Gree­nie power

The eco-friendly Lexus will im­press techno-philes, writes Stu­art Martin

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Prestige -

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.

Value

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.

Technology

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.

De­sign

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.

Safety

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.

Driv­ing

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.

Ver­dict

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.

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