Lexus GS 450h
Mid-Sized Sports Sedan, Oversized Luxury

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by Reed Berry, Contributing Editor

Yours truly is headed up to Sacramento to serve as keynote speaker for a national driver safety conference. Obviously, the easy thing to do would be to hop a flight out of L.A. or Burbank and arrive in about an hour. However, my sense of adventure has gotten the better of me. I’m currently road testing a shiny new hybrid so, instead of taking to the sky, I’m hitting the road in a handsome 2017 Lexus GS450h.

Photography by Lexus

Sure, the drive will take several hours but, at first glance, this car looks like it will provide the proper environment for a trouble-free SoCal to NoCal road trip. It’s a big four-door sedan with a spacious interior and a huge trunk with ample cargo space. The body design is certainly attractive, with impressive styling and a big, bold front grille that is unmistakably Lexus.

Once inside, I can’t help but notice that there’s a lot going on in here. As with any vehicle I’m operating for the first time, safety (and common sense) dictates that I familiarize myself with the buttons, knobs and other features prior to driving in order to avoid distractions. That may take a while given the number of various controls, a number of which are on the steering wheel with many others positioned on the center console.

As with many newer cars, the GS450h has a display screen for navigation and other infotainment functions, but this screen is huge. I’m not sure that a 12.3-inch screen is really necessary but it does make everything easy to see at a glance. Also, unlike some vehicles with display screens that look like an iPad protruding from the top of the dash, this screen is nicely incorporated into a sleek, sculpted dashboard to give it a more upscale, low-profile look.

Everything on the display is controlled by what Lexus calls a “Remote Touch Interface Controller,” but that’s just a fancy name for what I would consider to be, in effect, a joystick. It’s not a stick as such, but more of a rectangular button that can be moved in various directions and then pressed to activate functions on the screen. While some may like this type of controller, I’m personally not a fan because I find it a bit more distracting than simply using a touch screen.

Not surprisingly for a vehicle that costs nearly $70K, the interior is spacious and quite elegant. It does a very good job of blending luxury and sport thanks to a variety of materials and textures. The perforated leather seats are very comfortable and the front seats are both heated and ventilated. The steering wheel and shift knob are also wrapped in leather. The wood trim on the dash and door panels give the interior a rich look, as does the analog clock mounted in the center of the dash.

If you’re jonesing for some tunes, entertainment in this vehicle is provided by an 835-watt, 17 speaker Mark Levinson Surround Sound Audio System, an add-of of nearly $1,400. In addition to AM, FM and Satellite radio, it plays CDs, DVDs and MP3s and, while it does a very good job with music, listening to AM talk stations is another matter. I see the HD Radio symbol on the screen, but AM stations sound just like they would on any other radio. It lacks the crisp, clear sound of HD radios I’ve experienced in other vehicles.

As I make my way up Interstate 5 through some middle-of-nowhere cities like Buttonwillow and Firebaugh, the outside temperature is ranging from the high 90s to 107 degrees. Not a concern for me, as I have the inside temp set at 70 degrees. This vehicle has dual-zone climate control that works very efficiently to keep the interior comfortable. Later, as the sun sets and the outside temp drops a bit, I’ll turn off the air conditioning and take full advantage of the power moonroof with one-touch open/close feature.

With a 3.5-liter 338-horsepower V6 engine, the GS450h has ample power and quick, hesitation-free acceleration. One might expect a car with this much power to be a gas guzzler but, being a hybrid, the fuel economy is quite impressive at 29 mpg city and 34 highway. Obviously, your driving habits will ultimately determine your actual fuel economy, but Lexus has produced a vehicle that, if driven conservatively and responsibly, will help you stretch a tank of gas.

There are a variety of driving modes to suit your mood and driving style. Normal mode balances performance and fuel economy, while Eco mode moderates the engine power for better fuel economy. Sport S mode provides quicker gear changes and more dynamic performance. Available Sport S+ mode tightens the suspension and makes steering more responsive. The car comes standard with paddle shifters so, while it may not be the most economical way to drive, Sport mode is certainly more fun.

If you’re not going far and will be driving only at a low speed, there is an EV mode that allows you to drive on battery power alone. This is definitely a win-win, as when driven in this manner, no fuel is used and the vehicle produces no harmful emissions – a great way to get around town economically and guilt-free. And, not that we would probably use it a great deal in SoCal, but for those who may live in or drive through a winter wonderland, there is also a Snow mode.

Regardless of drive mode, the car seems to drive and handle exceptionally well. The powerful engine is paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission that performs impressively. The car tackles sharp corners with relative ease and accelerates confidently coming out of corners. Gear changes are smooth to the point of being barely noticeable. The adaptive variable suspension keeps the ride stable and comfortable.

Arriving at my hotel in Sacramento, I grab my travel bag out of the trunk. My bag looks quite small in the spacious trunk with 13.3 cubic feet of cargo space. Friends have accused me of being lazy at times. It must be true considering I really find myself enjoying the convenience of the power trunk lid. It opens with a push of a button on the proximity sensor and closes with the push of a button inside the trunk lid. Worth the $400 added cost, in my opinion. The trunk has a handy cargo net, as well.

As would be expected from a car of this quality (and price), the GS450h is equipped with a host of safety features including anti-lock brakes, vehicle stability control and airbags throughout. The dynamic radar cruise control works very well, maintaining the desired speed but adjusting as traffic slows ahead or when someone suddenly moves into your lane ahead of you, allowing you to maintain a safe following distance.

And, since anyone purchasing one of these pricey sedans deserves to be pampered a bit, buyers are treated to three rather cool convenience features: Lexus Enform Destinations, Lexus Enform Service Connect and Lexus Enform Remote. All three are provided free of charge during the first year of ownership. Enform Destinations gives owners access to a live agent to help them locate restaurants and points of interest, for example. Service connect allows you to access vehicle status and maintenance needs via a website, and Enform Remote is a mobile app that allows you to monitor your vehicle and perform functions such as remote start and locking and unlocking the doors from your smartphone.

Honestly, it would be really hard not to like this car. The GS450h blends the comfort of a big, roomy luxury car with the practicality and fuel efficiency of a hybrid. It certainly seems to provide impressive performance as well as enough convenience, technology and safety features to justify its price, making it a worthy competitor among other vehicles in its class.

For more information on Lexus products, visit lexus.com.

Name of vehicle:
2017 Lexus GS450h 4-Door Sedan

MSRP: $63,635
As Tested: $66,510

Engine type:
3.5-liter 24-valve V6 with Dual VVT and Electric Drive Motor with Lexus Hybrid Drive

Horsepower:
338 HP @ 6000 rpm

Transmission type:
Electronically Controlled Variable Transmission with Intelligence; Paddle Shifters

Steering:
Electronic Power Steering (EPS)

Suspension:
Front: Independent double-wishbone with coil springs; gas-pressurized shock absorbers; stabilizer bar
Rear: Independent multilink with coil springs; gas-pressurized shock absorbers; stabilizer bar

Brakes:
Front: 13.1-in ventilated discs with two-piston calipers
Rear: 12.2-in ventilated discs with single-piston sliding calipers

Wheels:
18-inch five-spoke alloy wheels

Wheelbase:
112.2”

Overall length:
192.1”

Overall width (excluding mirrors):
72.4”

Overall height:
57.3”

Curb weight:
4,112

EPA Fuel Economy Estimates (City / Highway / Combined):
29/34/31

Fuel Capacity:
17.4 gallons

* Passenger car classes are designated by the EPA based on interior volume index or seating capacity, except the ones classified as special vehicle. A two-seater is classified as a car with no more than two designated seating positions.

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