Road test: Lexus GS 300h
What is it?
In a bid to make its hybrid powertrain even more appealing to drivers of the BMW 5 Series and the-like, Lexus has slipped a smaller, more economical and kinder to the environment engine under the bonnet of its rather sleek GS. And in so doing it has created an executive saloon that offers best-in-class Benefit In Kind rates for company car drivers.
What's under the bonnet?
Well, it's the same engine Lexus uses in the GS's smaller brother, the IS. It's a 2.5-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine that develops 178bhp and is mated to a 141bhp electric motor. All of this means the rather large GS can hurtle to 60mph in nine seconds and hit 119mph – while returning 60.1mpg (in SE trim) and emitting just 109g/km of CO2 (again, in SE trim).
What's the spec like?
You can plump for one of three specifications with the GS. SE gets things going at £31,495 and comes with 17-inch alloys, electric steering wheel adjustment, 12-speaker sound system with DAB radio and DVD player, cruise control, parking sensors HID headlamps, and electrically adjustable heated front seats. Luxury comes in at £6k more and adds leather, sat nav, 18-inch wheels and a Blind Spot Monitor pack. Racy F Sport - £41,745 - packs a bodykit, leather sports seats, 19-inch wheels and adjustable sports suspension, while the range-topping Premium at £43,745 has a Mark Levinson 17-speaker hi-fi, system, 18-way electric front seat adjustment with memory function and a colour head-up display.
Price is where the GS 300h has got the competition licked. The Mercedes-Benz E300 Hybrid is around £8k more than the entry-level GS 300h SE, and Audi charges a further £4k more for its A6 Hybrid. Of course BMW would say the 5 Series ActiveHybrid is a credible offering, but it's thirstier thanks to a six-cylinder engine and it commands a £48k price-tag. To get a 5 Series for GS money you'd have to look at a 518d.
What's it like to drive?
It's a very wafty experience and is arguably class-leading in terms of refinement. Our F Sport test car had switchable driving modes, which was a bit pointless as the GS works best in 'Normal' mode. Switch to 'Sport' and the CVT transmission works overtime ruining the pleasant driving experience. The GS is a big and imposing car, but it handles in a style rather akin to the smaller IS. Only slight annoyances were the un-progressive brakes and a steering system that really needs more 'feel'.
The AOL Cars verdict
There was once a time when choosing a Lexus as an executive car was a left-field choice. And while the same could still be said, the Japanese company has created a very tempting proposition with the GS 300h. The car is built well, has one of the nicest interiors in the class (and of any Japanese car currently on sale) and makes a strong case for itself. If you're after a hybrid and saving money is high on your list of proprities, the GS 300h is a winner. For us, though, we'd rather plump for a diesel; in this scenario, it's horses for courses.
Model: Lexus GS 300h F Sport
Price: £44,355 (as tested)
Engine: 2.5-litre, four-cylinder petrol and electric motor
Power: 220bhp (combined), 221Nm
Max speed: 119mph
0-60mph: 9.0 seconds
MPG: 56.5 mpg (combined)