Review: 2007 Lexus GS 450h
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
The new GS 450h gasoline/electric hybrid sedan is the big news for the 2007 Lexus premium midsize sedan line.
Lexus redesigned its GS sedan for 2006, giving it fresh styling, more power and new features, including all-wheel drive. There consequently are minimal changes to the regular 2007 GS line, which consists of rear- and all-wheel-drive versions with a V6 or a V8.
However, early reports say the GS 300 becomes the GS 350 because its 3.0-liter V6 is being replaced with a more powerful 3.5-liter V6.
No big deal there, but the early 2007 hybrid GS 450h, which arrived in showrooms during summer, is a significant new model. It not only delivers appreciably better estimated fuel economy than the regular GS trim levels, but also is the fastest GS—doing 0-60 mph in 5.2 seconds.
That makes the GS 450h the quickest Lexus and allows very fast merging and passing. As a bonus, it produces 80 percent fewer smog emissions, and it's difficult to tell that it has a hybrid system.
The GS 450h "offers a compelling new reason for luxury car buyers to consider hybrid technology," Lexus says. It feels that they don't want to sacrifice strong performance just because of relatively high fuel economy ratings.
You initially won't impress environmentally friendly neighbors and friends because only a few subtle badges identify the GS 450h as a hybrid version of the regular GS.
One motor functions as the primary generator, engine starter and controller of engine speed. The other shoots power to the rear wheels.
The GS 450h has a smooth, efficient, continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). It contributes to higher fuel economy, but sometimes caused a slight acceleration pause when I floored the accelerator pedal.
Impressive Fuel Economy
The GS 450h provides an estimated 25 mpg in the city and 28 on the highway. That compares with 18 and 25 for the 2006 GS 430 with its 300 horsepower V8. (The 2006 3.0-liter 245-horsepower V6 GS 300 delivers 22 and 30 with rear-wheel drive and 21 and 27 with all-wheel drive.)
Although it calls for premium fuel, the GS 450h will spend less time at fuel pumps.
The GS 450h has a keyless start system. Pushing the starter button brings dead silence because the car is built to run on battery power at low speeds. The stony silence can be disconcerting the first few times a driver starts the GS 450h and when it quietly moves along on battery power at lower speeds. When needed, the gasoline engine kicks in so seamlessly as to be barely noticeable. In fact, the GS 450h is so quiet that a driver can find himself moving much faster than suspected.
The brake pedal is a little sensitive because of the regenerative brake system, but stopping distances are short.
The touch screen control system handles almost too many functions, and shouldn't be used for some because they cause a driver to take eyes from the road.
To reduce dashboard clutter, switches for the power mirror adjustment, trip odometer reset and trunk and fuel door releases are in a small drop-down pod to the left of the steering wheel.
Storage pockets are found in all doors, and the front console has nicely placed dual cupholders. Rear windows lower all the way, but back door openings should be wider.
No Flip-Down Seatbacks
As with all GS versions, the GS 450h has high quality paint and superb body fits. But, if you can handle the price, the new Lexus hybrid offers the best blend of GS power, performance, luxury and environmental efficiency.