What is it?
This is the first chance we’ve had to sample Lexus’s much-anticipated new GS hybrid in the UK. The GS450h combines a conventional 3.5-litre petrol V6 with an electric motor, with a CVT box delivering the power.
The theory is that it provides proper V8-like performance, but with emissions similar to those of a much smaller-engined car.
What’s it like?
Quiet as a dormouse, most of the time, and very relaxing to drive as a result. Lexus might claim that it’s a sports saloon, but we already know the GS isn’t as good to drive as a BMW 5-series or even Merc E-class. What it is, however, is a superb long-distance cruiser, thanks to that aforementioned quietness and a cosetting cabin. The CVT box shifts smoothly and unobtrusively, and you can barely hear the engine.
There is the slightest whine from the electric motors if you accelerate gently (without petrol power) from standstill, but that’s about it.
The 450h’s real trick, however, is that you gain advantage from its hybrid powertrain even out of town, unlike in the Toyota Prius. That’s because the GS uses its electric motor to provide added oomph. It works.
Downsides? The steering feel isn’t great, and the regenerative brakes can be sharp if you’re not careful. Oh yes, and half the boot space is taken up by (hidden) batteries, meaning it won't take that much luggage.
Should I buy one?
Okay, the 450h isn’t about to save the planet overnight, but every little helps. Lexus has also just come top in the JD Power customer satisfaction survey for the sixth year running, so if you buy a GS450h it’s not just the car’s green credentials that will make you feel smug.