Staying cool on hell’s highway
Carsguide gets first go in Lexus’ new hybrid sedan
SIMPLE brief, really. Editor Potts says, here’s this new Lexus hybrid, take it up the coast with you and give it a go in realworld conditions.
If the lemming-like holiday surge from Sydney to Coolangatta is the real world, can my next gig please be hotweather compliance in Death Valley? Anything but to share the once quaint yet deadly Pacific Highway with the urban assailants, hat-wearers, wood ducks, roadwork crews and Plod. (Excuse me, constable, don’t you have criminals to catch?)
That said, the Lexus rejoicing in the name of GS 300h F Sport must be one of the better conveyances in which to tackle that task.
The price matches the sharpness of the design cues: $87,000 for the F Sport, sandwiched by the Luxury variant at $79,000 and the full-of-fruit Sports Luxury at $102,000.
The F Sport’s so-called enhancements packs add pre-collision braking, auto high beam, active cruise control, head-up display and/or moonroof.
That kind of coin does not imply economy motoring and Carsguide experienced the shock of incidental costs for the F Sport (see below). But we also motored calmly, coolly, quickly when we could and cheaply — the 2000km-odd round trip cost about 10c a kilometre in 91 RON (and it can also take E10).
Yes, of course when you hear a term such as L-finesse you reach for your pistol. This is what Lexus dubs the “design language” that chiefly manifests itself in the spindle grille frontal treatment, aka Darth Vader’s helmet.
Still, it looks the goods on 19inch alloys with fat, low-profile Bridgestones.
There’s a bit of trickery in the LEDs forming the daytime running lights along the bottom of the lens — eyebrows along the top are for the Europeans, it seems. And there’s a little fakery in the impressive vents along the F Sport’s low, purposeful chin — only the inner pair funnels air to the brakes, the outer two have waffle-pattern fillers.
Spend a little time with it and the matching creases on hipline and sill, with curves that diverge at and below the rear door handle, become things of intrigue if not beauty.
A slick diffuser is an effective counterpoint to the most-likely superfluous bootlid spoiler. And, as much a safety item as a design highlight, the slim and graceful windscreen pillar
scarcely intrudes on front three-quarter vision.
The 451L boot, according to the breathless literature, fits four golf bags. There’s no ski port in the rear seat back, as the battery pack occupies the space behind.
The GS 300h is nominally a five-seater but by far the best arrangement is for two rear pew occupants to pull down the centre armrest/drink caddie.
Plenty to feel, much of it concealed. The beauty of Lexus’s setup here is that the chapter and verse information and choices that can overwhelm (in, oh, those Europeans) is presented in a tidy hybrid haiku.
An info button on the steering wheel scrolls through the battery charging and fuel economy readout between the major gauges. Aircon and seat ventilation controls occupy a neat rectangular spot, low on the centre stack.
The multifunction screen with a nifty shelf at its foot responds to taps and jabs of the joystick adjacent the gear shift (the maker likens it to a computer mouse) and, this being a Lexus, an austere little pad supports the operator’s wrist as he sets the satnav or the music to play via the 17-speaker, 10-channel 835W Mark Levinson audio.
Drive modes are Eco, Normal, Sport and Sport+, selected via a dial aft of the gear lever. Responses sharpen progressively and, in the plus setting, the paddle shifters work up and down the CVT’s six preset ratios and the large lefthand dial becomes the tacho.
A special mention to the F Sport’s 18-way driver’s seat with, among other features, underthigh ottoman and adjustable bolsters (the latter, says a nursing student passenger, “give you a hug, pat you on the back and tell you everything’s all right”).
Full quotient of stars, ample airbags, big stoppers and numerous electronic nannies, the blind spot monitor being particularly handy. It may take weeks to get accustomed to the parabolic side mirrors, which show trailing vehicles as being further behind than they are — meanwhile, check the centre mirror before merging.
There’s the highway. You travel at an arbitrary safe speed. Then there are the roadworks. You travel at a slower speed. Then you stop. Then you go again. Even slower. In this fashion and in Eco drive mode, the claimed 5.2L/100km could be a goer. A button for EV mode can propel you silently for short distances.
Then there are some familiar blacktop backroads to the north of the mighty Clarence River, assayed in Sport+ mode. The F Sport surges out of sweepers, pulls up straight and short and even on firmest suspension relays the irregularities in the bitumen with a tremor rather than a slap. Under load and with electric assistance, the 2.5-litre petrol engine digs deep but not coarsely.
Easing back on a graded transit road, we edge to the left for an oncoming Commodore to pass — and stake the sidewall of the off-side rear Potenza. The tyre pressure monitor confirms that we’ve kissed off $700 worth of 265/35 x 19 rubber.
The penance: interminable hours at 80km/h on the spacesaver, heading for the Gold Coast and the only tyre of that spec in seemingly hundreds of kilometres. Then the satnav dumps us at Southport police station, two and a half blocks off target. (Excuse me, constable …)
On the trip home before New Year’s, the F Sport has only its second refill, having done 1006km for less than 100 bucks, then sips in the low 6s with judicious switching between modes and cruise control.
This could be a genre bender. From the people who brought you the LS400 and the SC430 comes the attractive eco compact grand tourer.
Lexus’s GS300h is an attractive eco
compact grand tourer