Reviews

2007 Lexus GS450h Road Test

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Category:$55,000 to $60,000 Premium Hybrid Sport Sedan
Who should buy this car:A person who refuses to compromise between a luxury sedan and an all-out performance sedan, but wants to be kind to the environment
People looking at this model might also want to consider:Audi A6, BMW 5 Series, Cadillac STS, Infiniti M45, Jaguar S-Type, Mercedes E-Class

Lexus will start selling its second hybrid vehicle in May, and this time its not all about fuel efficiency and clean air. This time the focus is on power.

The car is the GS450h, a two-ton, rear-wheel-drive, mid-size sport/luxury sedan which will blister the macadam from a dead stop to 60 mph in 5.2 seconds – enough to put this Lexus in a dead heat with a Porsche 911 equipped with an automatic transmission.

The GS450h will also keep pace with or outgun its V-8 powered rivals up to its governor-limited 131 mile-an-hour top speed, carve a cleaner path through the atmosphere and return up to 25 miles per gallon of premium fuel in the city and 28 on the highway.

That was the message from Bob Carter, Lexus Group vice president and general manager, as the GS450h and its more conventional relative, the entry-level ES350, were introduced to a group of automotive journalists during a press conference at the Ritz Carlton Hotel on Lake Las Vegas a resort community some 20 miles southeast of Nevadas gaming capital.

Labeling the newest hybrid the most technologically advanced production vehicle in the world, Carter ticked off these benchmarks: first truly high-performance hybrid . . . first rear-drive hybrid sedan . . . among the quickest Lexus vehicles ever built.

And, on the subject of mosts, the GS450h, with a base price of $54,900, replaces the V8-powered, $52,070 GS430 as the most expensive of the recently redesigned Lexus mid-sizers.

The principles that governed the engineering of the GS450h are not much different from those which underpin the entry-level Toyota Prius, but the execution required ground-breaking technology.

For this car, the engineers have combined a 3.5-liter V-6 engine, massaged to 292-horsepower, with a couple of powerful electric motors and a battery pack. One electric motor, rated at 197 horsepower, drives the rear wheels by itself or in tandem with the gasoline engine. It also helps to recharge the vehicles battery pack. The second, rated at 180 horsepower, functions as a starter for the gasoline engine and generates electricity for the batteries. Together, engine and motors deliver power equal to that of a 339- horsepower V-8.

That was the easy part. The real trick was to devise a transmission that could effectively deliver hybrid power to the rear wheels and build it to approximately the same size as a conventional six-speed automatic transmission.

It was accomplished in a way that will be understood best by those who know the meaning of Ravingeux gearset and planetary arrays. To the rest of us, it functions as a continuously variable transmission, which is to say that it can adjust gear ratios to all power requirements without the constraints of six predetermined speeds found in a conventional automatic shifter.

The car is awash in other technological innovations. They include an electric power steering system and air-conditioning compressor, eliminating the need for belts; an advanced stability control system that goes to work when it anticipates driver loss of control instead of after detecting it; electronically controlled brakes; and an optional suspension system which adjusts the front and rear sway bars to eliminate excessive body roll in turns.

While all of that is impressive, the ultimate concern to anyone thinking of purchasing a GS450h is how it rides and drives.

Despite limited time behind the wheel, driving partner Charles Ofria, major domo of this website, and I were able to get a pretty good sense of the car as we put it through its paces on some snaky stretches of two-lane macadam in the Lake Mead National Recreational Area.

Leadfoot Charlie, apparently determined to see if the car really had a 131-mph cutoff, beat a path to the Red Rocks area in what may have been the days record time. We experienced and re-experienced – the cars tremendous rush of acceleration, but the restrictions of two lanes and occasional lumbering recreational vehicles kept him a few miles per hour short of reaching the Lexus upper limits.

I the older, more mature, more sensible motorist – took a different approach on the return trip. I kept my top speed to a modest 105 mph and maintained a much more leisurely pace, say in the neighborhood of 80 to 90 mph.

From this exuberant test of Lexus hybrid hot rod we were able to make a few important determinations.

