Tony O'Kane | May 16, 2012 | 1 Comment

2012 LEXUS GS 450h REVIEW

 

Overview

Less than six weeks after launching the impressive GS 250 and GS 350 range in Australia, Lexus has added a new member to its large car family - the fuel-efficient GS 450h flagship.

It’s the second generation GS hybrid, and - in the absence of a V8-powered model - it’s not only the thriftiest GS variant, but also the fastest.

It’s also now substantially cheaper, with the base grade GS 450h Luxury’s $99,900 pricetag undercutting the old model (which was only available in a single spec) by a whopping $26,814.

Even the range-topping 2012 GS 450h Sport Luxury is just under $5000 cheaper.

Lexus Australia has high hopes for its new hybrid sedan - its hybrid models account for around 35 percent of all Lexus sales here.

In the RX range of SUVs the RX 400h hybrid accounts for some 33 percent of sales. Lexus Australia boss Tony Cramb told TMR that it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect a similar volume split for the GS 450h.

With the non-hybrid 2012 GS range recording 57 sales in its first full month in showrooms (enough to put it in third place behind the E-Class and 5 Series), that means Lexus could see between 15 and 20 GS 450hs finding new owners each month.

In a small volume segment, that start by the new GS will at least have Benz and BMW sitting up and taking notice.

 

The Interior

Like the GS 250 and GS 350 ranges, the GS 450h is available in three model grades - Luxury, F Sport and Sport Luxury.

The spec sheet has been fattened up, and features like a blind-spot monitor, active HID headlamps, powered and heated seats, paddle shifters, keyless entry/ignition, Bluetooth, a head-up display, sunroof and digital radio tuner are standard on every GS 450h model.

With the mid-grade GS 450h F Sport, auto high-beam and all-speed active cruise control are standard, while the full-featured GS 450h Sports Luxury gets a massive 12.3 inch LCD infotainment display, 20-way adjustable front seats, tri-zone climate control, heated rear seats, a 17-speaker Mark Levinson audio system and LED headlamps.

2012 lexus gs 450h australia 17

It’s good value, then.

In terms of the actual interior fit-out, there’s not a whole lot to differentiate the hybrid from the GS 250 and 350.

Yes, there’s a new instrument cluster than incorporates an economy display (which niftily transforms into a tachometer when the car is put in Sport mode), but the only other obvious differences are an EV mode button on the centre console and the absence of a leather gaiter on the gear shifter.

Elsewhere, it’s familiar GS surroundings. Compared to the previous-gen GS, the new 450h has 30mm more front headroom, 25mm more rear headroom and 20mm more rear legroom.

It’s a spacious cabin, and with dual electric front seats it’s easy to get comfortable. The 20-way power adjustable buckets of the Sports Luxury are particularly cosseting, and every model gets both heated and ventilated front seats.

The back seat is not wanting for legroom, but a relatively high hip-point means taller backseaters might find headroom a little tight. That aside, the GS’ rear cabin is a wonderfully nice place to be, regardless of which grade you choose.

Cabin quality is, in a word, faultless, as is fit and finish.

The previous GS had a lot of Toyota carryover in many of its its cabin fittings. The new GS however comes with all-new switchgear that significantly elevates the interior’s feeling of exclusivity.

The only fly in this ointment however is the steering-wheel mounted cruise control stalk. Give it up already, Lexus.

While the hybrid’s passenger compartment is broadly the same as its petrol-only stablemates, the same can’t be said of the boot.

The hybrid powertrain’s high-voltage battery is housed in the boot, directly behind the rear seats. Not only does luggage capacity drop from 530 litres to 465 litres as a result, but the presence of the battery means the ski port is deleted.

However, even though its boot is smaller than the rest of the GS range, a new stacked battery design means the 2012 GS 450h can pack in 145 litres more cargo than the previous model.

 

On The Road

The combined output of the GS 450h’s 3.5 litre petrol V6 and electric-drive motors totals 254kW, with the electric motors delivering 275Nm of torque around 2000rpm and the petrol engine producing 352Nm at 4800rpm.

It’s broadly the same 2GR-FXE engine that saw service in the old GS 450h, but a suite of enhancements have seen efficiency improved by 20 percent, without any drop in performance.

A CVT automatic transmission channels the combined grunt to the rear wheels. It works: when the accelerator is floored, the GS 450h delivers a substantial shove in the back.

Lexus says it’ll hit 100km/h from standstill in 5.9 seconds. That's only 0.1 of a second faster than the GS 350, but nonetheless impressive when you consider the hybrid is some 170kg heavier than the petrol-only GS.

There’s plenty of low-down torque to help move this 1910kg sedan, much of it supplied by the electric motor. That torque is delivered seamlessly throughout the rev range too - a trick that modern turbodiesels haven’t quite mastered - and the sheer width of the torque band gives the 450h excellent tractability.

The CVT gearbox is unique to the GS 450h. It features six pre-set ratios for manual gear selection but is better when left to its own devices - manual shifts are painfully slow.

There’s some lag to the CVT’s kickdown performance though; it can be caught out when driven enthusiastically.

That said, around town and on the highway the CVT is smooth, quiet and doesn’t put a foot wrong in ratio selection. (We'd rank it alongside Nissan’s X-Tronic gearbox as one of the best CVTs around.)

The GS 450h’s well-sorted powertrain and drivetrain is married to an equally competent chassis; but there’s no getting around the fact that this is a very heavy car.

Where the GS 350 F Sport feels lithe and agile around a corner, the GS 450h F Sport is more sluggish in response.

And, though it has the same trick rear-steer hardware, it doesn’t feel as keen to change direction.

But that's not to say it’s sloppy. Body roll is nicely controlled, and the big GS has a premium composure over rougher tarmac.

2012 lexus gs 450h australia 06

The ride is a little fussy on small, high-frequency undulations and corrugations, but out on the highway this is a very comfortable car.

Tyre roar is a little evident on coarse asphalt, but other forms of noise, vibration and harshness are well suppressed.

As for the all-important fuel economy? We managed to average 8.0 l/100km on a test route that involved some enthusiastic runs over mountain roads, with no attempted hypermiling.

Not bad for a heavy luxury car, and - considering the kind of driving it was subjected too - not terribly far from the factory claim of 6.3 l/100km

 

First Drive Verdict

Lexus Australia expects sales of the new GS 450h to far surpass its predecessor; we’d be surprised if they didn’t.

Besides being a very well-sorted product, it’s priced competitively against its turbodiesel competitors (Audi A6, BMW 530d, Mercedes E 350 CDI) and it has a significant head start against incoming hybrid competition - namely the BMW Active 5, Mercedes E 400 Hybrid and Infiniti M35h.

The new Lexus GS 450h is good value, solidly built, spacious, comfortable and a decent drive. The fact that it’s also pretty fuel efficient is a nice bonus.

Stay tuned for TMR’s full review of the GS 450h.

 

Pricing

  • GS 450h Luxury - $99,900
    GS 450h Luxury + Enhancement pack $103,400
  • GS 450h F Sport - $111,900
    F Sport + Enhancement pack $116,900
  • GS 450h Sports Luxury - $121,900

Note: prices are Manufacturer's List Price and do not include dealer delivery.

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