The all-new 2013 Lexus GS 450h is not a Prius. Sure, it’s a hybrid and it has a battery in the trunk, but let’s be honest, you’re not buying the GS 450h to save gas. The new 2013 Lexus GS 450h is luxury on wheels. You’re buying the GS 450h to feel like you’re doing something to save the planet while you cool your bum during the summer and warm your hands during the winter. It’s a luxury car with green benefits. The GS, though, isn’t your ordinary green luxury car—it’s got spunk.

Basics

  • Estimated fuel economy for the 300H:
    • 29 city/34 highway/31 combined mpg
  • 338 total horsepower
  • Bamboo trim and steering wheel
  • Heated steering wheel-mmmmmmm
  • Keyless entry
  • Pushbutton start
  • RWD
  • Airbags everywhere
    




Like the ES that I reviewed earlier this summer, Lexus has redesigned the grille and LED headlights to give the GS that “Wow, I drive a sexy car” feeling even though it’s a Lexus. “Even though it’s a Lexus”—sometimes Lexus vehicles feel so practical, especially the hybrid models since they are designed to conserve fuel. But I can tell you that after driving the GS 450h, there’s nothing practical-feeling about the 450h, though it *is* designed to be practical. Trunk space is adequate as is leg room, though once my 6’5″ dh adjusted the passenger seat to fit, my 10 yr old dd sitting behind him had just enough room for her legs. And get this for practical—some designer at Lexus has dropped his keys or phone one too many times down into that Never-Never Land otherwise known as the abyss of lost items between the front seat and the console and came up with a padded stop to keep things from falling down there. Brilliant!

  

The 450h is a hybrid, so it either operates on premium unleaded fuel or on the battery. There are different modes you can choose as you drive: EV, Eco, Normal, Sport S or S+. If you are driving short distances at slow speeds—think bumper to bumper traffic or just around the neighborhood block—you want EV mode. That’s purely electric, or battery power and it’s when the gas engine is powered off. It’s also when the engine is quiet. That’s when the car is at its most dangerous, so if you’re driving around pedestrians, you are in charge of their safety—they can’t hear you! Lexus has added a sound to that mode, but I didn’t hear it with the windows down. Eco mode is a moderated mode that increases fuel efficiency. In Sport S mode, a tachometer appears on the gauges and the battery voltage increases. In Sport S+ mode, the suspension also tightens and you can use the paddle shifters on the steering wheel.

Another noticeable driving difference is that the GS 450h is available only in RWD. I haven’t driven a RWD car since I last drove dh’s 1972 Datsun 240Z back in 1995 and that was a sports car. My MDX is AWD and all of our other vehicles to date have been FWD. Just tooling around town, I didn’t notice a difference, but when I was on the freeway (and I do a lot of freeway driving) or did heavy acceleration (um, yeah, I’ve been accused of doing that a lot—hey, I like to pass people), I felt it. It’s like being pushed from behind; it’s such a different driving experience—very sporty. Lexus says the 450h goes from 0-60 mph in 5.6 seconds. I didn’t time it, but let’s just say that I was always the first one onto the freeway off the ramp.

The navigation screen is controlled by a mouse-like device instead of a touch screen. Lexus designers want the driver to stay in position as much as possible and have everything at their fingertips; it’s safer and more comfortable. However, the mouse and armrest take up a lot of real estate on the center console and if I’m going to be using the device, I’m going to be distracted anyway so I may as well be using a touch screen. The navigation screen also houses the backup camera feed.

      

The Luxury Package buys you a driver’s seat that envelopes you as only an 18-way adjustable seat can: from headrest to luxury leg extension. Handstitched perforated leather seats can be heated during the winter or ventilated during warmer weather, which I can only describe as like sitting on an air hockey table. My kids loved the air and radio controls in the fold down center arm rest. Adaptive front lighting, which turns as you turn, is also included with the package. Add $445 to heat the rear seats. Add $3200 for night vision.

  

Speaking of handstitched leather, instead of retyping what I wrote in my review of the Lexus 350, I’m going to use the lovely quote feature since it applies here:

Part of the Lexus luxury is the fine craftsmanship you see the interior (and exterior, for that matter). The fit and finish of the various parts is impeccable. New this year is stitching in the leather along the dashboard and around the vehicle seats. This stitching is done by 12 Takumi craftsmen in Japan. To prove that they have the skills, these “masters” must be able to fold an origami cat like the one in the pictures with their non-dominant hand. Impressive!



