Test Drive: 2010 Lexus GS 450h car test drives luxury cars lexus hybrids green scene
2010 Lexus GS 450h. Click image to enlarge

For the record, the GS 350 rear-wheel drive, which also uses a 3.5-litre V6, gets a published 10.9 L/100 km (26 mpg Imp) in the city, and 7.4 L/100 km (38 mpg Imp) on the highway – not really a radical difference, given that the GS 350 with Premium Package clicks in at $13,450 less than its gas-electric sibling.

Handling is typically Lexus, which means it feels somewhat disconnected from the driving experience: it goes where you point it, and it corners flat, but it lacks the melded-to-the-asphalt feel of its German counterparts. The suspension can be switched between a smooth-riding (but definitely not floaty) “normal” setting, or a tighter “sport” setting that firms it all up and transfers more road vibration. There’s a bit of grabbiness in the brakes that seems inherent to hybrids, but not enough to sour the driving experience, and the car stops quickly and straight.

Test Drive: 2010 Lexus GS 450h car test drives luxury cars lexus hybrids green scene
Test Drive: 2010 Lexus GS 450h car test drives luxury cars lexus hybrids green scene
Test Drive: 2010 Lexus GS 450h car test drives luxury cars lexus hybrids green scene
Test Drive: 2010 Lexus GS 450h car test drives luxury cars lexus hybrids green scene
2010 Lexus GS 450h. Click image to enlarge

Along with the features of the now-rolled-in premium package, the GS 450h offers the usual luxury suspects: climate control with pollen filter and automatic recirculation, heated and ventilated leather seats, power tilt and telescopic steering wheel, power rear sunshade, ten airbags, active head restraints, power-folding mirrors, auto-levelling xenon headlamps, and water-repellent side door glass, an underappreciated feature that really makes driving easier in nasty weather. I wish the rain-sensing wipers did: the 450h’s blades stayed rooted in their parked position when the sensor was unable to come to terms with drizzle.

The interior has high and low points. It’s a clean, handsome design overall, especially the metal-spun gauges and the well-plotted door hardware, which puts the hand-hold back far enough that it’s easy to control the door on windy days. The centre stack controls are intuitive, and fit-and-finish is exceptional.

On the down side, the wood accents are too bright and glossy, and there’s far more plain black plastic than I want to see in a car this expensive. A panel that drops down out of the left-hand side of the dash keeps controls hidden when not needed, and that’s fine for such buttons as the trip odometer and sunshade, but it also hides the mirror adjustments. Those should always be immediately available to the driver.

The front seats are comfortable, and both front chairs will move in a variety of ten different ways, but more aggressive bolsters would be appreciated in a car that’s meant to be taken to the twisties. The rear chairs have equally comfortable cushions, but don’t expect passengers with long legs to be happy back there: it’s a tight fit, and the front seats are hunkered so low to the floor that there’s no room to slip one’s feet under them. The trunk is a mere 62 cm in length, and due to the battery placement, the rear seats don’t fold to make it any bigger.

Overall, the GS 450h is the handsomest Lexus of all, with beautiful proportions; it offers a fun driving experience, and while you’re not primarily buying it as a fuel-sipper, it’s rated as the best of the bunch in the GS family. Still, for all that, I had a tough time seeing $71,900 in my driveway during the week the 450h occupied it. Maybe that’s why they’re such rare birds in these parts.

Pricing: 2010 Lexus GS 450h
  • Base price: $71,900
  • Options: None
  • A/C tax: $100
  • Freight: $1,895
  • Price as tested: $73,895
    Click here for options, dealer invoice prices and factory incentives

    Specifications
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2010 Lexus GS

    Competitors
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2010 Acura RL
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2010 Audi A6
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2010 BMW 5 Series
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2010 Cadillac CTS
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2010 Infiniti M
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2010 Mercedes-Benz E-Class

    Crash test results
  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
  • Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)