First Drive: 2013 Lexus GS450h luxury cars lexus hybrids first drives
First Drive: 2013 Lexus GS450h luxury cars lexus hybrids first drives
2013 Lexus GS 450h. Click image to enlarge

All 2013 Lexus GS sedans feature a redesigned chassis and a suspension system tuned for performance and handling. Front and rear suspension components are aluminum, helping to reduce unsprung weight and increase body rigidity. The GS 450h also includes the Lexus Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) as standard equipment. This system, which is optionally available on some GS 350 models, tunes ride and handling by adjusting the damping force on each wheel in response to road conditions and driver inputs.

The AVS system also monitors steering and wheel speed to minimize dive, squat, lean, and roll. The sport-plus setting further modifies the AVS settings for more dynamic handling and performance.

As the highest priced of the new GS models, the 2013 Lexus GS 450h arrives with a comprehensive array of standard equipment, including a 12.3-inch LCD display, 12-speaker Lexus premium audio, 10-way power-adjustable front seats, leather upholstery, backup camera, navigation system, heated steering wheel, power tilt and telescoping steering column, garage door opener, auto-dimming exterior mirrors, bi-xenon headlamps with washers, power moonroof and fog lights. All 2013 GS models now feature customizable auto-repeating lane-change signals (3, 4, or 5 repetitions).

A Luxury Package and Technology Package are available at extra cost. Selecting both would raise the price of this vehicle to over $75,000.

First Drive: 2013 Lexus GS450h luxury cars lexus hybrids first drives
First Drive: 2013 Lexus GS450h luxury cars lexus hybrids first drives
2013 Lexus GS 450h. Click image to enlarge

We drove each of the new Lexus GS models on California’s storied Laguna Seca Raceway, where they acquitted themselves very well for mid-size luxury sedans. The surprise had to be the GS 450h, which you might think would be disadvantaged by its CVT transmission. However, I didn’t notice significant differences between its responsiveness and that of the GS 350 models.

This version of CVT features paddle shifters that give a virtual approximation of shifting up and down through the gears, which was especially useful on the track. Unlike some CVTs, the GS 450h unit didn’t emit the whining under acceleration that can be irritating if you’re used to stepping through the gears of a conventional automatic.

The seats, fully reengineered for 2013, provided excellent support and comfort, keeping the driver in place even when negotiating Laguna Seca’s famed “corkscrew,” which, by the way, the GS 450h handled with aplomb.

The brakes were given a workout, though, as indicated by smoke emanating from the super-hot rotors after several laps (we were told the stability control system was activating the brakes almost continuously, and that shutting the system off was recommended for more experienced drivers).

The 2013 Lexus GS 450h is an unusual car on the market: a high performance hybrid. It has plenty of power, very good handling, and it returns excellent fuel economy and a Super Ultra Low Emissions rating. Competitors—at least, the competitors that most matter to Lexus—are the BMW 5 Series, the Audi A6 and the Mercedes-Benz E-Class. The 2013 GS 450h is an interesting alternative.

2013 Lexus GS 450h RWD: $64,650

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