The GS 450h seems strangely conflicted, as if it doesn't really know what it wants to be. The hybrid system gives the GS plenty of speed, but a typically soft Lexus suspension absorbs the road feel. That's lovely and peaceful for the passengers, but the lack of rear legroom is decidedly not. It's a hybrid, but it's faster than the V-8 version of the GS. The car is confused; I'm confused. At least my kids knew what they thought of the GS 450h: They were unimpressed.
The driving experience in the GS 450h is an odd one. It begins with disquieting acceleration that's devoid of engine roar. While there's plenty of power to be had, there's no quick jump off the starting line, as with a traditional gas engine. It can run on purely electric power but only at low speeds. It's super quiet on the road, not only because of the hybrid system, but because the GS is solidly built, with heavy doors and tons of soundproofing. The only really jumpy thing in the GS is the regenerative brakes, which were surprisingly sensitive.
The 2010 Lexus GS 450h begins at $57,450. My test vehicle was priced at $62,470.
The GS is, by far, the best looking of the Lexus sedans. It is sleek and elegant, with plenty of personality. The grille has been slightly redesigned for 2010, but it still looks familiar and very Lexus-y. The headlights angle away from the center grille, with a large Lexus badge in the middle of it. Subtle sculpting along the hood echoes the grille, while bolder lines reach back from the lights. It creates a wider, bolder face and gives this Lexus an edge that's missing from some of its lineup.
In the front and along the sides, chrome wraps nearly everything, bringing plenty of sparkle without becoming gaudy. Chrome can be found on the headlights, grille, windows and the bottom of the doors. Somehow, the door handles escaped the chrome treatment, but I think it was for the best. It's a fine line. The roof is rounded, leaning back from the hood, creating a sense of movement, even when the GS is parked.
Getting in and out of the five-seater was easier for the kids than it was for me. The GS sits fairly low to the ground and I'm not graceful. The ceiling is also on the low side, so I had to watch my head on the way in. The doors are heavy and close with a "thunk." They may be slightly unwieldy for little ones. My guys handled the doors without a problem, but they're half grown.
New for 2010, the hybrid system got a few tweaks, making it more efficient than ever. The GS has a 292-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 engine that uses premium gas. It also has two electric motors – one starts the gas engine and the other boosts acceleration – that give the GS a combined 340 hp. The GS 450h gets an EPA-estimated 22/25 mpg city/highway, but I, in what has become typical fashion, never hit those numbers. During my week in the GS, I averaged 19.5 mpg. This is due to the combination of hauling a fairly heavy car up and down hills all day and my complete disregard for economical driving practices.