Not flawless but a better-resolved drive in every way than the old model

What is it?

It’s the new Lexus GS; a model that has faded into the background in recent years but is now set to come back armed with new-found levels of driver reward, according to Lexus.

Driven here in prototype form ahead of the car’s showroom debut next June, we’re testing the range-topping GS450h complete with its heavily updated petrol-electric drivetrain, which uses a 3.5-litre naturally aspirated V6 mated to two 35kw electric motors. Power is sent to the rear-wheels, and with the engine remaining a ‘full hybrid’ the GS can be driven on electric-only power at low speeds.

What’s it like?

Whilst the drivetrain is improved it is the new chassis that Lexus maintains is the biggest step forward. Sitting on an all-new platform with multilink suspension at the front and rear, the GS has been set up with active dampers and a new dynamic handling package that allows the driver to select two differing levels of sports mode, as well as normal and eco settings.

The result is a substantial improvement on the current model. Body control is noticeably improved regardless of the chosen setting, so there’s now less dive and lateral body movement; particularly noticeable over bigger bumps at lower speeds.

The 450h gets the dynamic handling pack as standard, and that brings with it rear-wheel steer, which translates to a much sharper turn-in. It can feel a touch nervous initially but with familiarity you become used to just how little steering input is required. Whilst this doesn’t mean there’s any genuine sensation to the steering it does make the GS feel more nimble whilst also improving stability.

Essentially the new GS450h takes what was good about the old model – its refinement and impressive performance – and adds to it a rather more balanced driving style. Not focused or immediate, but certainly more responsive and willing to deliver a happy blend of relaxation and reward.

The biggest criticisms come in the form of too-sharp brake response and slightly fidgety low-speed ride that was delivered through the 19-inch alloys on our test car, but there are still some final tweaks to be made to the GS that may help to sort these niggles.

Should I buy one?

Without official emissions and economy figures, not to mention prices, it’s difficult to judge just how justifiable the GS will be. But even so, on evidence of this early drive it is at the very least a significant step forward, and one that those looking for a bit more enjoyment from a big executive saloon should pay attention to.

Lexus GS450h

Price: £45,000 (est); Top speed: 155mph; 0-62mph: 5.9sec (est); Economy: 45mpg (est); Co2: 160g/km (est); Kerb weight: 1800kg (est); Engine: 3456cc V6 and electric motors; Power: 340bhp (est); Torque: 270lb ft (est); Gearbox: CVT auto

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DKW 24 July 2011

Re: Lexus GS 450h

Be aware that although any Lexus owner can expect high levels of customer service, it is a misunderstanding that all their models are ultra reliable. The impressive JD Power figures are only based on the IS and RX models I believe, as there have to be sufficient sales to be included. I have heard that the GS model had significant reliability issues when it first came out. I would expect most problems to have been addressed by now, but I would recommend a little research for peace of mind. Don't forget Lexus reliability, while good, is still 84 not 100% - they are reliable, but not divine.

Mr£4worth 23 July 2011

Re: Lexus GS 450h

I'm thinking...why have I never had a Lexus? We all know they have fantastic reliability, perform quietly, and get this - they don't sport run flat tyres. The last tywo articles had me looking on the official Lexus site. I think I fancy a late low mile old shape GS with all the toys. If they purr along & have already gone through a fair bit of depreciation it could be the perfect left field choice...

DKW 23 July 2011

Re: Lexus GS 450h

I too would eat my hat/drink the GS450s sea of battery acid if it achieves close to quoted mpg. I can't believe the official mpg testers are still so phuckwitted as to allow hybrid cars to be tested with a full battery. Bring the thing to West Yorkshire and I'll drive it normally around the hills here and see what it does. Come on Lexus, I'm calling you out you tart ... Still, I bet it puts in a decent performance compared to the other daft approach to getting 'good' fuel consumption figures - put in a toy engine that has to be caned outside it's efficiency zone to make real progress in anything other than ideal conditions, and ends up with the consumption figures of a 4 litre car but the performance of a 1.5. My 10 year old 1.9 tdi gives 48 mpg in hilly conditions, because it has sufficient torque (about 230 lbft)for the job. Smaller engines are a false economy - the manufacturers know it absolutely, but still sell them to the stupid, and to achieve CO2 figures that push them into designing cars which arguably produce more CO2 than before. Forget your 1.6 turbodiesels, stick with a 2.0 unless you need the lower tax band.