The Lexus GS450h might offer plenty of pace and reasonable running costs on paper, but diesel alternatives make more sense

What is it?

Like the rest of the Lexus GS range, the 450h hybrid has received a facelift to bring it in line with the rest of the Lexus lineup. If we’re being kind, we’d say the front is more distinctive than ever although it’s unlikely anyone would consider this an outright attractive car.

Under the skin, things are much the same as before. That means a naturally aspirated Atkinson cycle 3.5-litre V6 coupled to an electric motor and a battery pack. That’s enough for a sub-six second 0-62mph time and emissions of 145g/km.

While that may have been impressive not too long ago, these are figures that can be bettered by the conventionally powered – and similarly priced – BMW 535d. Is there more to it than just the numbers, though?

What's it like?

If there’s one area where the GS450h really scores, it’s refinement. Even the best diesels still have a telltale clatter that is completely absent on the petrol-fuelled Lexus. If that’s not smooth enough then there’s always the car’s party piece; being able to run silently on electricity alone.

Admittedly, this is for only very short periods. Even though the battery pack still eats into the boot space (you get nearly 70 litres extra in a GS F), it’s only good enough for low speeds, downhill sections or very brief bursts. There’s also no option of charging the car from the mains.

Even so, you can feel the effects of the electric motor when the engine is running. Low down torque is augmented effectively, ensuring you get a seamless surge of acceleration from low revs. Overtaking is a painless process and there’s more than enough power to accelerate to motorway speeds with ease.

If you do stick your foot down, you’ll soon notice the type of transmission Lexus employs: the CVT. As with other similar gearboxes, a flattened pedal makes the V6's revs soar and stay there. While it’s not the worst-sounding engine, it does seem a little odd to those used to multiple gearchanges when building speed.

So it’s brisk, but can it live up to the economy claims? Well, it isn’t terrible given the performance on offer, but it is comfortably behind the best diesels on a run. Urban economy will probably be much closer, though. Stop-start driving shows hybrids in their best light, which is why there’s a good chance you’ll see a Prius if you order an Uber.

While the sporty add-ons of F Sport trim may suggest a fun drive, the handling is nothing to write home about. Sure, it’s safe, grippy and the car can be placed precisely, but there’s no fun to be had here. Even though the ride errs on the side of firm, even in it’s comfiest suspension setting, it never feels overly agile and there’s no feedback channelling through the front tyres.

As for the interior, there’s a lot to like but plenty to dislike, too. Material quality is, for the most part, good and the seats are both comfortable and supportive. Unfortunately, it just can’t match the overall ambiance of an Audi or the cohesiveness of a BMW's cabin.

To make matters worse, the infotainment system is one of the most frustrating to use of any manufacturer. Although you get a big screen in the centre of the dash and another display in front of the driver, the joystick control makes selecting the icon you want tricky. As for entering addresses into the sat-nav, the air often turns a vivid shade of blue.

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To its credit, the Lexus does at least come with a very high level of standard specification. Unlike the German rivals, you probably won’t find yourself delving too deeply into the options list.

Should I buy one?

We can certainly see the appeal of the GS450h. The powertrain is refined, offers decent performance and can be fairly frugal in the right situation. However, the GS isn’t as fun as a 535d, as classy inside as an Audi A6 3.0 TDI 272 or as cheap to run.

Factor in the irritatingly tricky to use infotainment system, a boot that’s smaller than rivals' and rear seat accommodation that lags behind the class best, and we’d still suggest a BMW 5 Series is your best bet.

Lexus GS450h F Sport

Location Essex; On sale Now; Price £49,995; Engine V6, 3456cc, petrol, hybrid; Power 340bhp (combined) Torque 260Ib ft at 4500rpm (engine) 203Ib ft (electric motor) Gearbox CVT automatic Kerb weight 1920kg; Top speed 155mph; 0-62mph 5.9sec; Economy 45.6mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 145g/km, 26%

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jamesf1 25 July 2016

Can't match Overall ambienco of an Audi...

.....which is dull. Oh, and the GS doesn't have an offset driving position either.
jamesf1 25 July 2016

5 series more fun?

Only if you throw Sevral grand extra at it for the active suspension
jamesf1 25 July 2016

Same old bull****

I've had a Lexus courtesy car recently and the infotainment was not irritatingly tricky. It was a hybrid and I got 56 mpg out of it without trying. It had no turbo, dpf or egr to go wrong. It also emits less co2 and nox than an oil burner. Strong mid range torque meant in gear acceleration was impressive. So no, diesels do not make more sense.