The 2013 Lexus GS450h is like having two different cars. One is a sporty, fast sedan-the other is a hybrid that gets incredible mileage for a car of its size. You really can make this car feel and drive very differently. In the past, the GS hybrid has been a poor seller. There was a hefty price tag for the hybrid system, and the older version didn’t offer performance OR great gas mileage. All that has changed now. On the gasoline engine side, there is a 3.5-liter V6 coupled with a continuously-variable transmission. On the hybrid side, the GS uses two electric motors, one under the hood that primarily handles charging, and the other in the rear differential to help drive the wheels; the latter works in concert with the Atkinson-cycle V-6 to produce 338-horses in this large, rear-wheel drive luxury sedan.
Many changes have taken place in this new version, including the driving dynamics. The car feels much sportier than years past, yet at the same time Toyota was able to maintain a smooth ride. The wheels on the 2013 were set out and toward the front and rear for greater stability. It also has a much more athletic look to the outside that is noticeable even at a glance. Back to it being different cars for a moment.
You can select normal driving, Sport Plus mode, or Eco mode for maximum fuel economy. In Sport Plus mode, the car stiffens and steering becomes less sensitive. In Eco mode, the feel of the power lessens and the accelerator actually gets harder to press. One amazing thing about the car is the instrument cluster. When in Sport Plus mode, you have a tachometer to use, in the other modes, the tachometer magically changes to a power meter for you to achieve the best possible fuel mileage.
In Eco mode, the GS will run up to 40 miles per hour strictly on battery, using no gas. Other hybrids will go faster before switching to gasoline, but this car weighs 4100 pounds. The interior of the car is breathtakingly beautiful. It has the right mix of accent colors and light wood, including the steering wheel. As you would imagine, the GS450 comes with just about everything as standard equipment. My test car has the luxury package, which gives you 18” wheels, rear seat shades, and 18-way power front seats that are heated and cooled. Other options include blind spot monitoring, navigation system with a HUGE 12.3” color monitor, heads-up display that projects your speed onto the windshield, and park assist.
There are apps on the massive screen that will give you real-time traffic, weather, sports scores, and stock prices. The Lexus uses a mouse on the center console that runs virtually everything and is accessible by the driver or passenger. There is a bit of a learning curve to get the feel of the mouse, but once mastered, it is easy and comfortable. Lexus has done an incredible job all the way around with the GS450h. The last version was only rated at 22 city and 25 highway. This new version is rated at 29 in town and 34 on the highway. Overall mileage in mixed driving is 31 for the overall time I have had the car.
So does the hybrid version of the GS make sense over the gas version GS350? Financially, no. There is a $10,000 price difference between the two. You get a combined 8-mile per gallon increase with the hybrid, but for a 15,000-mile per year driver at $3.50 per gallon, it will take 16 years to break even. For those whose majority of driving is under 40 miles per hour, the break-even point will be much shorter. For those interested in the environmental aspect of hybrids, it doesn’t get any better than this. What I liked most: The interior and fuel economy for a car its size. What I would change: I’d make the hybrid version closer to the price of the gas version.
MSRP: $58,950 base price, as tested, $68,834. Fuel Economy: 31 overall, bouncing 35 on the highway. 2013 Lexus GS450h in a few words: A remarkable improvement from previous versions.