Safety Features

  • Ten airbags: 2 frontal, 2 knee, 2 side curtains, torso bags in all outboard seats
  • Whiplash Injury Lessening System (WILS): The front seats push back on certain rear impacts, lessening crash force on the occupant
  • Tire pressure monitor system
  • Anti-lock brakes
  • Electronic brake-force distribution
  • Brake assist: Helps driver use all the benefits of anti-lock brakes
  • Vehicle stability control: Helps driver maintain control of vehicle in difficult situations
  • Traction control
  • Smart stop technology: When both the brake and gas pedals are depressed, the engine will reduce power to help the brakes stop the vehicle
  • Dynamic Radar Cruise Control: Optional, adjusts cruise control speed based on the speed of the vehicle in front of you
  • Blind Spot Monitor: Optional, detects vehicles entering your blind spots and notifies you on your side mirrors
  • Adaptive Front Lighting: Optional, rotates front lights as you turn a curve to help you keep your eyes on the road
  • Lane Keep Assist: Optional, reads lane markings and if you veer off, will correct the car back to the center of the lane
  • Night Vision: Optional, uses infrared technology to display objects on navigation screen at night
  • Pre-Collision System: Optional, monitors driver’s eyes, tightens seat belts, pre-loads brake system, actively applies brakes if necessary
  • Backup Camera: The Lexus website marks the backup camera as an option, but I couldn’t find anywhere under the 450h section where it wasn’t included, as it should be. Sometimes the viewing location is different depending on the option package you choose, but the screen is in the dash for this model with nice, clear images day and night.
  • IIHS ratings

G for moderate overlap front test, side impact, roof strength
Rear crash protection/head restraint: G for overall rating, dynamic rating, and seat/head restraint geometry
These ratings earned the GS 450h a place on the IIHS Top Safety Pick list, a nice honor. IIHS has not yet tested the GS for the new small overlap front test yet.

  • NHTSA 5-Star crash test ratings

NHTSA has not yet tested the 2013 GS 450h.



Carseat Installation

Carseat installation is fairly unremarkable in the GS 450h and that’s a good thing! For installing child seats, the outboard buckle stalks are fixed in a flexible-ish plastic. I didn’t find it difficult to install carseats at all, however. The center stalk is webbing, but short. The buckle stalks are low, which may be more difficult for booster users, but it’s easier for carseat installs. Lower LATCH anchors are outboard and hidden just beneath the surface of the bight. They were relatively easy to access. Attaching a d-ring to the front seat legs will be easy for those with carseats; both the driver’s and passenger’s seat legs are easy to wrap the d-ring around. There are torso airbags on the outboard back seats, but they do not interfere with carseats installed in those positions or children riding in boosters properly. If passengers are out of position, such as if they are leaning out the window or sleeping against the door, there’s a potential to be injured by a deploying airbag.

      

  

Pros

  • Driving power with plenty of safety features
  • It’s a hybrid with more power than its non-hybrid counterparts
  • Family friendly
  • Keyless entry and pushbutton start means you put the key in your pocket and forget about it until you leave the car
  • Sporty styling means it’s not your dad’s Lexus anymore
  • Quality interior features
  • Bluetooth technology included

Cons

  • Premium fuel required
  • Not much fuel efficiency gained for being a hybrid
  • Expensive add-on packages
  • Sensors around rear-view mirror block view
  • Prefer a touch screen navigation screen



Conclusion

The car I drove was around $70,000 give or take and it truly pained me to have to park it on the street. Despite having my sunshades up in the windshield, it was hot to get into every day to drive. But, the ventilated seats kept me from sticking to the leather and the cold air conditioning cooled me off. Besides, once I stepped on the gas pedal, I wasn’t thinking about such things as the heat—I was turning heads as I drove down the street and enjoying the ride. Sigh. I miss the GS 450h.

 

Our appreciation to the Walker Agency, Page One Automotive, and Lexus for providing us with the GS 450h for review.