First DriveThe Lexus GS450h might offer plenty of pace and reasonable running costs on paper, but diesel alternatives make more sense
First DriveNew 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?
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.
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