Lexus GS 450h - Test Drive
Sorry Alan, but this Lexus is a bit too cool for you...
Engine capacity: 3.5-litre V6; electric motor
Top speed (mph): 155
0-62 mph (seconds): 5.9
Fuel economy (mpg): 45.6
CO2 emissions (g/km): 141
Sadly for Lexus owners, or Lexii owners as one of them would have it, the brand's two most famous owners are Alan Partridge and David Cameron. Now those are two men who know their way around a mid-morning radio show and affairs of state (you can decide which is which), but not a pair whose aesthetic choices you'd necessarily want to mirror.
Fortunately, I didn't get the opportunity to see if the airbags in the new GS 450 hybrid were as reliable as Alan's when he slammed his Lexus into a bollard ("calm down Lynn, you're suffering from minor women's whiplash," etc), but I was lucky enough to put the rest of Toyota's updated luxury hybrid to the test on my football team's training weekend. Having four grown men and their bags of kit was a nice way to put the 450h's roominess and comfort to the test.
Predictably for a machine with a decent 465 litres of boot space (increased thanks to the hybrid's battery being moved) and the F Sport model's leather upholstery, it passed with flying colours.
It's a very comfortable ride. As you'd expect for so much money and in a market clearly aimed at those with wads of VAT receipts in their glove compartment. Even if it drove like a cargo train, sitting in the cab of the 450h would be enough of a delight,
Thankfully, it doesn't. For a big car it's nimble on both the road and while inching around busy streets. Even when I had to squeeze it into the world's tightest car park in Richmond, the saloon's all bells'n'whistles parking system (rear-view camera with swing-guides and sensors-galore) made it a simple enough experience.
Its best feature though, is the almighty shove you get when putting your foot down on the sporty, brushed-metal pedals on the motorway. The combination of the 555-volt electric motor and the hulking V6 petrol engine kick into full throttle and make you feel like your Laz-Z-Boy chair has been lassoed by a speedboat.
It helped that I was driving the F Sport version of the 450, which, at an additional £6,000, is a big extra investment. For this, you get four 19in (rather than 18) alloys, and a snarling grille, that makes a fierce-looking alternative to immediate hybrid competitors such as BMW's ActiveHybrid5 and the Infiniti M35h, although it's pricier than both.
The F Sport also has a bonus sports-plus mode which offers a lovely light touch and response . Though, frankly, you're unlikely to need it while stuck in the 50mph-limit roadworks on the M1.
The multimedia system, so often a let down on even the smartest cars, is wonderful. It's set on a screen bigger than some old television screens at 12.3in. Lexus's brilliant little Remote Touch mouse, which replaces a previous touchscreen system, makes it a doddle to use too, sitting handily next to the gearstick for the electric CVT transmission. It's a much more natural control than the usual dials and touchscreens.
So should you get one? Well, if you work for a company willing to pony up for the regular 450h, then why not make a case? You're helped by the 450h's hybrid-enhanced low(ish) carbon emissions.
And, if it helps, it's also far too cool for the Bard of North Norfolk these days (he was last seen off-road testing a Range Rover).
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