Review: 2014 Lexus GS450h

by Paul Strauss

    2014 Lexus GS450h

  • Powertrain: 3.5L V6 engine, 147 kW electric motor, CVT
  • 0-to-60 Time (secs): 5.6 secs.
  • Top Speed (mph): 138 mph
  • City/Hwy/Combined MPG: 29/34mpg (31mpg combined)
  • Curb Weight (lb): 4,190 lb.
  • Wheelbase (in): 112.2 in.
  • Total Length (in): 190.7 in.
  • Width (in): 72.4 in. (with mirrors folded)
  • Base Price (USD): $59,600
  • Price as Tested (USD): $70,215 (incl delivery)

The 2014 Lexus GS450h is a luxury hybrid sedan that sits at the top of the current GS line. The GS450h competes with such cars as the BMW 528, Audi A7 and Infiniti Q70. The car blends comfort and performance while benefitting from the fuel economy and reduced emissions of a hybrid drivetrain.

Exterior

Outside, the GS450h has an sophisticated and masculine look that definitely says “executive” – especially in the Obsidian Black finish of my review car. The car doesn’t offer the sporty looks of the GS350 or its F-Sport variants, but looks more luxurious. Up front, the car features Lexus’ trademark spindle grille, but in its most subdued form. Sculpted Bi-Xenon headlamps and LED running lights come standard, while my car had the upgraded LED headlamps. 18″ 9-spoke alloy wheels come standard, but the 19″ alloys shown here are a better match for the performance that hides beneath this car’s elegant exterior.

Drivetrain/Performance

The GS450h is equipped with a 3.5 liter V6 engine as well as a 147 kW electric motor. Combined, they produce 338 horsepower. 0-to-60 time for the GS450h is just 5.6 seconds, with a top speed of 138mph. Combined mileage for the hybrid drivetrain is an impressive 31mpg – not bad for a car that weighs nearly 4,200 lbs.

Shifting is achieved through a continuously variable transmission, and I have to say this is the best CVT that I’ve experienced to date. Throttle response is smooth, and there’s none of that annoying whining that is often found in CVTs. The car also has paddle shifters and sport mode shifting if you’d like to take charge of the shift points. Keep in mind that you don’t get the sort of noticeable shift transitions you get with a traditional gearbox.

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The car offers four driving modes: Eco, Normal, Sport and Sport+. Eco is designed for frequent stop/start driving, while Sport changes throttle response, and Sport+ tightens steering and suspension system response.

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The dashboard information display has one particularly neat trick up its sleeve, changing from a driving efficiency gauge to a tachometer when switching into either of the Sport modes.

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In stop and start city driving, I was able to keep the car in Normal or Eco modes, and much of the time, the electric motor was doing the work at low speeds. When accelerating or passing, the gas engine kicked in and gave the car significant power. Once on the highway and the open road, I was able to open the throttle up, and was happy to find the kind of acceleration one would expect in a luxury performance vehicle.

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A particular strong suit of the GS450h is its handling on bumpy roads. I found the car to offer a smooth and comfortable ride whether negotiating Chicago’s nasty asteroid crater potholes, or at highway speeds. Road noise is minimal inside the cabin, with the only perceptible sound coming from the sunroof area. Steering felt responsive, though it felt most enjoyable to me in the Sport+ mode.

Interior/Comfort

The inside of the GS450h is both sophisticated and comfortable. Perforated leather seats offer both elegance and a soft touch, and both the driver and passenger seats include heating and ventilation. One thing I really liked is how the seat climate controls offer an “auto” mode to maintain comfort. Once this was set, I never had to fiddle with the temperature. I also found the 10-way adjustable seats to provide more flexibility than most, with niceties like side and thigh bolsters, as well as the ability to tilt just the top half of the seat independently from the bottom.

The most striking thing when you look at the interior of the GS450h is its bamboo wood trim, which can be found on the steering wheel, center console, across the dashboard, and on the doors.

Rear passenger legroom is good, and with the front seats in a normal position for a 6-foot-tall adult, I was able to comfortably sit in the back row without my knees touching the front seats. The rear passengers also get the benefit of pull-up sunshades on the windows, an electric rear window sunshade, and their own vents. They even get their own set of controls for the radio and independent climate control.

Trunk space is good, with 13.2 cubic feet of storage – plenty for two sets of golf clubs, or several suitcases. Though the rear seat is absent the ability to fold or pass through items from the trunk.

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Technology

Like all contemporary Lexus vehicles, the GS450h is packed with technology, ranging from a vehicle stability control system, to emergency brake assist and an adaptive variable suspension. Other standard tech features include pushbutton start, rain-sensing wipers, LED daytime running lights, auto-dimming mirrors, dual-zone automatic climate control, and HomeLink remote control for operating garage doors and other home automation. The car also comes with a 1 year trial of Lexus’ Safety Connect, which provides automatic collision notification, stolen vehicle location, and emergency roadside assistance. I’d also recommend going for the optional blind spot monitor, which is a godsend when changing lanes.

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My car was upgraded with the HDD Navigation system, which has a substantial 12.3″ screen, and the best integrated traffic information I’ve come across in a nav system to date with timely and relevant traffic information during route guidance. This option pack also includes a backup camera, and Lexus Enform app suite. If I were to buy this car, I’d also go for the Mark Levinson 17-speaker, 330-watt audio system, which really rocks. Sound was crisp and punchy and never distorted, even at the highest of volumes.

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Pricing and Options

Base price for the 2014 Lexus GS450h is $59,600(USD). The car reviewed here included the following options: Blind Spot Monitor ($700); Luxury Package ($5255): open/close moonroof, power-folding side mirrors, heated wood and leather steering wheel and shift knob, 19″ alloy wheels, roof rails, driver’s seat and steering wheel memory, illuminated scuff plates, and LED headlamps with headlamp cleaner; Mark Levinson Premium audio system ($1380); HDD navigation/backup camera ($1735); Illuminated door sills ($425); and All weather floor mats ($120). Total price for the car reviewed was $70,125, including a $910 charge for delivery, processing and handling.

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I was very pleased driving the Lexus GS450h. It’s an elegant and sophisticated vehicle, with a smooth and comfortable ride, but it also packs a punch if you want it to. Plus, its hybrid drivetrain offers the added incentive of improved fuel economy. It’s packed with bells and whistles and offers a solid balance between luxury and performance. I highly recommend the Lexus GS450h if you’re in the market for a premium luxury sedan.

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