2013 Lexus GS 450h Review

Lexus' sporty hybrid out-performs the competition.

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February 11, 2013

2013 Lexus GS 450h Review

On the road, it became apparently almost immediately that this hybrid is the anti-Prius.

Introduciton
Lexus has been working hard to shed its image as a stodgy brand by trying to give its cars a more performance-oriented image, and the GS line, which always has been positioned as the sporty sedan in the lineup, is the vanguard leading that charge.

That even holds true for the hybrid. From the minute a hybrid version of the GS was introduced, years back, Lexus always told salespeople to position the GS as hybrid that added power, not one that saved on fuel.

When Lexus launched the next GS last winter, the company took big steps to bridge the gap between the GS and its sportier competitors, such as the BMW 5-Series. And for the most part, it succeeded. But did Lexus get all the way there?

2013 Lexus GS 450h On the Road On the road, it became apparently almost immediately that this hybrid is the anti-Prius. When we hit the accelerator, the gasoline engine kicked on with a performance-car growl, with 286 horsepower and 254 lb-ft of torque that made their presence known. We threw fuel-efficiency to the wind whenever we could, all in the name of our lady of blessed acceleration.

Where the GS let us down was in handling. It was competent on a curvy road, but it didn't feel completely comfortable being pushed. It felt big and heavy instead of lithe and nimble, and numbed steering kept us from being fully engaged. It felt like there was a layer of foam between us and the car's tires, which took the fun out of driving it hard.

On the freeway or at slow speeds, the GS rides like a Lexus, which is to say, soft and cushy without any real float or wallow. We didn't detect much difference between Sport, Sport +, Normal, and Eco drive modes, but what faint differences we could detect in Sport and Sport + mode showed that the car was slightly sportier in those modes. It was just hard to detect.
2013 Lexus GS 450h Interior We like the analog clock on the dash and the large infotainment screen, although the computer mouse-like controller could be distracting at times. Still, we missed it when we were done with the car. It was more intuitive than one would think, and it was easy to learn quickly.

We also missed a navigation system, which should be standard at this price point (our tester cost almost $70K. A navigation system would add $1,753). Other than that, we found all the materials to be class appropriate in terms of fit and finish, and the double-layered dashboard looks good. Headroom and legroom were adequate if not excessive.
2013 Lexus GS 450h Exterior The GS featured an interesting mixture of curves and squared-off lines, and the result is a mixture of sportiness and blandness. Which one you'll see depends on the angle--from some views, the GS looked great, from others, it looked like it embodied the worst Lexus stereotypes of being an old man's car.
2013 Lexus GS 450h Final Thoughts The GS is more engaging than its predecessors and offers at least some solid performance, but it feels like Lexus held back from going full-boat on the sportiness, so as not to alienate current customers.

To us, that feels like a mistake. It's fine to let the ES or LS be isolation-mobiles, buyers of those cars don't want something sporty. But the GS, along with the smaller IS, carry the brands performance torch, and Lexus can't do well by half-assing it. Even with the hybrid.

We liked this Lexus a lot. But it's hard to fall in love with something that insists on remaining so darn distant.
2013 Lexus GS 450h Specs, Features, and Prices Engine: 3.5-liter V-6 mated to electric motor.

Transmission: Continuously-variable automatic (CVT)

Drive Wheels: Rear-wheel drive

Fuel Economy: 29 mpg city/34 mpg highway

Base Price: $58,950

As-Tested Price: $68,139

Available Features: Lane-keeping assist system with lane-departure warning, heated steering wheel, heated and cooled front seats, power tilt/telescope steering wheel, rear sunshade, Luxury Package (heated rear seats, 18-inch wheels, LED headlamps with adaptive lighting, heated wood and leather steering wheel, three-zone climate control, leather seating trim, 18-way power front sears, rear door sunshades, memory front passenger seat), pre-collision warning system with driver's eye monitor, cargo mat, trunk mat, USB port, Bluetooth, satellite radio.

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