Lexus (via parent company Toyota) has been providing the auto industry with production model hybrid vehicles longer than most and with greater ferocity, and, under most circumstances, we do not associate hybrid vehicles being much more than “eco-friendly” or “miserly” – we certainly keep from allowing our imaginations wander anywhere near “sporty.”
That all changed with the introduction of the Lexus GS450h luxury hybrid sport sedan. This was the first real hybrid vehicle that put all of that great and clean power to the rear tires where driving enthusiasts agree it belongs.
Sure, there have been semi-all-wheel-drive SUVs from Toyota and Lexus but never rear-drive only prior to the GS model hybrid. I believe Lexus got it right straight out of the starting gate with the GS450h – it packs quite a punch while still offering everything their sport luxury GS platform has become known for.
Perhaps best of all is that the hybrid version of the GS sedan produces about the same power output as the gas-only V-8 version. The hybrid synergy drive system, comprised of a 3.5-liter V-6 gasoline engine and a permanent-magnet electric motor, team up to deliver some 340 horses to the rear rubber. Switch off the traction control and you see that power in all its glory.
Lexus performed a makeover on the GS lineup when they introduced the hybrid version in 2006, giving the platform new engines, styling upgrades that introduced the Lexus “L-Finesse” design strategy and added content. The hybrid powertrain gives consumers three choices now on the GS platform – GS350, GS460 and GS450h.
As will all hybrid vehicles, the new technology comes at a premium, in this case about a $3,500 premium over the gas-only GS460.
Why spring for the hybrid when the V-8 gas model is cheaper? For many it is about conscience and image and the hybrid version would pacify both. (One sneaky little fact you can keep from your “go green” friends is that the GS450h actually accelerates faster 0-60 mph than its V-8 counterpart.)
The GS450h feels like a real sport sedan should when you hit the accelerator pedal – instant power to the pavement. Most Toyota and Lexus vehicles I have tested have this little pause between the moment I step on the gas pedal and when the vehicle reacts. It’s barely perceptible but it’s there. The hybrid – by its nature – responds instantaneously. Coolness abounds and endorphines are stimulated.
Strict to its Lexus lineage the new GS450h comes complete with just about every amenity one would need (and not need) in a mobile environment. Above and beyond the usual power accessories and leather interior environment, the GS450h is offered with the premium Mark Levinson audio system as well as latest-generation navigation system with bluetooth and voice-activation capabilities topped off by Lexus Enform and Destination Assist.
The GS450h rides on sporty Z-rated 18-inch tires mounted on stylish five-spoke wheels. The headlight system is not only high-intensity discharge type but features dynamic self-leveling and adaptive technology to peak into turns.
Lexus’ standard Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM) system incorporates such technologies as vehicle stability control, ABS, brake assist and traction control. We got the opportunity to test VDIM on gasoline version GS models and this system works like a champ. On water-soaked asphalt we were able to steer our way clear of any obstacles and bring the vehicle to a stable halt.
Being of the hybrid variety, the new GS also brings fuel savings as well as cleaner tailpipe emissions, two more items in the plus column if considering a new vehicle purchase.
This GS hybrid model is every bit as comfortable and smooth as a gasoline version GS and the hybrid powertrain just adds a sense of environmental responsibility to the list of “warm fuzzies” when you take delivery of the GS450h.
Pricing begins at $57,450 with our tester coming in at a tick over 60 grand. Fuel economy figures for the new hybrid luxury sport sedan roll in at 22 mpg city and 25 mpg highway.