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Motoring: Looking at the luxurious Lexus GS450h

Credit: Nauman Farooq

Some highs, some lows in the updated Lexus GS450h.

Nauman Farooq | Interrobang | Sports | September 17th, 2012

Japanese luxury car firm Lexus, which is the premium brand for Toyota, has had a few ups and downs in recent years. However, the brand is putting all the downs behind them as they look towards a bright future with brand-new models.

One of their latest offerings is the GS line for 2013. This is an allnew model and takes over from one of the best models it had ever produced. But the question is, is it better than the model it replaces (which I happened to like a lot)?

I got the chance to find out at an event held by Lexus in Scarborough, Ontario.

While most of their new models were on hand at this event, the one I wanted to try out the most was the GS450h.

Why this model? Because the last GS450h was one of my favourite Lexus models, I wanted to see if they managed to improve on it.

From the styling point of view, I'm not so sure. I find the new face of Lexus cars, with their spindle grille, to be a bit too dramatic, and then the rest of the body looks very tame and featureless in comparison. I think the older car had a more elegant look; however, if you want to be noticed, the new car (which has a face that resembles the alien creature from the Predator movies) will get you plenty of attention.

Open the door, and instantly the new interior gets a win over the older model. The design is much more luxurious and packs in even more technology. The main highlight inside is the 12.3-inch LCD display that houses most of the vehicle's functions. Thanks to the clarity of this screen, everything is easy to read. However, the computer mouse-style knob that allows you to go through this car's many menu functions takes some getting used to. It is not as intuitive as some rival systems.

Other details I liked inside the GS450h were the way they have designed the wood and placed a very high-end clock on the dashboard. It seems Lexus got their inspiration from luxury yachts, which is always a good thing. You will feel rich just being in this car, as long as you're in the front seats.

Jump in the back, and I was disappointed by the fact that there was no space for my feet to go. Well thought-out interiors have space for your feet to go under the front seats, which makes riding in the back much more comfortable. This car, sadly, didn't have that, so if you have adults to carry around on a regular basis, this is not an ideal car for the job.

As for carrying items, the trunk in the new GS450h is somewhat larger than the model it replaces, so you can carry more groceries home.

But how does it drive?

Well, my drive at this event was far too short to get a proper feel for the car, but it showed that it is very smooth, very quick and it handles quite well.

Power is fed to the rear wheels via a CVT automatic gearbox. The engine itself hasn't changed much at all. It is still a 3.5-litre, V6 engine, plus an electric motor which still runs on a nickel-metal hydride battery pack (unfortunately not a lithium-ion battery pack). Net output is 338 hp; down one hp from the previous model, but fuel economy is said to have improved. The new model is said to average 6.5 litres/100km in the city, and 6.2 litres/100km on the highway (a 30 per cent improvement in economy, according to Lexus, over the model it replaces). Since I haven't spent a week in one yet, I'm not sure what the actual numbers will be like at this moment.

Part of the reason for the fuel economy improvements, according to Lexus, is their Atkinson cycle combustion system, which allows for better breathing for the internal combustion engine, making it more frugal.

Just because it's frugal doesn't mean it's not fast — this hybrid luxury sedan can sprint from zero to 100km/h in just 5.7 seconds, a number that would be respectable for many sports cars.

Given its fully independent suspension geometry and a modern chassis set-up, it handles as well as you would expect from a luxury car of this calibre. I just wish the steering had a bit more feel.

However, if all this sounds tempting to you, you can head over to your local Lexus dealer now and buy one. Prices for the GS450h start from $64,650 — a lot less than the previous model.

Is it the best car in its class? I can't say based on my short drive, but it does seem to be a good contender. Plus, if you're a fan of Lexus products, you'll surely like this one.
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