Stay­ing cool on hell’s high­way

Cars­guide gets first go in Lexus’ new hy­brid sedan

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Prestige - TIM VAUGHAN CARS­GUIDE DEPUTY ED­I­TOR tim.vaughan@cars­guide.com.au

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.

VALUE

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).

DE­SIGN

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.

TECH­NOL­OGY

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”).

SAFETY

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.

DRIV­ING

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.

VER­DICT

This could be a genre ben­der. From the peo­ple who brought you the LS400 and the SC430 comes the at­trac­tive eco com­pact grand tourer.

Genre ben­der:

Lexus’s GS300h is an at­trac­tive eco

com­pact grand tourer

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