Highlights: The GS 450h is the only hybrid in the premium midsize segment, offering an 8-speed transmission.
Test vehicle’s MSRP: $70,430 (base model $61,340)
Seating Capacity: 5
Standard Safety Features: air bags; ABS; an electronic brake force distribution system; a vehicle stability system; a traction control system; a tire pressure monitoring system; whiplash injury lessening front seats; rain sensing auto wipers; a rear camera; LED daytime running lights; bi-xenon headlamps with washer; electric parking brakes; an enhanced roadside assistance system; and a first aid kit
Standard Equipment: 17-inch wheels; Siri Eye technology; leather seats with driver’s side memory; heated/ventilated power front seats; a push button keyless starter ignition system; a heated steering wheel; a windshield washer deicer; a keyless entry system; a power moonroof; an 8-inch infotainment screen; a dual automatic climate control system; a power rear window sunshade; manually operated rear sunshades; a power tilt/telescopic steering wheel; and HD radio with real time traffic and weather
Upgraded Features On Hybrid Touring Model: an electronic blind spot monitor system; a heads up display system; a gigantic 12.3 high resolution navigation system infotainment screen; HD radio; an intuitive park assist system; Lexus’ luxury package, which consist of power folding heated outside mirrors, a heated wood/leather steering wheel, 19-inch wheels, illuminated scuff plates, a remote mouse type interface and a power operated trunk
Standard Audio On Test Vehicle:a 12-speaker AM/FM/6-disc CD with satellite radio
Bluetooth Connectivity: Yes
iPod connectivity: Yes
Bumper-to-Bumper Warranty: 4 years or 50,000 miles
Powertrain Warranty: 6 years or 70,000 miles
Hybrid Warranty: 8 years or 100,000 miles
Standard Engine/Horsepower: 3.5-liter, 6-cylinder/286-hp
Recommended Fuel: Premium
Standard Fuel Mileage: 29-city/34-hwy
What’s New: A fuel-efficient 8-speed system is available this year along with Siri Eye technology. Moreover, power folding outside mirrors with cross traffic alert has been added to the blind spot monitors for the 2014 model year.
Pros: The fuel-efficient GS 450h literally mimics the GS 350 with its bold and sporty in-your-face design due to its wide mouth front fascia spindle grille. The only distinguishing exterior characteristics are the blue badging that is strategically placed on the vehicle, identifying it as a hybrid.
With this being a hybrid, the spirited GS manages to offer three driving modes: normal, sport and sport plus. When the normal mode is in effect, the color of the instrument panel turns blue, reflecting fuel efficiency, whereas when the GS is placed in sport and sport plus mode, the instrument panel turns red. The red light, when emitted, is an indication that the driver is no longer striving for fuel efficiency and that the throttle is in full use. The sport and, more specifically, the sport plus mode offer a more engaging driving experience. We found ourselves constantly driving this hybrid in the plus mode, while being wrapped in the extremely comfortable standard 10-way power driver’s seat.
Furthermore, for techies, they’ll be ecstatic to know that the GS 450h offers Siri Eyes technology licensed from Apple for free this model year. So, for those who own a compatible iPhone, Siri will allow users to call contacts, get turn-by-turn navigation and perform other functions, without the driver taking their eyes off the road and/or removing their hands from the optional wood/leather heated steering wheel.
In addition to the hands free technology, the GS hybrid also adds an optional climate concierge feature, which is similar to that in the brand’s flagship LS sedan. The GS 450h monitors the temperature of three separate climate zones and adjusts not only the fans, but also the temperature of the seats and steering wheel according to preset preferences.
Moreover, the GS offers a host of today’s optional automated self-driving aids. Everything from a lane changing keep system to a lane departure warning system to a pre-collision braking system with a radar-activated cruise control system are available on the GS hybrid. And lastly, for true music lovers, the high end Mark Levinson 850-watt, 17-speaker audio system is available. However, to hold down the price, we found the standard 12-speaker audio system in our vehicle to be more than adequate.
Cons: The Lexus GS 450h has a starting base price that is the highest in the segment. In fact, the Lexus hybrid is approximately $3,715 more than the Mercedes Benz E-Class 400 hybrid. We must note that the Mercedes-Benz offers the lowest mileage in the segment.
Besides the base price difference, with the exception of the Lexus, all of the hybrids in the segment push out over 300 horses from underneath the hood. In contrast, the Lexus is designed with a 286 horsepower engine. The Acura, which is the segment’s only all-wheel drive hybrid, offers the most horsepower in the segment, pushing out over 370 horses from underneath its hood.
Lastly, being that the GS 450h is considered to be a sport-oriented luxury vehicle, Lexus engineers should consider adding an oversized panoramic roof and an all-wheel drive configuration to the option list. If Acura offers a powerful all-wheel drive hybrid system, surely Lexus can do the same, especially since they currently offer a non hybrid GS in an all-wheel drive configuration.
Verdict: While being just a tad bit pricey, Lexus has still managed to balance a spirited, rear-wheel drive, midsize sedan, with all of the accoutrements one would expect in an extremely fuel-efficient luxury vehicle. According to fuel economy.gov, Lexus drivers should be able to ink out close to 539 miles on a tank of gas in this hybrid. That driving range is right in line with most of the luxury competitors in this segment.
Competition: Acura RLX hybrid; Infiniti Q70 hybrid and the Mercedes Benz E-Class Sedan 400 hybrid
Jeff Fortson is an auto analyst and editor of a car-buying website for women and minorities. To learn more about his popular car-buying workshop and/or to price a new-vehicle, drive on over to www.JeffCars.com. Follow him on Twitter/JeffCars.