From £31,5947
New hybrid plugs the gap in the current GS range as a credible alternative to frugal German diesel execs; but GS300h fails to offer any driver engagement

Our Verdict

The Lexus GS has been injected with a few ounces of sportiness, making it a left-field contender in the mid-size exec category

  • First Drive

    Lexus GS300h first drive review

    New hybrid plugs the gap in the current GS range as a credible alternative to frugal German diesel execs; but GS300h fails to offer any driver engagement
  • First Drive

    Lexus GS 450h Luxury

    Efficient, quiet and luxurious, the Lexus GS offers a refreshing alternative to a default-choice diesel-power German executive car
4 December 2013

What is it?: 

The missing link in the GS range.

Until now, Lexus’s E-segment saloon had been without a BIK-friendly car capable of competing with the ultra efficient diesel-engined offerings of the Big Three at the critical business end of the market. The GS300h rectifies that oversight, and, in doing so, turns the model from novelty also-ran into genuine contender. 

Why? Because its second hybrid now has the right combination of numbers to compete. With the far more frugal powertrain already seen in the IS300h now aboard, the GS’s efficiency figures shift from 141g/km CO2 and 46.3mpg combined (in the 450h) to, at best, 109g/km and 60.1mpg. 

Taken at face value, those numbers are already brushing up against the best. Factor in the way in which oil burner’s are penalised in the BIK equation, and the cost of ownership benefit is compelling. Opt for the new entry-level SE trim car at a deliberately cut rate of £31,440, and you’ll be sitting in the class-leading premium cash saver.

Away from the headline gouger - complete with cloth upholstery, smaller 17-inch wheels and no sat-nav - the range does rear up a bit in price. It’s an additional £6k for the likely biggest-selling Luxury model, and a full £10,250 to the F Sport tested here. Prettier 19-inch alloys inevitably mean the vital statistics suffer, but at 115g/km and 56.5mpg, the GS is still ahead (or beneath?) the bulk of its rivals. 

What's it like?: 

No matter what flavour it’s offered up in, Toyota’s smooth, soulless hybrid powertrain does have a habit of utterly leveling a car’s dynamic identity.

Every single manoeuvre begins and ends with a very gentle background whine, like a milk float heard turning around two streets away from under a duvet. In between it is a model of eerie synthesis; blending hushed combustion with the waft of frictionless nickel-metal charge. 

The tandem to and fro, in the GS300h’s case, is between Toyota’s unremarkable 178bhp 2.5-litre four-pot and a 141bhp electric motor, but, as ever, it’s the planetary gear set in the hybrid’s ingenious transaxle that deals out and ultimately defines the delivery. Seamlessly refined on the one hand, intractably remote on the other; the result is quiet, efficient and unashamedly charm free. 

A combined output of 220bhp makes for a claimed 0-62mph time of 9.2 seconds - slower than most of its direct rivals, although just about swift enough to make the GS feel brisk when needs be. As with the IS, much pedal pushing is required to access real gusto; 85 per cent of the accelerator’s travel is unjoined-up calf flexor, having little or nothing to do with your expectations. 

What the 300h would prefer, and where it’s best - and, to be fair, why you’ll have bought it - is the conscientious extraction of miles from its petrol tank and battery capacity. Endeavour to keep the car in Eco (one of five drive settings in the F Sport), or better yet, EV mode, and breeze along with it, and it’ll evaporate corporate stress as readily as anything. 

Certainly that’s the attitude of the GS’s default handling posture. The proficient if occasionally pimply ride quality remains, as does the embalmed steering sensation, but you’ll get along fine with both in normal running.

Sport and Sport + modes ramp up drivetrain responsiveness and petrify damper function in the pursuit of more vigorous poise. Neither will ramp up your enjoyment of the car. 

Should I buy one?: 

Not if you want unending invigoration and driver reward, clearly. But those are unusual commodities in a hybrid and rarer still in anything hailing from Lexus (excluding its momentous fray into supercar construction). Potentially that works in the GS300h’s favor; it is a model obviously meant to appeal to the bottom line of your pay cheque, and not coming from a brand renowned for immoderate flair, a dearth of dynamic talent is unlikely to hinder its success. 

Align your priorities correctly, and the car is virtually a no-lose prospect, particularly in its base SE format. Fantastically well built, aggressively chiselled, pleasantly appointed, superbly quiet and nicely low volume, the GS300h has all the usual Lexus attributes, and now the numbers for it to make commercial sense. For some, that will be all the recommendation required.

