In the world of hybrid cars there are those who help you save the world with eye-popping mpg. There are also the ones that hijack this green brow technology to give speed enthusiasts more power without the guilt associated with a gas guzzler. The 2014 Lexus GS450h is that car.
On one of Arizona's best windy mountain roads, the Apache Trail just east of Phoenix, the 4,200 lb Lexus whooshes along effortlessly surging with power up the hills and recharging its battery down. It's an ebb and flow that makes one wonder why didn't we always do it this way.
Lexus has married all of what makes a sport sedan seemingly attractive. It has rear-wheel drive and a top-drawer interior with leather and wood – bamboo of course as it's more sustainable. Under the hood is a smooth as a sewing machine 3.5 liter V6 that revs like a symphony.
It's where this musical gets the electric motor that brings its horsepower up for a total of 338, making this the most powerful Lexus GS sedan you can buy at any price. It's more powerful than the GS350 FSport, and more than the last generation GS with a V8. Lexus claims a zero-to-60 acceleration time of 5.6 seconds.
The power-train can combine both the gasoline engine and electric motors for maximum power such as accelerating up hills. On coast and downhill stints, it can run on electric power alone or use momentum to actually charge the battery.
In spirited driving up in the mountains the system just seemed so seamless in its transitions from one power source to the other. When you ask for power you get it in a smooth wave. The starting and stopping of the gasoline engine is nearly imperceptible.
At first glance, the GS450h shares its design with the GS350, only identifying itself with subtle touches like its optioned LED headlamps and blue highlight emblems all around. At the rear, the tailpipes are concealed to appear more environmentally sensitive, in lieu of the GS350′s large dual chrome tips.
The look remains both sporting and businesslike. Lexus has been able to bring drama to the GS with their new spindle grille design themes, but keeps it stately and tidy in silhouette which still exudes credible sport sedan.
Ours had the Luxury Package with upgraded 19” wheels and really the look could only improve with the FSport package which isn’t offered on the Hybrid here in the States just yet. The GS450h is available with this sporting trim grade in Europe as there, customers don’t equate hybrid with a step down in stature or performance.
Once inside you will find what is likely one of the best cabins Lexus has offered to date. There are sumptuous trappings of fine stitched leather and the aforementioned genuine bamboo trim. Power adjustable driver and passenger seats offer heating and ventilation, memory settings for both. Outside side mirrors and the bamboo and leather steering wheel with paddle shifters is also heated.
Center stage is a large LED infotainment screen nestled deep in a cove, making it visible in almost all sunlight. It’s menus for audio, navigation, communications and other car related settings are all controlled by a console mounted mouse puck which works well and is easy to use on the go.
We find fit and finish is really the envy of the business and material quality is faultless regardless of where you look or your hand roams. The highly bolstered yet soft seats offer up excellent comfort both front and rear, never wearing on you on long drives.
The only area seemingly affected by the fact this is a hybrid is the trunk which gives up some of its space for a stacked nickel hydride battery pack which sits just over the rear suspension.
Handling is neutral as front-rear weight balance is actually helped a bit by the rear-mounted hybrid battery. The ride over the rougher surfaces of our mountain test loop was well damped and quiet at all times.
Despite the patchy asphalt, the chassis never really got unsettled or twitchy. The GS450h just provides a hushed an solid as rock driving experience regardless of what passes beneath it.
Its electric power steering is as communicative as you can expect, and has a noticeable change in effort when you dial up the Sport + drive mode. The suspension also stiffens considerably in its damping by virtue of electronically adjustable struts.
In Sport+ the constantly variable transmission (CVT) has up to eight stepped simulated shift points accessible via the steering wheel mounted shift paddles or console gear lever. They will allow up and downshift steps for spirited driving which is fun, but they aren’t as crisp as genuine gear changes.
All this having your cake and eating it too does come at a price. The GS450h starts at $59,600 – ours coming to just over $70,000 as optioned. To wit, these options included the aforementioned Luxury Package at $5,255 , a blind spot monitor for $700, mark Levinson sound for $1380, the HDD navigation system at $1755, power trunk $400, intuitive park assist $500, and a cargo net and trunk mat totaling $169.
The EPA rates the 2014 Lexus GS450h at 29 mpg city, 34 mpg highway and 31 mpg combined which can be easily achieved if not beaten. We achieved 32.5 mpg combined in our week.
Though expensive, we like what Lexus has accomplished with the GS450h, effectively and exquisitely marrying the concepts of sport sedan with highly efficient hybrid. It gives up little in the compromise. In the end, we had a good deal of fun saving the planet with it!