2013 Lexus GS 450h
Starting MSRP $59,450
Lexus redesigned its midlevel GS sedan for 2013, adopting the corporate grille that's made its way across the CT 200h hatchback and refreshed LX SUV. The brand says V-8 engines are a dying choice among midsize luxury cars, so it dropped the option for this generation. That leaves the hybrid GS 450h as the top choice, with a V-6 hybrid system rated at 338 combined horsepower. Below the 450h slots the GS 350, which has the outgoing car's 3.5-liter V-6.
Rear-wheel drive is standard, with all-wheel drive optional on the GS 350. Competitors to the GS include the BMW 5 Series, Mercedes-Benz E-Class and Cadillac CTS.
The GS is less than an inch longer and wider than its predecessor, but overall height is up 1.2 inches in rear-wheel-drive models and 1.4 inches for all-wheel-drive cars. Lexus' new "spindle" grille looks more like a squat hourglass, pinched at its upper opening but widening to encompass a second opening below. All told, the new GS looks identifiably Lexus, but it drops the quad headlights the car has had for two generations. In back, the taillights adopt L-shaped LEDs. Dual tailpipes send exhaust through bumper-integrated openings.
Seventeen-inch alloy wheels and xenon headlights with LED daytime running lamps are standard. Eighteen-inch wheels are optional. An optional F-Sport Package adds 19-inch alloys and high-performance summer tires on rear-wheel-drive cars, with all-seasons on all-wheel-drive F-Sport models. The package also adds a unique front bumper and ground effects around the side and rear, plus unique grille inserts and a slight rear spoiler.
The GS' dashboard places a broad, high shelf below the windshield, with stitched upholstery lining much of it. The standard dash display measures 8 inches. An optional 12.3-inch display can show music, navigation and climate info.
Backseat passengers can have their own automatic climate zone, plus heated outboard seats. Other luxury options include heated and ventilated front seats, manual rear-window sunshades, upgraded leather upholstery and a navigation system. Lexus' optional Enform multimedia system incorporates apps like Pandora, Facebook Places and Microsoft's Bing search engine off a tethered smartphone.
Cargo volume totals 14.3 cubic feet in the GS 350, up from 12.7 cubic feet in the last GS. The GS 450h, whose battery back sits astern of the rear seat, has 13.2 cubic feet of room.
Under the Hood
The GS 350's 3.5-liter V-6 makes 306 hp and 277 pounds-feet of torque. Lexus says the GS 350's six-speed automatic shifts more quickly than before, and EPA gas mileage improves to 19/28 mpg city/highway, compared with the last GS 350's 19/26 mpg. The all-wheel-drive GS 350 is EPA-rated at 19/26 mpg, up 1 mpg over the previous all-wheel-drive GS 350.
The GS' suspension includes a redesigned multilink setup in back; an adaptive suspension is optional. Lexus Drive Mode Selector adapts drivetrain and in-car settings to four modes: Eco, Normal, Sport S and Sport S+. The latter comes with the optional adaptive suspension. Besides stiffening the suspension, Sport S+ dials back intervention from the GS' standard electronic stability system.
The GS 450h uses a 3.5-liter V-6 that runs on a more efficient Atkinson cycle. With help from an electric motor, the 450h is EPA-rated at 29/34 mpg, some 35 percent better than the GS 350 and prior GS 450h. It compares well to Infiniti's M35h hybrid (27/32 mpg) and Mercedes-Benz's E400 hybrid (an estimated 24/31 mpg). As of this writing, the EPA has yet to announce mileage figures for BMW's ActiveHybrid 5 Series.
Lexus says the rear-drive GS 350 hits 60 mph in 5.7 seconds (6 seconds with all-wheel drive), while the GS 450h does it in 5.6 seconds. The figures reflect a quicker car than Mercedes' V-6 E350 and roughly match BMW's six-cylinder 535i, but don't expect the GS to mimic a V-8 sedan. The 550i and E550, both eight-cylinder cars, hit 60 mph significantly sooner.
Standard safety features include 10 airbags, antilock brakes and an electronic stability system. All four outboard seats have seat-belt pretensioners, versus the typical front-only pretensioners. Lexus' optional collision warning system monitors the driver's eyes for signs of distraction; it can warn you earlier if a collision looms while you're looking away. Night vision, a head-up display, blind spot warning and lane departure warning and mitigation systems are also optional.
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