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The Daily Drivers | By Peter Couture and Lyra Solochek, Times Staff Writers

The Daily Drivers: 2013 Lexus GS450h combines luxury with frugality

Lexus refers to its GS as a "luxury sports sedan" and that includes the hybrid model, the 450h, which surprisingly packs the most horsepower of the line. The car has been redesigned for 2013 and there's no question it's luxurious, but can a fuel-sipper be sporty too?

Appearance: The midsize GS projects a stately bearing yet its low-slung design hints at a wilder side. The car now carries Lexus' distinctive spindle-shaped grille and it is complemented by bold hood lines. Sculpted front and side fascias project some aerodynamic flair to the body. LED "eyeliners" beneath the sleek, wraparound headlights add even more visual flair. Overall, only small badges and the blue background on the Lexus logo let you know this car is a hybrid.

Performance: The hybrid system has two electric motors, one that works with the Atkinson-cycle V-6 and combines for 338 horsepower (32 more than other GS models). We were surprised at how well that power combination pulls the battery-heavy car. Step on the gas and the result will surprise you; acceleration is immediate and steady with 0-to-60 time coming in at 5.6 seconds. Then there's this: An estimated MPG of 29 city and 34 highway for a 4,100-pound car. We found two features we normally dislike — regenerative brakes and a CVT transmisson — to be surprisingly refined. The electronic-controlled variable transmission was quiet and accelerates with confidence. However, in manual sport mode, Peter thought it lost some of that smoothness. A Drive Mode Select dial lets you change between Eco, Normal and Sport modes. There's also an EV mode for lower speeds and a Snow mode for folks up North. The ride is composed and comfortable, with a big-car feel. The handling isn't what we'd consider sporty. Still, this is one of the best-performing hybrids we've driven.

Interior: Plush, quiet and loaded with features, thanks to the available Luxury Package ($7,405). The cabin has an organic feel, which no doubt is helped by the elegant bamboo steering wheel and trim. The leather seats — heated and ventilated — feel like your living-room easy chairs but offer great lumbar support and bolstering. You can adjust the headrest angle, which can make all the difference in a comfortable driving experience. The center navigation/entertainment screen is an expansive 12.3-inch split HD. As in other Lexus models, the infotainment controller is a mouse, which Lyra found too sensitive and jumpy. In the instrument cluster, you get a power gauge that shows usage in Eco and Normal modes. In sport mode, that turns into a tach to show RPMs. What we didn't like: The heated seat controls are too far forward on the console and can be blocked by the cup holders. Peter also was disappointed that the trunk isn't powered to open up upon release.

Our 3 favorites

Peter Couture

Shades: There's a rear power shade, and manual side shades for the rear side windows.

Performance: It may not be sporty, but neither does it feel like a hybrid.

LED eyeliners: At night, they are quite striking.

Lyra Solochek

Melt into the seat: 18-way power seat with bolster, leg, lumbar and headrest adjustments. 

Zen-like: Bamboo trim in matte finish and quiet cabin.

Power: This hybrid V-6 drives like a V-8 with excellent MPG.

The bottom line: Do you want more luxury without giving up on power, and more space without giving up on fuel efficiency? If you can justify the sizable price difference from the normal GS, then this is the car to consider.









2013 Lexus GS450h

Price: $59,450 start, $74,414 as tested

Power train: 3.5-liter V-6 with electric drive motor with Lexus Hybrid Drive, Electronically Controlled Variable Transmission with Intelligence, Drive Mode Select, RWD

Horsepower: 338 total

Curb weight: 4,190 pounds

Dimensions

in inches:

Wheelbase, 112.2

Length, 190.7

Width, 72.4

Height, 57.9

Seats: 5

Fuel economy:

29 miles per gallon city, 34 mpg highway

Safety features: Air bags: dual front, front and rear side curtains, front knee; whiplash injury-lessening front seats; Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management with vehicle stability, ABS, brake assist, traction control; precollision system; automatic collision notification; blind spot monitor.

Website: lexus.com/models/GS/hybrid/

The Daily Drivers: 2013 Lexus GS450h combines luxury with frugality 02/01/13 [Last modified: Thursday, January 31, 2013 1:16pm]
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