So there are hybrids and then there are hybrids. I guess you have absolutely no idea what I’m on about and I really don’t blame you. The hybrid fraternity hasn’t really taken off in South Africa and I’m almost certain it’s related to the cost of hybrid cars locally. There are nearly no hybrid cars on our roads, and why? Because at the sight of going green, you risk ruining your wallet.
Let’s forget about money for a bit. Hard, I know, but let’s say you could own a hybrid car? What would it be? I know what I’d settle on and it’s right here; the Lexus GS450H. It’s a wonderful vehicle with a bit of a reverse personality if you could compare it to Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
Except, it’s Mr Hyde from the outside and on the inside, it’s all calm and sedate with a touch of sportiness coupled with a whole lot of class.
Take a look at the car, I mean, really take a look. It looks like it’s going a gazillion kilometers per hour just standing still! I don’t know about you but, to me, this car looks way more aggressively styled compared to the brands own luxury sport sedan, the ISF. This car looks like it would take the ISF, bend it in half, break it in two and sit on it. The wide arches and those lovely big 19inch wheels, with the awesomely huge 356mm brakes, followed by that subtle boot spoiler and the integrated tail pieces in the rear bumper all puts together an eye-catching package.
A package that I like very, very much indeed.
It’s no surprise really, as the car was developed with the same team that worked on the Lexus masterpiece, the LFA. This sedan was raised on the Nurburgring and it shows.
The F-Sport model tested here is one of the two 450H models available. It’s got a hefty price tag of R799 800, but definitely comes to the party with a lot of kit. The interior, to start off with, is a pretty good place to be and if you look at the pictures, you will agree.
Starting with leather wrapped sport steering wheel with multifunction options and an industry leading 11.4inch LCD screen for the infotainment system and GPS, already makes this car unique. The interior is finished with leather everywhere and the aluminium inserts gives the car its sporty touch. This theme is even carried out to the pedals and, boy, do those aluminium pedals look good!
The 16way adjustable leather seats are both heated and vented, which we found a treat for the last week in our scorcher of a climate. Coupled with dual zone climate control, the 40c heat went unnoticed, until we got out, of course. The 450H features an EV mode, which stands for Electric Vehicle, and will basically run the car on battery power until a certain speed is reached, where the 3.5 V6 will come into play and take on from there.
The 3.5 is slightly detuned to 213kw from the GS350’s 232kw and is fitted with an electric motor that pushes peak power to 252kw and 620nm. 345Nm is from the engine and an additional 275nm is from the electric motor. The power is put to the rear wheels by a 6 speed CVT gearbox which is also able to paddle shift from the steering wheel. I hardly used the paddles since with most CVT engines there just seems to be power available everywhere.
The Lexus also has class-leading 139g/km emissions. Coupled with a claimed fuel economy of 6.2l /100km (we averaged 7.0l/100km, driving carefully, I might add) will see you around 650km before you have to visit the pumps again. Drive it like a loon and the figures will pick up to about 9.5l/100km, still impressive by any standard for a vehicle of the size and stature.
The F-sport offers 3 modes for driving, Eco, Sport and Sport+. I guess I don’t really have to explain what eco does, but it’s the setting you leave the car in for every day driving. It does optimize the engine so that the least fuel is used. The suspension is also in a far plusher setting and very comfortable, considering the big wheels which impacts ride quality at the end of the day. Sport mode tweaks the engine mapping and gives you a faster throttle response, but your suspension remains the same as it was in the eco setting. Sport+ brings Mr Hyde out to play with the aggressive power band and a stiffer tuned suspension, thanks to the AVS (adaptive variable suspension).
This firms up the ride quality and greatly improves the handling and road holding. The gauges also go from the eco pre-set, with battery info and charging related information, to a full rev counter, all glowing in red. I must say, I like it!
From the audio side of things, the F-Sport is fitted with the Lexus Premium Audio package which has 12 speakers. Sound is crystal clear and the midrange and high-end of the audio is pretty impressive. The whole setup is operated by a mouse like control situated on the centre console. This also controls the navigation system, which works extremely well, but can take a while to figure out. Phone pairing was a breeze and very simplistic. You also have the option to play music via the USB port, either with your IPod or a USB dongle.
Alternatively, you can also stream your music from your phone via Bluetooth.
From a performance point of view, the car really impressed us for what it is. The word sporty and hybrid often cannot be used in the same sentence, but our performance testing proved otherwise. We had an average 0-100kph test of 6.2seconds on 3 runs and an overall 1/4mile acceleration test of 13.9seconds. I think it’s outstanding for a vehicle weighing nearly 2 tons and is partially electric powered. A marginally slower time of 6.4seconds and a 14.4 second quarter mile was achieved in the eco setting, proving that the modes aren’t just gimmicks, but work.
Lexus has done their homework on this car and I believe it will be one of those exclusive models on the road. It’s a brilliant vehicle which not only looks absolutely gorgeous but has the bite to match the bark it gives off with its sporty looks.
The Lexus comes standard with a 4 year/100 000km maintenance plan and also a 4 year /100 000km warranty. For added piece of mind, the battery system is covered by an 8 year, 195 000km warranty.
For more info, www.lexus.co.za
*all performance testing was done in a controlled environment and off public roads.