Test Drive Review: 2014 Lexus GS 450h

 

The Lexus GS 450h is one of the finest automobiles I’ve ever driven. It’s a pleasure cruise with some getty-up. It’s a lot of comfort in a $70,000 package.

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Growing up as a sports car fan, I was always critical of Lexus. These days, however, my mother says she knows I’m growing older and wiser since I praise much of what Lexus do. My older brother was always a Lexus fanatic, especially about his GS 400 he had roughly 12 years ago. I didn’t like it. Why? Because I was a BMW fanboy, that’s why.

When Lexus dropped off the GS 450h I knew there was no way I could be skeptical about something so attractive, with an interior style that could melt a BMW. The Starfire Pearl exterior paint just goes perfectly with the Flaxen Leather Matte Bamboo interior. My God, that interior still has me lusting over the GS 450h. It’s the first time I’ve gone so crazy over a Lexus in this fashion.

The Lexus GS 450h has a 3.5-liter V6 making 286 horsepower and 254 pound-feet of torque. It’s coupled to an 8-speed automatic gearbox. Once you add the total from the gas and electric motors, you get a max output of 338 horsepower.

Hybrid or no hybrid, the GS 450h is worth all of its $70,000 as-tested price tag to me, mostly because of the comfort and usability. With the hybrid powertrain the GS 450h is able to achieve 29 mpg city and 34 mpg highway. That bests the GS 350 by 10 and 5 mpg city and highway, respectively.

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There is one electric motor that that is the primary generator. It handles the engine starter and controls engine speed. It has a max output of 180 hp, or 134Kw. The second generator drives the rear wheels and handles regenerative braking. It has a max power output of 200 hp, or 147 Kw. The hybrid pack is a Ni-MH (Nickel Metal Hydride).

Lexus say the GS 450h will get to 60 mph in just 5.6 seconds, and I’m inclined to believe it’s easily that fast, maybe even a few ticks quicker. But there’s way more to this car then putting it into sport mode and playing with the quick shifting paddles. Even though that’s what I did quite a bit. It can have a semi-dual personality, but it isn’t really meant to be a sports sedan, at least not without the F-Sport package. I’ve not driven the GS F-Sport, so I can’t really comment on how much it changes the demeanor or not.

With this standard version, you can feel the heft of the 4,100 pound car when you’re making quick transitions through fast or slow corners in a sporty driving style. Putting the car into Sport+ sharpens up the steering and gives more damping in the shocks allowing the GS 450h to feel as sporty as it is frugal. The car still feels heavy, but the way it turns and feels in your hands is much more akin to a sport sedan. I found myself driving around in this mode often, which of course takes the fuel mileage down quite a few pegs.

The entire week I had the GS most of my friends and family couldn’t get over the overall comfort and feel of the GS 450h. My friend Daniel proclaimed, “If I had 70 grand, this is probably how I’d spend it.” He has two kids and a wife, and while he loves a good sports car, he enjoyed the quality of the Lexus, even praising┬áthe semi-sporty behaviors when you put the drive selector into sport.

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No matter how much praise I have for the Lexus GS 450h, it is still a Lexus with its weird navigation system that uses a funky pad-mouse thing that isn’t very responsive or easy to use for most people. Also, the level of plastics in this car are less than you’d expect. But the plastics that are in here are very weird.

The center armrest slides back and up to reveal the center storage area, and it also hides the power rear sunshade and the park distance control. If you leave the armrest pushed back one notch you’ll notice that your elbow will accidentally push the center in and force a weird breaking sound. Don’t be alarmed, it’s just the center armrest pushing on the plastic molding around the center console area. But it is a weird and annoying sound.

There are controls in the back seat for the radio, rear air control, and the sunshade as well. So no matter where you sit in the car, everyone will feel like a winner.

By far one of the most unique features of the GS 450h is the fabric block between the seat and the center console. This makes it impossible for your cell phone, change, whatever, to get stuck between the seat and the console. Yay, finally!

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If driven in EV Mode you have the ability to get up to 40 mph without using the gas motor. You have to really be relaxed with the accelerator pedal, though. I was able to do it a few times, but I’ll be honest, it’s no fun. It’s certainly the best way to get optimal fuel mileage, but it doesn’t make you love owning a hybrid.

Rear seat space and comfort are plenty for anyone of normal to big sizes, but the trunk space is hindered a little in depth. Luckily it’s wide to make up for some of the difference. There’s a dirty joke in there somewhere, I know it.

What would make me love owning the Lexus GS 450h, though, is its character. It feels every bit as luxurious as you’d expect for $70,000, but without the snobbiness some would believe. You wouldn’t look at this Lexus and think it costs that much, but once you experience it, you have no reason to doubt why it’s worth it. Even though the plastics, weird navigation, and the cheap nature of some parts of the car try to spoil your time, you won’t let it. At least, I wouldn’t.

You won’t confuse it for a sports car, but you will fall in love with what it can do when you need to get it moving. I was able to bark the tires and get the tail to wiggle at various points during hard driving. At no time did it feel less than secure. God, what a car. Wait, did I just say that about a Lexus? Don’t tell my 16-year-old self.

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I'm a car, music, and Howard Stern aficionado. I also love planes, trains, anything to do with science and engineering, as well as politics. I'm working on my screenplays, TV shows, and a book or two. Stay tuned to when I'm really famous and even more awesome.

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