Keeping the faith with Lexus’ hybrid model

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THE GS450h is one of the most advanced cars in the executive sector. Its hybrid powertrain delivers the performance and economy of a top six-cylinder diesel engine with greater refinement.

There are downsides including the batteries impinging on boot space and question marks over the economy in urban driving conditions but the latest safer and sleeker GS450h is a thoroughly impressive car and Lexus deserves credit for the faith it has shown in hybrid technology.

With a power output in excess of 335bhp when the high output permanent magnet electric motor is assisting the 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine, the GS isn’t shy of power.

In fact it’s seriously rapid. The sprint to 60mph gets demolished in just 5.9 seconds, making this Lexus saloon quicker off the mark than a Porsche Boxster.

It’s a lot quicker than, say, the Jaguar XF diesel too, a car that records a sprinting time of 6.7 seconds in its most powerful guise.

It doesn’t stop there either. You might expect a Lexus packing well over 300bhp to be able to out-hustle a 240bhp Jaguar, but would you also expect it to be nearly as economical?

We didn’t, yet the GS450h posts a combined fuel figure of 35.8mpg compared to the Jaguar’s return of 42mpg.

It’s virtually as clean too, with a carbon dioxide emissions figure of 180g/km as opposed to the XF’s 179.

The 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine under the bonnet isn’t anything technologically novel in itself, but Lexus has also engineered a high-torque electric motor that can assist the petrol engine during acceleration and replace it altogether on start up or at low to mid-range speeds.

Moreover, during deceleration and under braking, the engine switches off and the electric motor acts as a high-output generator.

This regenerative braking system optimises energy management by recovering kinetic energy that would normally be lost as heat as electrical energy for storage in the high performance battery.

The battery power level is constantly maintained by the engine-driven generator, which means there is no need for the system to be recharged from an external power source.

The GS looks a large car with its long, bulky body. It’s also a distinctive one with its steeply raked rear windscreen that almost suggests a hatchback and split headlamp clusters.

The stance is ground hugging so the GS definitely sportier to look at than it is to drive.

The very latest cars can be spotted by a revised grille design with a series of horizontal bars and the blue-tinted rear light clusters that Toyota is fitting to all its hybrids have larger lenses.

It’s easy to be cynical about a car like this safer and sleeker GS450h, especially as it campaigns largely in Japanese and American markets with no big take up in diesel engines.

That said, it looks as if it could be increasingly relevant even in markets where diesel executive cars are firmly entrenched - markets such as the UK. The shape of things to come could look very much like a Lexus GS450h.

The Lexus GS takes a slightly different approach to executive saloon excellence than its German rivals and no model better demonstrates this than the GS450h.

Its hybrid powertrain is more than a novelty, it’s competitive with the diesel alternatives and its free-flowing torque suits the effortlessly refined character of the GS very well.

With excellent equipment levels, famed reliability and an efficient dealer network, the GS450h has the attributes in place to become increasingly successful as buyers’ attitudes to hybrids soften.

FACTS AT A GLANCE

CAR: Lexus GS450h

PRICES: £44,615-£49,015 - on the road

INSURANCE GROUPS: 41

CO2 EMISSIONS: 180g/km

PERFORMANCE: 0-60mph 5.9s / Max Speed 155mph

FUEL CONSUMPTION: (combined) 36.7mpg

STANDARD SAFETY FEATURES: Twin front airbags, side, curtain and knee airbags, ABS, EBD, VDIM, Pre Crash

WILL IT FIT IN YOUR GARAGE?: (length/width/height) 4825/1820/1430mm

By Jonathan Crouch