2013 Lexus GS 450h: First Drive


Ever since Lexus launched the RX 400h hybrid SUV in 2005, gasoline-electric hybrids have been an integral part of the Lexus lineup.

Cleverly combining performance, luxury and economy, they allow luxury buyers to avoid the compromises that might otherwise be associated with making a luxury vehicle more fuel efficient–like sacrificing power or prestige.

The 2013 Lexus GS 450h is upon us, offering more power and better economy than ever. GreenCarReports was invited to Germany and Austria to test the new model.

\’L Finesse\’

The 2013 Lexus GS 450h continues Lexus\’ new \’L Finesse\’ design language, first seen on the smaller CT 200h and subsequently appearing on the rest of the Lexus range.

As a result, the GS is now a much sharper looking car than its predecessor, looking more compact despite the slight increase in dimensions. It\’s both more aerodynamic–with a drag coefficient of 0.27, to improve stability and economy–and more aggressive.

Our favorite description of the change in styling from old GS to new came from GS Chief Engineer Yoshihiko Kanamori, who described that \”on the freeway in the old car, I had to flash my lights to warn other cars I was approaching… in the new car, they simply move out of my way…\”


In a sector that includes the Mercedes-Benz E Class, BMW 5-Series, Jaguar XF and Infiniti M Hybrid among others, levels of comfort and equipment are of high priority.

The GS doesn\’t disappoint, with most trim grades offering seemingly endless adjustment in the seat and steering column, leather trim and automatic transmission as standard, and the largest infotainment screen currently fitted to a production car.

2013 Lexus GS 450h First Drive. [Photos: Antony Ingram]

The new interior is far more inviting than that of the old GS, and in our car\’s F Sport trim the deep red leather gave off just the right sporting ambience. A standard head-up-display ensures you rarely need to take your eyes off the road–though shorter drivers will find the bottom of the projection slightly obscured if they choose a low seating position.


In the F Sport trim of our test car, the GS 450h gains four-wheel steering to improve steering lock at low speeds and stability at higher ones. Combined with a variable-ratio steering rack and uprated suspension, it makes the GS feel much more nimble than its size suggests This is certainly a hybrid you can have a lot of fun with.

It\’s a hybrid that won\’t have much trouble at higher speeds either. Combined output of the 3.5-liter V-6 engine and hybrid system is 341 hp. It takes only 5.9 seconds to reach 60mph from rest, and will hit an artificially-limited 155 mph on a de-restricted road–of which there are several in Germany.

2013 Lexus GS 450h First Drive. [Photos: Antony Ingram]

Even at higher speeds, the cabin remains whisper quiet and the smooth continuously-variable transmission keeps engine revs to a minimum. It does naturally display typical CVT characteristics of allowing revs to rise significantly when accelerating hard, but since this results in you reaching your intended pace so quickly, it\’s rarely too much of a concern.

At a more sedate pace, it displays all the usual hybrid benefits–low cabin noise, plenty of electrically-assisted torque, and frequent electric running.


That electric running does wonders for fuel efficiency at lower speeds, just as it does on a Prius.

Official EPA figures are 29 mpg city, 34 mpg highway, and 31 mpg combined. Driving through the pretty, north-Alpine towns of Austria with speeds varying between 30 mph and 60 mph, we managed an average of 36.7 mpg with very little effort. Perhaps more impressively, that average also included some time in Sport mode, negotiating tricky Alpine hairpins and twisty, mountain-hugging curves.

On the Autobahn, the on-board display showed as much as 47 mpg in 50 mph traffic, to nearer 25 mpg at 90 mph. As with most hybrids, the GS 450h is actually at its best on the highway in traffic, when frequent slowing down allows the engine to turn off, saving gas. At the end of our hundred mile drive from Kitzbühel in Austria to Munich airport in Germany, we\’d achieved a trip average of 34 mpg.


So has Lexus avoided compromises in making the new GS 450h? Pretty much, we\’d say. It\’s not only cheaper than much of its hybrid competition in the sector–such as the new BMW ActiveHybrid 5 we tested recently, which at $61,845 is around $3,000 more expensive than the Lexus–but also potentially more economical and equally quick.

It\’s also better to drive than its predecessor. It\’s not as fun to drive as a Jaguar XF, but it\’s not far off, and in real-world driving has the economy to beat even the Europe-only diesel models we\’ve driven.

Want the benefits of hybrid technology but none of the usual drawbacks? You could do a lot worse than the Lexus GS 450h.

Lexus provided airfare, lodging, and meals to enable High Gear Media to bring you this first-person drive report.


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