The eco-friendly Lexus will impress techno-philes, writes Stuart Martin
TO DISTINGUISH it as the high-performance flagship of the GS range, the Lexus 450h has exterior differentiation, including a unique front grille, ‘‘hybrid blue’’ rear lamps and 18in wheels.
THE GS range has been upgraded. Its new hi-tech gizmos include updated satnav software.
In the audio department the $ 126,714 GS 450h wasn’t lacking. It retains the 14-speaker Mark Levinson 5.1 surround sound system, which now has USB and audio jack plug connections.
THE hybrid GS is packed with technology, including the 650-volt hybrid system, which uses a nickel metal hydride battery to store power generated by the 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine.
Energy is also generated by reversing the continuously variable transmission to become a generator and using brake energy recovery systems to further charge the battery.
The system provides 254kW of power (a definitive torque figure is a little harder to quantify) but the company claims V8-like outputs without the thirst.
The active cruise control system isn’t new and neither is the fact that Lexus still can’t get it to hold a set speed downhill without another car in front. The system is child’s play in a Beemer and a Merc, but Lexus doesn’t seem interested in getting it right.
THE GS model doesn’t push the boundaries for car design. The front view is better than the rump, with the rakish bonnet and lights forming a not unattractive snout.
The rear, perhaps because of an abbreviated bootlid and bulgy rearquarter panels, is not the prettiest of the prestige market segment.
The cabin has undergone minor changes, leaving the functional and user-friendly touchscreen and centre stack intact. Unfortunately, the 1980s clock and outside temperature display remain as well.
THE safety features for the updated 2010 GS range now include the new advanced pre-collision safety system, which uses the active cruise control’s radar system to monitor the road.
The system prepares the vehicle’s safety systems for an imminent collision and will now also apply the brakes if the driver fails to act.
There’s the now-obligatory traction and stability control, and the airbag list is extensive— driver and front passenger front, side and knee airbags, rear seat side and full-length side curtain airbags.
EERIE quiet is a hallmark of Lexus, and the GS hybrid does nothing to change that perception. Only the tyre noise is obvious, due to the lack of any other rumbling. Starting often has no noise associated with it, unless the petrol engine is required for airconditioning or other energy-sapping systems.
Creeping around a car park on battery only easily demonstrates how pedestrians can be blissfully ignorant of your presence. It will also cruise at metropolitan speeds on battery alone and that goes a long way toward the 10.1 figure we returned.
Mundane commuting duties are what these hybrid systems are best at and it shows. That said, slipping the transmission into sport mode does generate some energy downhill on throttle over-run, but it’s soon used on the uphill runs.
Putting aside the green aspects, the drivetrain provides a remarkable experience.
The instant torque of the electric motor and the CVT’s seamless application of the outputs offer an extraordinary take-off.
The adjustable suspension leans towards a firmer ride, even in the normal mode.
But it’s not uncomfortable for its occupants, who will need to be of average height to allow decent legroom. Flick the suspension button into Sport mode and things tighten up, allowing the GS to be aimed into corners with a reasonable degree of confidence.
It sits flat enough and, despite low rolling resistance, the tyres do a good job, though steering feedback is absent.
TECHNO-PHILES and greenieexecs will like the trickery under the bonnet.
They will also like the value for money when compared against its siblings and German opposition.
But the design is lacking in flair and the cabin space tend to let it down.
Low on the road: the Lexus GS 450h has a quick takeoff and a firm ride.