The Mid-Size Performance Sedan category is one that is highly contested in the GCC. Spare 10 minutes to get a consensus of the most driven cars on the streets of Dubai and you’d notice that sales in this segment have flourished. For the high-end car manufacturer, this represents an entry point to a new loyal customer base. It’s the segment that works the hardest for their brand image.
The GS series for Lexus has been no slouch in this regard having amassed a massive fan following in the middle east region and carrying the torch well over the past three generations of it’s existence. So when we got the keys to their flagship of the Performance Sedan category – the GS450h – and found out the ‘h’ stood for ”Hybrid”, we begged to ask the question – What were they thinking ???
2013 Lexus GS450h F Sport Review
The first design element that strikes you about the fourth-gen GS is the LF-Gh inspired Spindle Grille, clubbed with a sporty front bumper that excites you with it’s fighter-jet style appearance. As you make your way towards the car, with the Smart-Key on our person, you smirk and chuckle to yourself at the prospect of the worried driver seeing those bright distinct LED daytime running lights on the highway in front of you that dared be in the wrong place at the wrong time. They dont stand a chance – it’s a Lexus gaining on them….
As you progress to the middle, you realize that no much has changed from the previous model – which isn’t a bad thing. The characteristic lines still add to the sense of power and gives the GS it’s poised and balanced stance. Something we’ve been accustomed to from the GS.
The rear has been updated with a brand new boot and light cluster. The rear lights are, however, slightly similar to the ES’s and not as distinct as the previous gen-models. This time round Lexus seem to have tried to unify the rear end across all their models opting not to be distinctive.
The Same is to be said of the overall interior.
Yes, the cabin has been significantly updated from it’s dated Toyota-ish looks. Yes, you’re engulfed in plush soft leather, convenient storage spaces, driver and passenger seats that can contort in more ways than a gold medal gymnast, emersing you in ergonomic heaven. Yes, all the knobs are in the right place and have been given a design makeover featuring a modern brush metal finish. But make a trip to your nearest Lexus showroom and you’ll realize that the entire line-up from the IS, ES right up to the flagship LS have way to much in common. Albeit at very different price points. It leaves you asking the question… Do I really need to spend the extra bucks ? ? ?
If you’re confused by my rant up there, the simple fact is that it is without a doubt one of the most luxurious and comfortable cabins in it’s class. In some respects it manages to oust the competition’s offerings even a stage higher.
Describing how she drives is a complicated affair. Being an Infiniti G37 owner myself, I couldn’t help but get into state of scrutinising every flaw and over-exaggerate in this review with pride and loyalty. However as I pen this review I err on the sidelines feeling like a traitor.
From the moment you engage the push to start, something very different takes place. You’re expect the growl and vibration of an engine springing to life, but are instead greeted with absolute calm for a few seconds as all systems are checked and then the audio system kicks in.
Has something malfunctioned ? ? ? – you ask yourself forgetting that you’re in a Hybrid vehicle. Theres no engine warm up waiting time here. Upto a speed of 40 km/hr if the battery has been sufficiently charged, the 450h uses an electric motor. It intelligently switches to the 3.5L V6 when an aggressive burst of power is required or if the electric charge runs low.The hybrid power cell is constantly charged as the car cruises and at low revs lets the electric motor kick in. It also adds that extra bit of power in a pedal to the floor situation thus letting the GS450h boast an impressive 340 bhp taking the lead on competing V6 power plants.
This is also a significantly aggressive step forward for Lexus in the HP department considering that the previous generation GS430 had a 4.3L V8 engine with only 280 bhp.
The F-Sport model we tested is a true testament to how a luxury sport sedan’s suspension should behave. Despite the low profile tyres provided on this model, the ride was buttery smooth (as Lexus has been hailed for) with the added advantage of agressive grip round the corners when needed.
