2011 Lexus GS 450h

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Review: 2007 Lexus GS 450h

This 2007 review is representative of model years 2007 to 2011.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 8

Bottom Line:

New GS 450h hybrid has sizzling acceleration with good fuel economy.
Pros:
  • Impressive new gas/electric hybrid
  • Slick styling
  • Good roadability
Cons:
  • Sensitive hybrid brake pedal
  • Complex hybrid mechanicals
  • Expensive hybrid

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.

Breakthrough
The GS 450h is the first rear-wheel-drive hybrid gasoline/electric sedan. It's packed with technology that may play major roles as Toyota and its upscale Lexus division expand hybrid model lines.

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.

Most Expensive
However, the GS 450h is the most expensive GS, listing at $54,900 in late 2006. It's derived from the 2006 GS, which backs off from being as hard-edged as top European sports sedans. That's because Lexus doesn't want to give up its luxury edge, which has led to impressive U.S. sales.

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.

Sophisticated Powertrain
The hybrid's 3.5-liter 292-horsepower gasoline V6 works efficiently with two electric motors with 180 horsepower. The engine and motors collectively produce 339 horsepower. (As with other hybrids, you can't just add electric and gas engine horsepower figures to get an accurate final number.)

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
Fuel economy? Well, the GS 450h is no fuel-stingy Toyota Prius hybrid, but it delivers impressive economy for a fast, roomy, well-equipped, 4,134-pound luxury sedan that weighs several hundred pounds more than the conventional gas-engine GS versions because the electric motors, batteries and controllers add weight.

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.

More Verve
Electric motors provide strong, instant torque, allowing the GS 450h to accelerate with more verve than even the 300-horsepower GS 400, particularly at often-used midrange expressway and highway speeds. Occupants experience the pure thrust that can't be felt in conventionally powered cars. (To prove that, carefully try a 60-100 mph dash on a deserted road.)

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.

Responsive Handling
The electronic power steering is accurate, and the ride is supple. Handling is very responsive, although not quite in the BMW 5-Series class, and an advanced stability system anticipates the onset of a skid or slide and helps to automatically correct the situation with a combination of braking, throttle and steering control in a way that is basically transparent to the driver.

The brake pedal is a little sensitive because of the regenerative brake system, but stopping distances are short.

Roomy
All GS trim levels have a posh interior with room for five tall adults, or for four if the rear center armrest, which contains cupholders, is lowered. Front seats provide good side support, and gauges are backlit so they can be quickly read under all exterior lighting conditions.

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
The trunk is fairly large and has a low, wide opening, but there are no folding rear seatbacks to enlarge the cargo area.

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.

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BB05 - 7/25/2014 2:13:41 PM