Just one year after its introduction, the hybrid Lexus GS 450h sees the same revisions that affect the rest of the GS lineup, including light styling changes and a new instrument panel. The GS 450h has no hybrid competitors just yet, though fuel misers might also consider the diesel-powered Mercedes-Benz E320 Bluetec.
Lexus formally unveiled the GS 450h sedan at the 2005 New York Auto Show. Like the RX 400h sport utility vehicle, the GS 450h emphasizes performance over fuel efficiency. To that end, its gasoline engine and hybrid motors combine to make 339 horsepower, which about matches the 342-hp GS 460. It's a smidge quicker, though — Lexus says the GS 450h can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 5.2 seconds, while the GS 460 takes 5.4 seconds.
Thanks to the Environmental Protection Agency's more-rigorous 2008 standards, the GS 450h's combined city/highway gas mileage drops from 26 mpg to 23 mpg. That means it sips gas on par with the V-6-powered GS 350. There's a more compelling case when it's compared to the V-8-equipped GS 460, which has a worse combined estimate (around 20 mpg).
Virtually identical to the GS 350 and GS 460 sedans, the GS 450h sports Lexus' now-familiar face with its steeply raked headlights and thick C-pillars. Like both siblings, the GS 450h sports a new grille, front bumper and side mirrors for 2008. An adaptive suspension continually senses road conditions to modify damping appropriately. A Sport mode incorporates tighter damping, and an optional active stabilizer system mitigates body roll even more.
Several features that are optional on other GS sedans are standard on the GS 450h, including a moonroof, rear park assist and rain-sensing windshield wipers. Seventeen-inch wheels are standard, with 18-inchers optional. An all-wheel-drive variant, available in the GS 350, is not offered for the GS 450h.
An electric-power meter replaces the tachometer in the leftmost instrument pod, while a dashboard information screen displays energy consumption statistics and an animation of real-time power routing. For 2008, the instrument cluster and gearshift are both revised.
Otherwise, the GS 450h's interior is identical to other GS models. Leather seats are heated, ventilated and power-adjustable up front, and dual-zone automatic climate control, an electric rear sunshade and a 10-speaker audio system are standard.
Additional sound dampening and an acoustically tuned windshield are installed. Options include a navigation system and a 14-speaker audio system. Due to intrusion from the hybrid system's two battery packs, trunk volume shrinks from 12.7 cubic feet in non-hybrid GS models to 7.5 cubic feet in the GS 450h.
The GS 450h's direct-injection, 3.5-liter V-6 engine is shared with Lexus' smaller IS 350 sedan. It makes 292 hp in the GS and teams with two electric motors — one providing power during startup, the other boosting acceleration — for a combined 339 hp. Other hybrid traits include regenerative braking, engine shutoff at standstills and the ability to move solely on electric power during light-load situations. A continuously variable transmission is standard.
Lexus does not calculate total torque for the gasoline/electric hybrid system, but given that the GS 450h accelerates quicker than the GS 460 (which has 339 pounds-feet of torque), total torque is likely much higher than the 267 pounds-feet the V-6 engine alone makes.
A full complement of electronic safety features centers around Lexus' Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management system, which is standard. VDIM coordinates the electronic stability system, antilock brakes, electronic steering and electronic brakes to aid driver control. Optional adaptive cruise control can sense impending collisions and alert the driver, while an adaptive front lighting system swivels the headlights several degrees during turns to better illuminate corners. Front knee airbags, side-impact airbags and side curtain airbags are standard.