Hot Rod Hybrid: Good Wood Like Wood Should in the Lexus GS450h | In-Car Tech

6 Nov 2014 | Author: | Comments Off on Hot Rod Hybrid: Good Wood Like Wood Should in the Lexus GS450h | In-Car Tech
Lexus GS450h

by Lyndon Johnson on August 14, 2013 at 8:14 am

The bamboo wood trim in our Lexus GS450h tester was perhaps my favorite wood trim in any car I#8217;ve driven. (Lyndon Johnson photo)

I#8217;m not a huge fan of wood in automotive interiors. It runs against the grain of my plebian upbringing chock full of plastic-dashed Fords. But the bamboo in the Lexus GS450h was, like the ES300h I sampled earlier. superb.

One of the things that forever turns me off about wood in car interiors, other than its uppityness to which I do not aspire, is that, in its perpetual quest for out-luxing the last generation of luxury cars#8217; wood trim, the amount of finishing on the wood itself has become borderline obscene. When I#8217;m forced to be careful picking the angles at which I shoot interior photos because I don#8217;t want to catch a wildly distorted reflection of myself in the wood grain, there#8217;s too much lacquer on the wood.

Another turn-off: Wood trim is often stained with some deep, dark, lustrous hue that tricks the mind into feeling like the interior is darker than it really is. Claustrophobia, thy name is cherry Minwax.

Thankfully, those were not problems in the Lexus GS450h I tested. Lexus outfitted our tester with the optional matte bamboo wood trim, which graced the steering wheel, center console, door panels, and dash and made the mostly gray and black interior feel brighter, as if it had just come from a whitening treatment at its dentist of choice.

The bamboo was truly matte #8212; no unnecessary gloss, just a satin finish that made the wood look and feel a lot more like, well, wood and less like a chintzy automotive cliché.

The light color of the bamboo wood trim in our Lexus GS450h tester brightened up the interior appreciably. Thankfully, its matte finish meant sunshine didn#8217;t glare off of it and bind us, as is the case with some wood trim in other cars. (Lyndon Johnson photo)

The tactile experience of handling the GS450h steering wheel was pleasant compared to most other wood wheels I#8217;ve experienced. In most cases, the copious amounts of gloss lacquer applied to the wood finish on similar steering wheels makes them feel always sticky, or sweat-slickened, or hot, or cold, or whatever #8212; always something slightly less than ideal.

The high gloss also shows fingerprints galore, should you touch it #8212; not much choice in the matter when it coats the steering wheel. Glossy wood in the console lets everyone know there was a Route 44 slush in the cup holder at some point in the not-so-distant past that sweated condensation onto the wood surface, leaving telltale splotches. The shame!

Again, that#8217;s not a problem in the GS450h with bamboo wood trim.

Lexus GS450h

Though I did love the matte bamboo, I still had a couple of complaints:

Though Lexus does as fine a job with interior fit-and-finish as any mass-produced luxury automobile maker you can dig up, even the GS450h steering wheel left me uncomfortable with the seam where the leather and wood elements met. It just so happens that in 99% of wood wheel cars I#8217;ve driven, two such seams always seem (see what I did there?) to be located so that my hands will hit them awkwardly when placed at 10 and 2, as I am wont to hold my steering wheels most of the time. The GS450h was no exception.

Lexus chose some piano black plastics for the center console and the heating and air conditioning control panel. Guess where I noticed condensation and/or dribbles from foam drink cups I acquired while bringing home a takeout order from a local barbecue joint. The plastic was as high-quality as any for these kinds of surfaces, but it was finished in a high gloss that, just like high-gloss wood, showed every smudge, drip, and fingerprint.

Those are but minor annoyances.

I realize I#8217;m a weirdo for actually holding my steering wheel all textbook-like instead of doing the straight-gangsta thing with one hand at 12 o#8217;clock and the other counting my large stacks of Benjamins. I also realize most folks clean their cars much more often than I clean mine #8212; and let#8217;s be honest, if you own a $68,645 hybrid like this one, you probably have someone come by and pick it up for professional detailing once a week. That being the case, smudge-prone surfaces seldom have time to get noticeably smudgy.

With that said, the matte treatment Lexus gave the bamboo wood is a winning formula for me. I consider it a feel-good-about-yourself bonus that bamboo is probably the ultimate in consumer fast-growth wood varieties, thus its harvest is typically more sustainable than most other woods. And if I#8217;m gonna pop the extra $5,205 for the Luxury Package that included the bamboo wood trim (not to mention a raft of other options), by golly, I#8217;m gonna feel good about myself for doing it.

Disclosure: Lexus provided the vehicle, insurance, and a tank of gas.

Lexus GS450h
Lexus GS450h
Lexus GS450h
Lexus GS450h
Lexus GS450h
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