Lexus GS 450h Saloon (2012 - ) review
The GS is a very different executive car to rivals such as the BMW 5 Series or Mercedes E-Class, with a range composed entirely of hybrids, but that does have some important benefitsThe Auto Trader expert verdict: 3.5 The Lexus GS is an interesting alternative to the BMW 5 Series and Mercedes E-Class. It may not be as good to drive, but it's good enough, and the low-emission hybrid drivetrains make the car particularly attractive to company car drivers.
- Refined and comfortable cruiser
- Low CO2 emissions appeal to company car drivers
- Lots of standard equipment
- Not as sharp to drive as some rivals
- Relatively cramped rear accommodation
At a glance
The Lexus GS has a conservative design, which conveys strength through its neat lines and sheer size. Go for the F Sport trim level and things get a little more exciting, with a protruding front bumper and bright daytime running lights, which tell slower motorway traffic you are coming through, according to its designer. The GS isn’t as immediately recognisable as its counterparts from Mercedes or Jaguar, but many potential customers will like that subtlety.
You expect it to be classy inside the GS, and – for the most part – indeed it is. Style-wise, the highlight is a stereo fascia and analogue clock created from a single ingot of metal, with brushed aluminium dials inspired by high-end stereo equipment. However, there are some minor details, such as the cheap-looking air-con displays – that let the side down. The optional 12.3-inch multimedia display can show two sets of information, side-by-side, and it’s at its best displaying the sat-nav mapping in one half and the trip computer in the other, although the quality of its graphics isn’t as crisp as you’ll find in the latest BMW 5 Series or Audi A6. To make matters worse, the ‘Remote Touch Interface’ – essentially a computer mouse that drives a cursor on the screen to control the various functions – is very awkward to use. At least there are no complaints about the driving position, which is very comfortable and gives a good view out.
Although there’s a decent amount of legroom in the rear seats, the GS isn’t the most spacious vehicle in its class. In particular, headroom isn’t as generous as in the GS’s rivals, and passengers over six feet tall will find themselves quite cramped. What’s more, you’ll struggle to get more than a couple of passengers in the back, because of the way the rear seats are sculpted and the large tunnel in the floor. The boot capacity is also a little down on the best in class, as the batteries that are an integral part of the hybrid system eat into the luggage space, and the wheel housings limit the available width.
Ride and handling
While the Lexus GS is a direct rival to the BMW 5 Series and Jaguar XF, it does not have the sporting pretensions of those two models and isn’t as satisfying to drive hard. However, that’s not to say this is a bad car: instead, what Lexus has produced is a quiet and comfortable model which can also be driven quickly. It’s excellent as a long-distance motorway cruiser, with excellent refinement, and easy to manoeuvre around town thanks to its light steering. If there is a particular bugbear, it’s that the ride should be more comfortable: at low speeds, in particular, the car feels more bumps that an executive car really should.
Every model in the GS range is a hybrid, and the entry-level point comes in the shape of the GS300h, which combines a 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with an electric motor. Although the CVT gearbox is a little slow to react initially, once the car is up and running, it performs well and the system switches smoothly between petrol and electric power. The 300h is plenty quick enough for everyday use, but if you do want something rather more powerful, the only other choice is the GS450h. This has a 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine coupled with an electric motor and it gives appreciably stronger performance and sharper responses than the 300h, as well as excellent refinement.
This is the real attraction of the GS, even though the range doesn’t have what most buyers consider a must-have – a diesel engine. In fact, because the GS has petrol engines, company car drivers don’t face the diesel-engine surcharge, so the GS works out as much cheaper in tax than diesel-engined rivals, especially the GS300h SE, which emits just 109g/km of CO2. The GS’s low CO2 emissions are attractive for private buyers, too, as they ensure low-cost road tax, and perhaps the only potential stumbling block is that the GS won’t have such strong residual values as some its rivals – especially the German ones.
Lexus has a survey-topping reputation for reliability and excellent customer service, and we fully expect this model to continue this reputation – particularly as Warranty Direct’s figures show that the previous version of the GS is among the most reliable cars in the UK, and you’ll struggle to find anything less than a five-star rating for reliability in owner reviews on our website.
The GS is fitted with 10 airbags, with variable force control for front occupants, affected by the severity of impact, as well as a host of electronic aids, including Hill Assist Control and a tyre pressure warning system. An advanced Pre-Crash Safety (PCS) system is an option with the GS450h Premier, using a radar to detect an unavoidable collision and priming the brakes, steering and seatbelt pretensioners for maximum response. If the driver does not brake the system will apply them automatically to reduce the speed at impact. An optional Driver Monitor Camera can detect facial expressions, including when the eyes are closed, to alert the driver.
No version of the GS is poorly equipped, with Bluetooth, bi-xenon headlights, automatic wipers, dual-zone air conditioning and cruise control standard across the range. All but SE models also have sat-nav, keyless entry and leather upholstery. F Sport models have a unique look inside and out, while range-topping Premier models have a superb Mark Levinson audio system, head-up display and three-zone climate control.