2009 Lexus GS 450h SedanPosted on January 17th, 2010
Hot performance hybrid
By Nina Russin
Some hybrids are green; others are candy apple. The Lexus GS 450h sedan is a candy apple red hybrid: utilizing electric motors to boost power rather than fuel economy.
The hybrid powertrain includes a gasoline engine and two electric motors: one that controls engine speed, and the other which drives the rear wheels. Together the electric motors give the 3.5-liter V-6 the power of a 4.5-liter V8. It’s hard to argue with a five-second, zero-to-sixty acceleration time.
Because electric motors develop peak torque at very low speeds, the GS 450h is the king of the entrance ramp. Very few cars will beat it off the line, or in the 30-to-50 mile-per-hour acceleration range.
The flip side is that the electric motors and nickel-metal hydride battery pack add weight. Curb weight for the sedan is 4,134 pounds. While the mass doesn’t affect the Lexus’ ability to accelerate, it does impact its handling on challenging roads.
Test drive in the Superstition Mountains
Last year I had a chance to drive the Lexus GS 450h on a trip to the Midwest, where I encountered a variety of road conditions including ice and snow. The GS handled the wet roads with aplomb. This week, I had the 2009 model in Phoenix. I wanted to see how the sedan would do on twisting roads and at altitude: two conditions I wasn’t able to evaluate on the previous test drive.
I decided to head east of town into the Superstition Mountains. Since the GS is a road car, I stayed on paved roads. The Bush Highway is a scenic two-lane road that runs between route 87 and the Apache Trail. After logging some miles on the Bush Highway, I continued up route 87 to see how well the sedan would climb.
Not surprisingly, the Lexus GS 450h is a champion climber. The electric power assist seems to defy gravity, propelling the car up steep grades like a rocket.
Both the Bush Highway and route 87 have numerous decreasing radius and corkscrew turns. Pushing the car on these roads, the extra mass became apparent. While the electric power steering system is well tuned to handle this type of driving, I was still aware of the car’s weight when it transferred between wheels and axles.
An optional power vehicle stabilizer ($3,320) reduces body sway during cornering. I would recommend it to buyers who plan to push the car to its performance limits.
Visibility to the front of sides of the car is good, with the exception of the driver’s side B pillar. I found it difficult to see traffic in the adjacent lane on the freeway, since the thick pillar severely restricted over-the-shoulder visibility. The passenger-side B pillar didn’t present a problem.
Although thick rear pillars create blind spots in the back corners, the side mirrors do an excellent job of compensating when the driver is moving forward. A standard rear backup camera and ultrasonic warning system makes it easy and safe to drive in reverse or park on the street.
A speed-sensitive rack-and-pinion steering system provides more assist at low speeds to enhance maneuverability, while maintaining good response at highway speeds. When I simulated an emergency lane change, the chassis stayed flat. A 36.7-foot turning radius is adequate for making U-turns.
Engineers did an exceptional job of isolating the passenger cabin from road and wind noise. Front-row passengers will find it easy to converse with those sitting in the second row.
Engineers located the battery pack between the second-row seats and trunk, in order to maximize interior space. The trunk is rather small as a result. It can certainly hold luggage and groceries, but fitting large cargo inside is a challenge.
Heated and cooled power front seats keep the driver and front passenger comfortable in a variety of weather conditions. A power tilt and telescoping steering wheel enables smaller drivers to maintain a clear forward view. The standard dead pedal reduces leg fatigue on longer trips.
Designers hid the power mirror controls in a panel to the left of the steering wheel. While it cleans up the instrument panel, it makes the mirror control harder to reach when the car is in motion.
A digital information screen in the gauge cluster gives the driver odometer, trip meter and fuel economy readings. My average fuel economy for the 150-mile test drive was 29.5 miles-per-gallon: significantly higher than the EPA estimate.
Graphics for the optional navigation system ($1500) are easy to read, with voice-activated controls. The optional Mark Levinson audio system ($1750) is a must for aficionados, providing sound quality comparable to high-end home systems.
The Lexus GS 450h comes standard with front, side and side curtain airbags, vehicle stability and traction control and four-channel antilock brakes. Standard high-intensity discharge headlamps with automatic leveling provide a beam of light that’s closer to daylight and longer than halogen, significantly improving visibility at night.
Daytime running lamps make the GS more visible on canyon roads with blind corners. Standard adaptive front lighting swivels the headlamps according to steering input, to illuminate corners of the road at night. It’s a valuable safety feature on dark suburban streets, where it may be difficult to see pedestrians waiting to cross at intersections.
Buyers can opt to replace the Z rated summer tires with all-season run-flat tires. I’d recommend the option, which allows the driver to go up to fifty miles after the tire loses air pressure. The GS 450h comes standard with a tire pressure monitoring system and first aid kit.
Base price on the Lexus GS 450h is $56,550, not including a $875 delivery charge. The GS 450h is on display at Lexus dealerships nationwide.
Likes: A hybrid sport sedan with exceptional acceleration and excellent fuel economy. The optional active vehicle stabilizer effectively compensates for vehicle weight, keeping the wheels glued to the ground on challenging roads.
Dislikes: Thick B pillar restricts over-the-shoulder visibility to the left.
Model: GS 450h
Base price: $56,550
As tested: $63,909
Horsepower: 292 Hp @ 6400 rpm.*
Torque: 267 lbs.-ft. @ 4800 rpm
Zero-to-sixty: 5.2 seconds
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: Standard
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 22/25 mpg city/highway
Comments: *Total system power for the engine and electric motors is 340 Hp. The manufacturer recommends 91 octane fuel.
One response to “2009 Lexus GS 450h Sedan”
Only when premium sedans become fuel-efficient one will be able to talk about some positive changes in the production of “green” cars!!!
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