2013 Lexus GS 450h Review
Lexus' sporty hybrid out-performs the competition.No Comments
On the road, it became apparently almost immediately that this hybrid is the anti-Prius.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.