Why buy a Lexus these days? The Germans are proliferating model ranges, adding letters and numbers to the range at every point and turn. It seems there is no depth to the number of iterations on one model / body style.
All this means volume, and volume generally means that a more personalized experience goes out the window.
The Lexus buying experience and after sales service, is something most car manufacturers can only dream of achieving. Personalised service takes a whole new meaning at Lexus. This obviously goes hand in hand with the legendary Lexus quality. It’s basically Toyota on steroids…If that’s even possible. Their tagline “The pursuit of perfection” relays down into quality of vehicle and experience for every Lexus owner. They are capable, honest vehicles and have been the first manufacturer to bring Luxury and Hybrid together for the common man.
Whether that has made a big impact here in Africa, is something I’m not sure of.
Considering the tight budgets we’re all experiencing at the moment – something you’d expect South Africans to really take some notice of, is the exceptional value Lexus models bring to the market, when compared to the German 3. The GS 450h doesn’t leave any of the boxes above un-ticked, and you find yourself immersed in a luxurious cabin without the bill-shock of optional extras.
The problem with Lexus is that their cars are a bit “meh” in terms of design. No model offends, nor does it really excite. When you look at the competition in sports models from the German 3, the Lexus falls into the background with its silent Hybrid drivetrain. Nobody really wakes up one morning and decides, “fuck it, I want a Lexus”.
Stop the BUS! Take one look at the new GS and you very quickly realize Lexus means business. Even their new ad campaign states “it’s a dare”. No longer just doing what they do well, but now taking a very much more aggressive stance to the WHY on buying a Lexus. Great news, because they have a great package on offer.
The GS is then most aggressive Lexus yet. The 450h is the only model in the line up that offers the optional F-Sport package (think AMG for Merc) and in that guise it looks mean! The spindle grille, honeycomb inserts, revised sportier front and rear bumper and grey rims ad an aggressive look that Lexus has been lacking for so long. For the first time ever in a Lexus, people were cranking their necks to take a look. It demanded presence in the fast lane, and even a few of my car fanatical friends said that they really liked the new look. Form a younger target market this is good news for Lexus. It really is a exceptionally good looking car. In this charcoal colour it brought out all the right lines and angles in the light.
Looks aside, the GS is looking to shake up the segment a bit. The “h” obviously denotes that this is a hybrid. The hybrid synergy drive couples two electric motors with a 3.5litre V6 producing over 225kW and (even though you can’t really add the two) close to 600NM of torque. That rivals the 535d and A6 3TDI straight up.
The drive-select modes ad Sport+ on the F-Sport and this firms up the adjustable suspension and steering, giving sharper response. Off the line, the 450h is deceivingly quick. The electric motors providing instantaneous torque and thankfully the CVT gearbox now sounds less intrusive with more throaty V6 engine note coming through. It’s not exactly AS engaged as a traditional gearbox and engine combo, but provides seamless grunt on take off and overtaking once at speed. Thankfully there is very little lag in any “gear” to get the somewhat heavy 450h going. There’s normal mode (what must I say about that?) and then also ECO, which brings the defacto changes in throttle, gearbox and steering. Eco mode does with a lot more input from the electric motors, and makes sure every bit of driving is done as economically as possible. Managing 7.8l/100km wasn’t too bad considering the fairly traffic intensive driving. Even the dials light up in a Indigo hue as more economical driving is achieved. 0-100km/h is achieved in 6.1 seconds, which isn’t too bad for a Hybrid, and compares very well against BMW’s new 5series hybrid.
So the GS changes, and brings the heat to the Germans with its engines.
Thankfully, handling also underwent a clear sportier design directive (As one would with the F-Sport). What’s phenomenal is the superb balance in suspension, considering the 19inch rubber, it soaks up bumps and undulations not only in feel but also in sound. Switch to S+ and things firm up, the rear wheel steering comes into play and it feels ALIVE! Push really hard and you feel the increase in weight making things a little harder for the GS, but overall it’s by FAR the most exciting Lexus (Bar the LFA) to drive. The steering even feels weighted, but not too heavy to make it fussed.
I’d say it’s the closest balance to ride and handling Lexus has made thus far. Where it does start to feel a little less planted is closer to the top-speed limit, which 90% of drivers will never have to worry about.
Speaking of little worry – the interior of the GS sets new standards in terms of NVH (Noise, Vibration, Harshness). The silence and zero drama with which everything is handled is exemplary. A massive 12.3inch screen sits neatly in the dash without demanding attention, and is controlled by the next generation in Remote Touch technology (basically a mouse). I actually prefer the old system, as the new system tries to intuitively guess where you’re going on the screen and it generally cocks it up. That said, it’s very simple in its layout, and easy to understand. Thankfully the simple air-con and radio controls can also be found on the dash. Everything feels incredibly well put together, and the small touches like the window winding up and then slowing down before closing so as not to make noise is the attention to perfection that Lexus aims for. Take that, the Mark Levinson sound system, HDD for music & Nav and even dynamic traffic alerts in mind and you’ll see the Lexus starts making a lot of sense for the pocket.
Where I was a little surprised was the fairly limited rear legroom, which seems to be a problem due to the heated and cooled 18 way adjustable front seats.
The GS finds itself in a great place – providing exceptional delivery in the ability to be absolutely bipolar in execution. Phenomenal comfort and relaxing ride, yet angry, engaged and blisteringly fast when you want it to. Weight, however, does count against it, and the 350 is the better bet if you want a really exciting soundtrack too. Just strange Lexus doesn’t offer the F-Sport with the 350?
The 450h however does have the sporty looks to appease those that want that, with the juxtaposition of the hybrid synergy drive. It is a superb machine, now closer than EVER to the big German 3, and rivaling it not only in terms of phenomenal value, but also looks, handling and ride. I can’t wait to see the rest of the range with the new spindle grille execution
The GS450h F-sport has no options and comes in at R753 700 (Incl CO2 Emissions Tax & VAT) including 4year/100 000 service plan
More information here – http://www.lexus.co.za/model/GS450h/product-information