5. Standard features include items such as automatic wipers, HID headlamps with LED daytime running lights, perforated leather interior, heated steering wheel, dual zone automatic climate control, satellite radio with iTunes tagging and power rear sunshades. To make our tester complete, the $5,205 Luxury Package with 18 inch wheels, adaptive headlamps, 18-way power front seats and three-zone climate control was included. For $1,380, the Mark Levinson 17 speaker audio system was installed while the HDD Navigation and Intuitive Park Assist packages added $1,735 and $500 respectively. In total and with destination charge, our GS450h held an asking price of $68,645.
Anyone interesting in buying a 450h surely won’t be so due to the heated leather as this car’s most prominent features can be found underneath. A continuation of Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive, the Lexus utilizes some rather interesting pieces of automotive technology. For its “conventional” power, an all-new Atkinson cycle gasoline engine is present. Displacing 3.5 liters, the DOHC V6 uses direct and port injection combined with the unique delayed valve timing of the cycle to produce 286 horsepower. Instead of one, the GS uses two electric motors for hybrid assistance with one operating as a motion helper and the other working with the accessories. To keep the motors in check, a nickel-metal hydride battery pack supplies the juice while a unique power control unit mitigates the output. Putting the powertrain’s combined 338 horsepower to the ground is a CVT with various drive modes ranging from Sport Plus to EV.
Oddly enough, with the current lack of a V8 powered variant, the 450h is the most powerful GS on the market. Even so, the added weight of the hybrid system and the CVT’s nature makes the “h” slower than the regular 350 as 60 mph comes up from a stop in just a hair under six seconds. Smashing the gas from a red light brings the engine up to its peak power range: right around 6,000 rpms and holds true. With no bang-bang gear changes and far too many catalytic converters, the 450h sounds less than enthusiastic but is by no means trashy. In fact, it’s quiet and oh-so-smooth and if driven below 40 mph, the engine actually makes no noise at all because it’s simply off. Full EV mode can stay activated if driven softly enough which gives the GS exceptionally solid MPG ratings. In the city, the heavy-weight four door luxury sedan can average 29 mpg and 34 mpg on the highway. If driven like a hypermiler, the 450h could surely break past 30 mpg around town, making it one of the most efficient luxury landyachts on the market today.
Just like the other 2013 GS we tested, the 450h is a big-time improvement over the third generation model, especially in terms of ride and handling. The suspension geometry is all-new and wider to boot. With a rear multi-link and a front double A-arm set up, the heavy “h” doesn’t actually feel heavy at all. With numerous drive modes, the car can quickly stiffen up its dampers and steering while amping up the throttle to boost enthusiasm. Even in Sport Plus mode, the GS is never harsh or intrusive but it could be a bit more clear in its actions. Perhaps a tad distant, the Hybrid really isn’t set up like the 350 F-Sport we tested earlier and thus, feels much more comfortable cruising around. While it can hustle, the GS450h really doesn’t want to.
With the 350 in place and a rumored h0t-rod GS in the works, the 450h is on this planet to serve a different purpose. It isn’t meant to be entry-level, it isn’t meant to be sideways and it isn’t meant to cheap. While it may be a Hybrid, it isn’t meant to be stingy either but instead, the Lexus is a whole different kind of car. Inside is every piece of luxury you could ever hope for (albeit with extra cost packages) and each and every inch of material feels as good as, well, a Lexus. The navigation is straight forward and clear, the gauges are handsome and the seats are very comfortable for all types of passengers. This is a Lexus through-and-through with no if, ands or buts about it. The imperfections regarding the 450h have nothing really to do with its build quality but are more centered around its personality. This isn’t the kind of car for track days, mountain runs or drift sessions and even though it shares DNA with a sedan that is, the “h” really isn’t a sports sedan. It is however the most efficient way to take your luxury penthouse on the road. No longer are heated leather seats and navigation systems synonymous with pigish economy. With precise moves, vault like construction, world-class luxury and entry-level efficiency, the 2013 Lexus GS450h is a completely new kind of car.
Photos: © Copyright 2012 Ossamah Shabbir
Related Topic Tags
- 2013, 2013 Lexus GS450h Review, 450h, GS, GS450h, hybrid, Hybrid Reviews, Lexus, Lexus Reviews, Toyota
Discuss this and other Auto news in our Car Forums
- Dk 9000 rust module
- New Rebate for all cars
- 2008 Nissan Armada - Shaking & Tire Wear
- Marks Start Of Acura CSX
- how fast is acura tsx 2008 in 0-60?
- Acura RSX - Integra Again
- $100 back when you test drive and buy
- problems w/ blower
- Ford Parts
- How can I get a hold of potential buyers for my car via the internet?
- Cheap Limo Orange County
- i want to buy a car. what should i get for my first?
- Ford's new Mondeo
- 2014 Buick Regal