EN­TER­TAIN­MENT VALUE ONLY For all its gad­getry, the new Lexus lacks verve, says Neil Lyn­don

The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday - - Life Lifestyle -

Alit­tle mir­a­cle of mod­ern tech­nol­ogy tran­spired dur­ing the re­cent launch of the new Lexus GS300h. Some days be­fore this event, I had emailed to a friend a YouTube link to a piece of mu­sic I thought he might like. That man was also go­ing to be my driv­ing com­pan­ion on the Lexus launch. He had not had time to lis­ten to the mu­sic be­fore we were to­gether in the GS300h. “I know,” he said. “Let’s see if we can stream it through Blue­tooth and the Wi-Fi hotspot in this car.” So there we were in the mid­dle of Spain where the bare, arid land­scape was so in­hos­pitable that it looked as if no hu­man had dis­turbed the dust since Don Quixote and San­cho Panza trekked through. My friend fid­dled for a while with his iPhone and then an­nounced that he had forged the link. “It should be work­ing now.” Us­ing the but­tons on the steer­ing wheel, I re­set the Mark Levin­son au­dio sys­tem to re­lay the feed and then the mu­sic I had cho­sen be­gan to fill the car. Orig­i­nally recorded in New York, plucked off the in­ter­net at my home in Scot­land, trans­mit­ted by email to Lon­don, down­loaded in Spain and now play­ing with dig­i­tal clar­ity through a Wi-Fi con­nec­tion in a car trav­el­ling in serene si­lence and lux­ury at about 60mph: what would our an­ces­tors make of us? As a mat­ter of fact, this mir­a­cle did not work with­out the kind of gl­itch that might have be­dev­illed Mar­coni’s first wire­less com­mu­ni­ca­tions. Ev­ery time I pressed the but­ton on the steer­ing wheel to in­crease the vol­ume, the Blue­tooth con­nec­tion was bro­ken and the ra­dio came on in­stead. My friend had to fid­dle again to recre­ate the in­ter­net bond. Even so, we can be ab­so­lutely cer­tain that this tech­nol­ogy will have been per­fected tomorrow and that, within mo­ments, it will have be­come com­pletely stan­dard through­out the car in­dus­try and avail­able as a stan­dard fit­ting on the lowli­est Kia Pi­canto. Some of the IT func­tions in the new Lexus GS300h were first seen only 18 months ago in Bent­leys cost­ing around £150,000 – such as the fa­cil­ity to have your in­com­ing emails read aloud by a dis­em­bod­ied voice and to dic­tate a re­ply. Now here they are in a car that costs less than a third of the price. Mirac­u­lous though it may be as a trav­el­ling IT plat­form, the Lexus GS300h Lack­lus­tre: the GS300h is full of tech­nol­ogy but no fun to drive is rather less jaw-drop­pingly won­der­ful as a car to drive. Where the new Lexus IS250 is a se­ri­ous ri­val for BMW’s com­pact lux­ury 3-se­ries, the GS300 is aimed at the larger (and supremely ex­cel­lent) BMW 5-se­ries which is for busi­ness types with grander ideas of their im­por­tance. That’s a high am­bi­tion for any as­pi­rant; and it has to be said that the Lexus GS300h doesn’t come very close. Lexus’s re­designed, tiger­ish front end has been seamed onto the body so that – as a spokesman claimed – “you couldn’t mis­take it for any­thing else in your rear-view mir­ror”. The trou­ble is that, from ev­ery other an­gle, the GS300h could be mis­taken for al­most ev­ery­thing else. It looks a bit like a Vaux­hall In­signia from the side and a lot like a Ford Mon­deo from the rear. Th­ese are not the most flat­ter­ing com­par­isons you can make about a car. The com­bi­na­tion of hy­brid pow­er­train (with an elec­tric mo­tor sup­ple­ment­ing the 2.5litre petrol en­gine) to­gether with CVT (con­tin­u­ous vari­able trans­mis­sion) pro­duces sludgy per­for­mance in this Price (as tested): £43,745 Power: 220bhp 0-62mph: 9.2sec Top speed: 119mph Av­er­age fuel con­sump­tion: 57.6mpg CO2 emis­sions: 113g/km Insurance: tbc Star rat­ing: BMW Ac­tiveHy­brid 5 Price: £48,645 For: the best 5-se­ries go­ing Against: fright­en­ingly ex­pen­sive ex­tras Rat­ing: Jaguar XF Price: £24,945-£65,415 For: se­ri­ous com­peti­tor Against: no hy­brid yet Rat­ing:

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