KBB Editors' Overview
By KBB.com Editors
Lexus established some decidedly lofty benchmarks when it set out to create the world's first hybrid luxury sport sedan. Beyond a suitably generous load of comfort and convenience features, this rear-drive mid-size four-door was charged with providing the performance of a vehicle with a 4.5-liter V8 engine while turning out 80 percent lower emissions, operating ultra-quietly in full-electric mode, delivering all the expected levels of luxury and still possessing the requisite amount of enthusiast-grade handling behavior. Launched as a 2007 model and given a slight freshening for 2010, the GS 450h does a first-class job of meeting all of those criteria with few compromises. While owning its specific sub-segment outright, the GS 450h also faces off against many of the same players as its GS 460 kin, namely up-line versions of the Audi A6, BMW 5 Series, Infiniti M and Mercedes-Benz E-Class.
You'll Like This Car If...
If you love everything about the comfort, quality and prestige of owning a Lexus but want to go the extra mile when it comes to performance, technology and environmental awareness, the GS 450h is for you.
You May Not Like This Car If...
Anyone concerned about dabbling in new technology – particularly the kind that commences on the side of $57,000 – might feel more comfortable in a conventional alternative like the equally sporty GS 460. Dual-mode battery packaging demands also slice the GS 450h's trunk capacity to little more than half that of the gasoline-powered GS 460.
What's New for 2010
The Lexus GS 450h receives a revised grille, clear tail lamp covers and new 18-inch wheels for 2010. A power rear sunshade is now available.
Well-mannered, well-controlled, well-isolated and admirably quick, the 2010 Lexus GS 450h's exceptional blend of personality traits makes it an excellent all-around performer. Developing maximum torque at zero rpm, the car's electric "booster shot" really does impart a GS 460-like V8 feel to the GS 450h, and its V6 seamlessly stops and starts as necessary to help save fuel. The suspension tuning trades a bit of edge in return for all-around comfort; however, this heaviest GS version also boasts the best overall weight distribution figures and its optional Active Power Stabilizer Suspension System does a great job of keeping body roll during cornering in check. Despite a slightly artificial feel to the GS 450h's electronically-assisted variable power steering and the energy-regenerating circuitry of its ABS disc brakes, the former is quick and precise and the latter reassuringly capable.
Hybrid Synergy Drive
This virtually transparent variation on the basic Toyota dual-mode theme matches a smooth 3.5-liter V6, high-torque electric motors and a continuously variable automatic transmission to deliver quicker acceleration and better fuel economy numbers than the V8-powered GS 460.
Affording an even tidier look to the already business-like cabin of the GS, a concealed panel on the left side of the dash houses a bank of power switches for several items, including the outside mirrors, rear sunshade, instrument illumination levels and odometer resets.
Supple leather, brushed aluminum and bird's-eye maple define the 2010 Lexus GS 450h's well-organized, well-isolated and exceptionally comfortable cabin. While sharing much with other GS models, including outstanding fit and finish, the revamped white-on-black gauges in the Hybrid include a kilowatt-use meter and a supplemental power-flow display, but lack a tachometer. The well-positioned basic controls are supplemented by a drop-down panel on the dash that hides switchgear for less-used functions until they're needed. Nicely formed and supportive power front seats are matched with a semi-bucketed rear bench that has sufficient head and legroom to handle two adults, but the center spot is strictly for smaller children.
Embracing the division's L-Finesse styling language, the GS 450h brings a legitimate sense of design passion to its sleekly flowing sheetmetal. This year sees a new front grille and clear tail light lenses that compliment the car's edgy front fascia, bigger air inlet and chrome grille surround. A well-proportioned glass area provides good outward visibility while bi-xenon HID headlamps and quick-responding LED taillamps make it easier for you to see and be seen, day or night. Like the GS 460, the GS 450h comes with Z-rated 245/40 performance tires on 18-inch alloy wheels and offers like-sized, all-season run-flat tires as an option.
Notable Standard Equipment
In keeping with its Lexus pedigree, the GS 450h offers features to please the most discriminating buyer. Beyond its hybrid powertrain, you'll find leather-covered and heated and ventilated 10-way power front seats, SmartAccess keyless locking and starting, dual-zone automatic climate control with rear air vents, 10-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3/cassette audio, a seven-inch multifunction display screen, an advanced anti-lock brake package, driver-selectable Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management system (that includes stability and traction controls) and front, front-side, side-impact and knee airbags. Like the GS 460, it also has the Adaptive Variable Suspension and the corner-following Adaptive Front Lighting System (AFS), but adds rain-sensing wipers, headlamp washers and Intuitive Parking Assist.
Notable Optional Equipment
The extras list for the GS 450h is fairly short, and includes a 330-watt Mark Levinson Premium Sound System, DVD-based voice-activated navigation system and the Lexus Pre-Collision System (PCS) with Dynamic Radar Cruise Control. Other single items of note include computer-controlled Active Power Stabilizer Suspension System, all-season run-flat tires, a rear spoiler and the Lexus Link safety, security and information services feature.
Under the Hood
The 2010 Lexus GS 450h's Hybrid Synergy Drive package teams a 3.5-liter V6 engine that makes 292 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque with two electric motors: A pure generator/starter unit and one that supplies extra drive force for the rear wheels. It's backed by an electronically controlled Continuously Variable Transmission (ECVT) that creates six "virtual" ratios with the lever in its "Sport" gate. Capable of operating in pure electric mode at lower speeds and recharging its battery energy while coasting or braking, the system's combined effective output of 340 horsepower gives the GS 450h a claimed acceleration from zero to 60 miles per hour of 5.2 seconds, making it even quicker than the 189-pound-lighter V8-powered GS 460. Modest but still respectable EPA fuel economy figures of 22 mpg city/25 mpg highway also top those of the GS 460.
3.5-liter V6 with 35-kilowatt Permanent Magnetic Electric Drive Motor
292 horsepower @ 6400 rpm
267 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4800 rpm
340 horsepower total combined gasoline/electric system output
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 22/25
As might be expected, the 2010 Lexus GS 450h is the most expensive model in the GS lineup, with a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) that starts around $58,000. Although the figure represents about a $3,000 premium compared to the GS 460, the Hybrid's extra helping of standard equipment narrows that gap a bit in terms of absolute value and keeps it in the "worth considering" category for buyers contemplating alternatives like the Audi A6, BMW 550i, Infiniti M45, Jaguar XJ8 and Mercedes-Benz E550. Going the cleaner, greener route does exact a modest penalty in the long run, as the GS 450h's residual value percentage is projected to fall slightly below all other members of its family – as well as some of the other competitors in its segment.