The Lexus GS 450h is one of the best sedans in the world at any price. It has the perfect balance of luxury, performance, reliability, exclusivity, and amazing fuel efficiency.
Model: GS 450h
Model Year: 2014
Engine: 3.5-liter V6 with Lexus hybrid drive electric motor
Rear-wheel drive, continuously variable transmission
- Amazing powertrain
- Ride quality
- Luxury (and) performance
- Missing Forward Collision Prevention
- Hybrid price penalty
The Lexus GS 450h is one of the best sedans in the world at any price. It has the perfect balance of luxury, performance, reliability, exclusivity, and amazing fuel efficiency. The Lexus GS 450h is more green than a diesel vehicle of this size, yet provides the same power, same acceleration, and the same road-carving abilities of the best German sedans.
The Lexus GS 450h starts out as a V6, rear-wheel drive sports sedan. This is a thoroughly modern performance sedan that is the size of a BMW 5-Series. It can transport five passengers in extreme comfort, or it can be an excellent personal car for spirited driving. It is also a great all-around sedan for commuting and road-trips. To this, Lexus adds its fantastic hybrid drive system elevating the drivetrain, rather than hobbling it as many competitors do.
The hybrid drive adds more torque and more power. Horsepower goes up from 306hp in the GS 350 to 338hp in this hybrid GS 450h. The electric drive brings a continuously variable transmission. Having now driven some great examples of this type of transmission, I can say this is the best one on the market. Coupled together, the engine and transmission are simply made better by the hybrid drive. The car is quitter, smoother, faster, and feels “torqueier” than the GS 350. Around town the GS 450h can start off in EV only mode, can sustain steady-state suburban driving using only the electric drive, and it makes the stop-start system almost undetectable.
Although the hybrid drive is the novel part of the GS 450h, the interior is the best Lexus can offer, and that is a high compliment. The heated and cooled driver’s seat adjusts so many ways that after a week I was still finding new positions that were more comfortable. If you can’t get cozy, well… stay in bed. The seat also has adjustable side bolsters that hug you when you get in and then release you when you put the car in park.
This is the only seat I ever tested that could bend half-way up the back. It allows you to move the headrest away from the back of your head, so it is not bumping you there, something way too many nice cars do these days. Like all Lexus cars with the luxury package the seats and steering wheel retract when you park so getting in and out is much easier.
The interior of the GS 450h I had used bamboo. Apparently the maple, oak and walnut trees which my neighbors and I burn for decorative firewood by the cord, are not “sustainable.” Bamboo has become the cool-green wood for people that feel guilty about even using about a pound of tree as part of a durable good. It looks fine, and is finished in the matte wood style now all the rage. The leather is soft and perforated. The dash is covered in something yummy, and the stitching offers a great accent.
The infotainment in this green-car rivals the Tesla Model S. The center information screen is massive. It is more than a foot wide. This is just one of the screens. In the center of the instrument cluster there is useful information, and the heads-up display is also helpful. I am biased, but I have to say it makes Tesla’s huge-honking tablet stuck onto the dash seem a little silly. The Lexus screen is controlled via the Remote Touch Interface (RTI) or by using the buttons on the dash or wheel. The system is modern but clean and uncomplicated. Lexus is the number one brand on the Consumer Reports Initial Quality Survey in large part because its infotainment system actually works in the hands of its customers.
The car has four drive modes, and all are very distinct. Other than the “normal” default there is an ECO setting, Sport, and Sport+. In addition, there are also EV mode and Snow mode settings. These are simple to operate, they make a noticeable difference in the throttle, handling and steering, and the dash even changes what you get to see. This is a perfectly usable way to get more enjoyment out of the car by changing its personality to suit your mood and driving conditions.
If you are looking for flash, you will have to shop Maserati or a similar brand. Like Audi’s A6 and A7, Lexus’ GS is a model styled for grown-ups and its styling is relatively conservative. That said, for 2014 the design was updated, and sales jumped. There is no doubt that Lexus’s new styling language works. It has now passed all rivals in sales with this new theme.
Unlike a front-wheel-drive car, a rear-drive car can be 50-50 balanced in terms of weight. The GS 450h places its large 12 volt battery in the trunk next to the spare. Yes, hybrid drive adds some weight, but you won’t feel it when you drive.
The headlights in the Lexus GS 450h are adaptive. This means that at night they swing from side to side as you turn. HDLI has determined that this type of headlight is an actual safety device and that cars with them have fewer accidents (unlike blind-spot monitoring, which does not correlate to less accidents). Lexus has been dropping these lights from some models, and we hope they reverse course on that trend. In addition to being safer and more effective, they simply look cool.
In mixed suburban and highway driving my mileage went as high as 36 MPG on part of my journeys and overall averaged a very good 31 MPG. The EPA says the combined MPG estimate for this car is 31MPG. City driving is rated at 29 MPG, and the highway mileage is 34 MPG. The combined fuel efficiency of this car is better than the equally priced, and equal in performance, BMW 535d. This vehicle also has a better smog rating than the BMW and produces 15% less CO2.
I have to take this $70K Lexus to task on one thing. At this price point, every car should have a standard forward collision prevention system. Lexus’ system in the IS sedan is one of the best ever tested by IIHS. My test car did not have this. It did have a $700 blind spot monitor, $900 heads up display, and $400 intuitive park assist system. I am fine with making these optional, but FCP should be included in every car over $30K.
I am a fan of the Lexus brand, so my bias needs to be considered. That said, in my opinion, this GS 450h is perhaps the finest sedan on the market right now at its very high $70 price point. Particularly for those who want a sedan with no compromises that is also very green. Drive the car and you will be surprised by its refinement, driving excitement, and when you pull up to a four-cylinder Accord or Camry at the pumps you will have the pleasure of knowing your mileage matches theirs.