Lexus GS 300h F Sport

Price £41,745; 0-62mph 9.2sec; Top speed 119mph; Economy 56.5mpg (combined); CO2 115g/km; Kerb weight 1830kg; Engine 4 cyls, 2494cc petrol, 141bhp electric motor; Power 178bhp at 6000rpm (220bhp combined); Torque na; Gearbox E-CVT

Join the debate

Comments
19

289

4 December 2013
another piece of boring Japanese junk. To be honest, apart from the ridiculous new corporate nose, it doesn't look that different from the GS 15 years ago. I guess if you put BIK before pleasure of ownership and dynamism this is what you get. Serves you right. Should please the accountants among us though!

4 December 2013
Another article with negative bias towards a Japanese brand , how come that the GS has won the comparison tests in US magazines yet in the UK is branded as un-engaging to drive? One thing that also always is talked about a lot in Autocar reviews is this image of Lexus being bland-well first of all if you are lucky to sit in one every day you surely will enjoy the comfort and quality of such a vehicle and the last thing you'll want to do is drive it around like a Caterham on the track, completely pointless review really. This is a great car with superb comfort, excellent specification and class leading reliability and customer service-yet somehow that doesn't enter Autocar's 3.5 star rating? Personally I have one any day over the rattly diesel equivalent of an BMW 5-series/Audi A6 or Mercedes E-class-only the Jaguar XF stands out as a great alternative (but no hybrid).

CROmagnon

289

4 December 2013
......because they are easily pleased...look at the quality of the home grown rubbish, this must look like a Rolls Royce to them! Oh and it epitomises bland....that's why they sell in such small numbers in Europe and the UK.

4 December 2013
...actually the GS 250 beat the BMW 520i, Audi A6 2.0 TFSI and the Mercedes E200 in various tests including the Drive magazine... as for bland the Audi A6 must be the blandest of them all, all this executive saloons appeal to a very conservative clientele so I don't get your point-the GS to me doesn't look any more bland than any of its rivals to be honest-but I'm not a badge snob ...

CROmagnon

5 December 2013
[quote=Cromagnon]excellent specification and class leading reliability and customer service- (but no hybrid).[/quote] I think you have just described a Miele washing machine. Yes, European testers don't rate Lexus, but there are other things at play. European roads have bends, prestige and brand heritage count for a lot and even though it may be well assembled, Europeans prefer european finishes and aren't bowled over by Japanese plastics or trims. American buyers on the other hand are grateful for anything that isn't American (awful to drive, unreliable and even worse interiors). OK generalising here but when you don't have bends in a road, why would you spend an extra $20,000 on a BMW?

4 December 2013
Given what people want out of a CoCar (prestige badge, but minimal costs) this deserves to do very well. Personally i think we miss out by only getting Hybrids now. The normal V6 appears to have been dropped for this, and we never got the more enjoyable models anyway (not that they would have sold many)

4 December 2013
.......in a very good sense. I see this as a replacement for the basic 4 cylinder Mercs of impeccable build quality like my old W123 230E. High quality, comfortable and not ostentatious like the tat-laden dodgy bling mobiles that Merc peddles these days.

5 December 2013
[quote=Clarkey].......in a very good sense. I see this as a replacement for the basic 4 cylinder Mercs of impeccable build quality like my old W123 230E. High quality, comfortable and not ostentatious like the tat-laden dodgy bling mobiles that Merc peddles these days.[/quote] You speak a lot of sense. I miss the genuine qualities of the W123, W124 and even 190. Sadly they are targeting the Nouveau Riche all too often with the current product. The only downside to your point s owning a Lexus for 20 years....

4 December 2013
Please lexus bring back the 3.5v6 - I know we live in the uk - but not everyone wants a cvt gearbox, not everyone is massivly bothered by co2 emissions. Please just update the 2.5 v6 petrol engine - its been going since 2005! With me doing only 6k miles a year a diesel is not high on my agenda. I maybe the minority but one of the onl y main choices I have are mazda 6, ford mondeo (2.0 ecoboost) and insignia and all the german marks (which are everywhere and I don't want!)

4 December 2013
OK, Nic may not like the GS much, but at least he seems to understand the hybrid drive-train and didn't fall into the trap of calling it a CVT. The pros and cons of how it drives were fairly summed up too, I thought. Hats off to him for that. I kind of agree that the German rivals will be more interesting and involving to drive, but that isn't the be all and end all for everyone. I'd have a GS300h without hesitation over a 520d or E220 cdi any day.

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