Road Test: Lexus GS450h Hybrid

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The person who buys the 2013 Lexus GS450h has to be pretty self-confident. It’s not that the car stands out in some strange way. In fact it’s just the opposite. It blends in with all the other cars on the road.

2013 Lexus GS450h Hybrid
2013 Lexus GS450h Hybrid

No, the self-confidence is required because that person is going to spend at least $58,000 for a car that isn’t going to attract much attention. That person is going to have to be content with knowing that their car does everything well and gets great mileage. They’ll understand that while they may look back at the car admiringly as they walk away, most folks are likely to pass it by.

The 2013 GS450h is all new and much improved. The older version delivered great power, but less than spectacular (for a hybrid) fuel economy. 23 mpg is not what most people expect when gas and electric motors are combined.

2013 Lexus GS450h Hybrid engine
The Heart of the Hybrid

This new version solves that problem with a rating of 20 mpg city/34 mpg highway. It averages about 31 mpg. The GS450h does that while delivering the kind of power you’d expect from a V-8 (and indeed, it has a 3.5 liter V8). In fact, FuelEcoomy.gov lists the GS450h as having the top mileage in the luxury car class. You can improve the mileage by using the Eco setting, or go for power with the Sport S setting. (By the way, I like the way the tach becomes an eco gauge when you switch settings. Very cool.)

The GS450h delivers exactly as it should on the road. Smooth and quiet ride with enough power to make you feel like you can control your own fate. In addition to Eco and Sport S, there is also a Sport S Plus setting which gives both power and suspension changes to help you enjoy each road a little differently. 338 horsepower is plenty for what most Lexus owners will ever need.

2013 Lexus GS450h Hybrid Interior
Sufficient Amounts of Tech and Luxury Inside

Inside, the GS450h has the necessary luxury feel. I wasn’t a big fan of the fake wood trim, but the rest of the interior was very nice. My test car had the big 12 inch HD screen. It’s like having two monitors on the dashboard. While I loved the information, my wife said it was very distracting.

All that information is controlled by the  Remote Touch multimedia controller. It’s a cross between a mouse and a trackball. It sits on the center console just about where your hand would rest. You can flick it from side to side to move the cursor around the monitor, and push down to click whatever you want to activate (radio, navigation, settings, etc.). It works fairly well, although I still wonder how well it will stand the test of time from a functional and a technology point of view.

There was one thing that really annoyed me. I’ve become addicted to backup cameras. I think it’s the best way to avoid trouble. When I started the GS450h in the morning and put it into reverse, the top one inch of the screen was covered up by a band that said it was pairing my phone or loading my contacts. That one inch may not seem like much, but I think it’s a critical part of the screen. It shows what is coming towards the car. By the time the object you’re about to hit reaches the lower portion, you’re slamming on the brakes. It would be much more effective if they simply covered up the bottom inch (which only shows the bumper). Or better yet, they don’t even have to give me that information at all.

2013 Lexus GS450h
Leaner and Meaner Up Front

Outside the GS450h has new styling. It’s definitely a more aggressive look. One other reviewer said it went from forgettable to eye-catching. I’m not sure I’d agree. While it definitely looks better, it’s not the kind of car I imagine people jealously gawking at as it drives by. Having said that, I do think it’s a better looking car than the old model.

If you see someone climbing into a 2013 GS450h in your town, give him or her one of those knowing winks. It may be all the credit they get for having one of the best all-around cars on the road.

 

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