Lexus GS450h

27 Apr 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Lexus GS450h
Lexus GS450h

Lexus GS450h

(August 2006)

Model: Lexus GS450h

RRP: $121,990

Price as tested: $121,990

Road Tester: David Dowsey

Date tested: July 2006

Distance covered: 1342km

Ever been caught in a Catch 22? Well, Lexus was when it came time to engineer the GS450h.

Wanting to break ground, Toyota’s prestige brand created what it claims is the first luxury hybrid car. It started with the body from the GS430 Lexus, added a powerful 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine and two electric motors to move it.

Just like the compact Toyota Prius, the GS’s electric motors are used on start-up, idling and gentle cruising and reversing. The petrol engine kicks in when more power is required. Essentially it all comes down to your right foot and is logical and damn clever.

Problem is that the electric motors require a massive battery pack stuffed into the boot — robbing precious space. This and the hybrid components weigh around 250kg pushing the car’s weight up to hefty 1865kg. And weight ruins economy figures.

Hence the Catch 22.

At its launch earlier this year (for more click here ) Lexus claimed the 450h has 31 per cent better fuel economy than the V8-engined GS430. But that’s not what we discovered after 1342km in the hybrid.

Driven as economically as possible, mostly on long freeway stretches and with cruise engaged, we were disappointed with the overall average of 8.9lt/100km. It’s very good for a car of its size but not earth shattering and not a whole lot better than its V8-engined sibling.

Still it is an improvement and no doubt the technology will be honed and advancements made in the tentative steps towards a petrol-free world. It’s debatable whether this is really the future, but it’s a glimpse at it nevertheless.

The 450h won’t save you a heap of petrol but think of it this way. If you do 300kms per week you might save $9-13 over a similarly-sized petrol six-cylinder sedan. Over a year that works out to $468-676. Does that have your attention?

Didn’t think so.

At $121,990 the GS450h sits between the V6 GS300 and top-line $137,200 GS430. It’s 15K less than the V8 not because it’s less of a car; simply that Lexus wants customers to sample its hybrid technology.

Lexus GS450h

The GS450h comes with all the top notch goodies including sat nav, radar cruise control, 10 airbags, adaptive headlights, keyless start and entry and rear parking camera. The interior is supremely comfortable — though the swoopy roofline means headroom’s tight — and well kitted out, but please Lexus enough already with that crappy wood.

Driving the GS450h is unlike anything you are likely to have encountered before. For a start it is almost totally silent — and vibration free. Only under serious acceleration will a burble be heard in the cabin.

It’s a performer too. Lexus claims 0-100km/h in 5.9secs. That seems a tad optimistic, but even so mid-sixes would be mighty impressive for a car of its type.

The combined total power is 254kW and 368Nm of torque from the petrol and electric motors so there’s plenty of poke when you need it.

The continuously variable transmission feels like the car has only one gear, with a lack of any noticeable kickdown. The car is fast but it’s not sporty so the daft ‘manual’ gear change option and switchable suspension could easily be left alone in a car like this.

All said, the 450h is a superbly comfortable drive. But there are some niggles. The steering is numb and the car’s weight plays havoc with handling in corners.

This writer didn’t get on with ‘clever’ radar cruise control either. Get closer than a pre-set distance to a car in front and you’ll find your speed suddenly drops. It’s annoying — and potentially dangerous.

On two occasions we were nearly shunted from behind by puzzled drivers wondering why our car was seemingly braking for no reason. ‘Helpful’ gizmos gone mad?

I guess you could say the GS450h is ‘one small step for man, one small step for technology’. That is not to belittle the car — just that we don’t think this is the answer.

Also read CarPoint’s Lexus GS450h Lexus GS430 comparison here

Published. Thursday, 17 August 2006

Lexus GS450h
Lexus GS450h
Lexus GS450h
Lexus GS450h
Lexus GS450h
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