by J.T. Hills -
SGN Contributing Writer
Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been writing about the Lexus Hybrid Living Tour I attended with a friend in California. The tour, starting in San Francisco and then up to the California wine region, showcased not only three different Lexus models, but eco-friendly tourism. We were given three different Lexus models over three days, the LS 600h L, RX 400h, and the focus of this week’s article, the GS 450h. Based on the GS luxury sport sedans, the GS 450h was first unveiled at the 2005 New York Auto Show, and is the world’s first luxury performance hybrid sedan. Designed to be the premium model of the GS series, many of the optional features of the GS 300 and GS 430 come standard on the 450h. In addition with a completely new Lexus hybrid powertrain, the GS 450h has 80 percent fewer smog-forming emissions than the average new car. The 3.5-liter V6 hybrid is also as quick or quicker than its V8 competitors with a 0-60 mph time of 5.2 seconds.
After recovering from a wonderful evening of amazing food and wines at the Far Niente Winery, my friend and I checked out of the Silverado Resort and headed up the Silverado Trail to do some wine buying. Out on the highway, the Lexus GS 450h does perform much like a V-8 with its 340-hp 3.5-liter hybrid V6. Unlike the naturally aspirated Acura RL with similar performance specs out of its V6, the Lexus retains its super-quiet operation that enhances the luxury experience. The double wishbone front and multilink rear suspension give the GS 450h engaging handling. Like the V8 powered GS 460, the 450h comes standard with Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) that allows for the driver to select the shock absorber damping system. In addition, the Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management system integrates the power steering, variable gear radio steering, anti-lock brakes, vehicle stability control, electronically controlled brakes, and traction control to anticipate the onset of a vehicle slide while cornering to help automatically control the steering in a way that is transparent to the driver. The Lexus driving experience is very unique and calculated; it’s very different from that of a BMW 5-series or a Mercedes Benz E-class.
The interior of the GS 450h is richly appointed with wood, metal accents and leather trim. It also comes standard with a power rear sunshade, 10-way power-adjustable heated and ventilated front seats, rear seat side airbags, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and a rear backup camera. It also came with a 7.1-channel Mark Levinson Premium Sound system with 330 watts playing through 14 speakers. The system allows the user to play CDs and DVDs. It also came with a voice-recognition navigation system and Bluetooth connectivity for your cell phone.
The overall look of the GS 450h is definitely understated in comparison to its American and German competitors – it’s understated luxury, though. The current generation GS sedans sit on a 112.2-inch wheelbase, with a long hood, pulled back cabin and short rear deck that creates a powerful, masculine stance. The short high rear deck, although aesthetically beautiful, does have its drawbacks that become immediately noticeable once you put the car into reverse: the back-up camera on the GS isn’t just a luxury option; it’s really a necessity to keep you from running over or backing into things.
My friend and I are both over six feet tall, and found the GS 450h much preferable to the RX 400h (last week’s review). There’s plenty of legroom up front, and the seats are comfortable and bolstered in just the right places. The trunk was also spacious; it fit tons of luggage, boxes of wine, and shopping bags from the Barney’s outlet in Napa. My friend even found the GS 450h preferable to the LS 600h, which we had on our first day of the trip. I don’t know about that – I tended to like the yearning stares of a gorgeous couple checking us out as we left the valet of the Fairmont in San Francisco. The GS does have a more practical size though; it’s big enough to feel large and luxurious, but small enough that you don’t need to have an option that parallel parks itself.
For more information on the Lexus Hybrid Living Tour, you can check out www.lexus.com/hybridliving, and, yes, it is coming to Seattle.