The Lexus GS450H is proof that there is such a thing as too much torque. The hybrid system teams up with the 3.5-liter V-6 to produce V-8 levels of power to the tune of 340 horses. The problem is that the accelerator pedal is so sensitive that the torque is available at the slightest — and I mean the slightest — twitch of a toe. That may sound cool, but it’s actually extremely annoying in this Lexus and makes the GS hybrid very difficult to drive smoothly at steady speeds. Surging to 60 mph from a standstill in 5.2 seconds (according to Toyota) is pretty impressive for a largish luxury sedan that’s EPA rated at 22 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway.
The GS’s leather upholstery is extremely nice, too, but I have a hard time appreciating it because the driver’s seat cushion feels, to me, quite flat and unsupportive (like most Lexus vehicles I’ve driven in the past several years). I do like the exterior styling of the GS, particularly the side profile, but I think I liked the styling of the early, nonhybrid GSs, like our Four Seasons 2006 Lexus GS430, slightly better. Like that long-term test car, this one has extremely touchy brakes.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
A few weeks ago I answered the phone here at Automobile Magazine and ended up speaking with a local Ann Arbor retailer who has owned a Lexus GS450h for about six months. He wanted to know why he wasn’t getting fuel economy that matched the EPA ratings. I didn’t really have an answer but suggested that it must be due to his particular driving style and the driving conditions he finds himself in. He was annoyed that his $60,000 rolling environmental statement wasn’t allowing him to make much of an environmental statement. As Rusty Blackwell points out, this hybrid powertrain serves up the torque in spades with only the slightest application of the accelerator pedal, so maybe our friend on the phone has a heavier foot than he thinks.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
Fuel economy concerns aside, this GS450h definitely delivers the Lexus experience. The car is refined, isolated, and comfortable and is a great highway driver. I didn’t have any issues managing the accelerator pedal, but did enjoy the smooth spurts of power that could be called on when desired. While Joe’s story suggests otherwise, I would think Lexus has room to tune this powertrain in favor of a slightly better fuel economy label. Like several other Toyota and Lexus vehicles, I think the GS450h’s center stack looks a bit dated. It is, however, so simple that it may suit Lexus clientele perfectly.
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor
Like my colleagues, I was amazed by the gobs of forward thrust that results from the slightest prodding of the GS450h’s throttle. While all that power makes for quick highway merging, around town it can be a little irritating especially because of the touchy throttle that Rusty mentioned. Like Rusty, I was surprised at how difficult it was to keep a constant speed on the highway. I initially thought that it was the hybrid system turning on and off but then realized that it was the overly sensitive throttle and my apparently unsteady foot causing the speed variations.
The ride and handling tuning leans more toward comfort even with the adjustable suspension switch toggled toward “sport” but that’s no bad thing. It may be more softly sprung than the BMW 5-Series but its still allows for spirited driving and it absolutely melts away rough pavement in true Lexus fashion. To me though, the GSs exterior styling falls a bit short. Although it looks the part of a luxury cruiser, it lacks the style and character of most of its competitors.
Jennifer Misaros, Production Editor
I’m glad Jen mentioned the BMW 5-series, because the GS450h’s fuel economy numbers (22/25) don’t seem that great when you compare them to the 535i. That car (which is now out of production, about to be replaced with a new, more efficient one) manages 17/26-with 300 hp, 300 lb-ft of torque, and no heavy hybrid system to haul around.
And arguably the best driving dynamics in the class.
Let’s also not forget that BMWs typically get better-than-EPA numbers in our hands, while hybrids usually don’t even come close to their numbers. That means in the real world, the 535i probably does just as well as the Lexus-and far better on the highway.
Other than the fake-environmental-statement issue, the GS is a fast, capable, nice-driving sedan. The hybrid system is well enough integrated that it’s often hard to tell what’s working-the engine, the motor, or both. Too bad this car didn’t have the optional stereo, because it’s phenomenal. (As it should be, given its price.) The GS’s biggest flaw remains an almost complete lack of interior illumination. How can a car company engineer such a comprehensively “good” car and forget to light the interior?
Jason Cammisa, West Coast Editor
Base price (with destination): $58,325
Price as tested: $60,590
3.5-liter V-6 engine with electric drive motor
Electronically controlled CVT transmission
Active front headrests
Vehicle stability control (ESP)
Anti-lock brakes (ABS)
Traction control (TC, ASR)
Xenon HID headlamps
Tire pressure monitoring system (TMPS)
Leather trimmed interior
Heated and ventilated front seats
Wood & leather steering wheel & shift knob
Dual power heated outside mirrors
Dual zone automatic climate control
In-dash 6-CD changer
USB/AUX audio jacks
XM satellite radio
Power windows, locks, and trunk
Rear-view backup camera
Power tilt & telescoping steering column
Steering wheel audio controls
Options on this vehicle:
Navigation system — $1665
– Lexus Enform with destination assist
– XM navigation/traffic/sports/weather/stocks
Lexus pre-collision system — $1500
– Dynamic radar cruise control
Key options not on vehicle:
Mark Levinson 14-speaker, 330-watt sound system — $4045
Active power stabilizer suspension system — $8465
EPA Fuel economy:
22 / 25 / 23 mpg
Size: 3.5L V-6 with electric drive motor
Horsepower: 340 hp maximum combined
Torque: 267 lb-ft maximum combined
Electronically-controlled continuously variable (ECVT)
Curb weight: 4134 lb
18-inch alloy wheels
245/45R18 93Y Yokohama Advan A10 performance tires