This brings us to the dreaded acronym motoring enthusiasts hate – CVT. Yes, she’s got it and it comes no where close to feeling like a proper gearbox, but I’m just going to go ahead and say this…. It was the first CVT transmission I actually liked… Now before you’ll get the pitch forks and swords out, let me explain. When the GS is described as a luxury sport sedan, the focus keyword with Lexus has always been Luxury with sport performance coming in second. This hasn’t changed this year either, but the CVT gearbox actually improves the acceleration profile compared to the previous generation, always offering a burst of power when needed, while purring along when cruising. There is one flaw though – there is virtually no change to the gearing when shifted in to Sport / Sport+ so dont expect any alter-ego to emerge. Having said that, it fits the profile of the car and thus isn’t a hinderance in any way.
In Car Entertainment:
The centerpiece of the in car Entertainment is the larger than life TFT screen with the ability to operate in a split-screen profile enabling you to display your navigation while not missing other infos such as music information / Hybrid power system operation. The screen has great resolution and the interface looks futuristic with crisp text.
A big feature of the system is the method of input and control using the Lexus Remote Touch “Mouse” control. This offers a trackball style control using a movable plate that gives you tactile click-feel feedback based on what you see on screen. The techie inside me wanted to love this new dimension of control, however by the end of the test period I just couldn’t get myself acquainted with the system and found myself needing to re-orient the mouse to the corner of the screen each time so that I could keep track of the clicks and select the functions I needed.
The GS450h struts Lexus mid-high level Mark Levinson (ML) Premium Surround System paired with aforementioned Lexus in-dash multi purpose entertainment system. Connectivity includes USB Memory (with iPod Support – no proprietary cables needed), Auxiliary audio 3.5mm Jack, Bluetooth Audio and AM/FM Radio.
The system has been well tuned to the GS cabin’s acoustic profile. In my opinion, it even surpassed it’s bigger brother the 19 Speaker ML Reference Surround found in the LS460 in setting the sound stage and presence. Clear, crisp treble notes and punchy bass over a wide variety of music genres belted off our iPod, showed the systems versatility to please the most demanding of audiophiles; even at high volume.
Another plus is that the DSP profile can be tuned independently for each source / input. Apart from our initial frustrations with getting used to the “Mouse” system, if we were to be overly critical, perhaps the only thing left lacking were rear seat monitors with independent wireless headphones as seen in some of the competitive offerings at this price point.
Convenience & Technology:
As mentioned earlier. Lexus has seriously put an effort into putting out a whole new GS and this shows with conveniences such as updated bluetooth functionality with the ability to download your entire phones contacts, call register (including incoming, outgoing and missed calls) and enhanced bluetooth safety ensuring that tasks involving too much screen time are restricted to when the car is stationery (sometimes a hassle).
The new smart key system detects the presence of the key in your pocket as you approach the car and switches on the courtesy lights found in the side mirrors. Touch sensors on the inside of the door handles unlock the doors the moment you put your fingers in the handle. A second sensor on the outside locks the car at the touch of a finger on the right spot. In cabin ambient lighting for all foot wells set a soothing mood during night time driving and all convenience lights have been updated from traditional bulbs to LEDs.
Other conveniences include Lexus Park Assist, Radar cruise control and front driver and passenger seat cooling, a feature you truly appreciate if you have dark leather seats and been parked in the sun. On the safety front, one shouldn’t forget to mention the Driver Attention Monitor technology designed to warn you should your eyes be closed or facing away from the road or when an obstacle is detected ahead of you. If a collision is eminent, it begins braking for you. On the whole this takes the GS to the top of the pack in the safety department.
The GS450h came across as a surprise in many aspects, most notably the ability to deliver power and acceleration at will and present a bearable, possibly likable CVT implementation. Lexus has maintained and demonstrated their reputation for a superior quality product in the luxury and technology department that other Japanese competitors will need to catch up to, while giving western counterparts a run for their money. They have reinvented themselves to a great extent and the time spent with this car truly deserves the title of ‘love affair’.
|2013 LEXUS GS450h F Sport|
|Rated Output||340hp with the electric motor|
|Rated Torque||352 Nm @ 4600 rpm|
|Transmission||6 speed automatic|
|Curb Weight||2325 kgs|
|Acceleration 0-100 km/h||6.8 s|
|Fuel Consumption combined (l/100lm) as tested||9.8l/100km as found in our 600kms+ test during summer conditions in Dubai|
|Price (AED)||295,000 as tested|
Images by Brian Donegan :