SENIOR MOTORSPORTS EDITOR MAC MORRISON: The 2014 Lexus GS 450h isn't the choice for devoted enthusiast drivers -- some nonhybrid GS models are better suited to them, thanks to more aggressive tires, different steering feel, and performance packages. The hybrid also comes standard with the synthetic feel familiar to anyone who has experienced energy-regen braking systems.
This is not an indictment, nor does it mean you can't have any fun piloting this GS. There's some kick in the quiet-as-expected drivetrain at wide-open throttle, and the chassis tuning is not as floaty as I anticipated, though you'll never confuse the ride and handling for, say, an Audi running in “dynamic” mode. This is a comfortable, smooth experience that many luxury buyers will discover as perhaps exactly what they are looking for. Throw in the renowned Lexus dealership experience, and reasonable fuel mileage, and it's not hard to imagine plenty of very satisfied customers bombing around in their GS 450hs.
The exterior grew on me slowly, and while it's far from the most menacing or aggressive body on the road or in this vehicle class, it's also not as bland as Lexus of recent past. The cabin, while arguably somewhat bland, actually might be one of my personal favorites. It's so subdued that it's also ultra-clean, with surfaces covered in nice leather, plus excellent seats, stylish light and semi-gloss wood trim, and plenty of LED lighting to make it a satisfyingly tranquil environment.
DIGITAL EDITOR ANDREW STOY: The GS 450h exemplifies Lexus to me. It's a comfortable, quick luxury hybrid possessing every option one could possibly ask for, yet it's utterly forgettable the moment the locks click closed behind you. I would say it's the luxury car for folks upgrading from a Toyota Camry, but that's actually the very nice Lexus ES 350. The GS is more like an upgrade for a Honda Accord V6 or maybe a Nissan Maxima owner (are there any Maxima owners anymore?).
I'll skip the exterior of the GS 450h because, well, there's nothing to talk about. If you want to roll incognito, here's your ride. Inside, though, comfortable seats, great visibility and an understated sense of luxury greet occupants. I do love Lexus hybrids' use of bamboo on interior surfaces; combined with a matte finish, it's a very elegant way to break up an otherwise black passenger compartment. My only complaint was with a cupholder door that rattled; said door also scraped when opened or closed, so some previous occupant may have tweaked the alignment. I'd be surprised to discover that this was an endemic problem for Lexus GS hybrids.
Don't let the “hybrid” badge scare you: There's ample power under the GS' hood, and it's delivered with the trademark smoothness of Toyota's proven hybrid systems. Gas/electric handoff is as seamless as it gets, but the regenerative braking has a distinctive plateau -- there's initial bite then a long period of pedal travel that doesn't correspond to increased stopping power, then firm stopping at the bottom. It's somewhat disconcerting in stop-and-go traffic.
Still, if invisible luxury is your goal, the Lexus GS 450h delivers the goods in a package that doesn't force you to choose performance over efficiency.
ASSOCIATE EDITOR JAKE LINGEMAN: The GS hybrid looks a lot better than it used to, but the regular GS looks even better. This car feels like and has the proportions of a full-size sedan. And 34 mpg on the highway in a large sedan is nothing to sneeze at.
Acceleration is good with 338 combined hp, especially in sport-plus mode. I still hate the CVT, but they're getting better with the fake “step down” gear shift software. It almost feels like a normal car. At least, it would if it weren't for those brakes. I don't mind the rock-solid feel up top if it slows the car down right. But many of them either have a big bite on the top of the stroke, like this car, or no feel until the bottom. There has to be a way in between.
The interior is clean and plain, which is always good, and Lexus still owns the luxury seat market. I think this mouse pad setup for the infotainment might be my second favorite after BMW's iDrive system. The radio was plenty loud, and all of the other functions were easy to figure out.
This car is darn expensive at nearly $70K. I see no world in which I would drive this car, but I suppose if you want a luxury hybrid, with a decent amount of acceleration, the GS should be looked at. Just make sure to look at some other cars, too.
2014 Lexus GS 450h
Base Price: $60,510
As-Tested Price: $69,580
Drivetrain: 3.5-liter V6 hybrid; RWD, continuously variable transmission
Output: 286 hp @ 6,000 rpm (338 hp net system output), 254 lb-ft @ 4,600 rpm
Curb Weight: 4,190 lb
Fuel Economy (EPA City/Highway/Combined): 29/34/31 mpg
AW Observed Fuel Economy: 30.8 mpg
Options: Luxury package including moon roof, power folding electrochromic heated exterior mirrors, heated wood-and-leather steering wheel and shift knob, 19-inch alloy wheels including all season tires, roof rails, auto recirculation driver's seat/steering/mirror memory, illuminated scuff plates, LED headlamps and headlamp cleaner ($5,255); HDD navigation including 12.3-inch high resolution split backup camera, remote touch interface, Lexus Enform with app suite, destination assist and eDestination, including one-year trial subscription, Lexus insider, voice command, HD radio including real-time traffic and weather ($1,735); Mark Levinson premium surround sound audio, 17-speaker 300W sound system, 7.1 channel architecture, automatic sound levelizer, single-disc DVD/CD player ($1,380); blind spot monitor ($700)
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