Hybrid engine technology that combines both fuel and electric power is typically used to improve a vehicle's fuel economy. However, the Lexus GS 450h proves that it doesn't have to be used exclusively for that purpose, as its hybrid powertrain is also utilized to provide enhanced performance.
As the first hybrid model introduced to the North American market that didn't have maximum fuel economy as a primary goal, the previous-generation GS 450h sport sedan delivered the power of a V8 with the fuel consumption of a V6. The current car carries on that tradition, but ups the ante with more engaging driving dynamics and substantially better fuel economy. We're still not sure how many people are really interested in such performance hybrids, but the GS 450h is at least a worthy choice for those who do.
Current Lexus GS 450h
The current-generation Lexus GS 450h debuted in the 2013 model year. Compared to the car it replaced, it is slightly wider and taller, much stiffer and has vastly improved steering feel, making for a midsize luxury sedan better able to compete against its German rivals. The design is a little more dynamic inside and out, while Lexus' latest electronics features have been fitted. Perhaps most importantly, fuel economy is substantially better, yet performance remains strong.
The GS 450h's gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain consists of a 3.5-liter V6 and a pair of electric motors. Power is sent to the rear wheels through a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Total output stands at 338 horsepower, which Lexus says is good enough to bring the GS 450h from zero to 60 in 5.6 seconds. That's roughly what you can expect from a V8-powered midsize luxury model, and none of them can boast 31 mpg combined. That obviously isn't Prius territory, but it's nevertheless excellent for this type of car -- especially one with this much power.
Standard features are generous, as the GS 450h offers the full gamut of luxury, convenience, entertainment and technology features typically available at this price point. Feature highlights include an adaptive suspension, leather upholstery, ventilated and heated front seats, a power-closing trunk, a superb Mark Levinson surround-sound audio system, navigation system, a Siri-based control system for iPhone users and a blind spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert system.
In reviews, we've found the latest GS 450h to be surprisingly rewarding to drive. It dispenses with the soft, undulating motions of past Lexus sedans and instead stays planted on the road and boasts an alert feeling. Nevertheless, the GS is still plenty comfortable for those who couldn't care less about the above.
It's a safe bet that everyone cares about the Lexus reputation for quality interiors and construction. The GS doesn't disappoint here either, even if this latest iteration is a visual departure from its predecessors. Space is what you'd expect from this class of luxury sedan, with abundant room for four passengers and just enough for five. Technology is also a strong point here, with many features controlled by the mouselike Remote Touch multimedia controller.
In total, the Lexus GS 450h is highly desirable for its ability to be swift one second and thrifty the next. Infiniti's M35h does a similar trick, however, and we recommend checking it out as well. Nevertheless, both of these come with a price premium that's hard to justify if you're only interested in fuel savings. The allure of performance should matter as well.
Used Lexus GS 450h Models
The current GS 450h represents the second-generation model that debuted in 2013. For that year, a night vision camera warning system was available as an option, but later discontinued. Improvements for the following year included an upgraded full-color head-up display, Siri Eyes Free iPhone control and a rear cross traffic alert system.
The previous, first-generation Lexus GS 450h was produced from 2007 through 2011. Changes were minimal in that time, though buyers should note that the trunk was smaller in the first two model years (8 cubic feet) compared to the later ones (11).
Like its successor, this GS 450h was powered by a gas-electric hybrid system, which combined a 3.5-liter V6 engine with a high-output electric motor. This supplemented the gas engine with low-end torque during starts and offered additional power under heavy acceleration. Together, the hybrid system put out a total of 340 hp while returning a somewhat unremarkable 23 mpg combined. The only transmission was an electronically controlled CVT.
In terms of equipment, the Lexus GS 450h was pretty much the top-of-the-line GS. Dual front knee airbags, rear seat side airbags, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated and ventilated seats, a power-adjustable steering wheel, a sunroof and a 10-speaker audio system were just some of the sedan's extensive standard features. Starting in 2010, Lexus also upgraded the car's navigation system and added new features like an iPod interface and Bluetooth streaming audio.
Buyers will also want to note if a used GS 450h includes any of the myriad optional high-tech luxury features, including adaptive cruise control, a pre-collision safety system, a voice-activated navigation system and a 14-speaker Mark Levinson audio system.
Not surprisingly, the GS 450h's cabin was decked out in high-quality wood and leather trim, while craftsmanship was quite strong. However, one surprise inside the cabin was the relatively limited amount of headroom. While it might have been fine for most of the population, tall drivers may find things a little cramped inside. And due to the bulk of the electric motor's battery pack, there was noticeably less trunk space in the GS 450h than in regular GS series sedans.
In road tests, our editors found this Lexus GS 450h to be remarkably fast and powerful. Zero to 60 mph took just 5.5 seconds. Given that performance, its fuel economy is impressive, but compared to other hybrids of the time it was decidedly unimpressive. It just depends on your expectations. This 450h also handled surprisingly well thanks to adaptive suspension dampers and an optional active stabilizer that added even more control to the sedan's already well-balanced handling characteristics.