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

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.

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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

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Yardarm 24 August 2014

Real world mpg

It is an extremely comfortable car. But forget about the claimed fuel consumption. Mine averages 39 mpg (300h Luxury).
Mark Rodriguez 6 December 2013

Enough of the derivative Lexus

I'm surprised that Autocar is even bothering to test drive this car. Just look at it- the side profile just screams BMW 5 Series and the Audi A6. The interior is a mish-mash of Mercedes E Class, BMW 5 Series and Audi A6. The Sat-Nav display is a carbon copy of the E class and the central console has been lifted straight out of the 5 series. Even the aluminium door trim is a shameless mimicking of the E class. By the way, that front end (the only unique design feature of the Lexus) looks absolutely hideous. Sadly though, even with all the slavish copying, Lexus somehow always looks tackier and cheaper than the German saloons. Would anyone be mad enough to pay over £41,000 for this rubbish?
Cromagnon 8 December 2013

Ha ha Mark , have you

Ha ha Mark , have you actually seen the new GS in real life-it looks awesome and yes I forked out the cash for one which must make me incredibly stupid, but that's the beauty about design, everybody has their own opinion, to me all Audi's look the same, can't tell them apart, BMW committed crimes against car design with its last generation 5-series/7-series and 1-series models by controversial designer Chris Bangle, the current Mercedes design is simply confusing as it does not set the benchmark for design anymore and its A-class looks like a Hyundai i30/Mazda3. I love the way you are slagging off Lexus, I advise you to take of your "German"-biased spectacles and have a real proper look at some Lexus cars next time you see one, maybe you'll change your mind, but probably not ....
Christian Galea 5 December 2013

Fine in isolation, but...

I agree that the GS is a fine car in isolation, but I still don't think that it is superior to the German 3 or the Jag XF. It's just not dynamically as good as them (despite being the newest of them all), the design could have been a-bit more distinct than the previous GS, I personally don't like neither the exterior nor the interior designs (although of course looks are subjective), I think that the 5-Series and E-Class have a-bit more tech and I believe that the depth of engineering of BMW and Mercedes (especially Merc) in general is better than that of Lexus.