Lexus's fourth gen GS ticks all the right boxes, Edward Stephens discovers.
Great strides are being made in hybrid technology, and nowhere is that more evident than on the new Lexus GS450h.
The flagship of the GS range has just gone on sale, and after living with one for a week I found it one of the most desirable cars on the market.
The GS450h is the fourth generation of GS models and ticks all the right boxes for design, performance, handling, economy and creature comforts.
Externally the new look is harder and more macho, particularly at the front.
Inside it’s light and airy with a two tone colour scheme - classic cream and black in the case of my test car - with a very uncluttered dashboard forming a horizontal plane across the car.
The absence of switches is made possible by the use of a 12.3-inch multimedia screen featuring almost all the functions that a driver needs, and are accessed by clicking on them using the Lexus equivalent of an on-board computer mouse.
Clear, concise graphics and such a large screen - the biggest yet in a production car - makes operating it simple and best of all quick, so you can get your eyes back on the road.
With a 3.5-litre V6 engine under the bonnet combined with an 147kW electric motor, this car is no slouch, hitting 62 miles per hour in less than six seconds - quicker than some V8-powered cars. And the nice thing about it is it’s performance is delivered in such a quiet, relaxed manner.
And even though the GS450h is a large, very refined saloon it still has superb handling and tenacious grip when you really feel like driving it hard. There’s a choice of three driving modes, eco, normal and sport.
In eco the car is powered entirely by the electric motor and is ideal if you return home late at night and don’t want to disturb the neighbours. In sport you get more precise handling and it is ideal for twisting mountain roads or just more hands-on driving.
In normal the power at times comes from the electric motor, at times from the petrol engine and at other times from a combination of both. The overall affect is that you get a large, powerful car that returns some 45 miles per gallon on average and almost 50 mpg on a run.
Other improvements for this, the world’s first front-engine/rear-wheel drive premium hybrid, over its predecessor includes a extra 55 per cent more boot storage space thanks to clever packaging of the hybrid battery.
The engine and electric motor are mated to a six-speed automatic gearbox which you can use in either “Drive” or “Sport” as well as driving it manually using the paddles behind the steering wheel. Change to Sport and the eco dial, which indicates whether you are driving economically or really using the power, automatically morphs into a rev counter.
And on the subject of steering wheels the one in this car is lowered automatically and the driver’s seat moves forward to your pre-set driving position as soon as you click the seatbelt into place. As you release the belt the reverse happens to allow you to get out easier.
And while, like some other up-market cars, this one has both heating and cooling features for the front seats, the bit I like is the fact that when outside temperatures drop below 10C the seat heater is automatically switched on.
The GS450h is not cheap but for what it offers it’s probably the best on the market - and certainly one of the nicest to live with.
Lexus GS450h Luxury
Mechanical: 3,456cc, 6cyl petrol engine plus 147 k/W electric motor - total output 341 bhp - driving rear wheels via 6spd automatic gearbox.
Max speed: 155 mph
0-62mph: 5.9 secs
Combined mpg: 45.6
Insurance group: 27E
CO2 emissions: 141 g/km
Warranty: Three years/60,000 miles