Strengths and weaknesses:
- ample power
- not as economical as expected
Environment consciousness for the upper crust
"Although it’s mostly unchanged from the previous model year, Lexus’ 2011 GS 450h remains a cachet car of status and high technology that comes at a steep price."
The trim and packaging has been simplified, which makes putting the car together on paper (or on website) easier; my test car is a ‘base’ model with only a block heater for options.
All around, inside and out, the GS is a luxury car. It looks and feels good, with the company’s characteristically underplayed body styling and visual accents, without resorting to the gimmickry of over-applied metallic trim or the unnecessarily squared and angular treatment seen on a number of competitors. It’s a car for people already comfortable with whom they are, rather than the ‘look at me’ mentality of the wannabe set.
My test vehicle blends into any setting. With a silver-ish/off-white paint job (branded ‘Mercury Metallic’ on the spec sheet) and 18-inch alloy rims, the car doesn’t draw a crowd in parking lots, though when people get up close they immediately remark that it is indeed a nice car.
You have to get inside the GS 450h to get the full feel of it as a premium automobile. Quality leather seating surfaces, (quality surfaces on everything for that matter, from the dash and console to the roof lining) and a full attention to the look and feel of every button and knob within the cabin, let occupants know they’re riding in a first class car.
Those occupants better not be very big, though, as the GS cabin remains a fairly tight fit. This constitutes my one major hang-up with the car – it isn’t accommodating for tall people (especially in the rear), though nobody under six feet will likely notice.
One of Lexus’ claims to fame (along with overall build quality) is the supremely quiet interior. The test model is doing a great job of keeping road and wind noise to a minimum, which allows me to fill the cockpit with my terrible taste in tunes via the Mark Levinson sound system. The rig sports 14 speakers, is satellite enabled, with a six-CD changer and my personal favourite function: Bluetooth capability for my music pod. It’s becoming a pet peeve of mine when I test cars that allow a wireless, hands-free hook-up for your phone but still force me to link the iPod with an adapter cable like your parents had to do back in the ’90s.
The GS450’s hybrid powertrain is likewise quiet, particularly at low speeds when it can run on electric power only, still with enough get-up-and-go to bring some sporty performance to the platform.
Like any good hybrid, it brings the torque on fast at very low rpm (starting at zero, thanks to the electric motor) and, coupled as it is to a 3.5 litre six-cylinder gasoline engine, there is ample power on tap at any speed. The power is delivered to the drive wheels with a continuously variable transmission that manages to bring it on smoothly, without any clumsy, jerky feel when I hit the gas.
I may be enjoying the power a bit too much, as I’m not getting the fuel economy the company states for the hybrid GS but that could probably be brought down by more mileage-minded driving habits.
My one major criticism of this year’s GS 450h (interior space aside) is the high price-tag. There’s getting to be a lot of stiff competition among midsized, premium autos, and a lot of very nice cars available for less sticker shock than this (Lincoln’s very nice MKZ hybrid, for example).
Before freight and taxes, my test car with its block heater option (which upped the price by $580) weighs in at over 70K.