2010 Lexus GS 450h
2010 Lexus GS 450h. Click image to enlarge

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Review and photos by Jil McIntosh

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2010 Lexus GS

Mention hybrids to a driving enthusiast, and likely as not, you’ll get an earful about the stereotype: a tree-hugger lightly pressing the pedal to squeeze every last drop of efficiency while cars line up behind him on the highway. But those same electric motors that boost fuel efficiency can also be used to up the acceleration factor, as they do in the Lexus GS 450h hybrid sports sedan.

Wedged between the popular ES and the luxo-limo LS lines, the GS is almost the “forgotten” Lexus: it’s a relatively rare sight in my neck of the woods. There are four variations – the V6-powered GS 350 in rear- or all-wheel drive, the V8-equipped GS 460, and the GS 450h hybrid. Price probably plays a role in that: the gasoline-only models run from $52,500 to $71,600, while the hybrid tops them all at a wallet-crushing $71,900. That’s partly due to package changes for this year’s model; in 2009, the 450h started at $63,050, and could be optioned with a Premium Package that brought it to $69,650. The hybrid now comes in a single trim line, and for 2010, it adds as standard the stuff that used to be optional: hard disc-based navigation system, Mark Levinson stereo, rear spoiler, rear seat side airbags, and an intuitive park assist system that tells you which way to turn the steering wheel to avoid obstacles. (Sure, you can ignore the little arrow icon, but mull over the idea of anyone who’d buy a sports sedan needing help in backing it up.)

2010 Lexus GS 450h
2010 Lexus GS 450h
2010 Lexus GS 450h
2010 Lexus GS 450h. Click image to enlarge

The 450h uses a direct-injected 3.5-litre V6 with hybrid electric drive and continuously variable transmission. Its rear-wheel drive configuration, unusual for a hybrid, adds to its cred as a driver’s vehicle, although I’m not convinced that a sports sedan should have a CVT, even one with a manual mode as the 450h has. It’s an exceptionally well-done unit for a CVT, but it lacks that visceral mechanical feel of gears meshing to move the power around. And if it’s supposed to be a sports sedan, where are the paddle shifters?

Speaking of power, the official numbers are 339 horsepower for the combined system; torque is rated at 267 lb-ft, but that’s just for the gasoline engine, as Lexus doesn’t give the combined rating in that department. Suffice to say that there’s plenty of twist going to those rear wheels: the 450h takes off from a standing stop like a scared rabbit, and blasts power into the speedometer’s triple digits. It does that even in normal mode, but if that’s not enough, a “power” button on the console ramps everything up for faster acceleration or passing power.

All that energy will cost you, though, and that’s where the 450h’s understated blue hybrid badge seems somewhat at odds with what the car will do. It’s capable of running entirely on its battery at low speeds, and Toyota still sets the benchmark for seamless swapping between gas and electricity, but my GS spent more time in petroleum mode than I would have expected from a Lexus hybrid when I practiced light-footed driving. And given the car’s goes-like-stink character, I will admit that I didn’t spend a great deal of time keeping my foot away from the floor. Official published figures are 8.7 L/100 km (32 mpg Imp) in the city, and 7.8 L/100 km (36 mpg Imp) on the highway. In combined driving, I averaged 10.4 (27 mpg Imp). Yes, I had a lead foot, but what’s the point of buying a sports sedan if you don’t intend to be sporty?

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