The Lexus GS450h Review:
Usually when we are reviewing a car, it’s not hard to determine things like class or target audience. Reviewing the 2010 Lexus GS450h, we understandably had the preconception that it was made to target the hybrid buying crowd, but with a more upscale buyer. After I sat in it though, I see a button that says “Sport” and a button that firms up the suspension. But wait, isn’t this a hybrid?
The Lexus GS is a mid-sized luxury car that comes in a few trims, basing out with a 3.5 liter V6 in the GS350, then the 4.6 liter V8 in the GS460, and topping out at the model we tested the GS450h with the 3.5 liter V6 and an electric motor slapped on to make it a hybrid powertrain. The GS is built on a rear wheel drive platform, and the hybrid version is, to date, the only RWD hybrid on the market. The GS460 has an output of 342 horsepower that can jettison its 3,836 pound mass from a standstill to 60 mph in just 5.4 seconds. In comparison, the Mercedes E550 with a bigger V8 and more horsepower does the same in 5.2 seconds. The hybrid version though weighs in at 4,134 pounds and only outputs 340 horsepower out of both the V6 and electric motors combined. Yet, because of the way the power is delivered, the GS450h hits 60 mph in 5.2 seconds. Thats pretty impressive for something that has an “h” on the back if you ask me.
So it seems that this car keeps the luxury sports car buyer in mind over the environmentally conscious buyer. This is proven more when you actually see the EPA ratings on this car. City driving is obviously greatly benefited by the hybrid system averaging out at 22 mpg. Highway driving sees only one mpg advantage over the Lexus V8 averaging 25 mpg. While notably better than the V8 package in the same car, it seems like you sacrifice a lot in the process. You have added weight, you have a more complicated powertrain, and you have a $3,000 premium over the V8 Lexus.
Is it worth it? I haven’t driven the GS460 to know for sure, but what I can tell you is that I’d give the V8 a shot first. Most of my gripes with the car are not with the design of the car, as I think it looks great. They are not really with the lack of significant gains made by the hybrid system in your miles per gallon. My biggest gripe with the GS450h is the hybrid system itself. Reading other reviews and watching videos about the GS450h, you hear a lot of talk about the seamless transfer of power from the gas engine to the electric engine. I found this to not be the case at all. In fact, all of our writers that had a chance to jump in this car – passenger or driver – could feel the transition between the two. And I can attest that the transition becomes quite annoying. Just a few weeks before, we tested the all new Prius and were pleased at the feel and transitions between burning fossil fuels and powering the wheels with electricity. So we are left scratching our heads wondering what went wrong? It really feels like Toyota threw this hybrid system together so that they can have the “h” badge on the back without really putting as much thought into it as they did to their dedicated hybrid, the Prius.
As many consumers can tell you, once you find one annoyance, every other annoyance is personified. This rang true in this luxury hybrid as well. Lets just take a second to compare this to the Lincoln MKS we test drove a few months back. When we drove the MKS, it was the most expensive car we had tested to that day, hitting your pocketbook at just over 54k. The GS450h shatters that record pushing just over 60 grand. This leaves us scratching our heads again. Is the GS450h $6,000 more car than the MKS EcoBoost? The fuel economy in the hybrid wasn’t substantially better, as it only averaged a few mpg better than the EcoBoost. The 0-60 time is faster in the Lexus, but the Lincoln never felt let down by its speed. The Lexus had a low roofline – another thing every one of us griped about – and the seats were hard to get into a comfortable position. The MKS had much more room, and was more comfortable to drive day to day than the Lexus. Even passengers in the back seats rode comfortably.
So where do I stand on this car? I think that it’s a good looking and luxurious car that gives you the all important RWD platform. If I was testing the GS460, I might have a completely different conclusion. But as for the hybrid, I’d pass. Save the extra money and get the V8 instead, or shop the MKS EcoBoost as it’s a fantastic car as well.