When we returned from our excursion, we determined one more thing a prospective buyer needs to know. The battery pack gobbles up trunk space, leaving a mere eight cubic feet for the owner’s stuff. There is enough room for two golf bags, but the space will never work for a vacationing family of four.
To be fair, Lexus has not positioned the GS450h as a mainstream car. Its real mission is to educate consumers that hybrid power can be more than just an exercise in fuel savings and reduced emissions. The premium brand of Japanese manufacturer Toyota has set its U.S. sales goal for the GS450h at a very modest 2,000 a year.

Still, Lexus estimates that, driven similarly to the V-8 sedan, the hybrid will save 200 gallons of fuel a year and, probably most important to many, over a 150,000-mile life expectancy it will release 17 tons less carbon dioxide into the air than its V-8 competition.

The guess here is that Lexus will find enough well-heeled buyers who want to indulge their slightly guilty pleasures with a relatively clear conscience.

Specifications

Engine Type3.5-liter V6, DOHC 24 valve with continuously variable valve timing with intelligence (VVT-i).
Horsepower292 @ 6,400 RPM
Torque267 lb.-ft @ 4,800 rpm
Fuel RecommendedPremium Unleaded.
Hybrid Power SystemSeries/parallel system with gas engine and 2 electric motors
TransmissionElectronically-controlled Continuously Variable Transmission (ECVT) with 2-stage torque multiplication, power and snow modes
Motor Generator 1 (MG1)Primary generator, engine starter, controls engine speed 180 hp
Motor Generator 2 (MG2)Drives rear wheels; regenerative braking 197 hp
Drive TypeRear-wheel drive
Tires (std)
Tires (opt)
245/40R18 Z-rated summer tires
245/40R18 all-season run-flat tires
Overall Length190″
Wheelbase112.2″
Width71.7″
Turning Diameter36.7 ft Curb to Curb
Curb Weight4,134 lbs.
Fuel Tank17.2 Gals.
Miles Per GallonEPA city 25, hwy 28.
Acceleration 0 to 605.2 Seconds
Base Sticker Price$54,900 + $650 destination charge

Standard Equipment

(partial list)

  • High-Intensity Discharge (HID) headlamps
  • Adaptive front headlamp system
  • SmartAccess keyless entry and push-button engine start system
  • Electric Power Steering (EPS): Vehicle speed-sensing progressive power rack and pinion
  • Heated electrochromic auto-dimming outside rear-view mirrors with power-retract and reverse tilt-down functions and puddle lamps
  • Regency leather-trimmed seats
  • Wood and leather-trimmed steering wheel and shift knob
  • 10-way power driver’s and front passenger’s seat
  • Three-position Lexus memory system for driver and front passenger seats
  • Heated and ventilated front seats
  • Electro Chromatic Device (ECD) variable transparency glass on instrument cluster
  • 7-inch multi-information touch screen
  • Bluetooth wireless telephone technology
  • Dual-zone automatic climate control with smog sensor and micro dust/pollen removal filter
  • Power tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel
  • AM/FM ETR sound system with auto-reverse cassette, 6-disc CD changer and 10 speakers
  • Front and rear side-curtain airbags
  • Seat mounted side-impact airbag
  • Driver and front passenger knee airbag
  • Vehicle stability control system
  • Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM) system
  • Four-channel, four-sensor anti-lock brakes (ABS) integrated with Brake Assist (BA), VSC and Electronic brake force distribution
  • Rear backup camera
  • Rain-sensing wipers
  • One-touch open/close moonroof
  • Intuitive park assist
  • Tire pressure warning system
  • Electronically controlled brake system

Major Available Options

  • Mark Levinson audio system with 7.1 surround sound and 14 speakers
  • DVD navigation system
  • Pre-Collision System (PCS) with dynamic radar cruise control
  • Active Stabilizer
  • All-season run-flat tires (with spare tire)
  • Rear spoiler
  • Lexus Link (beginning August ’06 production)
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Author

Nick Yost

Automotive Expert

With well over 1,000 cars tested, Nick Yost is a freelance journalist in north-central New Jersey, writing automotive articles for this web site, the Washington, D.C., Times and anyone else who wants them. He also is active in the International Motor Press Assn., an organization of about 500 journalists and automotive industry representatives based in New York City. Recently, he finished a two-year stint as the organizations first vice president.

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