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2010 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Review

Lexus GS 450h  (select to view enlarged photo)
2010 Lexus GS 450h

SEE ALSO: Lexus Buyers Guide

"The Lexus GS 450h An Efficient, Luxurious and Likeable Car"

LEXUS GS 450h Hybrid
Performance Luxury Hybrid
By Steve Purdy
Detroit Bureau

Lexus says the GS 450h fits into a genre they call “performance luxury hybrid.” It may be the only one out there, although Mercedes and Infinity are rumored to have comparable models in the pipeline.

What’s the purpose of hybridizing a performance luxury car? Good question. Let’s run some numbers.

What you get, essentially, is the performance of a V8 and the fuel economy of a V6. In order to do that a high-output, permanent-magnet electric drive motor along with all the electronic controls and some extra content is added to the V6 GS. All that stuff adds a little more than $11,000 to the sticker price of the standard V6 and it costs about $2,500 more than the V8 version of the same car. If we calculate fuel savings based on EPA numbers and divide that into cost differential we show a payback period of about 11 years when compared to the V8 and 132 years compared to the V6.

So, I guess we can safely say that saving on the cost of fuel is not the reason most folks would have to buy this luxury hybrid. But, what is the selling point, then?

Like many hybrids on the road today, the point is more about making a statement. – a “green” statement, that is. As our European colleague, Henney Hemmes says, “any self-respecting manufacturer now has to have electrics and hybrids in their fleet to establish their green credentials.” Lexus, by the way has hybrid models in nearly every line of cars including the flagship LS and Toyota/Lexus has had hybrids longer than just about any manufacturer. The big Lexus LS600h costs around $111,000 and the least expensive Lexus hybrid, the HS250h, costs about $35,000.

Styling, both outside and in, is conservative but attractive and elegant. Introduced in 2005 at the New York Auto Show, the GS450h looks identical to the regular, rear-wheel drive, gasoline-powered GS sedan. A softly rounded nose leads around to a smooth contour. If you’re one of those folks that think all cars these days look alike, this might be one to which you refer. The side and rear views are dominated by the long slope of the C-Pillar which reaches all the way to the tail – sort of a fast-back design, very much in tune with cars in the luxury class.

Inside, this GS feels rich and opulent if not particularly stylish. Fine quality leather and wood surrounds us. Everything we touch and see, makes us feel like royalty. (Though, I suppose, a real royal would have a driver and be in the back seat.) A couple of niggles need mentioning. The trap door, wherein resides the mirror adjusters and dash light controls, is hidden on the dash left of the steering wheel and behind the multi-purpose stalk, nearly impossible to see from the driver’s position. And, it seems to me that a car of this scale ought to have an analog clock.

And, what’s up with the cruise control? It bumps up and down in 5-mph increments instead of the conventional 1-mph at a time. I couldn’t find anything in the manual to indicate that function is programmable and a query to the Lexus PR office shed no light on the issue.

Standard inside are heated and cooled perforated leather seats, Smart Access (keyless door unlocking) and push button start, rich wood and leather steering wheel, lots of wood trim, power moonroof, dual-zone HVAC, 8 airbags, and everything you would expect from such an upscale car.

Because of the space taken up by the hybrid battery pack we loose about a third of our trunk space. The regular GS has 15.2 cubic-feet of trunk space and the hybrid has just 10.3. If you like to travel by car and need to pack lots of luggage you’ll miss that extra 5 cubic-feet for sure. If this isn’t your traveling car it will probably make little difference.

Thrust is great from this amazing powertrain. Of course, the powertrain is the big news for this car. The standard 3.5-liter V6 is augmented by a high-output, permanent-magnet, electric drive motor integrated between the engine and the CVT (continuously variable transmission). The total output is 340 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque. What that boils down to is a zero-to-60-mph time of just 5.2 seconds for this 4,100-pound car. That’s .2 seconds quicker than the V8-powered GS. All this power comes with admirable fuel economy – again considering the size, complexity and weight of the car – at 22-city and 25-highway. That’s best in class for full-size performance luxury sedans.

Ride and handling are not as tight, quick and firm as the German competitors – for many customers that’s a good thing. Steering is considerably lighter and the ride is a bit softer. Suspension is a double wishbone design in front and multi-link system in the rear with coil springs, gas shocks and stabilizer bars at both ends.

A full compliment of airbags and all the expected chassis dynamics along with Automatic Collision Notification to go with the adaptive cruise control keeps the GS in the safety game.

The basic warranty covers the Lexus for 4 years or 50,000 miles, 5 years of 70,000 miles on the powertrain and 8 years or 100,000 miles on the hybrid components.

The Lexus GS450h is an efficient, luxurious and likeable car. If your interest is in making a statement about your ecological credentials, and you really like the thrilling acceleration of a V8, and you have relatively deep pockets, this might be your only choice right now. But judging from the Geneva Auto Show and other tidbits of news around the industry there may soon be serious competitors.

ęSteve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved